We are looking at the biblical signs of a true and authentic apostle. One of the major signs of a true apostle is that he has the heart of a father. Apostles are spiritual fathers. This is true on two levels – corporate and individually.
Apostles become the founding fathers of churches and also have many spiritual children. As well, they also adopt churches, ministries, and children who are without a true spiritual father. This is an important sign of an apostle because their greatest passion should always be to raise natural and spiritual children and help them both to recognize their calling in God as well as disciple, train, equip and mentor them – eventually releasing them into full-time ministry. The greatest gift of an apostle is the ability to impart and teach other leaders the revelation regarding the church and the five-fold ministry that he has received and do so through a paternal relationship. As well, along with this, to impart his teaching method and style through discipleship.
Paul was a spiritual father not only to Timothy and Titus, but also to churches as well. Paul sometimes referred to himself in a fathering-type of role, and he articulated certain characteristics he exhibited toward those to whom he ministered. What do we see in these passages about the heart of a spiritual father?
1> He did not flatter them (1 Thessalonians 2:5). He wasn’t buttering them up just so they’d like him or so that he could get something out of them.
2> He was not covetous toward them (1 Thessalonians 2:5). He didn’t see having a relationship with them as a means of getting their goods.
3> He did not seek glory of men – he wasn’t seeking to be exalted (1 Thessalonians 2:6). This wasn’t about Paul gathering sons around him to feed his own ego.
4> He was not demanding of them. He wasn’t controlling, manipulative, or dictatorial (1 Thessalonians 2:6).
5> He exhibited a heart-felt, compassionate concern for their well-being.
6> He was gentle toward them (1 Thessalonians 2:7).
7> He cherished them (1 Thessalonians 2:7).
8> He longed for them affectionately (1 Thessalonians 2:8)
9> He not only gave them the gospel, but he gave his own life to them (1 Thessalonians 2:8).
10> They were dear and important to him (1 Thessalonians 2:8).
11> He exhorted, comforted, and charged every one of them, as a father does his children (1 Thessalonians 2:11).
12> His energies and efforts went toward their spiritual development (Galatians 4:19).
13> He was not interested in shaming them, but did feel obligated to warn them. He wasn’t putting them on a guilt trip or making them feel intimidated (1 Corinthians 4:14).
14> He was different than a mere teacher – he wasn’t just passing information on to them, but he had “begotten them” through the Gospel and was setting an example they could follow in their spiritual development (1 Corinthians 4:15-16).
15> He wasn’t seeking what was theirs (their money), but he was seeking them (2 Corinthians 12:14).
16> He was willing to spend and be spent for them – in other words, he was willing to live and give sacrificially for them – for their advancement and their development (2 Corinthians 12:15).
If you are a mature leader, I pray that these are the traits you will exhibit toward those you have the privilege of influencing. If you are in search of a father-figure, a mentor, or a role model in ministry, I trust you will keep these traits in mind as you look for someone who can be a good influence and example for you.