The Humanity of Apostles, Part 2

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This is a continuation from Part 1.

Do Apostles Ever Speak Their Own Thoughts, Rather Than Purely the Mind of the Lord?

Paul gives advice in areas where angels might fear to tread — that of whether to marry or not. These are examples of those passages where Paul speaks his own mind, and yet clearly specifies that he is not speaking for God, but out of his own trustworthy heart. “Now about virgins: I have no command from the Lord, but I give a judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy. Because of the present crisis, I think that it is good for you to remain as you are. Are you married? Do not seek a divorce. Are you unmarried? Do not look for a wife” (1 Corinthians 7:25-28). “In my judgment, she is happier if she stays as she is – and I think that I too have the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 7:40). Note in these two passages the use of “I think” and “in my judgment”.

Do Apostles Pursue Dead Ends?

Do they ever set out on a course of action they think is according to their call, pursuing what they believe is the right vision, only to find it isn’t? Do they mistakenly pursue a course, but need to be redirected? The answer is yes to both of these questions, and the biblical illustrations show the simple humanity of even the greatest apostles. “When they came to the border of Mysia, they tried to enter Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus would not allow them to. So they passed by Mysia and went down to Troas. During the night Paul had a vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” After Paul had seen the vision, we got ready at once to leave for Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them” (Acts 16:7-10).

We see that the apostles pursued their goals pretty much as we do today — prayerfully and sincerely, but with a little trial and error, and making conclusions based on the presenting evidence and the inner witness of the Spirit, as much as on more obvious direct revelation. God is pleased to guide us step-by-step, and often uses very ordinary looking processes to do so. Quite often Paul would have strong desires to pursue a course of action which he felt was right, but which the Lord never enabled. “But, brothers, when we were torn away from you for a short time (in person, not in thought), out of our intense longing we made every effort to see you. For we wanted to come to you – certainly I, Paul, did, again and again – but Satan stopped us” (1 Thessalonians 2:17-19).

I often wonder in what sense it could be that Satan could stop the great apostle from doing what he believed was the will of God. In the end it could only be that the Lord had other plans for Paul, that Paul had many goals as an apostle that he could never follow-through on, whilst at the same time he fulfilled God’s purposes in many other ways without knowing it. Surely this reveals how human is the apostle, and yet how sovereign is God working through the apostle.

Continue reading part 3…

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