St Paul Defending his Apostleship and Service
This blog engages with the following Bible passages, refer to them before or alongside reading to benefit the most.
2 Corinthians 10-13, John 15, Galatians 1, 3
In these chapters, St Paul responds to those that are critical of him, defending his apostleship and spiritual authority. St Paul was accused of being very gentle and humble in dealing with his people when present in their midst; whereas in his epistles he was very firm and bold. The common theme in St Paul’s response to his accusers refers back to his spiritual responsibility; that the war he is fighting is not of the world, and therefore his authority is also not of the world. For he says: “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.” (Cor 10:4)
Fr Tadros Malaty explains that the apostle Paul often uses the analogy to ‘war’ or ‘battle’ as far as the ministry of salvation is concerned. Therefore, consider the seriousness by which St Paul views his service. Preaching the Gospel of God is an immense responsibility, and so when he uses strong language to defend the Truth, he does not have personal animosity to any person or group of people, but he is doing it for the edification of the Kingdom of God, and drawing people to the Truth, that is Christ.
The apostle, as a leader of the salvation army, is always ready to confront, by the weapons of God, the opponents of the truth. St Paul never appeared to shy away, in fact it was the opposite, he exercised the authority he received from God to the point where people criticized him. However his authority was without boasting. St John Chrysostom makes an important distinction – the false prophets at the time, measured authority on human standards, causing envy, jealousy and pride, whereas St Paul did not classify himself according to comparison with men, but seeks to reach the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ (Ephesus 4: 13).
There is an important lesson here for us. Sometimes we can confuse spiritual authority with pride. We all have a vital responsibility to stand up for the Truth. There is a lot going on in the world today that is against the Truth, and against fundamental Christian values. By standing up for the Truth, unwavering and vocal, we are fighting the same spiritual war St Paul speaks of facing himself. When we have the Holy Spirit working in us, our authority and confidence will come from God, and so when we stand up for what is right, we’re not doing it for personal gain, but we do it to bring people to the knowledge of Christ.
Let’s learn from St Paul, as was truly a humble man, yet not to the extent to disregard the proclamation of the truth concerning himself.
St Paul goes on to discuss that the spiritual war he is fighting, has also been accompanied by suffering. St John Chrysostom explains that, his immense zeal kept him from feeling the pains accompanying his life in virtue; and had no ulterior hidden motives behind seeking it. We may fail to endure sufferings for the sake of virtue, even if we are shown the reward beforehand; But Paul embraced the sufferings free and with love, and endured with joy all the difficulties and obstacles along the way to virtue. He never complained because of the weakness of the body, the pressures of responsibility, the heavy hand of popular customs, or anything else.
Therefore, let us also expect our own suffering, discomfort or humiliation when we stand up for the Truth. However, instead of this being a deterrent, let it motivate us to suffer willingly for the sake of Christ, for “he who endures to the end shall be saved.”
Finally let’s end this contemplation with the verse: “Since you seek a proof of Christ speaking in me, who is not weak toward you, but mighty in you.” Proof of St Paul’s authority is not through punishment or any kind of aggressiveness, in the contrary, his perseverance with those whom he’s serving is out of love and long suffering. Fr Tadros Malaty contemplates that if they “seek proof of his apostolic authority in Jesus Christ, it will be their own transformation to faith in Jesus Christ; a strong proof that Christ speaks through him, and that His power has worked in them — not a weak but a mighty power.”