A Defense of The Apostle Paul

PaulSaul of Tarsus developed quite a reputation in the world of the early Christian church, zealously hunting down those who taught and preached in the name of Christ. He was on his way to Damascus, with arrest letters from the Jerusalem Sanhedrin in hand, when he had a personal encounter with Jesus Christ. As the Apostle Paul he became one of the most prolific church planters and writers of the first century; 14 of the 26 New Testament books are his letters (epistles) to various individuals and churches.

But here’s the rub: Do we today make too much of Paul? Does our attention become Paul-centered rather than Christ centered? Just because he wrote many epistles that become a major component of the New Testament, is everything Paul wrote the Word of God? Which is why I propose a defense of Paul to consider and respond to these criticisms.

It is human nature to pick favorites. And just like baseball fans have a favorite team, a favorite pitcher, or a favorite park, Christians become “fans” of particular leaders. I would rather listen to John Piper than Joel O’Steen (but that has more to do with theology than fandom). In 1 Corinthians 1, Paul responds to reports that some in the church are saying “I follow Paul” while others mention Apollos, Cephas, and even others proclaim “I follow Christ.” In a sense Paul has already responded to the Paul-centered argument when he asks “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you?” He urges all believers to be united in the same mind and judgement and that there be no divisions. He further says that he was not sent to baptize but to preach the Gospel “lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” Which brings me to my second point:

And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. 1 Corinthians 2:1-5

The primary goal of all of Paul’s ministry was to proclaim the Gospel message of Jesus Christ. I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. He wanted the faith of his listeners to rest not in his wisdom or in any other person but in the power of God. He was preaching Jesus and the resurrection in Athens when he attracted the attention the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers, and later reasoned with them concerning their altar dedicated to the unknown god. He proclaimed, in the Aeropagus of Athens, that The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything. Acts 17:24-25  

Paul desires we have the same mind in us as was in Christ in Philippians 2, who took the form of a servant obedient to the point of death. He proclaims the preaching of the cross foolishness to those who perish (1 Corinthians 1) but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation in Romans 1. The word Christ is referenced in the writings of Paul 364 times. There are guidelines for selecting leaders and instructions for members of the family written by Paul, but the overwhelming majority of his letters (and travels, and sermons) is focused on the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. The New Testament books of Paul are so Christ-centered that studying Paul becomes in and of itself a Christ-centered act.

Paul himself warned us not to make too much of Paul. What about his writings? What makes his letters scripture? One of the key facets of the Bible is that it does not contradict itself. In the first and second centuries there were many accounts of the life of Jesus and church leaders made decisions about biblical canon, what would be included as scripture in what was becoming the New Testament. The accounts of Matthew, Mark and Luke have many identical accounts that corroborate each other and paint a certain character portrait of Jesus. Other accounts, such as the Gospel of Judas or Gospel of Mary, paint a portrait that is out of character when compared to the others. The 14 letters of the Apostle Paul share the Gospel of Jesus that is in character with 1) what we know about Jesus from the 4 Gospel writers and 2) in line with what we know and understand of the Old Testament. Paul warns his listeners to not accept doctrine that does not agree with the words of Jesus Christ. (1 Timothy 6:3-4) That is possibly the strongest argument I can make. As a Pharisee, Saul had been a diligent student of the Law. He could read, write and probably speak at least four languages, including Hebrew, Greek, Aramaic and Latin. As one called of God (Acts 9) Paul was uniquely qualified to proclaim the Gospel message to Jews and to Gentiles. Look at his comparison of Adam and Jesus as types of first men (Romans 5) and the use of Sarah and Hagar as an allegory for two covenants (Galatians 4).

