THE APOSTLE PAUL

ENDORSEMENTS FOR PAUL

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 Paulmen 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, the elders, and the brethren in Jerusalem endorsed Barnabas and Paul 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, elders and church at Jerusalem) should speak volumes to us. Luke himself, was also a fellow laborer with the apostle Paul in the work of the ministry (Colossians 4:14; 2 Timothy 4:11)

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.

DID PAUL FAIL TO PREACH REPENTANCE

One of the arguments of those who claim that Paul’s teachings contradicted the teachings of Jesus is that Paul taught justification by faith alone without repentance.

Is this true?

To begin, consider Paul’s words to the elders of the church of Ephesus:

… Ye know, from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons, serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews: and how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have showed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house, testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. ~ Acts 20:18-20

Notice that Paul says that he taught “repentance toward God.”

In Acts 26, Paul testified of Jesus as he stood on trial before King Agrippa, and recounts how he previously lived as a zealous Pharisee who persecuted and put to death some of the followers of Jesus (v.4-11).  Beginning in verse 12 Paul recounts his experience on the road to Damascus where he was confronted by the Lord Jesus Christ (v 12-18). Paul then says the following:

Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: but shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance. ~ Acts 26:19-20 

Those who say that Paul did not teach repentance claim that Paul taught justification through faith alone and cite verses like Romans 4:4-5

Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness. ~ Romans 4:4-5

The context, to which the verses above belong, actually begins in chapter 1. Throughout Romans, Paul expounds on justification through Christ, in contrast to boasting in the works of the Law which separated the Jews from Gentiles.

To claim that Paul is teaching a salvation with no repentance in Romans 4 is the result of careless proof-texting. Paul has already spoken of the necessity of repentance in the second chapter of Romans

Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things. But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things. And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of God? Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?

Paul taught that the goodness of God leads ungodly men to repentance.

In Acts 13, Paul preached to the people and reminded them how John the Baptist had first preached repentance to all the people of Israel (v.24).

When Paul was in the city of Athens (Acts 17), he was stirred in his spirit because he saw that the whole city was give over to idolatry. When Paul found that they had made an altar with the inscription  – TO THE UNKNOWN GOD – Paul used it to preach the gospel to them. Paul’s message can be read beginning in verse 22. In verses 30-31 we read the following:

And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent: Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead. ~ Acts 17:30-31

Notice that Paul says that God has commanded “all men, everywhere to repent.” Paul says this within the context of the coming Day of Judgment, wherein God is going to judge men through Jesus Christ.

While at Lystra (Acts 14) Paul and Barnabas preached the gospel to the people and a man who had been crippled all his life was healed. This caused quite a stirring among the idolatrous people at Lystra who then attempted to worship Barnabas and Paul.

And when the people saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in the speech of Lycaonia, The gods are come down to us in the likeness of men. And they called Barnabas, Jupiter; and Paul, Mercurius, because he was the chief speaker. Then the priest of Jupiter, which was before their city, brought oxen and garlands unto the gates, and would have done sacrifice with the people. Which when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of, they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people, crying out, And saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the Living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein… ~ Acts 14:11-15.

Notice that Barnabas and Paul preached to the people to turn from their idolatrous practices and serve the living God. Turning from idolatry to serve the Living God is repentance.

In Acts 15, the Jerusalem counsel (of which Paul and Barnabas were a part) concluded that the Gentiles in Antioch were brethren in Christ because they had “turned to God.”

Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world. Wherefore my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to GodBut that we write unto them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. ~ Acts 15:18-20

When Jesus appeared to Paul on the road to Damascus, Jesus said the following to Paul:

… I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me. ~ Acts 26:16-18

Paul interprets this commission by Jesus as preaching repentance and that is why he says:

Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance. ~ Acts 26:19-20

Turning from sin and idols to serve the Living God is core to Paul’s doctrine regarding salvation through Jesus Christ. In Romans 11:26 Paul refers to Jesus as the deliverer who shall come out of Zion and shall turn ungodliness from Jacob.

Paul also says the following to the Thessalonians:

For from you sounded out the word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak anything. For they themselves show of us what manner of entering in we had unto you, and how ye turned to God from idols to serve the Living and True God; And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come. ~ 1 Thessalonians 1:8-10

Later, in chapter 4 Paul says the following to the Thessalonians:

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. 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 honor; Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God: That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified. For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness. He therefore that despiseth, despiseth not man, but God, who hath also given unto us his Holy Spirit. ~ 1 Thessalonians 4:1-7

These words to the Thessalonians regarding sanctification are consistent with Paul’s gospel which calls men not only to repentance, but to live holy and godly lives. Paul’s preaching and teaching of repentance is well documented throughout the New Testament, not only in the book of Acts, but in the epistles as well.

In 1 Corinthians 5:1-2, Paul confronts the Corinthians for the sin of fornication in their midst.

It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife. And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you. ~1 Corinthians 5:1-2

Paul’s rebuke of the Corinthians moved them to repentance. In 2 Corinthians 7, Paul says the following to them:

For though I made you sorry with a letter, I do not repent, though I did repent: for I perceive that the same epistle hath made you sorry, though it were but for a season. Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. For godly sorrow works repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world works death. For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter. ~ 2 Corinthians 7:8-11

Paul later expresses his concern about the lack of repentance of some among them.

For I fear, lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I would, and that I shall be found unto you such as ye would not: lest there be debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults: And lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and that I shall bewail many which have sinned already, and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed. ~ 2 Corinthians 12:20-21

Paul did not preach a gospel void of repentance, nor did he teach doctrine void of repentance. In his letter to Titus Paul says the following:

For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works. These things speak, and exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no man despise thee. ~ Titus 2:11-15

Notice that Paul tells Titus that the saving grace of God teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts by living soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world. This is consistent with the commission given to Paul by Jesus in the book of Acts, “… I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee; Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee, To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.” ~ Acts 26:16-18

One only needs to read what Paul actually said (examples, Ephesians 4:21-32, Ephesians 5:3-13, Colossians 3:5-10, Romans 6) to understand that Paul’s gospel was not void of repentance and that Paul taught that we are to turn from sin and live godly and holy lives in the fear of the Lord.

IS THE THEME OF REPENTANCE MISSING FROM PAUL’S LETTERS?

One of the accusations made against Paul by those within the Hebrew Roots Movement is that the theme of repentance missing in Paul’s letters in the New Testament?

This is not true and it can easily to be refuted.

Did Paul constantly address repentance in all of his letters? Of course not! There wasn’t a need for Paul to address repentance every time he wrote a letter. Among Paul’s letters were those he wrote to Timothy and Titus, whom he had discipled. Timothy and Titus were servants of the Lord who had already repented of their sins.

The same can be said for the believers at Ephesus. Consider the following from Paul’s letter aka, the book of Ephesians: 

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, to the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. ~ Ephesians 1:1-2

Notice to whom Paul was writing. He was writing to the saints, and to those who were faithful in Christ Jesus. These were believers who had already repented and turned to the Lord. Why would Paul harp on the theme of repentance if they had already repented?

In verses 15 & 16 Paul says, Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints, cease not to give thanks for you, making mention of you in my prayers…” 

Paul doesn’t need to address the subject of repentance in this letter because the saints to whom he was writing had already repented and were serving God. So what does Paul do in response? He prays for them, and encourages them, and expounds on the mystery of redemption in Christ. Paul also instructs them concerning godly living in (chapters 4-5), and how to stand against the strategies of the devil in chapter 6. 

