And He Himself gave some to be apostles….
— Ephesians 4:11 NKJV
Why would anyone claim to be an apostle who was not? In the Early Church, it seems there were many individuals who deliberately claimed to be apostles because they understood the weight and influence that accompanied this title. If a person was an apostle — the Greek word apostolos — they knew that this position held enormous authority and that those who carried this title could obtain leverage in the Church. Therefore, they coveted this title and intentionally claimed it as a way to gain control and exert power over God’s people.
What an apostle said carried great weight within a church or even within an entire group of churches. Whoever could lay claim to the apostolic title would be able to influence what happened in the lives of many people. For a genuine apostle, this was a serious responsibility that he exercised with holiness, fear, and prudence. But for a person with impure motives, this position of authority represented an opportunity to obtain power for the sake of selfish gain.
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Many imposters therefore moved in on the scene like predators in Paul’s day — waiting for the opportunity to seize a fledgling church through deception and then claim it for themselves.
In fact, false apostles frequently followed Paul from city to city, lying in wait until he left town. Then they would begin implementing their heinous plan of ruining Paul’s reputation and claiming the territory for themselves. This is what Paul referred to when he wrote that there was assigned to him “…a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me…” (2 Corinthians 12:7).
The word “thorn” is the Greek word skolops. It could refer to either a thorn or a splinter that gets under the skin and causes a constant irritant. Paul specifically identified these “thorns” or “splinters” as “the messenger of Satan.” These were individuals who were such a constant hassle to Paul that he called them Satan’s messengers.
Paul endured many afflictions during his ministry, and many of them were a result of these false ministers who fiercely opposed him and constantly tried to displace his position of authority over the flock of God in the local churches. They wanted Paul out of the picture so they could usurp his place of prominence. Therefore, they attempted to discredit the apostle, hoping to shift the spotlight to themselves by boasting that their revelations were superior. Paul alluded to these sheep-stealers in Second Corinthians 11:5 (NIV) when he sarcastically referred to them as “super-apostles” and scoffed at their claims of hyper-spirituality.
This is precisely the same reason people with false motives claim apostleship today. It is all about control. These self-inspired claims are evil and are usually monetarily motivated. The apostle Paul had no tolerance for those who claimed to be apostles but were not. They were constantly battling Paul for his relationship with a church or group of churches.
Pretentious self-promotion is a key disqualifier for the kind of leadership God blesses. In fact, the Lord Himself will resist the proud and self-seeking while giving grace, favor, and peace to those who humble themselves beneath His hand. Let’s do all we can to make sure our motives are in line with the characteristics that qualify the authentic and not disqualify the counterfeit ministers who never passed their tests in God’s classroom of integrity.
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Father, I thank You for the common sense shared in these Sparkling Gems to keep me safe from influence of imposters and spiritual predators. Thank You for helping me to be wise and to keep my eyes wide open about who I receive as a spiritual authority in my life. I realize that I must be accountable to someone in my life, but I ask You to give me discernment about who that person should be!
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I confess that my natural and spiritual eyes are wide open, along with my natural and spiritual ears. I am sensitive to the voice and leading of the Holy Spirit and I do not fall victim to unscrupulous people who flatter others for personal gain. I pay close attention to what I hear and see. If anyone has ulterior motives for wanting spiritual authority in my life, the Spirit of Truth illuminates my understanding so I can see and recognize it. The Spirit of God within my spirit will bear witness to alert me so I will know when I have come across the real deal!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- Have you ever seen a so-called spiritual leader take advantage of others? Were you hurt by that leader’s actions? Have you forgiven him or her? Have you truly moved on and let it go?
- I want to tell you that there are more real ministers of the Gospel than counterfeits. It would be a good exercise for you to name all the real ministers of the Gospel that have been a blessing to you over the course of your life. You’ll discover that they far outweigh those who have a negative influence.
- If someone in the ministry financially took advantage of you, did your spirit alert you to it in advance, but you ignored it? In most cases, our inner man knows when something is amiss, but we have to listen in order to be protected. If you consider your own situation, did you feel an inner alert telling you to be careful?