Did Paul make some mistakes? Did Paul sin? Absolutely. So did Abraham, Moses, King David, the Apostle Peter and every other significant character of the Bible, Old and New Testament (with one obvious exception). Many of those Old Testament figures, despite their well known faults, are spoken of highly by Jesus and the writer of Hebrews for their faith. Peter, who famously denied Jesus three times, was later charged with leading the disciples. Saul of Tarsus had a personal encounter with Jesus the Christ on his way to Damascus and became a changed man who suffered much and did much in establishing the New Testament church in its early history. The same God that inspired the Old Testament writers and the Gospel accounts gave us the rest of the New Testament. He did not suddenly become incapable of doing so early in the first century. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17 

The Bible tells one story, about how a holy God relates to a sinful, fallen and broken people. At the center of that story is Jesus. The goal of this blog, and hopefully every Christian endeavor, is to be God-honoring and Christ-centered. The work of the Apostle Paul, including the 14 surviving New Testament epistles, do that and can help us do the same to the glory and honor of God.

17 thoughts on “A Defense of The Apostle Paul

  1. I was talking to a “back slider” and she told me that most Christian are part of a Paul Cult. THAT made me stop and think…

  2. Angie,
    That is exactly right. I am a committed follower of the Lord God Jesus Christ. But most nominal “Christians” today ARE part of a Paul cult.

    Hi Clark,
    Reading through your defense of “The Apostle Paul”, I see that you rely almost entirely on Paul himself as your source.
    You make reference to or quote Paul’s letters, to the Corinthians, Philippians, Romans, Timothy, Romans, Galatians,
    and Paul’s sermon that Luke recorded in Acts 17 in which Paul never mentioned the name of Jesus once. No he didn’t. You can read if for yourself.

    You mention Paul being called by God in Acts 9, which I don’t dispute. But you failed to mention Acts 22 & 26, where Luke accurately records Paul exaggerating and making things up about his conversion experience, promoting himself and elevating himself in importance. Paul’s words about himself and his experience in Acts 22 & 26 don’t match what actually happened in Acts 9. You can read it in your Bible for yourself. King Saul was called by God too – and Samson, Jonah, and others who made huge mistakes.

    Your definition of “apostle” is based on Paul’s writings too, although like pretty much all Evangelicals you have not been aware of that.

  3. “What is an Apostle?”
    Here is the answer based on the original sources:
    The words and actions of Jesus and the Original Apostles in the text of the New Testament.

    .1) Gospel of Mark – time lag between being appointed and being sent
    “Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. He appointed twelve – designating them apostles – that they might be with him…” [Mark 3:13-14]

    Three chapters later,
    “Then Jesus went around teaching from village to village. Calling the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two and gave them authority over evil spirits.” [Mark 6:6-7]

    .2) Gospel of Luke – time lag between being appointed and being sent
    “One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles: Simon…..” [Luke 6:12-14]

    Again three chapters later,
    “When Jesus had called the Twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick.” [Luke 9:1-2]

    .3) Gospel of Matthew – which is organized by theme, not necessarily in chronological order.
    “He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal disease and sickness. These are the names of the twelve apostles: first, Simon…” [Matthew 10:1]

    Without any clear time reference, continuing on the theme of the Apostles, Matthew does record “These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions…” [Matthew 10:5] Matthew never said that the Apostles were “sent out” immediately after being appointed. If we didn’t also have the clear records in Mark and Luke, it would be a fairly logical assumption that Jesus sent them out right away, but it would still be just an assumption. In this case, that assumption would clearly be wrong. The Twelve Apostles were absolutely NOT sent out right away after being appointed Apostles, according to Mark chapters 3 through 6, and Luke chapters 6 through 9.

    So being an Apostle of Jesus involves being sent by Jesus, yes. But that isn’t the only meaning, or even the first and primary meaning. The first thing was “that they might be with Him” personally, together, for His entire earthly ministry, from the time of John the Baptist until Jesus rose to heaven. Jesus poured his life into the 12 Apostles for 3 ½ years very personally training them to be the leaders of the church, and Jesus chose Peter as first among equals.

    The NIV translation inserts the heading “Matthias Chosen to Replace Judas” for the passage Luke wrote in Acts 1:12-26]. The NIV headings were not part of the original text, and sometimes they can be misleading, but in this case I believe the heading is right on.

    Jesus and the Original Apostles knew what an Apostle is better than anyone else in the world. Why is this a strange idea? Why do so many people frequently attack and tear down and dismiss the Original Apostles, particularly Peter, as if they were all incompetent, stupid, and wrong in so many ways, and they didn’t even know what an “Apostle” was? The answer to that question is, they have been listening to the voice of Paul, rather than the voices of Jesus and the Original Apostles.