Now consider Paul’s letter to the Colossians. Paul begins his letter by saying the following:

Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timotheus our brother, To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ which are at Colosse: Grace be unto you, and peace, from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. We give thanks to God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for youSince we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints, For the hope which is laid up for you in heaven, whereof ye heard before in the word of the truth of the gospel; Which is come unto you, as it is in all the world; and bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you, since the day ye heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth: As ye also learned of Epaphras our dear fellowservant, who is for you a faithful minister of Christ; Who also declared unto us your love in the Spirit. ~ Colossians 1:1-8

Notice that Paul is writing to “the saints and faithful brethren in Christ.” They were walking in Christian love and bearing forth fruit for the kingdom of God. Paul did not need to tell them to repent, they had already repented and were serving God.

However, Paul does address repentance when there is a need for repentance. In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul confronts the Corinthian believers for allowing the sin of fornication in their midst.

It is reported commonly that there is fornication among you, and such fornication as is not so much as named among the Gentiles, that one should have his father’s wife. And ye are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he that hath done this deed might be taken away from among you. ~1 Corinthians 5:1-2

Paul’s rebuke of the Corinthians moved them to repentance. In 2 Corinthians 7, Paul says the following to them:

For though I made you sorry with a letter, I do not repent, though I did repent: for I perceive that the same epistle hath made you sorry, though it were but for a season. Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. For godly sorrow works repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world works death. For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter. ~ 2 Corinthians 7:8-11

Later in 2 Corinthians, Paul expresses his concern about the lack of repentance of some among them.

For I fear, lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I would, and that I shall be found unto you such as ye would not: lest there be debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults: And lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and that I shall bewail many which have sinned already, and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed. ~ 2 Corinthians 12:20-21

So did Paul address repentance in his letters? When repentance was needed, he absolutely did.

DID PAUL PREACH LAWLESSNESS?

One of the accusations made against Christianity by heretical groups such as the Hebrew Roots Movement is that Christians are lawless, and advocate lawlessness. This accusation comes as a result of a gross misrepresentation of the teachings of the apostle Paul.

Unfortunately, some Christian ministers have not helped the cause of Christianity by teaching doctrinally unsound things regarding Paul’s gospel of grace.

Did Paul teach that we are lawless now that we are under grace? Absolutely not! Consider the following from Paul:

And unto the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might gain the Jews; to them that are under the law, as under the law, that I might gain them that are under the law; to them that are without law, as without law, (being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ,) that I might gain them that are without law. ~ 1 Corinthians 9:20-21

In the reference above Paul’s reveals his evangelistic strategy. Paul was an incredibly versed scholar of the Jewish scriptures with great understand of the law of Moses. In his evangelistic approach to the Jews, Paul knew how to use the law to preach Christ to them. Paul was also very skilled in his communication with those outside the Jewish community, and could debate with the most intellectual among the Roman empire. In his strategy towards them Paul took a different evangelistic approach. He became as one without law, though he himself was not without law to God.

Paul declared himself as “being not without law to God, but under the law to Christ.”

Though Paul believed that in Christ we we not under the law (the law of Moses), Paul did not believe, nor did he teach, that we are without law (lawless). To explain Paul’s position regarding the law, I want to draw your attention to the words of the apostle John.

Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning. Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth. ~ 1 John 2:7-8

The ESV says, Beloved, I am writing you no new commandment, but an old commandment that you had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have heard. At the same time, it is a new commandment that I am writing to you, which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. ~ 1 John 2:7-8

Allow me translate what John is saying here.

John is basically saying, “the new commandment is the old commandment, but it’s new in that we now have it in view of the light of the glory of God. The light of God has shinned in the person of Jesus Christ, overpowering the darkness. The commandment is new because we now understand it in a whole new the light, and we see it through an entirely new lens – the lens of the grace of God in Christ.

When Jesus came, the law of God was transferred from the administration of death and condemnation as the law of Moses, to the administration of life by the Spirit Christ Jesus.

This is why Jesus could quote the law and, say, Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery: But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” ~ Matthew 5:27-28

Jesus wasn’t establishing a new law. He was citing the law of God in view of the spiritual life and light of God that now shines in our hearts through the gospel. “In him was life; and the life was the light of men.” ~ John 1:4

In 2 Corinthians 3, Paul expounds on the administration of the law under Moses, referring to it as the ministration of death and condemnation. He says this in contrast to the law in Christ being the ministration of the Spirit and righteousness. In the very next chapter Paul says, Therefore seeing we have this ministry (the ministration of the Spirit and righteousness), as we have received mercy, we faint not; but have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of GodBut if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.

When the law of God, which is fulfilled by love, is obeyed from the heart we walk in the light, the Spirit, and righteousness of Christ, A man may refrain himself from physical adultery, and be guiltless of violating Moses’s law which says, “though shalt not commit adultery”, but if he has lust in his heart towards another woman, he has violated the law of God in his heart.

Only Jesus can bring to light the things that are in a man’s heart.

When God gave the law through Moses he appeared to the children of Israel in a thick cloud of darkness.

And the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was. ~ Exodus 20:21

These words the Lord spake unto all your assembly in the mount out of the midst of the fire, of the cloud, and of the thick darkness, with a great voice: and he added no more. And he wrote them in two tables of stone, and delivered them unto me. And it came to pass, when ye heard the voice out of the midst of the darkness, (for the mountain did burn with fire,) that ye came near unto me, even all the heads of your tribes, and your elders… ~ Deuteronomy 5:22-24

The darkness was representative of the spiritual condition of the people to whom God was giving the law under Moses. The law, as it was administered through Old Covenant Israel, was for a nation in spiritual darkness, and not for a nation abiding in the light.

Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeignedFrom which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling; Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm. But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully; Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and for sinners, for unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, For whoremongers, for them that defile themselves with mankind, for menstealers, for liars, for perjured persons, and if there be any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine; According to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which was committed to my trust. ~ 1 Timothy 1:5-11

When Paul says the end of the commandment is charity (love) out of a pure heart and of a good conscience, and of unfeigned faith, he is describing the work of the law of God in our heart under grace. He says that this is what some “swerve” from, and and consequently turn aside to “vain jangling”. They do not understand the law of God “under Moses”, in contrast to “under Christ.”

The writer of Hebrews contrasts the two covenants (the law under Moses, and grace under Christ).

For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, nor unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, And the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard intreated that the word should not be spoken to them any more: (For they could not endure that which was commanded, And if so much as a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned, or thrust through with a dart: And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake:) But ye are come unto mount Sion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to an innumerable company of angels, To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel. ~ Hebrews 12:18-29

Never once did Paul or any New Testament writer teach that we are without law to God as New Covenant believers. When Paul teaches that were are not under the law, he is specifically referring to the law of Moses, which was given to a nation in spiritual darkness. Under Moses, God’s law was catered for a nation that was under the power of the flesh to teach them God’s ways, and to lead them to Christ!

God’s law (God’s rule, authority, and dominion) has not been abolished, but the administration of it through death and condemnation has. The ministry of the law of God has changed hands from Moses to Jesus, and through Jesus God’s law rules the hearts of those who love him. They do not have to be told to not commit adultery because their aim is to love their wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself for it. Like their Master, their prayer is, “I delight to do Your will, O my God; Your law is within my heart.” ~ Psalm 40:8; Hebrews 10:7-10

When Paul speaks of not being under the law he is not referring to being without law towards God, for Paul declares, “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” ~ Romans 8:2

When Paul speaks of not being under the law, he is talking about not being under Moses as his mediator. He is talking about not being under the administration of commandments designed to corral sin in a nation filled with people in spiritual darkness.

Paul believed that Jesus is our mediator with God, and Jesus is he who searches the reins and hearts ~ Revelation 2:23. He is the one that can see the lust in our hearts and it is this same Jesus who gives us grace and power in our hearts to do his will and to please God.

Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son… ~ Colossians 1:12-13

Because we are no longer in darkness, but translated into the Kingdom of God’s dear Son, we produce fruit unto holiness through the power of the Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ.

