“Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother,” (1 Corinthians 1:1, AV)
Somewhere in my archives is the certificate of my commissioning in the United States Army as a 2nd Lieutenant. I received this commission in 1974 after graduating from Drexel University. At the top of the certificate, in large letters, you see the words, “The President of the United States of America.” The authority of the commission came from the Commander and Chief of the armed forces. With that commission came a degree of responsibility and authority.
After receiving the commission, I attended some schooling and then was assigned as the platoon leader in the 3rd Armored Division in Germany. As a tank platoon leader, I had the responsibility for training my men in a variety of skills. This meant teaching, practical exercise, and correcting when they were doing things incorrectly. The authority to do this work was conferred upon me by the highest levels of command and it was vital that I exercised my duties to the best of my ability.
Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, a church that he had planted earlier. There are indications that Paul wrote several letters to this church. Of which we see in our Bible, First and Second Corinthians. Paul wrote to them mainly to deal with a variety of problems in the church. Some correction was necessary. So, it is fitting that Paul began this letter presenting his authority for presenting such a poignant epistle, often rebuking the church for their problems and oversights.
What was Paul’s authority? It was the authority of God. He stated that he was called to be an apostle by the will of God. His calling was from the supreme authority over all creation. There is no higher calling than this. Paul was given the invitation to serve God as an apostle and he willingly accepted that calling.
The calling was given according to the will of God. This is important to note. Paul did not through his own will decide that he would be an apostle. How did Paul receive this calling? It began on the Road to Damascus when he encountered the risen Lord. Then he was taken to see a man named Ananias. Ananias had a vision from the Lord in which he was told that Paul was a chosen instrument of the Lord to take the message of hope to the Gentiles. (Acts 9:1-19; 22:6-16; 26:12-18) It was in this encounter with the Lord and the affirmation of Ananias that Paul understood his calling.
Paul’s calling was as an apostle. The word apostle, apostolos, refers to a delegate, a messenger, one that is sent out with a message (Strong G652). Paul’s calling was to take the message of God’s truth to the Gentile world. He would serve in a variety of capacities, including preaching the gospel, planting churches, training and equipping the believers, and overseeing the new churches in the Gentile regions. This work included addressing problems in the churches.
Paul was properly considered an apostle since he, like the eleven, had been commissioned by Jesus and were witnesses to His resurrection. While today we cannot meet this strict definition of an apostle, all believers have been called of God to serve as delegates, ambassadors of Christ, taking the message of hope to a darkened world. Some will be called to be pastors of churches. Some called to be teachers. Yet all are called to be messengers of the gospel. Our calling is of the highest authority. Let us pursue it to the best of our ability by God’s grace working in us.