    As we consider the question “what is an Apostle”, we should carefully listen to the words of the leader that Jesus personally appointed as first among the Apostles, and trained personally for 3 ½ years, Peter.

    “It is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection.” [Acts 1:21-22]

    Neither Paul, nor James, nor Luke were with Jesus and the Apostles the whole time, so they were not qualified to be a “witness with the Apostles of Jesus’ resurrection”, which is what it means to be an Apostle. Matthias was qualified, appointed, and later recognized as part of The Twelve. No one except Judas ever lost his apostleship.

    Responding to a question from Peter,
    “Jesus said to them:
    …you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” [Matthew 19:28]

    We cannot prove that Judas was present at that time, and we cannot prove that Matthias was absent at that time when Jesus spoke those words. Even if Judas was physically present, as we all realize now, he was not a true follower of Jesus. And even if Matthias was physically absent at that particular occasion, Jesus is still establishing the basic qualification for having one of the twelve thrones as being “you who have followed me,” not someone who will follow Jesus in the future, like Paul, James, Luke or anyone else in the world.

    At the Last Supper, Jesus said to His Apostles:
    “You are those who have stood by me in my trials. And I confer on you a kingdom, just as my Father conferred on one on me, so that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” [Luke 22:28-30]

    Was Judas present when Jesus spoke those words? Even if someone wants to be argumentative and say we can’t prove that Judas wasn’t there at the time, we certainly can’t prove that Judas WAS there. Judas obviously didn’t stand by Jesus in his trial, as the whole world knows. But that was the requirement Jesus gave to “sit on thrones:” “You are those who have stood by me in my trials.” “You”, speaking to His 11 Apostles who had been walking with Him faithfully for 3 ½ years. Not others in the future who will follow the risen Jesus Christ. Notice that at the Last Supper, when Judas lost his throne and Matthias was definitely absent, Jesus chose to speak of “thrones” rather than “twelve thrones” as he had previously.

    The Apostle John recorded about the New Jerusalem,
    “The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” [Revelation 21:14]

    The Apostles are 12 faithful eyewitnesses who walked with Jesus during His entire earthly ministry, and Matthias is the 12th. That’s the short version of my definition of “what is an Apostle.”

  4. 1) Yes, I do rely extensively on the writings of Paul in my defense to demonstrate 2 things. First, as in the 1 Corinthians 1 text in particular, Paul’s desire is that we not make too much of Paul. It is possible to idolize anything, from the brass serpent Moses gave the Hebrews to even the Bible itself. Paul warned his followers not to do that; he was not crucified for their sins nor was anyone baptized in his name. And Secondly that being Paul-centered in our study of the scripture will make us Christ-centered. “I desired to know nothing among you except Christ and him crucified.” Those are not the words of a man seeking to make much of himself. Once the public ministry of Jesus began, John the Baptist said “He must increase but I must increase.” I quoted many times from Paul because so many things he writes are so good. You can’t be more theologically sound than the Pre-eminence of Christ section of Colossians 1.

    2) Some of the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers also conversed with him. And some said, “What does this babbler wish to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a preacher of foreign divinities”—because he was preaching Jesus and the resurrection. (Acts 17:18 ESV)

    In Acts 17 Paul was in Athens preaching Jesus and the resurrection. I did read it myself. Maybe there’s something wrong with your Bible.

    3) Luke wrote the Book of Acts. The accounts in chapter 9 appear remarkably similar to those of chapter 22 to me. It’s almost identical, the first being Luke’s account and the second being Luke’s account of what Paul said. The account varies slightly in Acts 26 but what specifically would you consider “exaggerations?” The book of Acts is not going to conflict with the book of Acts, that wouldn’t even make sense from a writer’s point of view.

