Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.
— 2 Corinthians 12:12
During Paul’s day, the problem of false apostles was so rampant that he felt it necessary to validate his ministry by pointing out the “signs” of an apostle that were evident in his life. In Second Corinthians 12:12, Paul gave certain indicators to help us determine whether or not a person is truly apostolic.
The word “signs” in Second Corinthians 12:12 is the Greek word semeion. This word was used in secular business to describe the official written notice that announced the final verdict of a court. It also described the signature or seal applied to a document to guarantee its authenticity and a sign that marked key locations in a city. This secular word was carried over into New Testament language, as used here by Paul.
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Paul used this word to declare that certain official signs exist as the final verdict to prove a person’s apostleship. These accompanying activities are like a signature or a seal that authenticates and guarantees that a person truly is an apostle. If you see these particular marks in a person’s ministry, you can know that you are standing on or near bona fide apostolic territory.
Paul says, “Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you….” In this verse, Paul uses the word “apostle,” taken from the Greek word apostollos, a compound of the words apo and stello. The word apo means away, and the word stello means to send. When compounded together, it means to send away. It is the idea of being commissioned and dispatched with authority and power and sent as a personal representative of a powerful figure or as the official representative of a government.
But notice Paul says, “Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you.…” The word “wrought” is the Greek word katergadzo, a compound of the words kata and ergos. The word kata is a preposition that carries the idea of something that is subjugating or dominating. The word ergos means work. When compounded together, it presents the idea of a work that is totally consuming or dominating — a work that takes every ounce of one’s being.
We know from Scripture that Paul was not afraid of work. He even referred to the work of the ministry. In addition to glorious moments when Paul experienced spectacular visions, revelations, and special demonstrations of power, he worked hard in his ministry. He referred to this very hard work when he said, “But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I laboured more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me” (1 Corinthians 15:10).
This Greek word used here for “laboured” is kopiao and depicts the most difficult, most exhaustive type of work. We could even call it hard labor. Because Paul used this word to describe his own work ethic, it tells us that Paul was not afraid of hard work. He was willing to do anything and everything to accomplish the task God had given to him.
So the first thing we discover in Second Corinthians 12:12 is that apostolic ministry demands the highest level of commitment and work. This isn’t a calling for those who want a lifestyle in which they can take it easy. It is a demanding, all-consuming, and dominating call that requires every ounce of a person’s life. Apostolic ministry includes:
- Going into territory where the Church is non-existent.
- Dealing with aggressive and hostile governments.
- Facing the opposition of false religions opposed to one’s very presence.
- Pushing the evil forces of the demonic realm out of the way.
- Taking converts from the bleakness and blackness of paganism and turning them into living, breathing members of the Body of Christ.
All of this is involved in the calling of the apostle. This divine call is not for the light-hearted but for the extremely committed.
This leads us to the first sign — the first criteria that Paul lists as evidence of true apostleship. He writes, “Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience.…”
Considering the hostile forces at work to stop apostolic ministry, it shouldn’t surprise us that Paul lists patience as the first major sign or characteristic of apostolic ministry. The word “patience” is the Greek word hupomeno. It is a compound of the words hupo and meno. The word hupo is a preposition that means under, and the word meno means to abide or to stay. When the two are compounded together, the compound word portrays a person who is under some type of incredibly heavy load but who refuses to stray from his position because he is committed to his task. Regardless of the load, opposition, stress, or weight that comes against him, he is not going to move. He is going to stay put in his spot and not surrender it to anyone for any reason!
One expositor translates hupomeno as the word endurance. Another translates it as staying power. My favorite translation of the word hupomeno is hang-in-there power!
It is interesting to me that Paul lists this as a sign of apostolic ministry. We usually think of wonders and miracles as signs of apostolic ministry. But before Paul mentions anything about what we would normally deem supernatural, he first mentions a person’s supernatural ability to hang in there and to stay put regardless of what forces come to stop him.
