The following was written in response to those who attempt to discredit the Apostle Paul. May you be blessed as you read.
And they wrote letters by them after this manner; the apostles and elders and brethren send greeting unto the brethren which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia. Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment: It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. ~ Acts 15:25-26
In Acts 15 it was determined based on the testimony of Peter, Paul and Barnabas, along with James’s interpretation of the scriptures, that the Gentiles were not obligated to come under the yoke of the Law of Moses. As a result they sent letters to the Gentile believers in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia informing them of this conclusion.
In these letters, the apostles, elders, and brethren in Jerusalem endorsed Barnabas and Paul and the gospel they were preaching to the Gentiles by referring to them as “our beloved” and “men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
The testimony of Barnabas and Paul, along with Peter’s testimony of God sending him to Cornelius, coupled with James’s citation of an Old Testament text, was interpreted as the witness of the Holy Spirit, “… it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things…” ~ Acts 15:28
Luke, the author of the book of Acts tells us that Barnabas and Paul had been set apart by the Holy Spirit, and sent by the Holy Spirit.
Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul (Paul). As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul (Paul) for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. So they, being sent forth by the Holy Ghost, departed unto Seleucia; and from thence they sailed to Cyprus. ~ Acts 13:1-4
Notice in the text above, Barnabas and Paul’s ministry was ordained by the Holy Spirit, as certain prophets and teachers (among whom were Barnabas and Paul) ministered to the Lord and fasted. According to Luke, in Acts 13-15 we have endorsements of Barnabas and Paul from the Holy Spirit, and from prophets and teachers who ministered to the Lord, and from the apostles at Jerusalem, and the elders and brethren in Jerusalem.
That’s quite an impressive list of endorsements if you ask me.
Peter, who was present at the Jerusalem counsel, endorsed Paul in his second epistle by referring to Paul as “our beloved brother” and described Paul’s letters as both “wisdom” and “scripture.” ~ 2 Peter 3:15-17
That is a far cry from those who attempt to discredit the apostle Paul.
The truth is, you will not find a single text in all of the New Testament where any of the original apostles or any leaders of the church discredited Paul. Those who were hostile to the gospel in their unbelief were the ones who sought to discredit him. The same is true today.
Luke, who is the author of both the gospel of Luke, and the book of Acts, documents the apostolic ministry of Paul. Without Luke’s contribution there would be no New Testament record of the impact of Peter’s preaching and miracle ministry after the ascension of Jesus. We would know nothing of Stephen, who was full of faith and power, and who testified of Jesus before the Sanhedrin. We would know nothing of men like Ananias, the disciple whom Jesus sent to lay hands on Paul and baptize him in Acts 9, which is where the endorsements of Paul have their beginning.
Jesus endorsed Paul when he said to his disciple, Ananias, “Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and enquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth, And hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight.” ~ Acts 9:11-12
When Ananias expressed his concerns because of Saul’s history (v.13-14), Jesus replied, “Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.”~ Acts 9:15-16
According to Jesus, Saul (Paul) was a chosen vessel unto for Jesus, to bear his name.
Ananias, the disciple whom Jesus sent to Paul, endorsed Paul when he obeyed the Lord and baptized him, and referred to him as, brother Saul.
And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, even Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized. ~ Acts 9:17-18
At the beginning of this teaching, we see that Paul had a partner named Barnabas.
According to Acts 11, Barnabas was a good man, and full of the Holy Ghost and of faith (v.24). He had been sent out by the church which was at Jerusalem (v.22) to verify the reports of the spreading of the Word of God.
Then tidings of these things came unto the ears of the church which was in Jerusalem: and they sent forth Barnabas, that he should go as far as Antioch. Who, when he came, and had seen the grace of God, was glad, and exhorted them all, that with purpose of heart they would cleave unto the Lord. ~ Acts 11:22-23
When Barnabas departed, he went to Tarsus to seek for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him unto Antioch. And it came to pass, that a whole year they assembled themselves with the church, and taught much people. And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch. ~ v. 25-26
Luke’s documentation of all those who endorsed Paul (Jesus, the Holy Spirit, Ananias, Barnabas, the apostles, the elders and the church at Jerusalem) should speak volumes to us. Luke also himself, was a fellow laborer with Paul in the work of the ministry (Colossians 4:14; 2 Timothy 4:11), and refers to Paul and Barnabas as apostles.
