I had a recent exchange with a believer who seems to reject the writings of Paul. In her case, I have the strong conviction that her rejection is based on a perceived bias against women in Paul’s writings. But it got me to thinking about the many times I have encountered people claiming to be Christian who also want to reject Paul. I’ll be honest, I do not understand this, but I have spent a good part of the evening reading the primary objections and I do not find them convincing. In fact, I, a mere layman, can quite easily deal with the majority of these objections, and more than this, I can raise questions that would suggest that, without Paul, we do not even have Christ. I hope you will allow me to explain my reasoning with you.
First, here is a post that best summarizes the majority of the objections I have found to the writings of Paul:
Now, I do not propose to work through every objection in this post, but rather, to deal with those I consider to be the most compelling. Let’s start with the assertion that Paul does not meet the criteria to be an Apostle. It is claimed that an Apostle has to be witness to the resurrection of and be appointed by Christ. It is further claimed that these requirements were laid out in Acts 1:21-22. Now let’s look closely at this, and let us read what Scripture actually tells us.
First, Acts 1:21-22 does not come from Christ, but from the Apostles. So if Christ has to appoint the Apostles, then how do we know this is Christ’s requirement to be an Apostle? Second, Matthias is appointed by lot, not by Christ. However, Paul was singled out by Christ, and it was witnessed on by those who were on the road to Damascus with him, and by Ananias, who was called to minister to Paul on behalf of Christ. In this sense, it can be said that Paul was chosen by Christ where Matthias was not. However, was Paul witness to the resurrection?
No doubt, Saul was either in Jerusalem at the time of Christ’s crucifixion, or he had heard of it and believed Christ to be dead. As a Pharisee, he would have believed that the stories about the resurrection were the lies of Christ’s disciples. So, when Saul meets Christ on the road to Damascus, what more proof of witness to the resurrection is required of Saul (now Paul)? So Paul meets the Scriptural definition of an Apostle, but still, I do not call Paul the 12th Apostle — I only say that he meets the requirements.
In The Apostle Paul, the writer goes on to do what logic calls ‘argue from ignorance.’ In other words, because Scripture does not record Jesus mentioning anything about Paul, it is assumed that Paul must be a false Apostle. But this would have to apply to Matthias, as well, as he was not mentioned either. But the writer goes further, listing a string of detailed complaints that, on the surface, would appear to be convincing. However, a few things are left out that might paint this list in a different light.
First, Christ may have referenced His continuing work with His Apostles. In John 17:8, He says He will give His words to His Apostles, but Christ does not name or number them. Yes, Jesus refers to ‘the men God gave Him,” but Scripture tells us there were many disciples, and this passage does not use the word Apostle, but men. Then, in John 15:20, Christ speaks about people following the word of His disciples as being the same as following His word. But here again, Christ is speaking to the disciples, not just the Apostles, and no number is ever mentioned. In John 14:26, Christ teaches that the Holy Spirit will come and teach believers, and that those who keep Christ’s teachings will belong to Him, and those who do not will not. Again, no mention of Apostles or numbers, but a clear indication that Christ will continue to teach into the distant future. Finally, in John 16:12-13, Jesus clearly indicates that He will continue to teach His followers, through the Holy Spirit, and that even God the Father will use the Holy Spirit — in Christ’s name — to reveal even more to the believers. So, while this does not affirm Paul, it most definitely brushes aside the argument that Paul cannot be a legitimate Apostle because Christ did not specifically mention Paul.
Then there are the following passages, starting with a passage by none other than Peter which seems to be directly refuting those who question Paul:
2 Peter 3:14-18 New American Standard Bible (NASB)
14 Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, 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, 16 as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction. 17 You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness, 18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.
Are we to set aside Peter because he affirms Paul? If we do, then what of John? John affirmed Peter (1 John 1:1-4), and Peter affirmed John (2 Peter 1:16-21). So we lose Peter and Paul? And if Paul is rejected because he taught to submit to earthly authorities, then Peter must surely go with him, for Peter taught the same thing (1 Peter 2:13-3:6). For that matter, so did Christ — by His example. His submission to both Rome and the Sanhedrin were acts of submission to earthly authority, as was His command to render unto Caesar. So do we lose Christ along with Peter and John? Then what of Luke? If Luke is to be dismissed for calling Paul an Apostle (Acts 14:4, 14), then we lose Acts and the Gospel of Luke, as well. Then there is James: James accepted Paul in Acts 15. Do we throw out James, too? If so, then Jude must go as well, since, if Pete, John and James of the original twelve cannot be trusted, then how can Jude, another of the twelve? This leaves us Matthew and Mark, who cannot be trusted since they were not eye witnesses and rest in part on the testimony of these other men. Now look what we have done: by throwing away Paul and all who affirmed him, we have lost the entire New testament and Christ along with it.
Finally, in The Apostle Paul, the writer lists a whole series of ‘charges’ against Paul that supposedly prove he is a false Apostle because they are contrary to Christ’s Gospel. First, I want to remind you that James accepted Paul and Peter affirmed him. If Paul was a false Apostle, then we cannot trust Peter or James, who were affirmed by John and Jude, nor can we trust Luke, and with them goes the entire New testament — including Christ. But more than this, Peter explains that Paul teaches the harder parts of our faith, and that many who seek to twist Scripture to their purposes see Paul as a weakness they can exploit. This is because Paul is not for those still on milk, or even bread Paul is for those on meat. When we reach the point in our Spiritual maturity where we are eating meat, we come to see and understand that — contrary to what many would claim — there is nothing in Paul that contradicts with the Old Testament of Christ’s Gospel. In fact, Paul frequently quotes from the Old Testament in defense of Christ’s Gospel. Paul renounces himself and points to and glorifies Christ. Some think that Paul was seeking his own glory because he refers to himself a lot in his writings, but then, Paul wrote more than the others, too. But this could also be a mark of humility. How often have you said words to the effect of “speaking only for or of myself?” When you read Paul’s letters, it is easy to understand many of his references to himself as being offered in this light.
In the end, I think the real problem many believers have with Paul is that he stands in the way of their personal self-interest. If you seek your own agenda, Paul is going to put a wall between you and Christ’s Gospel. When you read what Paul actually says and not what people claim he says, Paul stands firmly in the breach between the Gospel and false doctrine. Nowhere is this more evident than in his teaching to not go back under the law. Many objections claim that Paul is wrong to say Christ did away with the law, but this is because they do not understand what Paul is actually saying. Paul is telling you that you are still bound to do right, but you are bound by your love for Christ, not the ceremonial requirements of the law. Either Christ paid every sacrifice that was ever required of you, or He died for nothing. And if His sacrifice is accepted by you, then there is no need to sacrifice again. To do so would be a rejection of Christ, and this is what Paul is trying to explain. It is just that people either do not understand the depth of Paul’s teachings, or they want to be free from the restrictions he places on the way believers are to live. And these are the two main reasons which I believe people seek to exclude Paul.
So, after working through this, I have come to this conclusion:
No Paul, No Christ: Know Paul, Know Christ.