For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law (Moses), but under grace (Christ). ~ Romans 6:14

WHY DID PAUL TELL THE CORINTHIANS TO KEEP THE PASSOVER?

In first Corinthians 5:7 when Paul says to keep the feast (Passover) it is a metaphor. The context deals with sin that was in the midst of the Corinthian church, namely fornication.

Under the Old Testament the Israelites were to put away leaven for seven days and to eat unleavened bread only. This was a type of the putting away of sin in exchange for purity.

According to the context of 1 Corinthians 5, Paul says nothing about the feast of Passover which was to be kept on the 14th day of the month of Nisan (the first month on the Jewish calendar). He does not make reference to a day as Passover, as the Old Testament did. (see Ex 12:6,14,18,19; Numbers 9:2; 28:16; Deuteronomy 16:1; Joshua 5:10; Ezekiel 45:21)

Leviticus 23:5 says, In the fourteenth day of the first month at even is the LORD’S Passover.

Paul does not refer to Passover as a time on the calendar,  or a ceremonial festival when speaking to the Corinthians. On the contrary, Paul refers to Christ Jesus himself as our Passover.

Purge out therefore the old leaven that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us: Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness; but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. ~ 1 Corinthians 5:7-8

Paul applies the object lesson which was contained in the shadowy type – the Passover given to Israel – and tells the Corinthians to walk in the reality of it. In other words, Paul says, Put away this sin from your midst and serve God, in Christ, with sincerity and truth, because Christ, who is our Passover, was sacrificed for you.

There is nothing wrong with dedicating the Passover season as a time for the Lord to focus on Christ’s death for us. In fact that is a very good practice. The error comes in when the festival becomes a law for Christians to observe as is becoming more of a common place within some of the modern day Messianic movements, such as the Hebrew Roots Movement.

The New Testament writers are the authoritative interpreters of the Old Testament scriptures and they gave us everything we need to know for godly and righteous living.

That which was foreshadowed in the feasts has become reality in Christ Jesus, and we can walk in the reality every day because the light has come and the shadow had been put away.

Therefore let no one judge you in regard to food and drink or in regard to [the observance of] a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day.  Such things are only a shadow of what is to come and they have only symbolic value; but the substance [the reality of what is foreshadowed] belongs to Christ.~ Colossians 2:16-17  Amplified Bible

DID PAUL TEACH OTHERS TO EAT FOOD OFFERED TO IDOLS ?

Those who teach that Paul contradicted the teachings of Jesus claim that Paul taught that it was OK to eat meat offered to idols in Romans 14,  1 Corinthians 8, and 1 Corinthians 10.

Is this correct?

To begin, it is important to remember that Paul was present at the Jerusalem counsel (Acts 15) and was one of the supporters of the decision made to exhort the Gentiles not to eat food offered to idols.

2Then pleased it the apostles and elders with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch WITH PAUL and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas and Silas, chief men among the brethren:

23 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.

24 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:

25 It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you WITH OUR BELOVED BARNABAS and PAUL,

26 Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

27 We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth.

28 For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things;

29 That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.

Notice that Paul is mentioned in this letter (the letter encouraging the Gentiles not to eat things offered to idols) along with Barnabas as beloved and men who had hazarded thier lives for the name of the Lord Jesus.

Notice that James, along with the other apostles, and the elders, endorsed Paul in this letter to the Gentiles. With this in mind let’s consider Paul’s teachings in Romans 14, 1 Corinthians 8, and 1 Corinthians 10.

Does Paul teach the Gentiles to eat things offered to idols?

FIRST, there is nothing in Romans 14 about meats offered to idols. Romans 14 is addressing meat or food, which is offensive to another brother. The teaching by Paul is to abstain from offending your brother by what you eat.

Those who claim that Paul is teaching it is OK to eat meat offered to idols in Romans 14 are carelessly proof-texting to support their claims. Paul’s exhortation in Romans 14 is most likely within a Jewish/Gentile context as Paul addresses the two cultural backgrounds throughout the book of Romans.

SECONDLY, Paul does not teach his followers to eat meat offered to idols in 1 Corinthians 8, nor is he promoting such practices.

Paul is actually teaching the Corinthians to walk in brotherly love and not to use their liberty in Christ as an occasion for offending a brother or sister who is weak in their faith. Paul instructs the Corinthians to refrain from eating things offered to idols so they don’t damage the conscience of others.

Paul makes it clear that food – in and of itself – has no value with regards to our relationship with God because there is only one true God and he is the creator of all things. However, not all possess this liberating knowledge, and for the sake of those whose consciences are weak, Paul admonishes the Corinthians to refrain from foods which are offered to idols so as not to wound another believer’s conscience.

Paul continuously teaches the Gentile brethren not to eat food offered to idols, not because of superstitious reasons, but out of love for others. Love is the right motive in everything.

Throughout the book of 1 Corinthians, Paul repeatedly addresses the importance of abstaining from idolatrous practices.

In 5:10-11, Paul tells the Corinthians not to keep company with a person who is called a brother if he engages in idolatrous practices.

In 6:9 he tells them that idolaters have no part in the Kingdom of God.

In 10:7 he tells them not to be idolatrous like the Israelites who fell in the wilderness.

In 12:2 he reminds them that they were previously Gentiles who were carried away by dumb idols.

Paul certainly would not have warned the Gentile believers against idolatry and then turned around and taught them to eat things offered to idols.

It is ironic that some use 1 Corinthians to support their claim that Paul taught that it was OK to eat things offered to idols. On the contrary, Paul very specifically instructs the Corinthians to NOT to do such things.

FINALLY, Consider the following from 1 Corinthians 10:18-33. I have chosen the NLT for clarity.

18 Think about the people of Israel. Weren’t they united by eating the sacrifices at the altar?

19 What am I trying to say? Am I saying that food offered to idols has some significance, or that idols are real gods? 

20 No, not at all. I am saying that these sacrifices are offered to demons, not to God. And I don’t want you to participate with demons. 

21 You cannot drink from the cup of the Lord and from the cup of demons, too. You cannot eat at the Lord’s Table and at the table of demons, too. 

22 What? Do we dare to rouse the Lord’s jealousy? Do you think we are stronger than he is?

23 You say, “I am allowed to do anything” —but not everything is good for you. You say, “I am allowed to do anything”—but not everything is beneficial. 

24 Don’t be concerned for your own good but for the good of others.

25 So you may eat any meat that is sold in the marketplace without raising questions of conscience. 

26 For “the earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it.”

27 If someone who isn’t a believer asks you home for dinner, accept the invitation if you want to. Eat whatever is offered to you without raising questions of conscience. 

28 (But suppose someone tells you, “This meat was offered to an idol.” Don’t eat it, out of consideration for the conscience of the one who told you. 

29 It might not be a matter of conscience for you, but it is for the other person.) For why should my freedom be limited by what someone else thinks? 

30 If I can thank God for the food and enjoy it, why should I be condemned for eating it?

31 So whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God. 

32 Don’t give offense to Jews or Gentiles or the church of God. 

33 I, too, try to please everyone in everything I do. I don’t just do what is best for me; I do what is best for others so that many may be saved.

Paul’s words concerning food offered to idols, is that “food” – in and of itself – has no virtue, however, food which has been offered to idols ought not to be eaten out of love for others.

PAUL AND THE JEWS RELIGION 

For ye have heard of my conversation (conduct) in time past in the Jews’ religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the church of God, and wasted it. And profited in the Jews’ religion above many my equals in mine own nation, being more exceedingly zealous of the traditions of my fathers. ~ Galatians 1:13-14

Paul makes the above statement after telling the Galatians that he marveled that they were so soon being removed from Him who had called them to the grace of Christ, unto another gospel.

