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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]

Does it follow from 2 Corinthians 2:11-12 that whoever claims to be a true apostle called by God must provide evidence in terms of signs, wonders and mighty deeds? If so, does this apply to all true apostles throughout history?


Related C.SE question: How do believers in modern-day apostles interpret 2 Corinthians 12:11-12?

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The simple answer is "Yes" - all true apostles called by God will be followed by signs and wonders, with the following understanding:

  1. "Apostles" are NOT appointed by men, but by the sovereign choice of God as per Gal 1:1, 1 Cor 12, etc.

Phil 2:13 - For it is God who works in you to will and to act on behalf of His good purpose.

  1. Further, Paul manifested the power of God via signs and miracles only when it suited the purpose and will of God which was NOT continuous - but only when required.

  2. Let there be no doubt that the conversion of a single soul to the Lord is a divine miracle of the first order. Miracles of apostles may not be manifest as healings or raising the dead etc (although these are not excluded) but the primary miracle of the apostle is the conversions of souls for the kingdom of God.

See Appendix below for further information.

APPENDIX - Signs and Wonders

The frequent Scriptural references to “signs and wonders” naturally fall into two obvious categories of the genuine and false. It is clear from Matt 12:38 & 39, 16:1-4, Luke 11:16, John 4:48, 6:26, 30, that the scribes and Pharisees had trouble distinguishing the two. See also 1 Cor 1:22, 14:22.

Genuine

The genuine signs and wonders attest their divine origin and serve to strengthen faith.

  • John 2:11, 3:2, 4:54, 6:2, 10:41, 20:30 are all references to Jesus’ miracles.
  • Acts 2:22, Mark 16:20 also refer to Jesus’ miracles.
  • Matt 10:8, Mark 16:17, 20, Acts 2:22, 43, 4:30, 5:12, 6:8, 8:6, 13, 14:3, 15:12, 19:11, Rom 15:18, 19, 2 Cor 12:12, Heb 2:4 speak of the signs and wonders accompanying the apostles’ ministry.
  • Ex 7:3, Num 14:11, Deut 6:22, 7:19, 10:21, 26:8, 29:3, 34:11, Neh 9:10, Job 5:8-11, Ps 105:27, 135:9, Isa 8:18, Jer 32:20, 21, Dan 6:27 recall the miracles done for ancient Israel, eg, to free them from Egypt.
  • Dan 4:2, 34 records Nebuchadnezzar’s hymn of praise for God’s signs and wonders.
  • In Luke 7:18-23, Jesus’ only answer to John the Baptist about Jesus’ identity (as Messiah) is to list His miracles: “the blind see, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor are given the good tidings…”

False or Lying Signs and Wonders

Pseudo (false) signs and wonders are invariably produced in order to deceive the wicked.

  • Matt 24:24, Mark 13:22 predict false signs and wonders performed by false Christs and false prophets
  • 2 Thess 2:9 predicts the rise of the lawless one accompanied by false signs and wonders
  • Rev 16:14 predicts that demons will perform false signs and wonders
  • Rev 13:13, 14 19:20 predict that the great false prophet (third beast of the Beast Trinity) will perform false signs and wonders

It should be remembered that Deut 13:1-5 contains a stern warning about the veracity of signs and wonders to see if they are genuine. Similarly, Matt 24:24 contains Jesus’ warning not to base one’s faith purely on Signs and Wonders.

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John 2:

13 When it was almost time for the Jewish Passover, Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 14In the temple courts he found people selling cattle, sheep and doves, and others sitting at tables exchanging money. 15So he made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts, both sheep and cattle; he scattered the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. 16To those who sold doves he said, “Get these out of here! Stop turning my Father’s house into a market!” 17His disciples remembered that it is written: “Zeal for your house will consume me.”

18The Jews then responded to him, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?”

The Jews demanded a sign from Jesus to prove his authority. Jesus didn't reject their demand:

19Jesus answered, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up again.”

Similarly, Paul proved his apostleship by performing signs, 2 Corinthians 12:

12 Truly the signs [proof] of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs [miracles], and wonders, and mighty deeds.

In fact, the Greek word for "signs" means both "proof" and "miracles". The two concepts are linked together in one Greek word, HELPS Word-studies:

4592 sēmeíon – a sign (typically miraculous), given especially to confirm, corroborate or authenticate.

