The Signs of a True Apostle
Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you….
— 2 Corinthians 12:12
Today we’ll look further at the indicators the apostle Paul listed that point to a true apostolic call on a person’s life. The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to inform the Church of these clues to a true apostolic ministry so that we as believers would know how to discern and receive from this crucial ministry gift. Paul wrote, “Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds” (2 Corinthians 12:12).
The next criterion after “patience” that Paul mentioned is “signs.” He wrote this verse to the Corinthians, yet there is no clear record in the book of Acts of his working signs and wonders in Corinth (see Acts 18). However, because of this statement, we may assume that miraculous signs were wrought through Paul in Corinth similar to the signs God performed through him in other cities — such as:
- Restoring strength to the limbs of the lame (see Acts 14:8-10).
- Casting out demons (see Acts 16:16-18).
- Transferring God’s healing power through aprons or napkins taken from Paul’s body to the bedridden who couldn’t attend his meetings because of their physical conditions (see Acts 19:11,12).
- Raising the dead (see Acts 20:9-12).
- Healing the sick (see Acts 28:8,9).
People mistakenly get the impression that Paul’s ministry was continually visited with miracles of this nature. But if one carefully and honestly examines the book of Acts to determine the regularity in which these types of supernatural signs occurred, you will find that these events did not occur nonstop in Paul’s ministry, but rather at pivotal and crucial moments when miracles were needed to open the door for the Gospel even wider. These were supernatural signs intended to grab the attention of listeners and to serve as proof that the Gospel message they were hearing was true.
In addition to these miraculous signs, Paul also listed “wonders” and “mighty deeds” as indicators that a person has an apostolic call on his or her life. The word “wonders” is the Greek word teras. The word teras was used in classical Greek times to depict the fright, terror, shock, surprise, or astonishment felt by bystanders who observed events that were contrary to the normal course of nature. Such occurrences were viewed as miracles, and people believed they could only take place through the intervention of divine power. These miraculous events were so shocking that they left people speechless, shocked, astonished, bewildered, baffled, taken aback, stunned, and awestruck — and therefore in a state of wonder.
This is the reason the word teras is most often translated as the word “wonders” in the New Testament. It describes occurrences so out of the ordinary that people are left in a state of perplexity, amazement, and wonder as a result.
But Paul didn’t stop with the word “wonders.” He went on to say, “And mighty deeds.” The word “and” is the Greek word kai, which could — and probably should — be translated even, causing the phrase “mighty deeds” to actually amplify the word “wonders.” Thus, the phrase could be translated “wonders, even mighty deeds.” In other words, Paul was saying that these “wonders” were so amazing, they were truly “mighty deeds.”
The phrase “mighty deeds” is a translation of the word dunamis, the Greek word for power. It is from this word that we derive the English word “dynamite,” which is a very appropriate usage of this Greek word. Indeed, dunamis power carries the idea of explosive, superhuman power that comes with enormous energy and produces phenomenal, extraordinary, and unparalleled results. The word dunamis depicts “mighty deeds” that are impressive, incomparable, and beyond human ability to perform. In fact, this very word is used in First Corinthians 12:10 when the apostle Paul lists “the working of miracles” as one of the gifts of the Spirit. Thus, the word dunamis, as Paul now uses it in Second Corinthians 12:12, denotes miraculous power or miraculous manifestations.
Keep in mind that the word “wonders” refers to people being shocked or stunned by events that don’t occur in nature or by experiences that are out of the flow of normal life. Because Paul connected it to the phrase “mighty deeds” — the Greek word dunamis, referring to superhuman or miraculous powers — we know that he was referring to instances when the laws of nature are overruled or suspended by the supernatural power of God. In some way, God Himself intervenes in the laws of nature and does something that could never occur in the natural realm.
There were many instances of “mighty deeds” in Paul’s ministry pertaining to miraculous healings that could never have occurred naturally or with the assistance of medicine. Whenever God’s power intervenes to reverse a physical condition that medical science defines as incurable, this can technically be defined as a miracle.
But in addition to the supernatural power that flowed from Paul to others to work healing miracles, there were also some truly amazing instances when God’s power intervened on Paul’s behalf. We find an example of this in Acts 16, when Paul was miraculously released from his jail cell in Philippi after a remarkable earthquake shook the prison and set him free.
Acts 16:24 tells us of a time when Paul and Silas were in an “inner prison” and their feet were “fast in stocks.” As the two apostles began to pray and sing songs of praise to God in the middle of the night, “…suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed” (v. 26).
Consider how strange this occurrence was that night. This earthquake shook the prison, opened all the doors, and caused the chains to fall off the prisoners. Yet it seems that not one brick fell, for there is no record of any damage to the actual building. In fact, this appears to have been such a regional earthquake that it affected only one building in the entire city. Only the prison where Paul and Silas were confined apparently felt the impact of this particular earthquake!