Long time therefore abode they speaking boldly in the Lord, which gave testimony unto the word of his grace, and granted signs and wonders to be done by their hands.But the multitude of the city was divided: and part held with the Jews, and part with the apostles. ~ Acts 14:3-4
Which when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of, they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people, crying out… ~ Acts 14:14
Luke believed that Paul ministered the Word of God, referring to the things which Paul preached and taught as:
- the word of God ~ Acts 13:43-44; 14:25;
- the word of God’s grace ~ Acts 13:3
- the Word of the Lord ~ Acts 15:35
- the gospel ~ Acts 14:7; 16:10
Luke’s contribution to the New Testament is of indispensable value, and it is Luke, not Paul, who documents Paul’s apostolic ministry in the book of Acts, and that documentation is part of New Testament scriptures.
Luke tells us of Paul’s persecution of the church before his conversion when he was known as Saul of Tarsus. Luke tells us his conversion, his baptism, his sermons, his teachings, his testimony, his missionary journeys, and the things Paul suffered for the sake of the gospel.
When Luke introduces us to Paul, he wasn’t yet the apostle to the Gentiles that he would later become. Instead, he was Saul of Tarsus, the persecutor of the church, a very zealous Pharisee. Yet after his conversion he became a humble man who considered himself unworthy of being called an apostle.
For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. But by the grace of God I am what I am: and his grace which was bestowed upon me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all: yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me. ~ 1 Corinthians 15:9-10
Paul understood the gravity of his previous sins, and that his calling was not based on any merit of his own. This must have contributed to his understanding of God’s grace towards the Gentiles apart from the Law.
It is truly remarkable that with so much overwhelming evidence in the New Testament supporting Paul’s apostleship, there are some who think they have a responsibility from God to expose Paul. Consequently, they attempt to pit Paul’s teachings against the teachings of Christ, not understanding that Paul’s teachings are in fact the teachings of Jesus through the Holy Spirit.
The book of Acts is the continuation of the ministry of Jesus through his apostles like Peter and Paul, and his servants like Ananias who baptize Paul, and Stephen who was full of faith and power, who testified of Jesus before the Sanhedrin.
The central theme of the book of Acts isn’t Peter, Paul, or anyone else. The central theme is the exaltation of Jesus through the power of the Holy Spirit, and Luke documents Paul’s ministry as Jesus is exalted through his preaching, teaching, and sufferings.
I could go on speaking of others who endorsed Paul, such as Silas who was with Paul when God shook the prison at midnight and the jailer along with his house were saved. I could mention Timothy, who served Paul in the ministry like a son with his father. Timothy because a leader among the Gentile believers.
Furthermore, who could forget Paul’s friends, Aquila, and Priscilla, who were Pastors and who were fellow laborers in the gospel with Paul. Aquila and Priscilla took a man named Apollos under there wing and discipled him, and he became a more effective minister of the gospel.
And a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man, and mighty in the scriptures, came to Ephesus. This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord, knowing only the baptism of John. And he began to speak boldly in the synagogue: whom when Aquila and Priscilla had heard, they took him unto them, and expounded unto him the way of God more perfectly. And when he was disposed to pass into Achaia, the brethren wrote, exhorting the disciples to receive him: who, when he was come, helped them much which had believed through grace: For he mightily convinced the Jews, and that publicly, shewing by the scriptures that Jesus was Christ. ~ Acts 18:24-28
Paul mentions Apollos multiple times in his first letter to the Corinthians, among those references, Paul says the following:
As touching our brother Apollos, I greatly desired him to come unto you with the brethren: but his will was not at all to come at this time; but he will come when he shall have convenient time. ~ 1 Corinthians 16:12
Paul had many companions in his gospel ministry and endorsements from the Lord Jesus, the Holy Spirit, the apostle Peter, the apostle James, the elders and church at Jerusalem, Barnabas, Ananias, Timothy, Aquila, Priscilla, Silas, and Luke.
His credibility is second to none.