The Apostolic "We" Passages
One of the marked features of the ministry of the Apostles was that they modeled what it means for ministry to be about Christ and not about us. When the apostle Paul declared, "we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake," he was speaking on behalf of the other apostles--and was summing up what the apostolic ministry was all about. However, this does not mean that Paul, Peter, James and John never spoke about themselves or their ministries. It's fascinating and instructive when we pull all of these apostolic
"we" passages together to view them side by side. Here's what we see when we do so:
- The Apostles Were Accused Of Giving License To Sin Because They Preached Grace: "And why not say, “Let us do evil that good may come”?—as we are slanderously reported and as some affirm that we say. Their condemnation is just."
- The Apostles Put Themselves On The Same Spiritual Plane as All Men By Nature: "What then? Are we better than they? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin" (Rom. 3:9)
- The Apostles Viewed Themselves As Servants Of God In His Kingdom: "For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building" (1 Cor. 3:9).
- The Apostles Gave Up Everything For The Well-Being Of The Church: "You are already full! You are already rich! You have reigned as kings without us—and indeed I could wish you did reign, that also might reign with you. For I think that God has displayed us, the apostles, last, as men condemned to death; for we have been made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men.We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are distinguished, but we are dishonored! To the present hour we both hunger and thirst, and we are poorly clothed, and beaten, and homeless. 12 And we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we endure; being defamed, we entreat. We have been made as the filth of the world, the offscouring of all things until now." (1 Cor. 4:8-14).
- The Apostles Denied Themselves Lawful Rights For The Sake Of The Ministry To The Church: "Do we have no right to eat and drink? Do we have no right to take along a believing wife...If we have sown spiritual things for you, is it a great thing if we reap your material things? If others are partakers of this right over you, are we not even more? (1 Cor. 9:4-5; 11-12).
- The Apostles Were Willing To Yield On Cultural Preferences: But if anyone seems to be contentious, we have no such custom, nor do the churches of God" (1 Cor. 11:16).
- The Apostles Were Men Giving Over To Death Everyday For The Gospel: "Now if we are afflicted, it is for your consolation and salvation, which is effective for enduring the same sufferings which we also suffer. Or if we are comforted, it is for your consolation and salvation. And our hope for you is steadfast, because we know that as you are partakers of the sufferings, so also you will partake of the consolation. For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us you also helping together in prayer for us, that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the gift granted to us through many. For our boasting is this: the testimony of our conscience that we conducted ourselves in the world in simplicity and godly sincerity, not with fleshly wisdom but by the grace of God, and more abundantly toward you. For we are not writing any other things to you than what you read or understand. Now I trust you will understand, even to the end (as also you have understood us in part), that we are your boast as you also are ours, in the day of the Lord Jesus" (2 Cor. 1:6-14).
- The Apostles Never Lorded Their Authority Over the Church: "Not that we have dominion over your faith, but are fellow workers for your joy; for by faith you stand" (2 Cor. 1:24).
- The Apostles Were Confident That They Were Spreading the Aroma of Christ Through Their Preaching And Lives: "Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the fragrance of Christ among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing. To the one we are the aroma of death leading to death, and to the other the aroma of life leading to life. And who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, as so many, peddling the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as from God, we speak in the sight of God in Christ" (2 Cor. 2:14-17).
- The Apostles Did Not Seek the Stamp of Approval From Men: "Do we begin again to commend ourselves? Or do we need, as some others, epistles of commendation to you or letters of commendation from you? 2 You are our epistle written in our hearts, known and read by all men; clearly you are an epistle of Christ, ministered by us, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of flesh, that is, of the heart. And we have such trust through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life" (2 Cor. 3:1-6).
- The Apostles Were Confident Of God's Glory Being Manifested Through The Preaching Of Christ: "Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness nor handling the word of God deceitfully, but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. But even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing whose minds the god of this age has blinded, who do not believe, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine on them. For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ..." (2 Cor. 4:1-18).
- The Apostles Had Trouble Everywhere They Went: "For indeed, when we came to Macedonia, our bodies had no rest, but we were troubled on every side. Outside were conflicts, inside were fears" (2 Cor. 7:5).
- The Apostles Admitted Their Weakness In Themselves And Expressed Their Boldness in Christ: "To our shame I say that we were too weak for that! But in whatever anyone is bold—I speak foolishly—I am bold also" (2 Cor. 11:21).
Here are a few other apostolic
"we" passages that teach us the nature of Gospel ministry:
- "For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance, as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake" (1 Thess. 1:5).
- "But even after we had suffered before and were spitefully treated at Philippi, as you know, we were bold in our God to speak to you the gospel of God in much conflict" (1 Thess. 2:2).
- "But we were gentle among you, just as a nursing mother cherishes her own children" (1 Thess. 2:7)
- "So, affectionately longing for you, we were well pleased to impart to you not only the gospel of God, but also our own lives, because you had become dear to us" (1 Thess. 2:8).
- "For, in fact, we told you before when we were with you that we would suffer tribulation, just as it happened, and you know" (1 Thess. 3:4).
- "therefore, brethren, in all our affliction and distress we were comforted concerning you by your faith. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow us, for we were not disorderly among you" (1 Thess. 3:7).
- "For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat" (2 Thess. 3:10).
- "And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain" (2 Peter 1:18).