One could not inherit the title of apostle. An apostle was one sent by Christ on a mission. He proved his apostle authority by performing miracles because Christ sent him and enabled him.

Is 2 Corinthians 12:12 binding for all true apostles throughout history?

I'd think so.

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Sign of apostle, first of all, is to establish churches through preaching. If he or she can do it without acting miracles, then even better so! For neither Lord Himself likes to persuade through miracles (Matthew 16:4).

In fact, the miracles are only auxiliary and if persuasion into faith is possible without miracles, then the latter is better. Thus, if one sees a Christian preacher successful in establishing church without even working miracles and says: "Oh, this preacher is indeed establisher of church, but he is not an apostle, for he worked not a miracle", will be the same as to say: "T.S. Eliot is an author of a great and genial poem the "Wasteland", yet, he is not a poet, for a sign of a poet is to write in rhymes, while Eliot more often than not violates this feature" - sorry, but to write a genial poem is the aim of a poet and main sign of one being a poet; similarly, the main sign of an apostle is to establish a church through preaching. Or imagine a superbly skillful fisherman who can catch fish easily by hands alone; will he be rightfully denied the title of fisherman simply because in some fishermen textbook is written "sign of a fisherman is possession of a fishing net" - no! this is an auxiliary and unnecessary sign, for the sign of a fisherman is a developed skill for catching efficiently fish, which our fisherman does without net, with hands alone.

Who deserves more a name of an apostle: a) a one who works miracles but fails to convert people to Christ or b) a one who does not work miracles but persuades people to convert to Christ and establishes a church? The answer is clear - b)! For the greatest miracle is to persuade men to turn from sins to Christ, or to persuade a Jew through a good and unprejudiced reading of the Holy Writings that the Law and Prophets were a preparation for arrival of the Lord Jesus Christ? Paul did not work miracles, or very rarely, among Jews, but simply discussed Old Testament with them and persuaded them that the promised Messiah was Jesus Christ. Was he not an apostle while doing this?

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  • Sign of apostle, first of all, is to establish churches through preaching - what is the basis for this claim?
    – user38524
    Commented Dec 5, 2021 at 21:04
  • @SpiritRealmInvestigator Some things are self-evident. Just think: Paul goes to a synagogue, say, in Corinth, opens Holy Scriptures and persuades through grammar and logic that the promised Messiah is Jesus Christ. No miracle and entire synagogue is converted by persuasion of logic and grammar. Will this be accounted to Paul as apostleship, even with no miracle conducted? If the answer is yes, and unless you are lover of idle quarrels, I see no reason you say “no”, then you have answer on your question ready in your own conscience. Commented Dec 6, 2021 at 14:53
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Is 2 Corinthians 12:12 binding for all true apostles throughout history?

The Answer is "NO"

Because the sciptures say so.

1 Corinthians 13:8 states: If there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away.

The ability to perform various signs, gifts of prophecy, speak languages, portents, and powerful works was proof that God gave his divine backing to the newly formed Christian congregations. As the congregations grew and matured these miraculous powers would pass away, having served their purpose.

1 Corinthians 13:8-11 NASB

8 Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away with; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away with. 9 For we know in part and prophesy in part; 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away with. 11 When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.

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  • 1 Corinthians 13 says nothing about the essential features of a true apostle, or am I missing something?
    – user38524
    Commented Dec 5, 2021 at 19:15
  • Spirit Realm Investigator Verse 9 says " For we know in part and prophecy in part;" Paul as an apostle refers to himself and his associates, and the Apostles living at the time. Commented Dec 5, 2021 at 19:21
  • But he never said "true Apostles, by definition, must prophesy". Your stretching the text in that way is speculative at best, and unsubstantiated at worst.
    – user38524
    Commented Dec 5, 2021 at 21:01
  • Please show me this definition "True" in the scriptures,? Was Paul and his associates, such as Timothy and Barnabas were Apostles but and not true Apostles?, Please your terribly wrong. Commented Dec 6, 2021 at 8:50
  • You quoted 1 Cor 13:9 "For we know in part and prophesy in part" and claimed that it provides a requirement for all (authentic) apostles. That's obviously speculative. Where in the whole chapter is it said that the "we" is referring to all (authentic) apostles?
    – user38524
    Commented Dec 6, 2021 at 10:06

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