    4) While Paul was not with Jesus during his earthly ministry, Paul had a personal encounter with Jesus the resurrected Savior and was appointed by God to carry the Gospel to the Gentiles. Acts 9, which you hold in higher regard than others portions of scripture, says in verse 15 “But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.” First, Paul met Jesus and was sent. Secondly, Paul makes his case to the Corinthian church that the marks of an apostle – signs, wonders and miracles – they were witness to. And thirdly, the full name of the 5th book of the New Testament is The Acts of the Apostles. Half the book is dedicated to telling the story of Paul’s life. Even Peter submitted to Paul’s authority when reprimanded. True, the 11 disciples chose Methias to replace Judas. And then we never hear from him again! Paul goes on to become the prolific writer of half the New Testament. 11 guys chose Methias, God appointed Paul.

    You are obviously not going to be changing your mind, and that’s fine. Most Christians everywhere, including the other Apostles in Jerusalem during the century, accept the Apostolic authority of Paul. 14 books of the New Testament were written by Paul. The books of the Bible, 66 books written by 40 some authors, work in concert to tell one story, and at the center of that story is Jesus. I have written in defense of Paul to answer your attacks for the benefit of my readers. AT THIS POINT I will kindly ask that you contribute something meaningful or be done here. You haven’t posted to your own blog since 2009. This will not become a forum for you and your personal whipping boy.

  5. Clark,
    You wrote, QUOTE:
    “being Paul-centered in our study of the scripture will make us Christ-centered.”

    With all due respect, this is nonsense. It is the logic of the “Cult of Paul.” This is a case of brainwashing. You have spent so much time reading Paul’s letters that you have the “mind of Paul”

    You believe at a gut level that everything Paul did must have been right, and everything Paul said must be true practically speaking. You would deny this theoretically and theologically. But you have been trained by the Paulist Tradition to think that it’s a sin to ever objectively evaluate Paul compared to Jesus.

    2) You quoted Luke’s editorial comments about Paul while he was in the marketplace in Athens. (Acts 17:18)
    The next verse, 17:19, begins,
    “Then they took him and brought him to a meeting of the Areopagus…

    The text of Paul’s speech in the Areopagus is Acts 17:22-31. Paul never mentions the name of Jesus in his speech in the Areopagus. This is a fact. Anyone can check it.

    3) I agree that “The book of Acts is not going to conflict with the book of Acts” and Luke wrote it, not Paul.

    Acts 9 is Luke’s record of what really happened.
    Acts 22 & 26 are Luke’s record of Paul’s conflicting versions of what happened in Acts 9. Luke recorded what Paul actually said – but this does not mean Paul’s words were true.

    Luke didn’t contradict himself, he just accurately recorded Paul making things up to promote himself, particularly in Acts 26. Yes, Acts 22 is much closer to the truth of Acts 9, so it shows that Paul was contradicting himself.

    4) You said QUOTE “Paul makes his case to the Corinthian church that the marks of an apostle – signs, wonders and miracles – they were witness to. ”

    You are begging the question.
    These are not the marks of an apostle.
    Paul was wrong about this. Paul didn’t know what an Apostle was, and he made up his own definition.

    I defined above, with extensive backup, what an Apostle is according to Jesus and the Original Apostles.

    You said QUOTE:
    “Even Peter submitted to Paul’s authority when reprimanded.”

    You are basing this entirely on Paul’s unsupported claims about himself in his personal writings.

    It was not a requirement of an Apostle to be famous, or a writer. The 12 Apostles were 12 faithful eyewitnesses, who had followed Jesus during his entire 3 1/2 years of earthly ministry, who were individually appointed and recognized.

    No one except Paul himself ever said that Paul was appointed an apostle, or recognized Paul individually as “an Apostle.” (No Luke didn’t say he was in Acts 14)

    By the way, we DO hear of Matthias again, before Paul ever appeared. Acts 6:2


  6. What makes an Apostle is the authority given when he is sent. The 12 were given not only authority to preach in Jesus’ name but to heal the sick and cast out demons. Saul of Tarsus had a personal encounter with Jesus and was sent to proclaim the Gospel to the Gentiles. If Paul did not have Apostolic authority, why was his claim not rejected by the Christian leaders in Jerusalem, such as Peter? Why is half of The Acts of the Apostles about his life and ministry? Why were his writings not rejected by the Church in the 2nd and 3rd centuries as the canon of scripture was formed?