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. For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ. But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ. ~ Galatians 1:6-12

Paul is telling the Galatians at the very outset of his letter that those in the Jews religion, in which he once excelled above his peers, are preaching another gospel. In Galatians, Paul is dealing with the false teachings of those who were advocating Jewish identity (via circumcision and adherence to the law) rather than glorying in Christ.

These religious Jews (aka, Judaizers) did not simply want to bring the Gentiles under some sort of “works righteousness” but rather, they were seeking to make Jewish proselytes of the Gentiles, and this was something that Paul rigorously opposed.

It wasn’t enough to these religious Jews that the Gentiles had believed the gospel and received the Spirit. The wanted the Gentiles to go beyond the cross of Christ and become Jewish proselytes (through circumcision and adherence to the Law).

It is this “Jewish supremacy” based on the Jew’s religion that Paul is countering so strongly in Galatians.  Jewish supremacy, such as Paul is addressing in Galatians, is in opposition to the truth of the gospel.

Because of the cross, there is no privilege of one ethnic group above another in the sight of God. In Galatians 5:11 Paul says, “And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision (the mark of Jewish identity) why do I yet suffer persecution? Then is the offense of the cross ceased.

The issue of circumcision in the first century church wasn’t merely about “legalistic works” as we in the church today would refer to legalism. It was much more than that. It literally meant being converted, and becoming a Jew. It was for this purpose that the apostle Paul was being persecuted by those who preached circumcision. Paul preached that the cross alone could save and being circumcised or not being circumcised no longer had relevance with regards to being in covenant with God.

To put it another way, being a Jew or not being a Jew no longer had any bearing on who was God’s people and who wasn’t. God had abolished the separating wall between Jews and Gentiles in the death and resurrection of Jesus. God’s people are no longer of one ethnic group in the flesh, but rather are people of every nationality united in one new man, in one body of believers, in Christ Jesus. What matters now is being a new creature in Christ Jesus.


PAUL’S NEW MAN IN CHRIST

But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both (Jew and Gentile) one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us: Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace… ~ Ephesians 2:13-14

The middle wall of partition (or wall of separation) mentioned above refers to the Law. The Law separated the Jews from all other nations. With the Law removed, there is no longer any distinction between the two.

Paul tells us that Jesus has broken down this wall of separation by abolishing in his flesh the enmity, which was the law of commandments contained in ordinances.

The enmity between the Jew and Gentile has been taken away. It was slain in the crucified body of Jesus. ~ Ephesians 2:15; Colossians 2:14

Now both, Jew and Gentile, are united in Jesus as one new man. Paul says to the Gentiles; “ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.” ~ v.13 

I recently watched a portion of a video by a well known Zionist minister, claiming that the wall of separation (which is taken away in Christ) will again be raised when Christ returns. I truly don’t think people understand how egregious such teachings are in view of the gospel.

In the book of Galatians, we get a glimpse of just how offensive this wall of separation was to the apostle Paul. Notice Paul’s words in Galatians 2.

But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulationBut when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews? ~ Galatians 2:11-14

Paul goes on to expound on righteousness through faith and how the Jews and Gentiles are one in Christ as the seed of Abraham according to the promise.

According to Paul, Peter and the other Jews with him were not walking uprightly according to the truth of the gospel when they separated themselves from the Gentile believers at Antioch.

Doctrine which separates those for whom Jesus died to make one, is contrary to the truth of the gospel.

In God’s eyes, unbelieving Jews and unbelieving Gentiles are all under sin. God makes no distinction between the two. Paul tells us the following in Romans 10: “Whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him.” ~ v.11-12

Likewise, in God’s eyes, believing Jews and believing Gentiles are under grace and God makes no distinction between the two because they have become one in Christ through the blood of Jesus. In Christ, Jews and Gentiles alike are the children of God because those who are of faith in Jesus are Abraham’s children through faith according to the promise God made to Abraham.

For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. ~ Galatians 3:26-29

THE OFFENCE OF THE OF THE CROSS

In Galatians 5 the apostle Paul says, And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision, why do I yet suffer persecution? then is the offence of the cross ceased.

Circumcision here is a reference to Jewish supremacy. The Judaizers were attempting to undermine the gospel which Paul had ministered to the Galatians and were attempting to make Jewish converts of them.

This same thing had happened at Antioch in Acts 15. There were certain men who came down from Judaea and taught the brethren that unless they were circumcised after the manner of Moses, they could not be saved. Paul and Barnabas vehemently withstood them. Later the Apostles and elders along the church at Jerusalem held a meeting to resolve the issue. They came to the conclusion that the Gentiles were not obligated to be circumcised and come under the Law of Moses.

The issue of circumcision in the first century church wasn’t merely about “legalistic works” as we in the church today would refer to legalism. It was much more than that. It literally meant being converted to Judaism and becoming a Jew. It was for this purpose that the Apostle Paul was being persecuted by those who preached circumcision. Paul preached that the cross alone could save and being circumcised or not being circumcised no longer had any meaning with regards to covenant with God.

To put it another way, being a Jew or not being a Jew no longer had any bearing on who was God’s people and who wasn’t. God had abolished the separating wall between Jews and Gentiles in the death and resurrection of Jesus. God’s people are no longer of one ethic group in the flesh, but rather are people of every nationality united in one new man, in one body of believers, in Christ Jesus. What matters now is being a new creature in Christ Jesus.

WERE PAUL AND JAMES ON THE SAME PAGE?

The apostle Paul believed that faith without works is dead just as James taught in his epistle, referring to works within the context of the faith we are called to live.

Paul’s teachings regarding justification by faith without works is often misinterpreted because there is a tendency to interpret Paul’s teachings based on a few random verses from Romans and Galatians, where Paul’s argument is that justification does not come through the works of Jewish Law but through faith in Jesus Christ.

Paul did not teach a different message about faith than James. Contrary to the belief of some, Paul did NOT view saving faith as a one time event which had nothing to do with how one lives afterwards.

Paul tells the Galatians “I am afraid of you, lest I have bestowed upon you labor in vain” and “I desire to be present with you now, and to change my voice; for I stand in doubt of you.” (4:11, 20)

Paul says these things not because he was second guessing if they had actually believed the gospel at one time. Instead he says these things because they were not living according to the faith he had preached to them and taught them to live by.

In chapter 5 Paul says to them: “Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth? This persuasion cometh not of him that calleth you. A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.” (v 7-9)

Paul affirms that they had been running well in their faith, but had since been hindered by the leaven of those teaching that they should obey Jewish law. The Galatians were having their faith undermined by the Judaizers who were attempting to make Jewish proselytes of them.

Paul did not teach the Galatians to just simply pray a prayer and believe one time and “wa-la” they’d be in like flynn. Paul had taught the Galatians “the just shall live by faith” (3:11).

In Paul’s theology justificaion by faith in Jesus Christ is not a reference to a one time believing experience. It is a reference to living your life by faith in Jesus Christ.

When James says faith without works is dead, he uses examples of showing love and kindness as the works he is referring too. Paul says basically the same thing in Galatians when he says, “faith works by love.

Paul also agreed with James’ statement – “faith without works is dead” – when he says to Titus that those who “profess to know God but deny him in their works are abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate.”(Titus 1:16)

Also in 1 Thessalonians Paul speaks of “the work of faith.”

We give thanks to God always for you all, making mention of you in our prayers; Remembering without ceasing your work of faith, and labor of love, and patience of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ, in the sight of God and our Father; Knowing, brethren beloved, your election of God. For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake. And ye became followers of us, and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction, with joy of the Holy Ghost. So that ye were EXAMPLES TO ALL that believe in Macedonia and Achaia. (1 Thessalonians 1:3-7)

Reading Paul’s letters to the Thessalonians, and to Timothy, and to Titus; we can see that Paul did not think of faith as something that was merely a one time gift bestowed which had nothing to do with how we live.

