Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Questioning Paul?

Sometime last month a gentleman posted a response to my article on legalism in which he denied the apostolic authority and divine inspiration of the apostle Paul. He wrote:

Legalism....Have you ever questioned Paul?Paul says we are not under the law, but the Bible says God'scommandments are forever and ever (Psalm 111)I seriously believe Paul was a false apostle

He then proceeded to list 4 arguments for his anti-Pauline theology. I deleted the response in fear that someone might read it and be led astray, I am now prepared, however, to respond to his arguments.

He states that Paul was a false apostle based on:

1. He wasn't ordained an apostle by Christ (Matt. 10).
This criticism goes against the profession of Paul, but our friend does not accept any profession of Paul's. However, he does accept the work of Luke in the book of Acts as revealed testimony, for he quotes it in defense of his arguments. So let us turn to Luke's work in Acts to defend the apostolic ministry of Paul. Acts records Jesus' words to Ananias saying that he should go and seek out Saul of Tarsus for "he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel. For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name" (Acts 9: 15, ESV). Christ has specifically chosen Paul to be an apostle to the Gentiles.

2. He didn't qualify to be an apostle (Acts 1:16-26).
It might be stated that this criticism is really a subset of the former, and so while I appeal to the former defense (that Paul was chosen by Christ) I will also here add to it. I assume that our friend is here arguing that Paul was not "one of the men who had accompanied [the other apostles] all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among [them]." Paul had seen the risen Lord (Acts 9:17), which is usually considered the second requirement for apostleship. While it must be conceeded that Paul did not meet this first requirement context must alos be taken into account. The office of the 12th Apostle was a position which God had ordained for ministry to the nation of Israel. This was not Paul's ministry, he was chosen, by Christ, to go to the Gentiles; so Paul calls himself the apostle to the Gentiles. John MacArthur wisely writes, "While Paul was in no way inferior to the twelve, he was not one of their number. By his own testimony he was 'in no respect...inferior to the most eminent apostles, even though I am a nobody' (2 Cor. 12:11). He was a unique apostle. The mission of the twelve was primarily to teh nation of Israel, while he was the apostle sent to the Gentiles (Romans 11:13)" (MacArthur, The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Acts1-12).

3. Paul's Doctrine is Proven False.
This is by far the critics most legnthy criticism, but also, I might add, his most shallow and sloppy. His first agrument is grounded on the shaky foundation that Paul said Christ appeared to the "twelve" in 1 Cor. 15:5, while the Gospel writers attest only to Christ's appearance before the 11.

For starters let it be said that this has absolutely no bearing on Paul's theology. Even if we were to concede an error here it would be a mistake in Paul's recollection, not a damaging affect to his doctrinal belief. But I will not permit even this. There are no errors in the Word of God. Among scholars today is agreed upon, generally, that the expression "the twelve" was used to apply to the apostles even after Judas' death. It was an accepted title for the group. Furthermore Jesus appeared to over 500 witnesses, not all are listed. This is such a poor hermeneutic and takes nothing else of the actual content of Paul's letters into account.

Secondly our critic applies a text to Paul which offers no textual evidence for doing so. He writes: "Paul is a liar, and a proven false witness. Christ, in Revelation 2:2 commends the church of Epheus for figuring out false aposles. He said, “…thou hast tried them which say they are apsostles, and are not, and hast found them liars. Remember, Paul preached at Epheus."

His own bias is the only thing that led him to apply this text to Paul. There were a number of preachers in Ephesus, he chooses Paul simply because it feeds his argument. Paul left Timothy in Ephesus to counter the false teachings of Hymenaeus and Alexander. The assumption that the false teacher was Paul is pure bias and finds no textual support.

4. My friend concludes his criticims with "Fact 4," as he puts it (using "fact" for the first time in this argument makes one wonder if he ment the others to be purely speculative). This final critic suggests "The Apostles did not beleive Paul was a disciple."

Here again our critic applies a poor hermeneutic. He writes: Acts 9:2626And when Saul was come to Jerusalem, he assayed to join himself to the disciples: but they were all afraid of him, and believed not that he was a disciple.After Barnabas told the apostles that Paul had “seen the Lord” and that he preached boldy in the name of Jesus, the Apostles didn’t tell him to join them, but they sent him home to Tarsus. Remember, Jesus told us (Mat 13:57) that a prophet is not without honour except in his own country and in his own house . The apostles sent Paul to a place that no one would believe him.

This so-called "fact" is purely speculative as well, however, for we find nothing in the text stating that (or even necessarily implying that). The apostles feared Saul because he was a former murderer of Christians, they feared this might be a trick. But after Barnabas explains Saul's conversion the apostles do not send him away as an attempt to de-rail his ministry. Our friend has left out part of the story and mis-represented the truth of what the apolstles did. Here was it really says:

And he [Paul] spoke and disputed against the Hellenists. But they were seeking to kill him. And when the brothers learned this, they brought him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.

They did not send him away so that no one would believe him, they sent him away to save his life.

But the most convincing argument for Paul's apostolic authority our friend has completely ignored. In 2 Peter 3:14-18 the apostle Peter clearly ascribes "Scripture" to Paul's letters. He writes: "Our brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures." There were some who were twisting Paul's words, perhaps like this gentleman has done, and Peter says they do the same thing with "OTHER SCRIPTURES". Meaning he was calling Paul's words Scripture, recognizing them to be divinely inspired.

Questioning Paul? I think after a thorough review it seems we should question our critic, and not the divinely inspired word of God.


Post a Comment

<< Home