    Let me ask you this: what is your authority to question the Apostleship of Paul or the authority of his writing as scripture? I have no special authority or divine revelation in this matter, I am simply agreeing with every major Christian theologian and church doctrine since the first century A.D. You are making the claim that pretty much every Christian today and for the past 1900 years is and has been wrong about the Apostle Paul, and that half of the New Testament was written by a liar. We have a name for individuals that dispute the words of scripture: they are called heretics.

    The first century church leaders, the Christians at Jerusalem, the Greek churches in Ephesus, Philippi, Galatia, and Corinth, and the Christians in Rome all accepted Paul apostleship. Peter, Luke, James, Barnabas, Timothy, Titus and many others named in the New Testament accepted his authority as an Apostle, otherwise books written by Peter and Luke would have spoken against him. The early church fathers in the 2nd and 3rd century accepted his writings as scripture, even while excluding gnostic gospels and others letters that claimed to have an eye witness account of the life of Christ. How can one billion + Christians in the world today be part of a Pauline cult and one single individual have the clairvoyance to see Paul for what he is, a fraud and a liar?

    I also kind of wonder how I became the subject of your attacks. The very first post you commented on was about Jesus and the Samaritan woman. It was a post about Jesus and I never mention Paul in it. I have written about the faith of Abraham, Moses and the exodus from Egypt, Moses as a type of Christ, Passover becoming the Lord’s supper, a series on Jesus’ examples… I had never written a post on Paul, to the best of my knowledge, until you started leaving comments about how I was Paul-centered rather than Christ centered. My book, God is Near, has 8 chapter focused on the Old Testament, one chapter on the life of Jesus based from the Gospels, and one chapter on the Holy Spirit mainly based on the first few chapters of Acts. Paul’s epistles are probably referenced but none of his writings is a topic or subject. I don’t know why you came here to persecute Christians that study Paul in the first place.

  7. Clark,
    You wrote, QUOTE:
    “What makes an Apostle is the authority given when he is sent.”

    With all due respect, you are “begging the question” again, assuming “Apostle” means “one who is sent”.

    Your sources for this belief are Paul, and the human traditions that have grown up around Paul’s writings regarding Apostles, and his claim that he is an Apostle.

    I have laid out for you above, in exhaustive detail, what an Apostle is according to Jesus and the Original Apostles.

    Not Paul
    Not Luke’s editorial comments out of context in Acts 14
    Not a Greek or English Dictionary
    Not other human traditions or opinions.

    Not rationalizations or logical reasoning about why Paul’s Gentile friend Luke, who knew Paul personally and travelled with Paul more than once, wrote so much about Paul. ( I think Luke wrote a lot about Paul because he knew him, so he wrote what he knew. Luke was human, he could not be everywhere writing everything about everyone.)

    My sources to define “what is an Apostle” are Jesus and the Original Apostles, in the text of our Bible. They know better than Paul, or anyone else in the world in the past, present, or future, what an Apostle is. Are you willing to listen to Jesus and the Original Apostles? I’ve even typed out the Scripture passages for you.

    Who is Paul to claim he was appointed an Apostle simply because he said so? No one in the pages of the Bible agreed with Paul on this. And who are you to say that Paul was appointed an Apostle simply because he said so? This is the recipe for a cult or false religion.

    You wrote, QUOTE:
    “I am simply agreeing with every major Christian theologian and church doctrine since the first century A.D.”
    With all due respect, no you are not. You are agreeing with the prevailing Paulist tradition in the Western Evangelical church.

    I understand you though process very well. I’m a graduate of Dallas Theological Seminary.
    Blessings in the name of Jesus,

  8. Pingback: “I Follow Paul” “I Follow Christ” | Christianity 201

  9. Hi Clark
    I was challenged, some years ago, when I commented that “Christ Himself” said something, as to whether or not His words had more importance than others. While they still tend to carry more weight with me, I also see the point made by Paul in his letter to Timothy –

    2 Timothy 3:16 says “ALL SCRIPTURE is breathed out by God and profitable for . . .” Surely, if ALL Scripture is given by God, and intended for our profit, Paul’s words, Jesus’ words, Peter’s words, Isaiah’s words etc are ALL important. Nowhere are we told that any part of Scripture is more important (or trustworthy) than other parts.