It is error to think that Paul taught that there is a chasm between saving faith and faith we are called to live by. Paul refutes such notions much throughout his epistles. Paul did not teach that saving faith stands alone as an independent entity from faith which produces godly living. Saving faith IS the faith you are to live by.

In Romans, Paul’s doctrine of faith is that we become servants to righteousness through belief in Jesus Christ.

16 Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness?

17 But God be thanked, that ye were the servants of sin, but ye have obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered you.

18 Being then made free from sin, ye became the servants of righteousness.

19 I speak after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness.

20 For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness.

21 What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death.

22 But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life

23 For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 6:16-23)

Notice that verse 23 – For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord – is not written within the context of a one time believing experience, but rather within the context of becoming a servant to Jesus Christ.

In Romans, Paul never communicates a faith that isn’t lived out, otherwise he wouldn’t have written chapters 12-16 which deal with living out our faith in practicality.

IS PAUL MAKING AN EXCUSE FOR SIN IN ROMANS 7?

In Romans 7 Paul is speaking from the vantage point of one who is under the Law. Paul’s statements are not about his lack of power to deal with sin now that he has come to Christ. Instead, these words are a part of his expounding on the Law and grace and the effects the Law has on a person in the flesh without the grace of Christ.

In Romans 8, Paul says “the law was weak through the flesh.” The Law can only bring the sinner under condemnation, but grace gives us victory over sin and condemnation.

Throughout the entirely of Romans 6 Paul shows how the one who has received saving grace is dead to sin through Jesus Christ, and therefore sin is not to reign over them.

In Titus 2:11-15 Paul says that saving grace teaches us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts by living soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world. Saving grace does not teach us that we cannot overcome sin. Saving grace teaches us how to overcome sin.

In 2 Timothy 2:19 Paul tells us the following:

Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, let everyone that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity. 

In 1 Thessalonians 4:2-7 Paul says:

2 For ye know what commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus.

3 For this is the will of God, even your sanctification, that ye should abstain from fornication:

4 That every one of you should know how to possess his vessel in sanctification and honour;

5 Not in the lust of concupiscence, even as the Gentiles which know not God:

6 That no man go beyond and defraud his brother in any matter: because that the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also have forewarned you and testified.

7 For God hath not called us unto uncleanness, but unto holiness.

In Romans 7 Paul, as a skillful teacher, speaks figuratively from the vantage point of one who is under the Law, to explain the influence that the Law has on the one who is under the bondage of sin. The Law had no power to give life to the one entrapped in his sins. Only Christ Jesus can set a person free from sin.

1 There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

2 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:

4 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.

The law was weak through the flesh and therefore could not deliver man from his sins, and this is exactly what Paul in explaining in Romans 7:7-25, as he speaks from the vantage point of the effects of the law on those who are under it’s condemnation.

PAUL’S GOSPEL

It has been taught by some that the apostles who were personally discipled by Jesus did not understand the true spiritual meaning of the cross, but rather Paul was the one who had the spiritual revelation. Yet it was Jesus who personally opened His disciple’s understanding to the meaning of His death and resurrection from the writings of Moses, the prophets, and the Psalms (Luke 24:44-48). Paul, who was later chosen, preached the very same message about Jesus’ death as did the apostles who walked with Jesus in the flesh (Acts 13:26-41, 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16).

The difference in Paul’s gospel, was his understanding of the grace of God towards the Gentiles and specifically how the Jew and Gentile have become “one new man” in Christ Jesus.

Paul’s persecutors, those who opposed his message of the Gospel, were insisting the Gentiles become “Jewish Converts” to the Law of Moses. This would have meant identification with the Messiah was dependent on national status. Paul vehemently opposed such notions. Those who are “in Christ” are “in Christ” because of their faith which brings about a “spiritual rebirth” which has nothing to do with national identity after the flesh. As N.T. Wright so eloquently puts it, “It is based on grace not race.”

Israel’s identity was defined by the Law of Moses which separated them from other nations. Paul believed that Christ had torn down this separating wall and now the people of God (Jews and Gentiles) were identified by their faith in Christ, rather than Jewish Law.

This is why many of the things which Paul writes about the cross are written within the context of the work of the Spirit in contrast to the Law. The work of the Spirit is not based on the Law, it is based on the finished work of Christ instead. According to Paul’s gospel, life in the Spirit through faith in Christ has taken precedence over serving under the law which was given to curve sin in the old creation (the old man in Adam).

Paul understood that not only had our sins been remitted, but that the old life of sin had been completely taken away. There is no longer any charges against those who are in Christ because they have been immersed (baptized) into the person and work of Christ by the Spirit.

Paul’s insight concerning the redemptive work of Christ had to do with his understanding of the work of the Spirit through the crucified and risen Messiah in bringing forth the new creation in the lives of both Jews and Gentiles.

Those who walk in faith, trusting the grace of God, are no longer condemned by the law, for they have died with the one who gave Himself as the sacrifice for their sins. Through the Spirit they are crucified, buried, and raised again to a new life with the Messiah who died for all so that all might live in Him.

The Law reveals man’s sinfulness, and for this reason, no one can be justified in the sight of God through the works of the Law. Only by the redemption that comes through the precious Blood of Jesus can our sins be completely removed. Redemption through the Blood of Christ doesn’t mean we are forgiven only, It is much more than that. Our redemption through the precious Blood of Jesus has purchased our freedom from our former union with Adam in whom we were dead in sin.

Christ is now “our Adam” and we are now “in Him” and serve God in the newness of life by the Spirit of holiness through the resurrection of Jesus. Therefore, there is no longer any condemnation against us because we are immersed (baptized) into the person and work of Christ by the Spirit. Those who have believed (have faith in Jesus and continue to live by faith in Jesus) are no longer condemned by the law.

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).

Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us (Romans 8:33-34).

WAS PAUL A RICH PREACHER?

The apostle Paul never used manipulative tactics to raise support for his ministry. Paul chose to labor with his hands and pay his own way so that the truth of the gospel would not be hindered.

It’s remarkable that so many Christians don’t know that Paul worked to provide for himself and others in the ministry. Paul says the following in the book of Acts:

I have coveted no man’s silver, or gold, or apparel. Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. I have shewed you all things, how that so laboring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive. ~ Acts 20:33-35

Paul believed in working and paying your own way if possible.

For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an example unto you to follow us. For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. ~ 2 Thessalonians 3:7-10

You may find it interesting to know what I learned from a friend who is skilled in the Greek language. The handkerchiefs taken from Paul, which were used to heal the sick and drive out demons (Acts 19:12), were most likely those used for wiping the sweat during his making of tents.

Paul had the right to ask for support but chose not to do so, so that the gospel would not be hindered (see 1 Corinthians 9). In 2 Corinthians 11, Paul addresses the gullibleness of the Corinthians who had allowed other “so-called apostles” to take advantage of them in contrast to how he had ministered to them without charge.