When people heard about this landmark event, the news left them in a state of wonder. In other words, they were left speechless, shocked, astonished, bewildered, baffled, taken aback, stunned, and awestruck. Certainly this earthquake would qualify as a “mighty deed” — a miraculous event — that occurred in the life of the apostle Paul.
Another example of a mighty deed occurring in Paul’s life can be found in Acts 28:3, when Paul was shipwrecked and marooned on the island of Melita. On that rainy day as Paul was gathering sticks to build a fire, “…there came a viper out of the heat, and fastened on his hand.” When the barbarians saw the deadly, venomous viper hanging from the apostle’s hand, they expected Paul to swell up and suddenly fall down dead (see v. 6). But instead, verse 5 tells us that Paul “…shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm.”
The deadly poison of that snake should have killed Paul. But as the powerful venom surged through the apostle’s circulatory system, God’s power intervened, overruling and nullifying the venom so that it had no adverse effect on Paul whatsoever! On the other hand, this “wonder” had a huge impact on those who were standing nearby, watching in amazement. Instead of seeing Paul fall dead, these people saw “…no harm come to him…” (v. 6). They were so shocked by this miraculous event that a major revival erupted, through which many people from every quarter of the island came to Christ. This would therefore definitely qualify as a “mighty deed” occurring in the life of the apostle Paul.
Writing about his many experiences in ministry in Second Corinthians 11, Paul tells of being shipwrecked three times, severely beaten on five different occasions, traveling on dangerous roads and across treacherous rivers, and so forth. If it hadn’t been for God’s power sustaining Paul and intervening on his behalf, many of these experiences would have ended in the apostle’s death.
We must note the time Paul was stoned in Lystra and left for dead. Religious Jews were professionals at stoning people to death. Therefore, it’s very significant that Acts 14:19 tells us that certain Jews, “…having stoned Paul, drew him out of the city, supposing he had been dead.”
After pummeling Paul’s body with stones, these Jews dragged him out of the city and left him to be eaten by animals. But Acts 14:20 goes on to tell us, “…As the disciples stood round about him, he rose up….” This was a mighty deed — a special working of God’s miraculous power that seems to have actually raised Paul from death itself.
Those who have an apostolic call on their lives serve God on the front lines of His Kingdom, facing challenges and difficulties beyond what others might encounter. These individuals must forge their way and make significant inroads into the enemy’s territory. Therefore, miracles — those undeniable moments when God’s power intervenes in the natural course of events — are required and will always be evident in the lives of those whom God has called to be apostles.
God imparts supernatural strength for the apostolic pioneer to endure the fight of faith required to fulfill his assignment. And throughout the assignment, whenever needed, God shows up to perform signs, wonders, and mighty deeds — not only following the anointed preaching of His Word, but also on behalf of His obedient “sent one” in order to ensure that the divine assignment is completed. As a result, people’s lives are transformed to the glory of Jesus Christ and the building of His Church!
MY PRAYER FOR TODAY
Father God, I praise and magnify You, for You alone are the God of miracles. Your mighty wonders cannot be contained or explained by any natural power or force of nature. Lord Jesus, You said supernatural signs would follow the preaching of Your Word. I pray that ministers and believers everywhere who proclaim Your Word will also walk in mighty demonstrations of Your awesome power to authorize them as they enforce Your will. Lord Jesus, as we approach the day of Your returning, I expect an increase in signs, wonders, and miracles — not only through Your people, but also on behalf of Your people to protect them and to prevent their assignments from being cut short as they live in consecrated service to Your divine will.
I pray this in Jesus’ name!
MY CONFESSION FOR TODAY
I confess that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever; therefore, I know that He continues to confirm His Word with signs following just as He said He would. The supernatural power of my Almighty God is still on display today through miracles, signs and wonders that manifest outside the realm of ordinary events — and they do so both through me and on my behalf to the glory of God the Father!
I declare this by faith in Jesus’ name!
QUESTIONS FOR YOU TO CONSIDER
- What other signs and mighty deeds can you think of that marked the apostle Paul’s life and apostolic ministry? Why not take a few minutes and make a list of what comes to your mind?
- We find examples of God protecting and delivering His people through miracles, signs, and wonders in both the Old and New T Can you recall a time when God intervened in your own life through a demonstration of His power and love that could not be explained as merely a natural event?
- You may not be an apostle, pioneering for the sake of the Gospel. But in Mark 16:17 and 18, Jesus described specific signs that would follow those who believe. Take a moment to read these words of Jesus and then ask yourself if these signs have ever followed you.