Questions About the Apostle Paul (Part 4 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.
If Paul says in Ephesians 6:19 of making the “mystery of the gospel” known, why didn’t Jesus share this mystery with the twelve that had spent three years with Him in His earthly ministry?
Jesus did share “mysteries” about the kingdom and the gospel with the twelve apostles during His earthly ministry (the parables of Matthew 13). But during those early years, the twelve were spiritually immature, dense and inept (as one would expect). It wasn’t until after Christ’s resurrection that they would become more mature, confident and decisive.
John chapters 14, 15 and 16 are key to understanding that more inspired instruction and revelation were forthcoming – from the Holy Spirit. . .
“I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.”
– John 16:12 – 15 (New International Version)
When Jesus was taken up into heaven, there was divine truth that was still hidden – such as. . .
- the mystery of the translation of living saints at the end of this Christian age (1 Corinthians 15:51, 52; 1 Thessalonians 4:13 -17)
- the mystery of the New Testament church as one body composed of Jews and Gentiles (Ephesians 3:1 – 12; Ephesians 6:19; Colossians 4:3; Romans 16:25)
- the mystery of the Church as the bride of Christ (Ephesians 5:23 – 32)
The mystery of God (His pre-creation purpose to unite all people in Him, Ephesians 3:1 – 6) was intended for proclamation to all. Paul’s goal was to bring to light the meaning of the fellowship of this mystery; to preach the gospel. Paul said God made known to him a mystery previously unrevealed, and he was writing to the Ephesians so they could have the same understanding he did. Again. . .
“which was not made known to people in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets.” – verse 5
In Philippians 2:7, Paul says that Jesus came in the likeness of men. In Romans 8:3, Paul says Jesus was the “likeness of sinful flesh”.
But in 1 John 4:2 – 4 in the King James Version, (the NIV omits it), John says anyone who denies that Jesus did not come in the flesh is part of the spirit of the antichrist. Does this make Paul the antichrist?
“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.
Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world. They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them. We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.”
– 1 John 4:1 – 6 (King James Version)
Throughout his letter (especially in the verses above) John lambasted those who deny that Jesus came in the flesh. But as shown in the Scriptures cited in the question, Paul did not deny that Jesus came in the flesh. . .
“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
“Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
– Philippians 2:5 – 11 (King James Version)
“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”
– Romans 8:1 – 4 (King James Version)
And 1 John 4:2 – 4 does appear in the New International Version of the Bible.
How can Paul be a 13th apostle when Revelation 21:14 says that there are only twelve? How about Matthew 19:28?
Then Peter said to Him, “Behold, we have left everything and followed You; what then will there be for us?”
And Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, will receive many times as much, and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last; and the last, first.”
– Matthew 19:27 – 30 (New American Standard Bible)
Then one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls full of the seven last plagues came and spoke with me, saying, “Come here, I will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.”
And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. Her brilliance was like a very costly stone, as a stone of crystal-clear jasper. It had a great and high wall,with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels; and names were written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel. There were three gates on the east and three gates on the north and three gates on the south and three gates on the west. And the wall of the city had twelve foundation stones, and on them were the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.
– Revelation 21:9 – 14 (New American Standard Bible)
Jesus chose twelve apostles to be the twelve foundations of the heavenly city, of which He Himself is the Chief cornerstone. These twelve foundations are probably twelve stones, one of which served for a foundation or threshold to each gate. On these were inscribed the names of the twelve apostles. It was by the doctrine of the apostles that souls enter into the Church, and therefore into the New Jerusalem.
It is my belief that the number twelve is probably retained because of its historical symbolism. Even so, the fact remains that Jesus Christ chose Paul (Acts 9) and Matthias (Acts 1) to be apostles.