Paul says to the Corinthians, Now I am coming to you for the third time, and I will not be a burden to you. I don’t want what you have — I want you. After all, children don’t provide for their parents. Rather, parents provide for their children.  ~ 2 Corinthians 12:14 

Paul also appealed to the Corinthians to raise support for the poor saints in Jerusalem who were in need of help. He did not teach those poor saints who were in need to sow a seed to his ministry. On the contrary, he encouraged their brethren in Christ, who had the means to help, to give generously. He taught those who could help to do so within their means and as a result God would bless them, and their giving, and this would bring forth the fruit unto the praise and glory of God. ~ See 2 Corinthians chapters 8 & 9

Paul was also cautious about how this gift was to be handled. Consider Paul’s words from 2 Corinthians 8:

We are also sending another brother with Titus. All the churches praise him as a preacher of the Good News. He was appointed by the churches to accompany us as we take the offering to Jerusalem —a service that glorifies the Lord and shows our eagerness to help. We are traveling together to guard against any criticism for the way we are handling this generous gift. We are careful to be honorable before the Lord, but we also want everyone else to see that we are honorable.  ~ 2 Corinthians 8:18-21

In his letter to the Philippians, Paul thanks them for their generous gift of support for his ministry by saying the following:

How I praise the Lord that you are concerned about me again. I know you have always been concerned for me, but you didn’t have the chance to help me. Not that I was ever in need, for I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength. Even so, you have done well to share with me in my present difficulty. As you know, you Philippians were the only ones who gave me financial help when I first brought you the Good News and then traveled on from Macedonia. No other church did this. Even when I was in Thessalonica you sent help more than once. I don’t say this because I want a gift from you. Rather, I want you to receive a reward for your kindness. At the moment I have all I need—and more! I am generously supplied with the gifts you sent me with Epaphroditus. They are a sweet-smelling sacrifice that is acceptable and pleasing to God. And this same God who takes care of me will supply all your needs from his glorious riches, which have been given to us in Christ Jesus. ~ Philippians 4:10-19

As can be seen from the text above, though he was sometimes supported by the gifts of some (namely the Philippians), Paul wasn’t one who went around teaching people to “sow seed” into his ministry and promising them that God would cancel their debts or make them rich.

Paul was a true minister of the gospel.

PAUL’S DOCTRINE OF CHRISTIAN GIVING 

But this I say, he which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully. Every man according as he purposeth in his heart, so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity: for God loveth a cheerful giver. And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work… (2 Corinthians 9:6-8)

In 2 Corinthians (chapters 8 and 9) Paul was collecting donations for Christians who were in need. Paul was not raising personal financial support for his own ministry. Paul was very careful to use the utmost integrity when receiving any donations.  In fact Paul was being extremely careful in how this donation was being handled so that no accusation could be levied (see 2 Corinthians 8:16-21).

Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthians regarding this gift had to do with their unfulfilled enthusiasm. Now a year later, the Corinthians had not yet fulfilled what they were so eager to support a year earlier.

To motivate the Corinthians to stop dragging their feet, Paul tells them how the Christians in Macedonia, who themselves were having difficultly, stepped up and gave generously anyway. The Corinthians were more prosperous and in better position to help than were the Macedonians, yet the Macedonians were the ones who came through and did what the Corinthians had committed to do, but failed to finish.

Paul exhorts the Corinthians to follow the Macedonians example of generosity by actually doing what they were previously eager to do, which was to help their brethren in need. Paul does not tell the Corinthians to give what they do not have, but only from what they do have. Notice Paul’s words from 2 Corinthians 8:10 -15.

Here is my advice: It would be good for you to finish what you started a year ago. Last year you were the first who wanted to give, and you were the first to begin doing it. Now you should finish what you started. Let the eagerness you showed in the beginning be matched now by your giving. Give in proportion to what you haveWhatever you give is acceptable if you give it eagerly. And give according to what you have, not what you don’t have. Of course, I don’t mean your giving should make life easy for others and hard for yourselves. I only mean that there should be some equality. Right now you have plenty and can help those who are in need. Later, they will have plenty and can share with you when you need it. In this way, things will be equal.  As the Scriptures say, “Those who gathered a lot had nothing left over, and those who gathered only a little had enough.” (TNLT)

It is to be regretted that giving has been so abused within modern Western Christianity, where God’s people are sometimes taught to give until it hurts by giving what they can’t afford to give. Yet Paul says, “give according to what you have, not what you don’t have.”

Giving until it hurts, is often taught under the guise sowing seed, or seed faith giving, which is a man made ideology and not a Biblical doctrine.

This ideology teaches people that they can activate spiritual laws of prosperity to obtain material blessings if they will sow and keep on sowing, or to put it another way – “keep giving your money (your financial seed) to the minister (sowing into the good ground) and God will prosper you.” 

Paul never taught such a concept.

When Paul says what he says in 2 Corinthians 9:6-8 (mentioned at the beginning of this teaching) it is within the context of giving out of Christian love to help others.

Paul did not teach giving as a way to activate a spiritual law of prosperity. Instead, Paul tells the Corinthians that God will provide for them like he provides seed for the farmer so that their generosity would bring forth a harvest of thanksgivings to God from the hearts of those who benefited from their generosity.

Yes, you will be enriched in every way so that you can always be generous. And when we take your gifts to those who need them, they will thank God. So two good things will result from this ministry of giving—the needs of the believers in Jerusalem will be met, and they will joyfully express their thanks to God. As a result of your ministry, they will give glory to God. For your generosity to them and to all believers will prove that you are obedient to the Good News of Christ. And they will pray for you with deep affection because of the overflowing grace God has given to you.  Thank God for this gift too wonderful for words! (2 Corinthians 9: 8-15)

The context of Paul’s word in 2 Corinthians 9:6-8 have nothing to do with activating spiritual laws for personal wealth and prosperity. It has everything to do with Christian love expressed through generosity which in turn brings glory to God.

WHY DID PAUL PAY HIS OWN WAY?

1 Am I am not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not ye my work in the Lord? ~ 1 Corinthians 9:1-19

Paul is talking to those of whom he had a right to receive support for his ministry. He says,“are not ye my work in the Lord?”

2 If I be not an apostle unto others, yet doubtless I am to you: for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord.

3 Mine answer to them that do examine me is this,

4 Have we not power to eat and to drink?

5 Have we not power to lead about a sister, a wife, as well as other apostles, and as the brethren of the Lord, and Cephas?

6 Or I only and Barnabas, have not we power to forbear working? ~ 1 Corinthians 9:2-6

Notice that Paul says, “have not we power to forbear working?” In other words, Paul says, don’t we (he and Barnabas) have the right to be supported and not have to work to support themselves – don’t miss this point.

7 Who goeth a warfare any time at his own charges? who planteth a vineyard, and eateth not of the fruit thereof? or who feedeth a flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock?

8 Say I these things as a man? or saith not the law the same also?

9 For it is written in the law of Moses, thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen?

10 Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope.

11 If we have sown unto you spiritual things, is it a great thing if we shall reap your carnal things?

12 If others be partakers of this power over you, are not we rather? Nevertheless we have not used this power; but suffer all things, lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ. ~ 1 Corinthians 9:7-12

The power Paul is referring to in the verse above is the power to receive support for his ministry. Paul and Barnabas had the power or right to be supported by the Corinthian church. However, Paul and Barnabas elected not to do so.

Now think about that. The apostle Paul and Barnabas, who was also an apostle, chose not to solicit support from the Corinthians but to work instead. Paul says, “we have not used this power.” This is a reference to the power to garner support.

Why didn’t Paul and Barnabas use this power? Paul tells us exactly the reason why they didn’t: “Lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ.”

Those who receive support for their ministry must be very careful that they do not hinder the gospel of Christ. Many minsters have compromised the truth of the gospel because their pay check was at stake.

When ministers are beholden to people for support, there can be a real temptation to compromise and not minister the Word of God with the utmost integrity.

Let’s continue.

13 Do ye not know that they which minister about holy things live of the things of the temple? and they which wait at the altar are partakers with the altar?

14 Even so hath the Lord ordained that they which preach the gospel should live of the gospel.

15 But I have used none of these things: neither have I written these things, that it should be so done unto me: for it were better for me to die, than that any man should make my glorying void. ~ 1 Corinthians 9:13-15 

Though support for those who minister is an ordination of God, Paul chose not to use this privilege.