This tells me that God causes supernatural favor to rest on apostles, enabling them to stay on the front lines and out on the cutting edge. Apostles face huge challenges in order to take new territory for God’s Kingdom. But because His grace is on them so strongly, they are able to endure it and stick it out, even when it becomes very difficult.
I personally know that what the devil has tried to throw against us in our ministry in the former USSR often sounds so far out and unbelievable that people wonder if what we relate about our lives in this part of the world is imaginary or the stuff of fantasy. When they hear me recount the things we’ve faced, they shake their heads in disbelief and amazement that we could live in such circumstances. Yet we have experienced such grace upon us to do what we are called to do that we don’t even realize how terrifically difficult some of these ordeals have been. Only when we see the disbelief on others’ faces and hear them express their concerns for our welfare do we realize the significance of what we have been up against.
You see, God has provided us with a supernatural grace, a divine favor, a special endowment of hupomeno — what others call hang-in-there power, staying power, or supernatural endurance — to do what He has called us to do. I am so grateful for this incredible endowment from Heaven on our lives, because without it, we would be unable to do what we are doing. But this divine ability works so strongly in us that we haven’t just survived; we have flourished in our environment.
What I am describing is just as supernatural as any other kind of supernatural sign and wonder. Anyone who can do what we do day after day, week after week, month after month, and year after year — and do it joyfully and successfully — is definitely experiencing something that is truly supernatural. It is a sign from on High of a divine endowment.
My wife and I have seen the lame walk, deaf ears opened, demons expelled, and even the dead raised through the prayers of our apostolic team. But I consider hupomeno on our lives to be just as supernatural as any of these other signs and wonders we have experienced. In fact, I really believe it is more significant than the other signs and wonders.
Supernatural signs and wonders come and go, but the supernatural ability to endure and joyfully succeed in difficult circumstances is a grace that comes and stays continuously. This quality of patience, endurance, staying power, or hang-in-there power is part of the divine equipment for this job. It is a divine grace that is just as supernatural as any miracle or wonder!
You may not be called to be an apostle, but perhaps you are living in a difficult or challenging situation. God makes miraculous grace available to you to help you victoriously live for Him where you are. If you need staying power to stay put where He has called you; if you need hang-in-there power to help you hold fast in that tough place; or if you could use a supernatural dose of endurance to help you endure to the end — all you have to do is ask!
When this supernatural grace or endowment starts to work in you and you are suddenly empowered beyond your natural strength to endure in the midst of turmoil or adversity, you’ll realize what a supernatural gift it is! So if this is the need you are facing in your life today, I urge you to stop what you are doing; then throw up your arms, lift your voice, and ask Jesus to fill you with the endurance you need. Take the time to praise Him for filling you to overflowing. As you do, He will give you exactly the dose of staying power you need to live victoriously for Him where He has called you!
My Prayer for Today
Lord, I thank You for filling me with supernatural endurance to do the job You’ve given me to do. In the midst of all the problems, hassles, and challenges that have come against me, I am very aware that I wouldn’t be able to do it without the divine gift of endurance You have placed in my life. Others may think I am strong, but I know that much of my strength and fortitude is due to what You have done inside me. So today I give You praise, and I thank You for continuing to strengthen me until I bring this assignment to a victorious end!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
My Confession for Today
I confess that God is filling me with supernatural endurance to stay put until I have successfully done everything He has asked me to do. He gave me this assignment because He believed I could do it. He filled me with endurance to help me stay put and to be strong enough to finish it as I ought. I therefore declare that I am strong; I am filled with fortitude; and I will do precisely what God has asked me to do!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
Questions to Answer
1. Have you ever experienced a time when God supernaturally filled you with a divine dose of endurance that gave you the exact amount of strength you needed at that moment?
2. If the answer is yes, what did it feel like when you received that supernatural strengthening? How did you know it occurred? What were the immediate, tangible results of that inner strengthening?
3. How is your strength level today? Have you been feeling like weariness is trying to get the best of you, or do you feel strong and ready to keep forging ahead? If you are battling fatigue, don’t you agree that it would be good for you to stop today to ask the Lord to refill you with another dose of endurance?