    I agree with you that Paul promotes faith in Christ, total dependance on Christ, total subjection to Christ etc and never at any time even suggests other than His preeminence in all things, and never promotes himself.

    While we proclaim the Gospel of Christ, we praise God for Paul’s writings that explain the Gospel in such clear terms.

  10. Dear MeetingintheClouds

    With all due respect, you are “begging the question” and using circular reasoning, quoting Paul writing
    “2 Timothy 3:16 says “ALL SCRIPTURE is breathed out by God and profitable for . . .” Surely, if ALL Scripture is given by God….”

    No New Testament author except Paul ever said anything like “All Scripture is God-breathed” and neither did Jesus. And even Paul didn’t say All Scripture is equal.

    Jesus DOES tell us that some parts of Scripture are more important (or trustworthy) than other parts.

    Jesus said:
    Heaven and earth will pass away, but MY WORDS will never pass away.” [Matthew 24:35]

    Not “The Bible” not “All Scripture” not “Paul’s words.”

    Jesus also said:
    “Until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law UNTIL EVERYTHING IS ACCOMPLISHED.” [Matthew 5:18]

    So at some point, the Law WILL pass away after everything is accomplished.

    The Orthodox (Eastern Orthodox) position for almost 2000 years is that the 4 Gospels Matthew Mark Luke & John are ABOVE all other books of the Bible, and I basically agree with this Orthodox position.

    The Hebrew Scriptures 2000 years ago, and even today among Orthodox Jews, are divided in to 3 sections, The Law of Moses, The Prophets, and the Writings.
    Torah, Nabi’im Kethuvim. In descending order of authority and importance.

    How would Jesus prioritize “The Books” – the 66 books of what we call “The Bible?”

    Even if you believe that “all Scripture is God-breathed”, Jesus clearly told us that all Scripture is NOT equally authoritative or important. When asked, Jesus summed things up in not 1 but rather 2 commandments, based on only 2 out of the 3 accepted sections of the Hebrew Scriptures- the Law and the Prophets. He didn’t mention the Writings at that time. Then in Luke 24:44 Jesus spoke of “The Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”

    Based on what I know right now of the Jesus of the Bible, and the Bible text itself, here is my best guess at how Jesus would order the priority of “The Books.”

    .1) The Word made flesh- 4 Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, John

    .2) Torah – The Law of Moses – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy

    .3) The Prophecy – Acts, Revelation

    .4) The Prophets – Joshua, Judges, Samuel, Kings, Major Prophets, Minor Prophets

    .5) Psalms

    .6) General letters: of the Apostles I & 2 Peter, 1 John

    .7) General letters: to the Hebrews, and from James (aka Jacob)

    .8) Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Job, Ruth, Esther and the other Writings

    .9) Personal letters: of The Apostle John, Jude, and Paul

    You said that Paul “never promotes himself.”
    Which Bible are you reading? Paul is CONSTANTLY promoting himself, falsely claiming to be not only appointed “an Apostle” but even with a special title “Apostle to the Gentiles.”

    What were Paul’s specific sins as a Christian? Here are 5 to get the discussion started- (This seems like the best place to post these in and be “on topic” rather than an older thread.)

    .1) Paul’s boastful conflicting false testimonies, exaggerating and making things up about his conversion experience in Acts 22 & 26, compared to what actually happened (recorded by Luke in Acts 9).

    .2) Paul lying to the Ephesian elders saying he was “compelled by the Spirit” going to Jerusalem, when in truth he was clearly disobeying God. [Acts 19:21 – 22:21]
    3) Paul exaggerating his ministry in Ephesus claiming it was “3 years night and day with tears” when really it was 3 months in the synagogue and 2 years daily in a lecture hall.
    [Acts 20:31 vs Acts 19:8-10]

    .4) Paul abandoning the Church in Corinth after a year and a half for no obvious reason, and going off on another long trip, mostly on his own, without appointing anyone else in Corinth as overseer, or giving anyone else any specific authority in the Church in Corinth.
    [Acts 18]

    .5) Paul acting as an abusive absentee overseer / pastor to the Church in Corinth years after he abandoned them, and clinging to all power and claim to control of money and all aspects of the church ministry, while he was hundreds of miles away teaching full-time in his own school in Ephesus. [1 & 2 Corinthians.]

