Question / Comment - Was the Apostle Paul a false Apostle, Prophet and Teacher?
My friend came to the Lord 3 years ago after a lifetime of truth-seeking and she is still incredibly inquisitive. She is sending me some very curly stuff!! What are your thoughts on this about the Apostle Paul?
JPN Note: I have removed the link but the video, apparently produced by a 'Christian', said that Paul was a deceiver, a false Apostle and prophet and that Christians should avoid his letters.
When Paul was alive and taught the gospel in various cities and areas, it wasn't long before the Judaizers entered, teaching that Paul was a false apostle, the gospel of grace was false and that they needed to keep the law. The letter to the Galatians is a good example of this. It seems that 2000 years later, little has changed. We still have groups like the Hebrew roots movement and various wanna-be-Youtube-stars saying that Paul is either dangerous, misunderstood or false - and they are going to help you know the real truth. The video you sent is like this saying that Paul is a false Apostle/teacher and should be avoided.
What does scripture say about Paul?
So what does the Bible say? For the sake of argument, let's leave out anything written by Paul about himself and just concentrate on what the rest of scripture says about him. This should give us a clear idea on whether he was accepted by the other apostles or not. The book of Acts especially will be helpful as this is the record of the first 30+ years of Church history in which Paul was very prominent. Note the following points that show that Paul was a true believer selected and empowered by Jesus:
- Jesus chose and commissioned Paul: Jesus spoke to Ananias, a believer in Damascus and told him in a vision that Paul is a chosen instrument for both the Gentiles and Israel and will suffer greatly for Jesus' name.
Act 9:15-16 But the Lord said to him, "Go, for he (Paul) is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name's sake."
- The Holy Spirit specifically set aside Paul for His work:
Act 13:2 While they were ministering to the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them."
- Paul was full of the Holy Spirit:
Act 13:9 But Saul, who was also known as Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, fixed his gaze on him...
- Paul is called an apostle by Luke who wrote Acts:
Act 14:14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their robes and rushed out into the crowd...
- The other apostles backed Paul: When the issue of whether the law of Moses was binding upon Gentiles came up, Paul and Barnabas argued against it. It came before the apostles in Jerusalem and they sided with Paul:
Act 15:1-2 Some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren, "Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved." (2) And when Paul and Barnabas had great dissension and debate with them, the brethren determined that Paul and Barnabas and some others of them should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders concerning this issue.
- The apostles (ie James, John, Peter) and elders further endorsed Paul in a letter stating:
Act 15:25 it seemed good to us, having become of one mind, to select men to send to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,
- Other prominent Christians endorsed Paul: Apart from the endorsement above from the main apostles, Paul worked closely with other prominent Church leaders including Barnabas (Act 14:14, 15:1-2), Mark (2Ti 4:11), Silas (Act 15:40) and Timothy (Act 16:1-3). So if Paul was false, so were these church leaders (which they weren't!)
- Peter gives his endorsement of Paul's ministry in his 2nd letter, calling him a beloved brother:
2Pe 3:15 and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you,
- Paul's life testified to his faithfulness to Jesus: Paul himself would go on to do exactly what Jesus had initially told Ananias - he preached to both Jews and Gentiles and suffered greatly for the gospel. Even eventually being martyred for the gospel.
Act 14:19-22 But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having won over the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead. (20) But while the disciples stood around him, he got up and entered the city. The next day he went away with Barnabas to Derbe. (21) After they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, (22) strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying, "Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God."
What would we have left of the New Testament if we removed the letters of those that endorse Paul?
So... for the sake of argument, let's say that those who support and write well of Paul are therefore also false and can't be trusted. What letters would be removed from the New Testament? Well let's start with all of Paul's letters - gone! That is 50% of the New Testament gone straight away. Mark worked closely with Paul, so say goodbye to the gospel of Mark. Peter wrote and called Paul 'a beloved brother' so goodbye 1st and 2nd Peter. We know that Peter and James spoke at the Jerusalem council as recorded in Acts 15 where Paul was endorsed. So also say farewell to the book of James. It is likely that John was also there as he, along with other apostles, were in Jerusalem and even stayed there after the persecution began (Act 8:1, 14, 25). The apostles and elders called Paul 'beloved' at that time - so, with the educated assumption that John was there, say au revoir to the gospel of John, 1st, 2nd and 3rd John and also Revelation. And obviously the book of Acts written by Luke is gone as that clearly states that Paul was selected by Jesus and set apart by the Holy Spirit for His work. We can't have that. So goodbye Acts and also the gospel of Luke. So what have we got left? Well, there is the book of Mathew, maybe Hebrews (but that is likely written by Paul as well so better turf it just in case) and Jude.
