“Dear Paul: We are sorry, but you are unqualified to be our apostle…” [Studies in 1 Corinthians]

Paul had a precise idea of how to serve God. He worked day and night with his own hands; he risked his life and his health; he “served” the churches and did not exploit them. As a teacher he acted with patience and consideration: when people wanted answers he gave them careful, detailed explanations. He communicated the gospel in a way that anyone could understand (1 Cor 9:20-22).

From what we can glean in 1 and 2 Corinthians, that church wanted a different breed of apostle:

Church at Corinth, Achaia

Wanted: an apostle with style

The church in Corinth is seeking applicants for the position of apostle. We wish to avoid leaders who do not measure up to the highest standards of Christian ministry. Hence we insist that all candidates fulfill the following conditions:

Professional demeanor

  • We want a man who holds his head high, not one with a slavish attitude of “service.” We want to show the appeal of the gospel for people with ambition.
  • He should own a vehicle; travel by foot gives the impression that one is a loser.
  • He should have a good family life; a single man gives the impression of instability.
  • He should dress well; he should know about different types of cuisine; he should know which fork to use.
  • He should take care to cultivate a good image in the community.
  • He should be well-spoken. He should not use a simple word when a more exact philosophical term exists.
  • He should enjoy good health and avoid arrest, prison time and persecution. Suffering is waste of time – days and weeks lost in the hospital, in jail, in fleeing from one city to another – and it gives people the impression that the gospel is not for the successful.
  • He should be able to defend himself against his detractors. When he is slandered he should be able to mount a decisive verbal counter-attack.

Ministry priorities

  • He should know his own mind. He should have black-and-white answers to difficult questions.
  • He should put his agenda above individuals and part with people who do not accept his vision. If he speaks sharply, especially to the ignorant masses, he should command their respect and obedience.
  • He shouldn’t be wasting his time with the “pray without ceasing” movement.
  • He should not be trapped by the fundamentalist tradition of “winning the lost.” That is, he should focus on satisfying those who are already “won” and who want deeper instruction.
  • He should get enough rest that he doesn’t go around looking sleepless, hungry, or exhausted by work.

Contractual details

We are looking for someone who will devote all his time to teaching. We have found it unworkable for an apostle to get sidetracked by secular employment, to the diminishment of our reputation and to the loss of ministry time. He should not be ashamed to demand a good salary. He should expect to reward those who pay him with strong leadership and an impressive presentation of the Christian message.

Paul crumpled up the announcement and tossed it in the waste basket.

Related posts and a free full-length commentary:

Studies in 1 Corinthians by Gary Shogren

By Gary Shogren, Seminario ESEPA, San José, Costa Rica

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  1. […] wins the prize for most creative (recent) Apostle-Paul-in-Corinth blog post.  In “Dear Paul,” he describes how the apostle failed to satisfy what Corinthian Christians thought most […]

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