In my last post on the subject ‘Are there apostles today’? I dealt very extensively on the subject of apostles and the biblical criteria for their calling and ministry, I believe that any sincere and honest examination of scriptures will come to the same conclusion, there is nothing in scripture that suggests that the office of the apostle has become extinct, I also believe that Jesus is still calling people to that same office today.
However just as in the bible days today there is the problem of false apostles, I guess one reason why many people are a bit unsure of the presence of true apostles today is because they must have come across or heard of many false and self styled apostles who remind one of nothing that connects to Jesus. So in this post I want to look at the issue of false apostles a bit more closely so that we can be educated for our safety and of others we may be in a position to help.
Like I said earlier the problem of false apostles is nothing new, look at what the apostle Paul had to say about it.
But what I do, I will also continue to do, that I may cut off the opportunity from those who desire an opportunity to be regarded just as we are in the things of which they boast. For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.
2 Cor 11:12-15 NKJV
Two kinds of false apostles
I believe that there are two kinds of false apostles, both have their issues and problems but the understanding the essential difference between both types will help us in our attitude and actions towards them.
False apostles of the evil dimension
Paul the Apostle in the text above made reference to a certain kind of false apostles and he used very strong words to describe them, he called them deceitful workers who transform themselves into apostles of Christ. Who were these people that the apostle described in such a harsh way?
From the background to the story, these people were people who went about taking financial advantage of the people, making money of them, demanding all kinds of support and privileges under the guise of being apostles of Christ, this was in contrast to the humility and sacrificial lifestyle of Christ’s true apostles which the apostle demonstrated. These people were so called ministers of the gospel, many of them with dubious claims and stories, Paul described them as agents of the devil, apostles of Satan.
From here we have an idea of what these people were all about, they were in it for the money, they had no allegiance to Christ or to His kingdom, their god was their belly. They would be people after the mould of Simon the sorcerer who sought the power of God for filthy lucre ( Acts 8 ), these people are present in the Church today, dotting the landscape of the faith, popular, influential and very loud but whatever influence they wield they wield for their bellies. Their lives and ministries remind no one of Christ so it is obvious they cannot be representatives of Christ.
Paul the apostle challenged the authenticity of the claims of these ‘false’ apostles and we ought too.
In the book of revelation Jesus commended the Church in Ephesus for testing those who claim to be apostles and have found out that they are not. The signs I mentioned in the post on ‘are there apostles today’? will help anyone understand this.
False signs and wonders
Something that throws many people is the presence of signs and wonders in some of the ministries of these so called apostles, but biblically speaking that should not be so difficult to understand, Paul described these people as apostles of satan, the truth is that some people aligned to the evil supernatural can draw upon that power to produce ‘miraculous’ signs, just think about the magicians of Egypt and the ‘miracles’ they produced in duplicating the signs that Moses did by the power of God ( Exodus 7: 9 -3), but as we see in Egypt their ability to work the miraculous was a very limited one even so it is today.
Jesus told the Jews in response to their accusations of working by the power of the devil
Now when the Pharisees heard it they said, “This fellow does not cast out demons except by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.”
But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand. If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out?
Matt 12:24-27 NKJV
These Jews had exorcists amongst them who tried to ‘help’ people troubled by demons by resorting to demonic help, people that come from cultures where exposure to such demonic powers are real, understand how these things work. Jesus did not appease or negotiate with the devil to set his captives free, he confronted and bound him and set the captives free.
This is why it is important to realise that the presence of the miraculous alone is not an indicator that the miracle worker is an apostle of Christ, lack of understanding here is one reason why the anti Christ will succeed in deceiving many.
Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things? And now you know what is restraining, that he may be revealed in his own time. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains will do so until He is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this reason God will send them strong delusion, that they should believe the lie, that they all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.
2 Thess 2:5-12 NKJV
The other kind of false apostle
Let’s talk about the other kind of false apostle; these people are sincere believers, even ministers of the gospel who for one reason or the other have taken upon themselves the title and the office of an apostle even when they have not been called to that office by the Lord.
Some of them were prophesied into that ‘office’ by some ‘prophet’, maybe the presence of some supernatural manifestations or gifts of the Holy Spirit at work in and through the individual led others or the individual concerned to conclude ‘I’m an apostle’.
This is a common problem in the Church not only with respect to the ministry of the apostle but with ministry in general; the presence of miracles and such gifts of the Holy Spirit do not constitute a call to the ministry. Just because the Holy Spirit has granted an individual certain insights and revelation does not automatically constitute a call to any office talk less of the office of the apostle.
There is a story in 2 Samuel Ch 18 that illustrates the nature of the false apostle of the kind we are speaking of now
Then Absalom met the servants of David. Absalom rode on a mule. The mule went under the thick boughs of a great terebinth tree, and his head caught in the terebinth; so he was left hanging between heaven and earth. And the mule which was under him went on. Now a certain man saw it and told Joab, and said, “I just saw Absalom hanging in a terebinth tree!”
