Close your eyes and visualize what you think an apostle should look and act like. Do you see him or her like a classy CEO of a corporation, barking orders to underlings? Or like a authoritative general? Or like a prestigious national leader?
We probably all have opinions about apostles. Some of our beliefs will be based on our cultures and some on our church traditions or teachings.
But how did Paul visualize his calling of apostle?
For, I think, God hath set forth us the apostles last of all, as men doomed to death: for we are made a spectacle unto the world, both to angels and men. (1 Corinthians 4: 9 ASV)
…we have become as the scum of the world, the dregs of all things, even until now. (1 Corinthians 4: 13 NASB)
Not exactly what you had in mind, right? But consider this: our English translations paint a much rosier picture of the apostle than what Paul really visualized when he wrote these verses in his original Greek writings.
Paul actually saw the apostle as a person who was considered by the world as the lowest and worst possible criminal, much like an Adolf Hitler or Idi Amin or a brutal serial killer. A person who the world would not have one drop of pity or empathy for at all.
And if possible, the world would capture the apostle and place him at the end of long procession that would pass by crowds who would taunt, spit on, throw rocks at, dump refuse on, and whatever to belittle the apostle. Why? Because the apostle, in the judgment of the world, deserved this abuse because of his calling.
The long procession would eventually parade itself into an arena where the apostle’s death would be the main attraction for the world’s spectators – and also for angels.
The apostle’s death, as visualized by Paul, would not be a beheading or a firing squad or a hanging. No, those types of executions would be much too civilized for a culprit as evil as the apostle. Instead, wild animals, such as lions and tigers, would be sent into the arena to tear and rip apart the apostle. All the while, the world would be looking on and enjoying the bloody spectacle.
Okay, get the picture?
Now, how would you feel about having an apostle, like the one Paul visualized, come to your church? Would it bother you that the world, maybe your friends, relatives and neighbors, would think of him as an evil criminal? Would you like being linked to his name and assumed to be just as guilty as the apostle because of your association to him?
(Continued in Part 6…but if you want to read all of the parts to date, you can go here.)