Questions About the Apostle Paul (Part 3 of 6) Bible Lesson. Bible Question. 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.
In Acts 23:6, Paul claims to be a Pharisee. Jesus says in Luke 12:1 to beware of Pharisees. Was Jesus referring to Paul?
Jesus did not say “to beware of Pharisees”. He said,
“In the mean time, when there were gathered together an innumerable multitude of people, insomuch that they trode one upon another, he began to say unto his disciples first of all, Beware ye of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy. For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known.” – Luke 12:1, 2 (King James Version)
He said beware of the leaven of the Pharisees. In both the Old Testament and the New Testament, leaven symbolized impurity or evil. As stated in Matthew 16:6 – 12 and Mark 8:15 – 21, the leaven of the Pharisees was the evil/false doctrine of the Pharisees. The leaven of the Pharisees, as Jesus said, it is hypocrisy (a showy, empty display of religion).
If no one is righteous (as Paul claims in Romans 3:9 – 20), why does Luke 1:6 say the parents of John the Baptist were “righteous before God”?
“There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.” – Luke 1:5, 6 (King James Version)
Notice the context. Zechariah and Elizabeth were right with God (or upright) because they walked “in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless”. They were not sinless, but they had achieved a character (or their life exemplified a character) which God could approve (under the Law of Moses).
In Romans 3:9 – 20, Paul is concluding the argument begun in Romans 1:18 – that the world is guilty before God. I briefly discussed Romans 3:9 – 10 here. Rule keeping, legal righteousness and self-righteousness are very different from the righteousness of God (which He imputes to Christians – Romans 1:16, 17; Romans 3:21ff).
Why did Jesus not mention Paul in Matthew 28:18 – 20?
“Then the eleven disciples went away into Galilee, into a mountain where Jesus had appointed them.And when they saw him, they worshipped him: but some doubted. And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen”. – Matthew 28:16 – 20 (King James Version)
Paul had not yet been called to be an apostle at this time. Matthias had not been chosen either (Acts 1:15 – 20). More to the point, Jesus didn’t mention anyone by name in Matthew 28:18 – 20. What is recorded is His commission.
Who authorized Paul to give us new commandments in 1 Thessalonians 4:2?
“Furthermore then we beseech you, brethren, and exhort you by the Lord Jesus, that as ye have received of us how ye ought to walk and to please God, so ye would abound more and more. For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus.” – 1 Thessalonians 4:1, 2 (King James Version)
First, the text doesn’t say Paul was giving new commandments. Second, it does state that the commandments (instructions) previously given were given by the Lord’s authority. Citing an example (in the very next verse), Paul says. . .
“For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication: That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour;” – 1 Thessalonians 4:3, 4
Many today question Paul’s motivation and credibility. And I don’t think it is a coincidence that some Christians at the church in Thessalonica were also suspicious of Paul. He spends the entire first half of this letter reviewing his work and relationship with the Thessalonians as part of his defense (1 Thessalonians chapters 1, 2, and 3). Luke records Paul ministry in Thessalonica in Acts 17:1 – 9.
In 2 Thessalonians 3:14, who gave the authority to Paul demanding people to obey?
This question is similar to the preceding question. 2 Thessalonians was written by Paul shortly after he wrote his first letter to them. If we accept Paul’s authority as an apostle of Christ (as in 1 Thessalonians), the One who called him to be an apostle gave Paul authority to speak and act on His behalf (Acts 9).
First and Second Thessalonians are also among the first letters Paul wrote to any church or individual (about 50 AD). Paul mentions his apostleship in the introduction of most his letters, but not here. My belief is the Thessalonians didn’t doubt his apostleship and that there were no false apostles (false teachers) who opposed him (at that time). Thus there was no reason to state the obvious.
“And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed.” – 2 Thessalonians 3:14 (King James Version)
As always, we should interpret Scripture in context. You can click here to view 2 Thessalonians 3 in a new window/tab.
Paul requested their prayers for him and his fellow missionaries because God had been faithful to establish them and guard them “from the evil one” (verse 1 – 3). He was confident they would continue to comply withe the things he has asked them to do. The Word was bearing fruit in their lives.
However, the level of fellowship enjoyed on the part of some of them was strained. Paul found it necessary to inject corrective measures to deal with those who were disorderly (verses 6 – 15). He had asked them in the earlier letter to “warn those who are unruly, comfort the fainthearted, uphold the weak, be patient with all” (1 Thessalonians 5:14). But further action apparently was now necessary.
Paul did not merely give advice to counsel the derelicts; he gave commands. They were told to withdraw from the disorderly ones. The behavior of some involved idleness and an active meddlesomeness as busybodies in the lives of others (2 Thessalonians 3:11). They needed to be ostracized from full fellowship (at least temporarily) until they corrected their behavior.
Keep in mind the discipline was intended to be remedial, not ultimately destructive. The Thessalonian Christians were told to warn them as brothers (verse 15), but the point was to be made that their behavior was improper. They were acting contrary to the good examples of responsibility and industry that Paul and his fellow missionaries had set for them and the things Paul had taught them directly.
Loving, but strict, discipline upon the disorderly is difficult and unpleasant. I’ve made other comments (which are relevant to this question) in Part 2 of this series. To view that post, click here.
Why was Paul looking for a prophet to endorse him in 1 Corinthians 14:37?
In 1 Corinthians chapters 12, 13 and 14, Paul instructs the Corinthian church about spiritual gifts. Chapter 12 concerns the Holy Spirit in relation to the body of Christ. Chapter 13 depicts the love which alone gives ministry of gifts any value. Chapter 14 regulates the ministry of gifts in the early years of the church. Prophecy (chapter 14 verse 1) was an especially important gift because (until the New Testament was written) new revelations were still being given for the new Christian age.
Verses 23 – 40 is the immediate context. The exercise of the gift of tongues was not forbidden (verse 39) but this exercise was strictly limited by certain rules outlined in verses 27 – 35. These directions are declared to be “the commandments of the Lord” (verse 36 – 38)
Rebuking their arrogance (verse 36), Paul is essentially saying any true prophet among the Corinthians would confirm what he just wrote are “the commandments of the Lord”. Based upon Paul’s tone, I don’t get the impression that he needs (or is looking for) the expressed endorsement of another. His words here are an example of his forthright and direct communication style.
“Or did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached? If anyone thinks they are a prophet or otherwise gifted by the Spirit, let them acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command. But if anyone ignores this, they will themselves be ignored.” – 1 Corinthians 14:36 – 38 (New International Version)