Questions About the Apostle Paul. (Part 6 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 the “other Gospel” in Galatians 1:6 was not the very one taught by the original apostles James, Peter and John, why does Paul attack their character in Galatians 2?
“I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.” – Galatians 1:6 – 9 (King James Version)
The “other gospel” was not the one taught by the apostles. The people spreading false teaching wanted to integrate portions of the Law of Moses with the Gospel. But their interest was not in encouraging observance of the Jewish law but simply in adding to their numbers any Galatians they swayed (Galatians 6:13).
Paul was very upset as he writes this letter. One can sense his tone in how he constructs his message. His direct and forceful personality/style of communicating is reflected in his emotions and concern for the Galatians Christians. He sensed a danger that could destroy the church’s faith.
Paul did not attack the character of James, Peter and John. To open Galatians 2:1 – 10 in another window or tab, click here.
The point of Paul’s recounting his contact with Christians in Jerusalem was to show that he was not beholden to the other apostles for their approval of his work. They did approve, but it was after the fact and only served to support the accuracy of what he preached.
Fourteen years after the first visit to Jerusalem, he went again (Galatians 2:1). Barnabas and Titus went with him. It was “by revelation” that Paul went. He was not summoned by the leaders there, nor did he choose to go on his own; it was only by God’s leading that he went. While he was there, he communicated to the leaders privately the message that he was preaching, lest he had been in error on any point (verse 2).
As I stated in the previous post, the leaders of the church in Jerusalem had nothing to add to Paul’s presentation of the gospel. Although their reputation meant nothing to Paul, they supported him (Galatians 2:6). I can see how Paul’s choice of words and possibly his tone may come across to some as “attacking” or “belittling”. But he was just making the point that his work for Christ was independent from the other apostles.
Some Closing Thoughts:
I want to thank the reader who posed the questions in this series of posts. I enjoyed the challenge and the opportunity to help others, especially when it concerns our spiritual understanding and obedience to God’s Word. I apologize for not getting to all the questions (about 6 remaining) but my schedule limited the number I could respond to. I also thank the rest of you for your patience through this 2-week exercise. Hopefully it was interesting and educational for you as well.
All New Testament servants of God are to be admired and appreciated if they had His approval. At the same time, we feel a special affinity for some. Other than Jesus, we probably admire Paul, Peter and Barnabas more than any other. Among the younger set, we admire Timothy, Titus and Stephen – and possibly John Mark, although we wish he had not disappointed us by aborting that first missionary journey.
However, Peter had his problems, and Paul’s earlier years left a lot to be desired. But who are we “to judge another’s servant” (Romans 14:4)? These men served God acceptably by redirecting their lives and coping successfully with struggles and sacrifices greater than we can imagine.
In one last nod to apostle Paul, apostle Peter wrote,
“make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.
Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.”
– 2 Peter 3:14b – 18 (New International Version)