    Paul is the “model pastor” for many modern “Pauls” today.

  11. Angela, our friend Matthew is now copying and pasting lengthy comments he’s already made before. He has begun trolling my other reader/commenters and he’s just about done here. He does not believe Paul has apostolic authority nor that his epistles are “scripture.” I read one of the articles he linked to, revisionist history that Paul’s letters were included in the third century in order to prevent a schism between the Jesus people and Paul people in early Christendom. For me, this says quote says everything that needs to be said:

    Based on what I know right now of the Jesus of the Bible, and the Bible text itself, here is my best guess at how Jesus would order the priority of “The Books.”

    We are now to evaluate the merits of scripture based on his “best guess” of what Jesus thinks about it. You could spend all day refuting each point that he makes and he just responds with 12 more. For instance, part of his rejection of Paul’s writings as scripture is based on what the Eastern Orthodox church has done for almost 2,000 years. In the first place, I’m not Eastern Orthodox. In the second place, the east-west split in the church happened a little over 1,000 years ago – there’s not 2,000 years of Eastern Orthodox history so they haven’t done ANYTHING for nearly 2,000 years.

  12. Clark,
    I am attempting to have an orderly “on topic” discussion. My list of 5 of Paul’s sins was left in moderation on your other thread, and it is much more “on topic” here, so I reposted it here. Maybe you could just delete it on the other thread.

    I DO believe that Paul’s epistles are “Scripture.”

    I’ve stated the fact that Paul alone said “All Scripture is God-breathed.” No other New Testament author said that, and Jesus never said anything like that.

    The Eastern Orthodox position is that the 4 Gospels are above all other parts of the Bible. This is a fact, you can verify it in numerous Orthodox Sources such as

    Neither you nor I consider ourselves “Eastern Orthodox.” But that does not mean the Eastern Orthodox position is wrong about everything.
    I follow Jesus, so I put the Testimony of Jesus above everything else – primarily the 4 Gospels. This is not some strange or radical idea. It’s really simple. We should listen to the voice of Jesus first.

    I don’t know what you mean about the “Eastern Orthodox …. haven’t done ANYTHING for nearly 2,000 years.” With all due respect, it sounds like you are judging and condemning them without knowing almost anything about them. I don’t know a huge amount about them, and I have some specific disagreements about their veneration of Mary. Yet I appreciate their view of Scripture. I would not blast them as doing nothing for 2000 years.
    Blessings following Jesus

  13. I will back pedal on that statement, to a point. My argument on the Eastern Orthodox Church was based on the Great Schism in A.D. 1054. In a sense, the Eastern Orthodox Church has only existed 1,000 years.

    From their point of view, however, they are the one true church dating back to the time of first century apostolic Christianity. The eastern Byzantine churches certainly existed before 1054, so I made a rash statement without giving it a lot of thought.

    Just because neither of us are Eastern Orthodox doesn’t mean they are wrong about everything; but I’m not willing to lower my estimation of the Apostle Paul based on their valuation of his “writings.”

  14. Since neither of us are Eastern Orthodox, why would we look to their teachings for affirmation? Since they have a low opinion of Paul you tossed them out there as an authoritative source. Muslims believe Jesus was a prophet but not the Son of God. Neither of us are Muslim, but…

  15. Clark,
    I appreciate your last 2 comments, because they indicate you are willing to think. We are both in a sense “products” of the Western Evangelical American system, and most in this system are really not willing to open their Bibles and think. We also have big blind spots, like regarding the Orthodox Church,

    None of us know everything. None of us have “become all things to all men”, and none of us have the complete revelation. Paul didn’t have it either, even if he thought he did. Different parts of the Body of Christ have different pieces of the whole truth, including the Orthodox Church.