Notice verse 15 carefully. Paul chose not to employ his right of support and he tells the Corinthians he has not written to them to get their support. Paul then says something very astounding that I don’t think many people even know is in the Bible: Paul says, “it would be better for me to die, than that any man should make my glorying void.

What does this mean? Paul would rather die than to not be able to glory in the fact that he had given the gospel FREELY!

Let that sink in.

Paul chose not to use his right to gain financial support from the Corinthians because he gloried in ministering the gospel for free, and that is why he elected to work and pay his own way. Now notice the following:

16 For though I preach the gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!

17 For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward: but if against my will, a dispensation of the gospel is committed unto me. ~ 1 Corinthians 9:16-17 

When Paul says, “I have nothing to glory of” in verse 16, he is referring to financial or material support. He then says, “for necessity is laid upon me.” In other words, I have to take care of my own needs. Then he says, “yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!”

At the beginning of verse 17 Paul says, “For if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward…”

Paul carefully guarded against wrong motives, and was driven with a passion to minister the gospel freely and without burdening God’s people. This is why Paul so often payed his own way.

How many times have you heard television preachers use so much of their air time asking for money, or using gimmicks to get money? Many times they will even quote Paul. Yet Paul’s way of thinking was the polar opposite of theirs.

So I ask every minister who reads this, if you were no longer paid, or supported for your service, would you continue to do it? Would you find ways to do what God has called you to do?

If not, why are you even doing it? You only have a reward if you do it willingly!

Now notice what Paul says next:

18 What is my reward then? Verily that, when I preach the gospel, I may make the gospel of Christ without charge, that I abuse not my power in the gospel. 

19 For though I be free from all men, yet have I made myself servant unto all, that I might gain the more. ~ 1 Corinthians 9: 18-19

Paul chose to pay his own way so that he would not abuse his power and he was careful to always minister the gospel freely and willingly. This was something close to Paul’s heart. This is something he would not allow anyone to rob him of glorying in.

Paul wanted to stand before God and be able to say, “I obeyed you willingly, and I freely gave them the truth. I did not do it for personal gain.”

WHY DID PAUL SAY HE ROBBED OTHER CHURCHES ?

In 2 Corinthians 11, the apostle Paul made the following statement to the Corinthians,  I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service.” (v. 8)

Why did Paul say he robbed other churches?

Paul was committed to ministering the gospel for free, and he refused to impose his right to support on the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 9). If the Corinthians had willingly offered to help Paul’s ministry, certainly Paul would have graciously accepted, but insisting on their support was not something Paul was going to do.

This is the point that does not need to be missed. Though Paul had the right to be supported, he willingly chose not to make it an issue by imposing his needs on the Corinthians.

The words, “I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service,” is said within a much larger context in which Paul chastises the Corinthians for allowing false apostles to take advantage of them, which included taking their money.

Consider the context:

1 Would to God ye could bear with me a little in my folly: and indeed bear with me.

For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.

But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.

For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.

5 For I suppose I was not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles.

Note: verse 5 in The Amplified Bible says, “Yet I consider myself in no way inferior to the [so-called] super-apostles.

Paul is not contrasting his ministry with other true apostles in 2 Corinthians 11 and 12. Paul is contrasting the integrity of his genuine apostleship to those who were taking advantage of the Corinthians for personal gain.

Paul continues:

But though I be rude (unskilled) in speech, yet not in knowledge; but we have been thoroughly made manifest among you in all things.

Have I committed an offence in abasing myself that ye might be exalted, because I have preached to you the gospel of God freely?

I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service.

And when I was present with you, and wanted (in need), I was chargeable to no man: for that which was lacking to me the brethren which came from Macedonia supplied: and in all things I have kept myself from being burdensome unto you, and so will I keep myself.

10 As the truth of Christ is in me, no man shall stop me of this boasting in the regions of Achaia (southern Greece).

11 Wherefore? because I love you not? God knoweth.

12 But what I do, that I will do, that I may cut off occasion from them which desire occasion; that wherein they glory, they may be found even as we.

13 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.

14 And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.

15 Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.

16 I say again, let no man think me a fool; if otherwise, yet as a fool receive me, that I may boast myself a little.

17 That which I speak, I speak it not after the Lord, but as it were foolishly, in this confidence of boasting.

18 Seeing that many glory after the flesh, I will glory also.

19 For ye suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise.

20 For ye suffer, if a man bring you into bondage, if a man devour you, if a man take of you, if a man exalt himself, if a man smite you on the face.

21 I speak as concerning reproach, as though we had been weak. Howbeit whereinsoever any is bold, (I speak foolishly,) I am bold also. ~ 2 Corinthians 11:1-21

In these verses, Paul is rebuking the Corinthians for putting up with false ministers (namely, false apostles) who abuse them, take from them, exalt themselves, etc…

Sound familiar?

Paul and those with him, such as Titus, who served the Corinthians without charge were ministers of integrity. They did not make merchandise of the Corinthians like the false ministers the Corinthians were tolerating.

Later in chapter 12, Paul would once again address his commitment not to be chargeable to the Corinthians for his ministry to them.  Consider the following from chapter 12:

11 I am become a fool in glorying; ye have compelled me: for I ought to have been commended of you: for in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles, though I be nothing.

Note, again the term “very chiefest apostle” means “those [so-called] super-apostles.” 

12 Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds.

13 For what is it wherein ye were inferior to other churches, except it be that I myself was not burdensome to you? forgive me this wrong.

Note: Paul is being sarcastic when he says, “forgive me this wrong!” He had no intention of changing and becoming chargeable to them. In much the same way he doesn’t mean he literally “robbed” other churches, but that the support that the Corinthians did not offer, the other Churches made up the difference. Not because Paul was chargeable to the other churches, but because the other churches graciously gave to support Paul’s ministry.

Paul continues:

14 Behold, the third time I am ready to come to you; and I will not be burdensome to you: for I seek not yours but you: for the children ought not to lay up for the parents, but the parents for the children.

15 And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved.

16 But be it so, I did not burden you: nevertheless, being crafty, I caught you with guile.

17 Did I make a gain of you by any of them whom I sent unto you?

18 I desired Titus, and with him I sent a brother. Did Titus make a gain of you? walked we not in the same spirit? walked we not in the same steps?

19 Again, think ye that we excuse ourselves unto you? we speak before God in Christ: but we do all things, dearly beloved, for your edifying.

Paul was committed to eternal things and verses 20 -21 speak to this truth regarding Paul’s concerns for the Corinthians to be edified in Christ. 

20 For I fear, lest, when I come, I shall not find you such as I would, and that I shall be found unto you such as ye would not: lest there be debates, envyings, wraths, strifes, backbitings, whisperings, swellings, tumults:

21 And lest, when I come again, my God will humble me among you, and that I shall bewail many which have sinned already, and have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness which they have committed. ~ 2 Corinthians 12:11-21

When Paul says,  I robbed other churches, taking wages of them, to do you service,” he was simply saying that other churches came to his aid when the Corinthians failed to minister to his needs, though the Corinthians had given their support of those false ministers who had taken advantage of them. Paul, however, refused to impose his needs on the Corinthians.

It is good and right for people to support ministers, it is not right for ministers to abuse this privilege, and Paul communicates this to the Corinthians in both of his letters to them.

PAUL AND HEAVENLY VISIONS 

A lot of people will quote that Paul was taken to the 3rd heaven in an effort to support their claims of visions and heavenly experiences, but have you ever noticed the context of Paul’s description of being caught up into the third heaven?

In second Corinthians 11 and 12 the apostle Paul is correcting the Corinthians for allowing false ministers, especially false apostles, to take advantage of them. During his rebuke Paul uses sarcasm at times and that’s one reason why we should never a take any single verse out of its setting.

