The biblical picture of the true apostle would not be complete without including reference to the
natural and obvious fact that apostles are human, and must live and work with the faults and
weaknesses of their own humanity. This is not an excuse for sin, for that must be repented of by
every believer. But every apostle, like all believers, has the ongoing need to watch over the heart,
guard against false motives, and maintain a vital experience of God. Each must continually
choose the way of the Spirit, and continue in submission and obedience to Christ. This brings us to a vital question.
Do Genuine Apostles Make Mistakes?
Ask yourself, do fathers make mistakes? Of course, even the best dads do, but this does not
disqualify them from being dads, nor from being considered good dads. It certainly does not
change a family’s need to have such a father, and to continue to receive the love and leadership
of such a father. Neither does it remove the love of all the members of the family for dad. Not in
a good family!
Usually mistakes, honestly and openly dealt with, draw a family closer together, increasing the
love and support given to one another, and can result in an increased sense of closeness in the
family. In a good family, this is what should happen.
Apply this lesson then to the family of God. Furthermore, very often it is the wisdom of God that
allows mistakes to occur, for in this way we all learn, and we maintain our love and dependence
upon one another. It is not always a bad thing that mistakes occur, if we deal with them and each
other with a right spirit. This helps to bring the believers, indeed the whole church, to maturity.
I always tell the members of our fellowship, “It’s O.K. for you to make a mistake.” Otherwise, no
one will feel the freedom to step out in faith in the things of God. We must create an atmosphere
for all where it is acceptable to try, even with the risk of failure.
Now concerning apostles, let’s ask the question again. Do genuine apostles make mistakes?
Peter’s mistakes are written large in the pages of the New Testament, but he was still ‘the apostle
to the Jews’. I refer not just to the well known stories in the gospels, but to Paul’s exhortations to
the Galatians, using Peter’s mistake, and Barnabas’, to help them understand their own error.
“When Peter came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he was clearly in the wrong.
Before certain men came from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles. But when they arrived, he
began to draw back and separate himself from the Gentiles because he was afraid of those who
belonged to the circumcision group. The other Jews joined him in his hypocrisy, so that by their
hypocrisy even Barnabas was led astray. When I saw that they were not acting in line with the
truth of the gospel, I said to Peter in front of them all, “You are a Jew, yet you live like a Gentile
and not like a Jew. How is it, then, that you force Gentiles to follow Jewish customs?”
These are very strong words used here by Paul. “He was clearly in the wrong”, “he was afraid”,
“his hypocrisy”, “Barnabas was led astray”, “not acting in line with the truth of the gospel” and
“force gentiles” are phrases that indicate a serious friction between the apostles, and not a small
error on the part of Peter and Barnabas.
Did Paul himself ever make a mistake? Well, he admits it. “How were you inferior to the other
churches, except that I was never a burden to you? Forgive me this wrong!” (2 Corinthians
12:13). This is not a doctrinal error, nor any real fault on the part of the apostle. He has done
them no real wrong, but had followed the unfruitful policy of not requiring the church to support
him while he was ministering to them. It is a big mistake to fail to teach the believers to support
and honour their leaders through financial commitment. This truth is fundamental to a healthy
church, and Paul had taught the principle of it in 1 Corinthians 9:7-15. Despite the principle, still
he continued to make the mistake, as you can see by his comment in verses 12b and 15.
Up until the time of Christ, Moses was the one man revered above all. God’s witness concerning
him is, “Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house” (Hebrews 3:5). Yet Moses also
made great mistakes, from trying to do it all himself, as many of us have done, and needing
Jethro’s advice, to his big mistake of striking the rock in anger, whereby he was forbidden to
enter the promised land.