We know more about Paul than almost any other person in Scripture (except Jesus), because much of the Book of Acts focuses on his service for Jesus Christ and because he wrote so many letters that were collected in Scripture. In Scripture, we also read that Paul is identified as an apostle, and we read that Paul identifies himself as an apostle.
We also know that “apostle” is designated as one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. (See 1 Corinthians 12:27-30 and Ephesians 4:11, for example.) Almost everything that we know about what it means to be an apostle we know because of the narratives in Acts about Paul and because of the letters that Paul wrote.
However, as we read about Paul in Scripture and read what Paul wrote in Scripture, we also find something interesting: Paul exhibited many of the things/activities identified as “spiritual gifts.”
While no passage in Scripture specifically says that Paul prophesied (as far as I can tell, although Acts 13:1 could indicate that Paul was both a prophet and teacher), it can be inferred from several passages, especially 1 Corinthians 14. However, there are several examples of Paul discerning prophecy, such as in Acts 21:10-14.
There are several examples of Paul evangelizing – proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ. That are several examples of Paul evangelizing both Jews and Gentiles, and, in fact, he tells the Galatians that God set him apart to evangelize the Gentiles before he was born. (Galatians 1:15-16)
Teaching is an important aspect of Paul’s service to the church, as demonstrated in several passages including Colossians 1:28 and Acts 15:35. It’s hard to count the number of times that Scripture records Paul encouraging/exhorting others. (For example, see Acts 16:40 and Acts 20:2.) While the term “shepherding” or “pastoring” is not used specifically in reference to Paul, he does present himself as a model of a shepherd to the elders from Ephesus in Acts 20, and his description of his work among the Thessalonians is certainly pastoral. (See 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8 for example.)
Paul told the Corinthians that he spoke in tongues more than they did. (See 1 Corinthians 14:18.) In the Book of Acts there are several of examples of Paul healing people and performing other miracles. (For example, see Acts 14:9-10.) Giving was something that Paul practiced on many occasions, including the time recorded in Acts 11:30 and 1 Corinthians 16:1.
So far, besides the gift of being a apostle, I’ve recounted times when Paul performed acts related to the spiritual gifts of prophecy, evangelism, pastoring, teaching, discerning prophesy, speaking in tongues, encouraging, healing, miracles, and giving.
What about the gifts of service, helps, faith, leading, showing mercy, or the other various gifts listed in Scripture? It’s not hard to imagine Paul doing things related to each of these gifts as well, and several passages could be used to point out those gifts in Paul’s life.
So, what does this mean? Paul is primarily an apostle, and yet we see him exercising almost all (if not all) of the spiritual gifts.
Does this mean that the gift of apostleship is (in some way) a “super-gift” that encompasses all of the other spiritual gifts?
Well, that’s certainly a possibility. However, I think there’s another possibility – a possibility that, I believe, better explains other passages and exhortations in Scripture. I’ll explain my view in my post tomorrow.
For now, I’ll leave this post for your consideration and discussion. What do you think?