With regards to Paul’s heavenly experience, he mentions it reluctantly. He doesn’t share it to provide proof that he was sent by God. That’s the tactic of false apostles. Paul tells about this experience to show the Corinthians that these kind of things are not what we are to boast in.

Notice what he says in context:

If I must boast, I would rather boast about the things that show how weak I am. God, the Father of our Lord Jesus, who is worthy of eternal praise, knows I am not lying. When I was in Damascus, the governor under King Aretas kept guards at the city gates to catch me. I had to be lowered in a basket through a window in the city wall to escape from him. “This boasting will do no good,” but I must go on. I will reluctantly tell about visions and revelations from the Lord. I was caught up to the third heaven fourteen years ago. Whether I was in my body or out of my body, I don’t know—only God knows. Yes, only God knows whether I was in my body or outside my body. But I do know that I was caught up to paradise and heard things so astounding that they cannot be expressed in words, things no human is allowed to tell. ~ 2 Corinthians 11:30-12:4

I find it interesting that Paul didn’t describe his experience as a spiritual Disney World or fantasy land like so many of those who make such claims.

Paul goes on to say the following:

That experience is worth boasting about, but I’m not going to do it. I will boast only about my weaknesses. If I wanted to boast, I would be no fool in doing so, because I would be telling the truth. But I won’t do it, because I don’t want anyone to give me credit beyond what they can see in my life or hear in my message, even though I have received such wonderful revelations from God. So to keep me from becoming proud, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger from Satan to torment me and keep me from becoming proud. Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong. ~ 2 Corinthians 12:5-10

The difference in a true minister and a false one is this: A false minister will boast in his supernatural experiences, but a true minister will only boast in his weakness so that power of the Lord will rest on him and Jesus will be glorified.

JESUS, PAUL, AND THE LAW

Among the arguments made by those who claim that Paul contradicted Jesus, is the argument that Paul contradicted Jesus with regards to the Law.

Jesus taught that the Law would continue while Paul claimed it had been done away with. Yet, this seemingly contradiction is cleared up when the words of Jesus and the teachings of Paul are understood within their context.

First, let’s consider the words of Jesus in Matthew, chapter 5:

Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. ~ Matthew 5:17-18

When Jesus said these words, he was not intending to imply that he had come as an enforcer of the Law, but rather to bring the Law it to its fruition through fulfillment.

Jesus was not an opponent to the Law or the message of the prophets. His mission was not to destroy (by discrediting) either one. Instead, his mission was to fulfill both by leading the people of God into the way of righteousness which is faith from a pure heart.

In Matthew 5 Jesus says – “you have heard it said…but I say to you” – referring to what the people had heard from the teachers of the Law.

The Law says, “Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment.” But Jesus says, “whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca (worthless), shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.”

The letter of the Law says “thou shall not kill” but Jesus says keep your heart right towards all men. The law says “thou shall not commit adultery” but Jesus says don’t desire her in your heart. The law says “love your neighbor and hate your enemies” but Jesus says love your enemies.

The letter of the Law could not, and cannot give man a right heart and this is what is at the core of the issue. The letter of the Law merely deals with the outward actions of sinful men and does nothing to change his heart.

While the Law addresses man’s outward actions, Jesus Christ searches the reins and hearts (Revelation 2:23).

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do. ~ Hebrews 4:12-13

When the Pharisees brought the woman caught in adultery to Jesus, they had every right according to the letter of the law to condemn her and to stone her. They had no desire to show mercy or to restore her. Jesus by the wisdom of God dispersed those who condemned her and set her free to sin no more. Those who condemned her wanted to enforce the law upon her, even though they were guilty of sin as well.

They were self righteous and used the Law as a weapon against others rather than teaching the Law to lead men into truth. If they had done the latter they would have recognized that Jesus is the Messiah and the Law would have then led them to faith in him.

Their fixation with the letter of the Law from their uncircumcised hearts, would not allow them to show mercy or compassion to those who were bound by sin and under the power of darkness.  They missed the weightier matters of the law which according to Jesus is mercy, faith, and justice (Matthew 23:23). Rather than liberating the people they used the Law to put heavy burdens on them (Matthew 23:4).

Jesus never employed the law to ensnare people. Instead, Jesus taught that the law was fulfilled by love (Matthew 7:12; 22:34-40) and demonstrated it by showing mercy and compassion on the people. Paul also taught that it is love which fulfills the law:

Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. ~ Romans 13:8-10

For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this; Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. ~ Galatians 5:14

Paul actually refers to the fulfillment of the law through love as “ the law of Christ.”

Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the SPIRIT OF MEEKNESS; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so FULFILL THE LAW OF CHRIST. ~ Galatians 6:1-2

Paul’s doctrine regarding love fulfilling the Law is in perfect harmony with Jesus.

Jesus taught that all the prophets and the Law prophesied until God sent John the Baptist (Matthew 11:13). The ministry of John the Baptist was the great point of change from the administration of the Law of Moses through the nation of Israel, to the administration of Christ in the hearts of all who believe in him.

Through Christ, the Law of God is written in the mind and the heart of the child of God. Our conscience has been cleansed by the Blood of Jesus and we have been made alive together with Christ. His life abides in us and the righteousness of the Law is fulfilled in us through his love which is poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.

In those texts where Paul speaks of the Law being abolished, he is not referring to the necessity of obedience to God or righteous living. He is referring to the Law in the manner in which it made a distinction between the Jew and the Gentile.

The law given to Israel served as their constitution and rule to govern them as a theocracy. The Kingdom of God was manifested through Israel and one could not be a part of God’s Kingdom without becoming a member of the nation of Israel.

Israel was a theocracy, and the Law separated Israel from all other nations as the people of God. Yet, Israel was often very rebellious against God and did not serve him according to the Law God had given to govern them. Consequently Israel inherited the curse.

This is what Paul is dealing with when he addresses the Law as being annulled. The Kingdom of God is no longer a theocracy demonstrated through a physical nation. God’s Kingdom is in the heart of those who follow Jesus, and God’s people are in every nation.

Being circumcised and taking on Jewish identity through the letter of the law no longer has value with regards to covenant relationship with God. What matters is having a circumcised heart through Jesus Christ who died for his people.

In no way did Paul contradict Jesus regarding the law.


PAUL AND THE HEBREWS ROOTS.

One Hebrew Roots teachers made the following comment:

I readily stipulate that Paul says many things in his Epistles that in one letter seems to say one thing, and in another letter seems to say nearly the opposite. Since Paul was an excellent speaker, well educated and quite articulate by all accounts, Peter can only be referring to the same issue that many laymen, Pastors, Bible Scholars and Bible Teachers encounter with Paul: he seems to be contradictory on some subjects.

The apostle Peter never said or implied that Paul was contradictory on some Bible subjects. Peter’s endorsement of Paul comes on the heel of Peter addressing the toic of the coming of the Lord, judgment of the ungodly, and the new heavens and new earth.

Peter says, Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless. And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you…

According to Peter, Paul had written to his audience with regards to the same topic, and Peter says he did so “according to the wisdom given unto him.” Nowhere does Peter  say or imply that Paul contradicted himself. Peter continues by saying, As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.

Notice that Peter says that some things and not all things that Paul says in his letters are hard to understand. And the reason why they are hard to understand isn’t because Paul is contradicting himself, but because he is speaking by the wisdom given to him, and it is “this” that those who are unlearned and unstable wrest (twist and misinterpret) as they do also the other scriptures, to their own destruction.

Those who twist and misinterpret  Paul’s writing are those who do the same with “other scriptures.”  So Paul is in good company with inspired writers of “other scriptures” and the use of the word other, implies that Peter thought that Paul’s letters were also scripture.