In the Defense of the Apostle Paul

By Matthew Allen 

As Paul taught the Christians of the first century, he was revealing the law of Christ as expressed by the Holy Spirit. It simply was not “just his opinion.” The law of Christ is applicable to all generations — including those living in 1999!

The number of people wishing to conduct themselves in or applaud deviant sexual behavior or other immoral activities seems to be growing at an alarming rate. We are in the midst of a society that glorifies ungodly behavior as being freedom of expression while at the same time it viciously attacks morally minded people as being right wing extremists. That the assault by the mainstream media on biblical values continues is very evident and often goes unchecked by the majority of complacent, self-satisfied Americans. It is enough to depress even the most optimistic of persons.

Recently, I was given an article en- titled “Reassessing the Apostle Paul” which appeared in the April 5, 1999 edition of U.S. News & World Reports. The ar ticle, written by Jeffer y L. Sheler, describes Paul as “a tireless missionary and prolific theologian, . . . more instrumental in the founding of Christianity than anyone else — even Jesus Himself ” (52). While the article endeavors to describe many of his life events (conversion, the thorn in the flesh, and his persecution of Christians before coming to Christ) it summarizes several new theories being supported by “prominent theologians.”

One theory as explained in the article reads, “Paul was intensely apocalyptic and believed that Christ ’s second coming was imminent. Consequently, he did not intend his sometimes stern judgments on doctrinal matters and on issues of gender and sexuality to become church dogma applied, as it has been, for nearly 2000 years” (52). While it was a common belief among first century Christians that the return of Christ was imminent (as expressed in 1 Thess. 4:13-5:11), who is to say that Paul meant that the things he taught only to be applied to them of that generation?

Who is to say that the doctrinal matter established by Paul was merely his opinion? One must remember that the New Testament is not a collection of the personal beliefs of several men, but rather the inspired Word of God! Peter says knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation (origin) for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:20-21). Not only did the personal judgment of Paul condemn homosexuality and state the proper role of women — it was and is the law of God expressed by the Holy Spirit!

Peter defended the writing of Paul as being the wisdom given to him in 2 Peter 3:15. Paul reminded his readers in several instances that his words were not his own. Observe:

These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches . . . (2 Cor. 2:13).

The commands were not solely from Paul, but the Lord   (1 Cor. 7:10).

The things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord (1 Cor. 14:37).

The Thessalonians welcomed the teachings of Paul and the apostles not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the Word of God (1 Thess. 2:13).

In 1 Corinthians 14:37 Paul stated the things he wrote were the commandments of the Lord.

In 1 Timothy 6:3-5 Paul taught that if one did not consent to “the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing . . . (and) from such withdraw yourself.

As Paul taught the Christians of the first century, he was revealing the law of Christ as expressed by the Holy Spirit. It simply was not “just his opinion.” The law of Christ is applicable to all generations — including those living in 1999 (Heb. 13:8)! Homosexuality and feminism are just as wrong today as they were 2000 years ago!

The above reasoning is nothing more than a careful disguise of the belief that certain biblical principles are not relevant to people today. Most of the biblical principles some claim not to be relevant are those that go against politically correct and deviant lifestyles. However, principles concerning love, and especially forgiveness (which many confuse with tolerance) are championed by liberal theologians. But what does the standard say?

The New Testament teaches the Christian not to turn away from the pat- tern established by the Apostles. Please note 2 Thessalonians 3:14 and Galatians 1:7-9. In 2 Timothy 4:2-4 Paul charged Timothy to “preach the Word! . . . for the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth.” The book of 2 Timothy was written just before the death of Paul (see 4:6-8). He knew following his death (through inspiration of the Spirit) that believers would depart from the truth. These words were meant to be applicable for all generations — up to the return of Christ! Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away” (Matt. 24:35). Indeed there are many who cannot endure sound doctrine! The idea that certain teachings of Scripture are not relevant today is simply an open rebellion against the authority of Almighty God!

Some liberal theologians now assert that Paul’s writings have been adjusted by “church leaders” to con- form his writings to their particular opinion. Sheler writes, for all of his energy and influence, Paul wrote only a fraction of the New Testament letters that tradition ascribes to him, and even some of those were subsequently altered by others to reflect later developments in church theology (52). Sheler goes on to write, “. . . the most flagrant ‘anti-women’ statements may have been added to the text by later church scribes . . . and . . . Paul’s views on homosexuality may have been misconstrued” (55). While there may have been a mistranslation here and there one may know with confidence that the Bible as we have it today is indeed the inspired word of God. How?

Beginning at the end of the first century, Christians began to write down copies of the exhortations of the apostles. Most of the New Testament could be reproduced from the second century writers Origen, Clement of Alexandria, and Tertullian. Also, during the second century, the text was translated into the common languages of the people where it went. There are over 9,000 manuscripts of the New Testament printed in language other than Greek — all dating from the second century. Most of the manuscripts were found all over the known world and have given scholars a good chance to verify later Greek manuscripts. The texts we have today match the texts from the second century.

When people refuse to conform their lives with the truth of the Scriptures, they must resort to the tactics of assuming the motives of the Apostles and inspired men. As noted above, some even have to go to the extreme of claiming that uninspired men have tainted the text with their biased opinions/ judgments. These assertions should be proof positive that the practices and attitudes they attempt to bring into “religion” are contrary to the clear teaching of God’s word. Jesus said, “This is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil” (John. 3:19).

Let us conform our lives to the Word of God which is found within the pages of the New Testament! Jesus said that the “Word will judge us on the last day: He who rejects