There is your New Testament if you remove the letters of those written by or endorsing Paul - Mathew and Jude! And Mathew is likely to have been among the other apostles who endorsed Paul as well at the council of Jerusalem. So to be safe, just stick with the one book of Jude, likely written later, after the death of Paul, containing just the single chapter. Best of luck with that! Least you can read the entire New Testament in one 5 minute sitting now!
Did the early church fathers support Paul's ministry?
It is also worth noting what the early church fathers said about Paul. The three most prominent (who lived in the first century along with other apostles mentioned in the Bible) were:
- Ignatius of Antioch (35 - 110AD)
- Clement of Rome (35 - 99AD)
- Polycarp of Smyrna (69 - 155AD) - A disciple of the apostle John
All three wrote about Paul. Did they see him as a false apostle and prophet? Absolutely not! Like the apostles in the New Testament they saw him as a beloved blessed brother in the Lord.
You are initiated into the mysteries of the Gospel with Paul, the holy, the martyred, the deservedly most happy, at whose feet may I be found, when I shall attain to God; who in all his Epistles makes mention of you in Christ Jesus.
Ignatius of Antioch, The Epistle of Ignatius to the Ephesians
Owing to envy, Paul also obtained the reward of patient endurance, after being seven times thrown into captivity, compelled to flee, and stoned. After preaching both in the east and west, he gained the illustrious reputation due to his faith, having taught righteousness to the whole world, and come to the extreme limit of the west, and suffered martyrdom under the prefects. Thus was he removed from the world, and went into the holy place, having proved himself a striking example of patience.
Clement of Rome, Letter to the Corinthians
For neither I, nor any other such one, can come up to the wisdom of the blessed and glorified Paul. He, when among you, accurately and steadfastly taught the word of truth in the presence of those who were then alive. And when absent from you, he wrote you a letter, which, if you carefully study, you will find to be the means of building you up in that faith which has been given you, and which, being followed by hope, and preceded by love towards God, and Christ, and our neighbour, is the mother of us all. For if any one be inwardly possessed of these graces, he has fulfilled the command of righteousness, since he that has love is far from all sin.
Polycarp, Epistle to the Philippians
Some people today, like in the first century, don't like Paul because they don't like the gospel of grace. These are often legalists, desiring to keep people under the law of Moses. But as shown above, Paul has the backing of the other apostles. If you think that Paul was false then you need to throw out those that endorsed his ministry and as shown, you will basically be left with nothing but the book of Jude. Clearly this whole argument against Paul is nuts. It is without merit. Paul, and the gospel of grace that he took to the Gentiles, is incredibly well supported both within the Bible and by the Church Fathers. There is no argument.
So don't listen to anyone that says otherwise. The age of YouTube and the like gives all sorts of people a voice that really shouldn't be teaching. In other ages no one would listen to them but ours is a strange age! You can be confident in the Bible as the word of God and that means all the letters of John, Peter, Luke, James etc and yes, definitely Paul! He was hand picked by Jesus and has one of the most incredible turn-around testimonies in the Bible. Following his conversion the remainder of his life was dedicated to the Lord and His gospel... right to the very day of his death where he was martyred for his faith.
Post note on who can be an apostle
PS The video said that Paul cannot be an apostle because according to Peter's word before Pentecost, the replacement apostle for Judas had to be someone that was with the disciples for Jesus' entire ministry. The verse quoted is:
Act 1:21-23 "Therefore it is necessary that of the men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us-- (22) beginning with the baptism of John until the day that He was taken up from us--one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection." (23) So they put forward two men, Joseph called Barsabbas (who was also called Justus), and Matthias.
Peter wanted someone that had in-depth knowledge of Jesus' ministry and had witnessed His resurrection to be the 12th apostle and replace Judas. Fair enough. That's fine. But it doesn't mean that only these 12 were called apostles. They weren't. As pointed out above, both Barnabas and Paul were called apostles by Luke (under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit - Acts 14:14). Andronicus and Junias are also called apostles in Rom 16:7. And the Greek word 'apostolos', which is usually translated “apostle”, is also used for Titus in 2 Corinthians 8:23 and Epaphroditus in Philippians 2:25. There is no indication in scripture that these other 'apostles' were with the disciples for Jesus' entire ministry. Paul himself was humble calling himself 'the least of the apostles' because he persecuted the church:
1Co 15:9-10 For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. (10) But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.
So no, Acts 1:21-23 doesn't prevent Paul from being an apostle, anymore than it did the others called apostles that were outside of the initial '12'.