To Paul Or Not To Paul?

January 5, 2017

1Co 14 36 What? came the word of God out from you? or came it unto you only?
37 If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.
38 But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.

Paul is the most maligned apostle of all the apostles. If it were only by the Jews of his day, that would be understandable. The problem is that he received more friendly fire than enemy fire. He had to defend himself to the church in Jerusalem and against those who came to undermine his ministry at Corinth. Worst of all, he had to defend himself to the very people he won to Christ.

It was not easy being Paul then and it is just as hard today. The various groups today pick and choose his writings and some even question his apostleship today stating that much of his writings are not inspired, but just his opinions. Misguided opinions at that. Where they agree with him like in salvation by faith and faith alone they will sing his praises, but where they disagree they will say that it was cultural and not for today or the rants of a misogynist or some other derogatory name. Sometimes they try to play one verse over another though there is no contradiction in the verses, but rather contradiction in our biased interpretation.

We have a problem here. Either he is an apostle or not and if not we have even more problems. If he is, then we have no right to question his teachings because we or our culture does not like them. Paul had to deal with a culture that was not much unlike our own so it is really pretty easy to understand and apply his teachings if we are honest with the Word.

Indeed, I am a simple man and listening to some of the complicated and sometimes convoluted things people use to toss out some of his teachings or in some way to exalt one teaching over the others gives me a headache. Paul spoke of the simplicity of the Gospel and we have done everything we can but keep the Gospel and Church doctrine simple. That is why we have so many different groups, denominations and non-denominations, despite Christ’s goal that we be one and the Holy Spirit being sent to lead us into ALL truth, not essential and non-essential ones or gray areas when in Him there is no variableness or shadow of turning.

I get that our Messianic Jewish brothers have some trouble dealing with Paul because even Peter said Paul taught some things hard to be understood, yet he acknowledged Paul’s apostleship and doctrine. Paul was and is the Apostle to the nations or Gentiles,us. Like it or not, we are to build our doctrines and practices off of his teachings, not our desires or disagreements. We really have no excuse because we do not have the cultural issues that often hinder our brethren of Jewish descent from fully embracing Paul or doing what we do and try to work around the parts they do not like or find hard to understand.

Paul was not what we would call politically correct. He was not called to be that. He was an extremely zealous and studious Jew that defended the faith to the hilt. We cannot expect him to be any less so as a Christian. We also have to give him some closer attention because he received one on one training from Christ in the wilderness for three years. That is more intense than the other Apostles received. They were prepared to minister to the Jews, whose language and customs they knew and it was a twelve member class with one who flunked.

Paul was amazingly intelligent and well learned, but he had to have a complete retraining so he could answer both Jew and Greek (Gentiles). He was going to have an intense ministry as we see in his resume (2 Cor 11) and in the book of Acts so he received special intense training from the Lord. It is very hard to question a man who has that kind of certification.

Jesus taught Paul and the others in just three years. We now want a man to study anywhere from 8 to 15 years before we deem him a real expert in the faith so obviously our training is a bit inferior to Christ’s. Who are we to argue with Paul? I would have to say we are very arrogant or maybe not true Christians, but rather having a form of godliness denying the power thereof. None of our writings are inspired like his, if you believe the Bible to be inspired. Just saying.

Paul obviously said that his writings were the commandments of God, not just the philosophy or theology of men. In college, we study the Pauline epistles and speak of Pauline theology, but in a sense that is a misnomer. God inspired him to write what he did, so really we are studying Theos theology or the study of God’s theology, not Paul’s. When you look at it that way, it makes it more difficult to question what Paul writes, He did say of one issue, that he was giving his opinion, not from commandment. Yet, he said that he believed he had the mind of Christ. If God disagreed with him, would he be allowed to give that opinion? Since God did not censor him and he was writing under inspiration, was it only his opinion and not to be considered? Indeed, did he know the mind of Christ so well that he could base his opinion on that knowledge without having to have a direct command on the issue? I think that is a logical conclusion.

Do we not make judgments on what we know about a person? If someone says they are thinking of asking me to go to a sporting event to a friend of mine, that friend who knows me will tell them I am not a sports guy. Did they ask me? Did I have to tell them? No, because my friend has my mind on that issue. Paul was in such close relationship with Christ he could give an opinion that was not contrary to Christ’s thoughts without needing a direct command. I feel safe to say that very few, if anyone, are in that same type of relationship and if they were they would never contradict anything Paul wrote. I am afraid that we are in the position of those who Paul had to ask if the word of God came from out of them or to them only. It is always safe to question other men, but dangerous to question the Apostles.

That is how we get wrapped up in many heresies. Heresy is not only false doctrine, but also division. We are not to be divided, but we are more so now than ever in history with a new church cropping up every day dividing the Body and sapping it of the unity Christ ordained. Often, it is because of some false doctrine or an undue exaltation of one issue or some fad. Sometimes, it is the pride or anger of men. It is hard to believe that this division is the will of God when His will is unity. Indeed, if every church in town is apostate then a new work would be necessary, but if not, then it is not necessary. In my small town, not every church is apostate or cultist and yet we have a new one it seems every six months or so crop up. So what is going on? Is it of God or man?

It would be interesting to research and see how many of these divisions have been caused over a difference of interpretation about something Paul wrote versus the rest of the New Testament writers. We do know that cessation and non-cessation churches exist because of disagreement over Paul’s writings about the gifts.

Some differences create denominations and others cause church splits while others change denominations. In my experience and research, every group has one or more doctrines that are not in complete alignment with Paul’s teachings that he said were commandments of God. So while Paul was called to teach us how Church is to be done and what we are to believe to keep us in unity, in the end we are divided over them. That did not come from God.

As I said, Paul was not PC and would be in great controversy if he were preaching today. He would experience more beatings and friendly fire. He may even incur more jail time. When someone is right, he can be adamant and even what we would call insulting when Paul said if a person is ignorant then let him be ignorant. So if a person claims to be spiritual or a prophet and disagrees with him they are in a precarious position. Are they ignorant and not as spiritual as they think or have a prophet’s call? Paul would say yes so that is an ouch to many theologians. Paul did not read Dale Carnegie’s book on how to win friends and influence people. Then again, that was worldly wisdom that works in the world, but Paul’s wisdom came from above.

It would seem it best for all theologians to reread Paul and readjust their theology accordingly. If Paul is wrong in one area, he may be wrong in others. What if he is wrong about salvation through faith by grace? Where we then? Still dead in sin or tossing dice. No, you have to take all of Paul, not pick and choose. If you dump Paul in one area, you may as well dump him in all. You cannot create a Jeffersonian bible and kick Paul even partly to the curb. There is too much peril in doing so. Accept what he says, not try to revise him to you or your culture’s liking. Just say yes to Paul. Jesus called him as one out of due time and trained him one on one. It is not wise to challenge a person with that honor. Maranatha!


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