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2 Corinthians 12:11-12:

11 I have been a fool! You forced me to it, for I ought to have been commended by you. For I was not at all inferior to these super-apostles, even though I am nothing. 12 The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works. [ESV]

11 I am become a fool in glorying; ye have compelled me: for I ought to have been commended of you: for in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles, though I be nothing. 12 Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds. [KJV]

Do believers in modern-day apostles believe that signs, wonders and mighty deeds must accompany true apostles? How do believers in modern-day apostles interpret this passage?

Note: for those interested in knowing whether there are any contemporary churches that believe in modern-day apostles, please see: Are there any denominations that believe in contemporary apostles, and if so, how is a person called to be an apostle according to them?


Related question on BH.SE:

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  • By modern-day apostles, what groups believe that? When I read that my immediate thought is apostolic succession in the Catholic Church, so do you mean apostolic succession?
    – Luke Hill
    Nov 5 '21 at 15:22
  • @LukeHill - whoever believes there are apostles today would fit the bill. That would include the Catholic Church as you suggest, but also those who subscribe to the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), etc. Nov 5 '21 at 15:31
  • @SpiritRealmInvestigator - Do you have a reference that suggests the Catholic Church believes there are apostles today? I'm fairly certain that's incorrect.
    – ken
    Nov 5 '21 at 16:23
  • @ken - I was just taking Luke Hill's word for it. Nov 5 '21 at 16:24
  • @ken Apostolic succession is a part of the papacy. I could be wrong so if you could cite anything to clear up the confusion that would be wonderful.
    – Luke Hill
    Nov 5 '21 at 16:26
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+50

I recently answered a question on behalf of my Catholic friends so now I will do so on behalf of my Pentecostal friends. I was hoping someone else would answer this question, because I hate to see just one viewpoint represented. As Paul said, “I have been a fool! You forced me to it...”

Pentecostal/Charismatics as a general rule believe that modern day apostles can rise out of their ranks. I believe they have a biblical basis for that though I do not personally know any of their apostles to verify if their signs and wonders are legitimate. I will briefly present the biblical basis for signs and wonders in the ministry of apostles.

1. To confirm the truth of the message and the veracity of the messenger.

One night, a Pharisee and ruler of the Jews named Nicodemus, came to visit Jesus and said,

Jn 3 2 ...“Rabbi, we know that You have come from God as a teacher; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.”

He addressed Jesus with respect, acknowledging him as a rabbi and teacher. If Jesus was astounding religious leaders at age 12, imagine the attention he could command at age 30. Nobody doubted his formidable understanding of the scriptures. Jesus also accompanied this knowledgee with signs and wonders which Nicodemus rightly recognized as an indication that God was affirming his ministry

A similar point is made in the book of Acts.

14 3 ‘So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there, speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to perform signs and wonders.’

2. To increase people’s faith which leads to salvation

A royal official heard that Jesus had returned to Galilee and he came to implore him to heal his son who was near death.

Jn 4 48 So Jesus said to him, “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you simply will not believe.”

Jesus told the man that his son would live and he believed and left for home. He discovered from his servants later that his son began to improve at the same hour Jesus had declared healing and he and his whole household believed. The man did have faith in Jesus’ word and apparently that sign was instrumental in bringing the whole family to faith.

Jn 21 30Therefore many other signs Jesus also performed in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; 31but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.

3. To represent what the kingdom of heaven is like

Nebuchadnezzar through his own miraculous journey came to understand the connection between the works of God and the kingdom.

4 1-3 "Nebuchadnezzar the king, to all peoples, nations, and languages that dwell in all the earth: Peace be multiplied to you. I thought it good to declare the signs and wonders that the Most High God has worked for me. How great are His signs, and how mighty His wonders! His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and His dominion is from generation to generation".

At the beginning of his ministry, Jesus described his mission.

Luke 4 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

He later described what those actions signified.

Lk 10 9 Heal the sick, and tell them, ‘The Kingdom of God is near you now.’

Lk 11 20 But if I drive out demons by the finger of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

I would just issue one word of caution. Signs and wonders are not necessarily proof that a ministry is approved by God. We must examine the fruit of those who would call themselves apostles as did Paul. Jesus warns:

Mt 7 21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22“Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ 23“And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’

There are strong biblical reasons for God validating apostolic ministries in NT times and those reasons are no less valid today. Many books have been written about signs and wonders performed by modern day apostles. Again, I have not verified them, so all I can say is that according to the Bible, miracles are possible especially as they point the way to Christ. As C.S. Lewis puts it in his book Miracles:

In all these miracles alike the incarnate God does suddenly and locally something that God has done or will do in general. Each miracle writes for us in small letters something that God has already written, or will write in letters almost too large to be noticed, across the whole canvas of Nature. They focus at a particular point either God’s actual, or His future, operations on the universe.

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Assuming that Apostolic Succession falls under the definition of "modern day apostles", then let me give a Catholic response.

Matthew 7:21-23 says:

21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. 22 Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many [s]miracles?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; leave Me, you who practice lawlessness.’

Clearly, performing miracles doesn't make you an apostle. There is something more to it. That being Jesus. Just a side note before we begin.

Given that transubstanciación occurs (at least under the Catholic view) during every mass, then the Priest/Bishop/Cardinal/Pope has performed a miracle!

But what about Barnabas? This is just my own thoughts here, but I don't think the Bible ever mentions Barnabas performing a miracle, and if it was that important to be an apostle, then why wouldn't the Bible mention it? In fact, there isn't recordings of the 12 ever performing miracles until after the resurrection! So maybe you are misinterpreting this passage? I don't have an alternative interpretation because it's not really my specialty, but those are just my thoughts.

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  • Small note - when I say "that being Jesus", I mean possessing the Holy Spirit and allowing him to dwell in you.
    – Luke Hill
    Nov 5 '21 at 16:40
  • So maybe you are misinterpreting this passage? I don't have an alternative interpretation because it's not really my specialty, but those are just my thoughts. - if you want a version of the question that is focused on an hermeneutical interpretation of the passage, see Is 2 Corinthians 12:12 binding for all true apostles throughout history? Nov 5 '21 at 16:53
  • Apostolic Succession != modern-day Apostles. Bishop != Apostle
    – ken
    Nov 5 '21 at 16:54
  • @Spirit Realm Investigator Thanks! I'll check it out. What did you think of my response?
    – Luke Hill
    Nov 5 '21 at 18:35
  • I think that you might be confusing two logical inferences. Let A = "being an apostle" and B = "signs, miracles, mighty deeds". My question is whether the passage teaches that A -> B (A entails B). Your objection based on Matthew only shows that not(B -> A), but that's still perfectly compatible with A -> B. The current answer on the BH question also agrees with A -> B. And regarding substantiation, I fail to see how that's a sign (how is that evidence if it can't be verified in the slightest)? Nov 5 '21 at 19:24

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