So Joab said to the man who told him, “You just saw him! And why did you not strike him there to the ground? I would have given you ten shekels of silver and a belt.”
But the man said to Joab, “Though I were to receive a thousand shekels of silver in my hand, I would not raise my hand against the king’s son. For in our hearing the king commanded you and Abishai and Ittai, saying,’Beware lest anyone touch the young man Absalom!’ Otherwise I would have dealt falsely against my own life. For there is nothing hidden from the king, and you yourself would have set yourself against me.”
Then Joab said, “I cannot linger with you.” And he took three spears in his hand and thrust them through Absalom’s heart, while he was still alive in the midst of the terebinth tree. And ten young men who bore Joab’s armor surrounded Absalom, and struck and killed him.
So Joab blew the trumpet, and the people returned from pursuing Israel. For Joab held back the people. And they took Absalom and cast him into a large pit in the woods, and laid a very large heap of stones over him. Then all Israel fled, everyone to his tent.
Now Absalom in his lifetime had taken and set up a pillar for himself, which is in the King’s Valley. For he said,”I have no son to keep my name in remembrance.” He called the pillar after his own name. And to this day it is called Absalom’s Monument.
Then Ahimaaz the son of Zadok said, “Let me run now and take the news to the king, how the Lord has avenged him of his enemies.”
And Joab said to him, “You shall not take the news this day, for you shall take the news another day. But today you shall take no news, because the king’s son is dead.” Then Joab said to the Cushite, “Go, tell the king what you have seen.” So the Cushite bowed himself to Joab and ran.
And Ahimaaz the son of Zadok said again to Joab, “But whatever happens, please let me also run after the Cushite.”
So Joab said, “Why will you run, my son, since you have no news ready?” “But whatever happens,” he said, “let me run.”
So he said to him, “Run.” Then Ahimaaz ran by way of the plain, and outran the Cushite.
Now David was sitting between the two gates. And the watchman went up to the roof over the gate, to the wall, lifted his eyes and looked, and there was a man, running alone. Then the watchman cried out and told the king. And the king said, “If he is alone, there is news in his mouth.” And he came rapidly and drew near.
Then the watchman saw another man running, and the watchman called to the gatekeeper and said, “There is another man, running alone!”
So the watchman said, “I think the running of the first is like the running of Ahimaaz the son of Zadok.”
And the king said, “He is a good man, and comes with good news.”
So Ahimaaz called out and said to the king, “All is well!” Then he bowed down with his face to the earth before the king, and said,”Blessed be the Lord your God, who has delivered up the men who raised their hand against my lord the king!”
The king said, “Is the young man Absalom safe?”
Ahimaaz answered, “When Joab sent the king’s servant and me your servant, I saw a great tumult, but I did not know what it was about.”
And the king said, “Turn aside and stand here.” So he turned aside and stood still.
Just then the Cushite came, and the Cushite said, “There is good news, my lord the king! For the Lord has avenged you this day of all those who rose against you.”
And the king said to the Cushite, “Is the young man Absalom safe?”
So the Cushite answered, “May the enemies of my lord the king, and all who rise against you to do harm, be like that young man!”
2 Sam 18:9-32 NKJV
Remember that the apostle is the one on a commission, the one who is sent, in this story, two men had witnessed the death of Absalom, Ahimaez and the Cushite, of the two the Cushite is commissioned to take the news back to David, but Ahimaez wanted to tell the news, he pressed Joab to allow him to go until Job relented, Ahimaez, the one who was not sent outran the one who was sent and got to David first, but he was unable to relay the news and is set aside. The true apostle came and was able to deliver the message because he had the authority to do so.
This seems to be what is happening today, the ‘false’ seems to be outrunning the true, they seem to be louder, more visible, more affluent, more popular than the true and it may be so because the true will not seek any of these things. However in the long run, the same will happen, the false will be set aside and the true will deliver their messages with power and authority.
In distinguishing between true and false apostles, we must look beyond sincerity, miracles or ‘results’, eloquence or passion and consider the criteria so clearly enunciated such as the call, the commission, the message, the equipment, the character, the witness and the confirmation.
The problem here is that the activity of these kind of apostles confuse people as to the true nature of the apostle and because they are not who they say they are they are unable to deliver the promise of their office to those that look up to them. The people get turned off and the individuals themselves may be driven to extreme measures to live up to their own hype.
How do we relate with these kinds of apostles?
Well, with the false apostles of the first kind, we must denounce them and completely avoid them, we must have nothing to do with them at all. They are not of Christ and do not represent him at all.
The other kind of false apostle we will have to deal with some understanding, we cannot accept their ‘ministry’ but we can prayerfully hope that they will repent and retrace their steps and in humility find themselves in their true ministries.