    When I was getting my MA at Dallas Seminary, I don’t recall that we ever discussed anything about the Orthodox Church at all – if we did, it was extremely little. Rather, it was all about how Martin Luther discovered Paul’s writings, and challenged the corrupt Catholic Church, which FALSELY claimed it was the One True Original Church.

    No, the Orthodox Church is the Original Church, and the Bishop of Rome was one of the leaders as first among equals, not The Boss. Later “The Pope” usurped power, and the West fell into the Dark Ages. But the Eastern Orthodox Church was alive and well for over 1000 years, until around the time Columbus discovered America. We just never hear about it.

    In my American Heritage Dictionary, the word “Byzantine” has a negative connotation – reflecting our Western Bias.

    No Christianity is not a “Western” Religion where the Protestants are the only “True Christians.”
    It’s an Eastern Religion – Middle Eastern, where East meets West. It’s an insult to speak of Eastern Orthodox Christians as if they are in some foreign religion like Islam – especially since the Muslims were at war against Constantinople / Byzantium for centuries and eventually conquered it. Some Western Crusaders, rather than helping their Eastern Christian brothers, actually themselves attacked and sacked Constantinople one time.

    By the way, the Orthodox don’t have a “low view of Paul.”
    But they do elevate Jesus above everyone else. Why is this wrong, if you are a follower of Jesus?

  16. Parable of the 12 heavenly chalkboards

    What is a common analogy for a permanent decision?
    “Written in stone.”
    What could be more permanent than that?
    How about written in stone in heaven (in other words, for eternity.)
    And what kind of a stone is the most solid, permanent, and unchangeable?
    Perhaps a foundation stone?

    The Book of Revelation written by the Apostle John, chapter 21 verse 14 says… “The wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostle of the Lamb.”
    Nothing about a “13th Apostle” or an “Apostle of the Gentiles”…. Hmmmm…..

    Parable of the 12 heavenly chalkboards

    Imagine “Wackyjesus” in “Wackyheaven”, built on the foundations of 12 chalkboards:

    “Matthias, you should have developed your skills in writing and public speaking. Your name never appears in the Bible after your appointment as the 12th Apostle in Acts 1. [erase erase erase]

    Actually, the same is true for you Thaddaeus, after you were appointed. You should have hired a PR firm to promote your name and make if famous. [erase erase erase]

    Of course, you both are specifically mentioned in Acts 6:2. “So the Twelve gathered all the disciples together.” And this is before Saul/Paul is even mentioned. But let us not confuse the issue with facts. Paul did a much better job of marketing himself, and he wrote about himself hundreds of times. Share of voice equals share of mind. And most Evangelical pastors who read the Bible spend most of their time listening to the voice of Paul, so they become “like Paul.” But I digress…

    James, we had a good run. I didn’t think King Herod would knock you off so quickly. [erase erase erase]

    Oh well. Wow, they’re dropping like flies. Now I’ve got 3 slots open. I’d better buy a case of chalk and some more erasers. I’ll have to change the names on these 12 chalkboards hundreds of times in the next couple of millennia.

    I guess I had better plan ahead, and save a slot for the last Pope, Francis. And the head Mormon Apostle. And I need to save a throne for my mom, or she’ll be mad. And one for Muhammad too. Who needs truth in relationship, when I can quickly get market share, and totally dominate the market, through mergers and acquisitions?

    And one throne for that other guy named Peter. When he was younger, he used to have the great theological insight about territorial spirits and wrestling with dark angels. What was his last name? Begins with a consonant. Sounds almost like he was in the personal transportation industry back in “sword and sandal epic” days… “Peter Charioteer?” Maybe not. This isn’t the “fullest” description of him, but it’s full enough. Anyway, I should save a throne for him too.”

    So what is the application of this parable?
    Beware of the NAR whale – it’s really a killer whale with a man-made horn strapped on top. The only place in the New Testament that mentions anything like “Seven Mountains” is Revelation 17, “seven hills on which the woman sits.” (The Great Prostitute, that is.) Rome is the city that sits on seven hills, the perfect place for Peter the Roman, the New World Pope for the New World Order, to replace the original Apostle Peter in the apostate church of the Antichrist.

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