Some Christian friends have asked me why I’m writing a series to answer questions about the legitimacy of Paul’s apostleship. Almost every Christian I know personally believes that Paul was an apostle of Christ and that the Holy Spirit inspired him to write letters to 1st century churches (e.g. Romans, 1&2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, etc). So, why bother with what appears to be a fringe group of people who call themselves Christians, but do not accept Paul’s apostleship? I am concerned about three important matters.
First, I am concerned about what God is doing in our world today. God the Father sent God the Son to die “for the ungodly” (Romans 5:6). God the Son sent God the Spirit into the world to “convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:8). As we’ve seen in previous studies, God the Son personally selected Paul to be His “chosen vessel” to bear His name “before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel” (Acts 9:15). God the Spirit chose Paul to open “the door of faith to the Gentiles” (Acts 14:27). Since God chose Paul to serve Him in this way, it is important to stand on the side of God’s choice.
Second, I am concerned about the integrity of the Word of God. Jesus told Satan, ‘It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). Since Jesus chose Paul as His chosen vessel to bear His Name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel and since the Holy Spirit chose Paul to open the door of faith to the Gentiles and since God spoke directly to Paul (e.g. Acts 9:4-6; 18:9; 23:11) and the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write prophetic letters to the 1st century churches (e.g. 2 Peter ; Romans 15:17-19; 1 Corinthians 2:6-8, 13, 16; 9:17-18; 15:51; 2 Corinthians 2:17; 5:19; 10:7-11; 13:1-10; Ephesians 3:1-10; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Thessalonians 3:6-15; 1 Timothy 2:3-7; 2 Timothy 2:8-9; 3:10-11; Titus 1:3), we must stand by God’s choice of Paul to reveal God’s Word to the Gentile churches.
Third, I am concerned about people who are being misled by those who oppose God’s Work through Paul. What will happen to them because of their rejection of Paul’s apostleship? The voice of opposition grows stronger even as the enemy grows bolder in his war against God. People who reject God’s Word through the writings of Paul are losing out on knowing the complete Gospel of Jesus Christ. Does it not seem strange that if Jesus meant for His Church to abide only in the Words He spoke during His earthly Ministry, that He would select Paul as His chosen vessel to bear His Name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel? Does it not seem strange that if the Holy Spirit meant for the Church to live only by the Words of Christ during His earthly Ministry, that He would tell the prophets at Antioch to separate Barnabas and Paul for the “work” to which He had called them? Does it not seem strange that if God meant for Christ followers to believe only what the Lord spoke during His years on earth primarily to Jews in Israel, that He would have chosen Paul to open the door of faith to the Gentiles?
The opposition to Paul’s apostolic ministry began within days of Jesus calling him on the road to Damascus. That’s not surprising because of what our Lord told Ananias: “Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake” (Acts 9:15-16). Suffering for the Name of Jesus was as much a part of Paul’s apostolic ministry as being a chosen vessel to bear the Name of Jesus. The same was true for Christ’s other apostles.
“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own. Yet because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you. If they kept My word, they will keep yours also. But all these things they will do to you for My name’s sake, because they do not know Him who sent Me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would have no sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. He who hates Me hates My Father also. If I had not done among them the works which no one else did, they would have no sin; but now they have seen and also hated both Me and My Father. But this happened that the word might be fulfilled which is written in their law, ‘They hated Me without a cause.” John 15:18-25
Paul, like Peter, James, John and the other apostles, would suffer greatly because of their ministry in the Name of Jesus Christ. Paul suffered from both Gentiles and Jews because that was the ministry to which Jesus had called him (“he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel”). Here are some examples of Paul’s suffering for Christ as recorded in the Book of Acts.
“Now after many days were past, the Jews plotted to kill him.” Acts 9:23
“And he spoke boldly in the name of the Lord Jesus and disputed against the Hellenists, but they attempted to kill him.” Acts 9:29
“Then Jews from Antioch and Iconium came there; and having persuaded the multitudes, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing him to be dead. However, when the disciples gathered around him, he rose up and went into the city. And the next day he departed with Barnabas to Derbe.” Acts 14:19-20
Paul wrote about his sufferings for the Name of Christ in some of his letters.
“Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? So am I. Are they ministers of Christ?—I speak as a fool—I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, inperils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness— besides the other things, what comes upon me daily: my deep concern for all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I do not burn with indignation?” 2 Corinthians 11:22-29
These enemies of Paul’s message not only tried to turn the Gentiles toward a Jewish version of faith in Christ, they also tried to turn the Gentiles against Paul’s apostleship.
“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? 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.” 2 Corinthians 3:1-3
“I have become a fool in boasting; you have compelled me. For I ought to have been commended by you; for in nothing was I behind the most eminent apostles, though I am nothing. Truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you with all perseverance, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds. For what is it in which you were inferior to other churches, except that I myself was not burdensome to you? Forgive me this wrong!” 2 Corinthians 12:11-13
Paul suffered many things for the Name of Jesus Christ. That is clear from both the Book of Acts and Paul’s letters. Paul faced opposition to his apostleship to the Gentiles (uncircumcision) during the many years of his ministry. Even though Paul was eventually killed for preaching the Gospel, that did not end the opposition to his ministry. In the next part of our investigation into whether Paul was an apostle or a fraud, we will look at that opposition from the end of the 1st century to the current 21st century AD.
“Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”