By Rick Renner
Here is an important fact to know about the apostolic ministry: God didn’t leave it to us to guess who is a true apostle and who is not! I’m thankful for that! In Second Corinthians 12:12 the apostle Paul wrote by the Holy Spirit about the signs that will help us discern correctly whether an apostle is in our midst. He said, “Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.”
The word “signs” is the Greek word semeion. It was used in the vernacular of secular business to describe the official written notice that announced a court’s final verdict. This word 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 Paul used it, for instance, in Second Corinthians 12:12.
By using the word semeion, Paul declared that certain signs exist as the final verdict to prove a person’s apostleship. These accompanying proofs are like a signature or seal authenticating and guaranteeing that a person is an apostle. They provide authentication — verifiable proof — and should accompany every person claiming to carry the apostolic mantle.
Thus, Paul was telling us that if the “signs” he listed are evident in a person’s ministry, those signs may be the announcement, guarantee, or proof that this particular person is an apostle.
The marks of an apostle that Paul listed in this verse are not all-inclusive. However, they serve as a good starting place in describing the signs that point to an apostolic call. Just as a highway sign lets you know you are coming closer to a particular city or destination, these particular signs in a person’s ministry may be evidence that you’re looking at a person who has a genuine apostolic call on his or her life.
In Second Corinthians 12:12, Paul wrote, “Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.” The word “truly” comes from the Greek phrase ta men, a phrase that means emphatically or indeed and could be translated, Of a certainty! By using this phrase, Paul’s message was loud and clear: If a person is apostolic, it is certain that he will have these particular signs in his ministry.
Let’s focus today on the first sign Paul listed as a sign of true apostleship, “patience,” and tomorrow we’ll look at the rest of the signs listed. Patience is an attribute that most people overlook, yet it is just as supernatural as healings and miracles. It comes from the Greek word hupomeno, which we’ve seen depicts a person’s supernatural ability to hang in there and to stay put no matter what forces try to stop him.
People with an apostolic call on their lives must often do frontline work in environments that are difficult and even hostile to the Gospel. An example would be the city of Corinth — one of the world’s most wicked cities in the First Century — where God called Paul to establish a church. In order to fulfill this divine call, Paul had to resist the demonic powers of that city and all the other forces arrayed against him. This assignment therefore required a special God-given endowment of patience — the supernatural ability to stay put regardless of the pressure or opposition one encounters.
Paul knew that God had given him the supernatural ability to remain steadfast in the midst of the intense resistance that came against him in Corinth. In fact, Paul was so impacted by the divine grace that enabled him to stay put in such a hostile environment that he was inspired to include it as one of the marks, or signs, of an apostolic ministry.
Such patience is also evidenced in the fact that an apostle is uniquely graced to encompass all five ministerial offices, as needed, in order to establish a church and develop the ministry gifts within believers. Therefore, for a time, the apostle will operate prophetically, as an evangelist, in a pastoral capacity, and as a teacher. He may minister consistently as a pastor or teacher, but it will be with a higher level of authority than the pastoral or teaching ministries.
Only a divine endowment of patience and endurance can give a person a sufficient measure of strength and courage to keep him pressing forward when it seems as if all of hell is raging against him. Paul testified that the hupomeno ability to stay put while laying a foundation and then building upon it — which includes establishing divine order and strengthening the saints, often in the face of potential discouragement or intense opposition — is both remarkable and supernatural. Thus, he listed this attribute as the first sign that always accompanies true apostolic ministry.
In the July 6 Gem, I related our own experience with “staying put” despite all odds in an account of our earliest days in the former Soviet Union in Latvia. We were some of God’s “sent ones,” commissioned to help reestablish the Church in that part of the world.
From the outset, we faced stubborn opposition from the government in that nation. While we were busy producing Christian TV programs, starting a new church, building leaders in the ministry, and answering mountains of mail from TV viewers and those we were ministering to, we found ourselves having to renew our visas multiple times in a week — and sometimes every day of the week!
Because the person in charge of visas didn’t like us and refused to renew our visas for longer periods time, life became very difficult for Denise and me and our ministry. At times, our new visas would be valid for only 24 hours! That meant we had only one legal day to “rest” and breathe a sigh of relief before we had to initiate the process all over again. It was undoubtedly one of the biggest fights we have ever faced — and this fight continued unabated for years! The pressure this ordeal put on us was enormous. It was constantly in the background hassling us and affecting every area of our lives while we worked diligently to fulfill our assignment.
The enemy was using that man in the government to try to weary us and run us out of that nation. But we knew that we had been “sent” there by God. And by the grace of God, we remained among those precious Latvian people “in all patience” (hupomeno). We were determined not to be moved out of that nation. And as I wrote in the July 6 Gem, after years of being hassled, vexed, and beleaguered by that man in the visa department, an abrupt change finally came! By God’s grace, we had endured with patience and outlasted the attack of the enemy. I can therefore say emphatically both from the Word and from personal experience: Patience and endurance are supernatural signs that accompany the apostolic office.
Paul said, “Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience….” In Greek, this word “truly” is ta men, meaning emphatically, indeed, or of a certainty. It is as if Paul was putting an exclamation mark on the indicators that immediately followed. In other words, a person’s supernatural ability to stand strong and steadfast as he fulfills his divine call to establish the Church, regardless of the opposition that comes against him, is truly — emphatically — one of the evident, undeniable signs in the life of someone with an apostolic call.
Although you may not have an apostolic calling, this same divine impartation of hupomeno is a part of your inheritance as a child of God! You have on the inside of you the ability to endure through difficulties while holding fast to your faith, no matter what obstacles you encounter along the way! Hupomeno is yours to lay hold of because you belong to the Kingdom of God. So why not make the decision to become an expert at hanging in there by faith to do God’s will, no matter what from this day forward!