Questions About the Apostle Paul (Part 2 of 6) Bible Lesson. Bible Questions. Bible Contradictions?
I was recently asked to answer a series of questions about Paul. His claim to be an apostle, his authority as an apostle, his communication style (personality) and the supposed contradictions within the content of his messages are the reoccurring themes of the questions.
Why does Paul say, “as it is written” in Romans 3:10 and then piece together sentences from six different places in the Old Testament?
(Click the above Scripture reference to open it in a new window).
Consider Romans 3:10 in context. In Romans 1:18 – 32, Paul has shown that Gentiles (non-Jewish people) who refuse to have God in their knowledge are destined to fall deeper and deeper into degregation and perversion. In Romans 2:1 – 3:8, Paul shows that the Jewish people were equally sinful, though their transgressions were of a different nature. They knew God, but they chose to deny Him by their hypocrisy.
Paul’s conclusion in Romans 3:9? Jews and Gentiles alike are all under sin. The whole world is guilty before God. Verse 9 is the charge. Verses 10 – 18 is the proof.
Anticipating some of the Jewish readers of this letter would object, Paul shows them clearly that the Old Testament Scriptures (which they prided themselves in) demonstrated that they are under sin and condemnation (like the Gentiles). He presents evidence by quoting different aspects of sin from the books of Psalms, Isaiah and Ecclesiastes.
In Ephesians 1:1, Paul identifies himself as an apostle. Is he one of the false apostles referred to in Revelation 2:1 – 7?
And if Revelation 2:2 does not refer to Paul, why did Paul say everyone in Asia had turned away from him (2 Timothy 1:15)? The church of Ephesus was in Asia.
History and chronology are key to answering these questions. Notice at least 4 points. . .
(1) Paul spent a short time in Ephesus on his second missionary journey and then returned for a longer stay (Acts 18:8 – 21; Acts 19:1 – 10). This occurred sometime between 50 – 55 AD. Luke explicitly stated that God worked through Paul in Ephesus. . .
- It was through Paul that all the Jews and Gentiles who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord (Acts 19:10).
- God did extraordinary miracles through Paul (Acts 19:11, 12).
- An evil spirit told the seven sons of a Jewish chief priest (who were trying to invoke the name of the Lord Jesus) “Jesus I know, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” (Acts 19:13 – 16).
(2) Notice how Paul characterized his ministry in Asia when he spoke to the elders of the Ephesian church (Acts 20:17 – 21). Paul is the one who warned them about false teachers (Acts 20:25 – 31).
(3) Paul wrote the second letter to Timothy near the end of his (Paul’s) life – 67 or 68 AD (about 30 years before John wrote the book of Revelation). In other words, Paul was dead several years before John recorded Jesus’ letter to the Ephesians (Revelation 2:1 – 7). The false apostles the Lord referred to are likely contemporaries of the church at Ephesus at that time (90 – 95 AD).
(4) When 2 Timothy was written, the Roman Empire (under Nero) had turned against Christianity. Nero’s persecution of Christians were very intense and there was widespread apostasy in Asia (as Paul noted in 2 Timothy 1:15).
Did Paul allow us to change the Sabbath in Colossians 2:13 – 16? What about Matthew 5:17 – 19?
Jesus, whose life perfectly fulfilled the requirements of the Law of Moses, was able to nail this law to His cross (Matthew 5:17 -20; 1 Peter 2:22). In nailing the law to the cross, He also devastated the unseen supernatural powers opposing humanity (Colossians 2:15). Everyone in Christ has been freed from the principles of the law.
The church in Colossae was challenged by the embryonic form of a heresy that was a continual problem for the church and is even present today. It included a strict obedience to the ordinances of the Law of Moses, emphasized restrictions of dietary habits, viewed the body as being evil, distorted the role of angels and minimized the role of Jesus Christ in God’s plan.
False teachers were trying to bring into the church the Jewish holy days such as the New Moon and the Sabbath. Paul showed that keeping certain days and festivals as a matter of faith would rob a Christian of his liberty in Christ. The Law of Moses was not God’s reality, but a shadow (Hebrews 10:1). The reality is Christ Himself. Paul challenges the Colossian Christians (and us) as to which is more preferable – shadow or substance (Colossians 2:17).
If Jesus had abolished the law, as Paul claims in Ephesians 2:15, then why did Jesus lie in Matthew 5:17? Has Heaven and Earth passed away?
“Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” – Matthew 5:17, 18 (King James Version)
“For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby. And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.” – Ephesians 2:14 – 18 (King James Version) verse 15 is in bold print
The Greek word translated “destroy” (in Matthew 5:17) is not the same Greek word translated “abolished” (in Ephesians 2:15). Two different words are used. The word Jesus used is not synonymous with the word Paul used.
Paul stated Christ abolished in his flesh the clash (or hostility) between the Jewish people and Gentiles by His crucifixion (Ephesians 2:16). Christ took away the power of “the law of commandments contained in ordinances” (that is, the power of the ceremonial law).
Christ didn’t abolish the law (as stated in the question) and He didn’t lie. The law served its purpose (Galatians 3:23 – 25). But it has not been destroyed.
Does Paul have the authority to judge and deliver people over to Satan as he does in 1 Timothy 1:20? This had Catholicism written all over it.
In Ephesus, heresy (false teachers and teachings) was a problem. Paul put Timothy in charge to help the church to recover. As recorded in 1 Timothy 1:1 – 7, this is explicitly stated. The word “charge” in verse 3 conveyed a sense of urgency and insistence almost as if one were giving military orders. In the letters to Timothy and Titus, Paul stressed sound doctrine often.
Hymenaeus and Alexander (verses 19, 20) may have been teachers (possibly leaders) in the Ephesian church. They (along with others) have shipwrecked their faith and blasphemed. In 2 Timothy 2:14 – 19, we are told Hymenaeus (along with Philetus) wandered away from the truth, denied the truth of the resurrection and destroyed the faith of some.
When studying 1 Timothy chapter 1 in context, we should look at what Paul wrote between verse 11 and 19. He points out his own past as “a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent aggressor”. And He freely acknowledges his unworthiness and the Lord’s grace towards him, “I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry”.
I think it would also be helpful to consider another time when Paul delivered someone unto Satan. In 1 Corinthians 5 there was a case of incest in the church. In verses 4 and 5 Paul gives this directive: “when you are assembled and I am with you in spirit, and the power of our Lord Jesus is present, hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord.”
Did Paul have the authority to judge and deliver Hymenaeus, Alexander and the man guilty of incest over to Satan? In both cases Paul takes action in the name of the Lord Jesus. Accountability. Excommunication. The process of withdrawing fellowship from an erring brother. Church discipline. Whatever we call it, Jesus describes it in Matthew 18: 15 – 20.
In 1 Timothy 1:1 he stated that he was “an apostle of Jesus Christ by the commandment of God our Saviour, and Lord Jesus Christ”. As with so many questions in this series of blog entries, the answers are dependent upon whether or not one believes Paul was an apostle of the Lord Jesus.