Paul’s Gospel

Question from a Site Viewer
A pastor told me the Apostle Paul’s 13 epistles are the only books Christians or Gentiles need to study. Do you agree? He is a dispensation pastor. I have been teaching Sunday School and I want to be sure I am telling THE truth to my kids. I’m really tired of pastors putting other ministries and pastors down with critical/legalistic stuff. However, I need to be doing things and teaching the Bible God’s way. I read an article about Paul being a liar and a self-appointed apostle to the Gentiles. The writer seemed very smart. He just wasn’t into Paul’s gospel. What do you think?

Tim’s Answer
Thanks for your question. Either you have misunderstood your pastor or your pastor is in error on this issue. I do not know which. If your pastor is a dispensationalist, dispensationalists accept all of Scripture as inspired by God and profitable for us. I would hope that what your pastor said is that the Pauline epistles provide some of the most succinct teaching on how we are to live within the church. But they certainly do not provide the only teaching. I cannot imagine that your pastor does not preach from the gospels about the birth of Christ, His life, His death, His resurrection, His teachings . . . I find it hard to believe that any pastor would reject the stories of Adam and Eve, of Noah, of Abraham, of Joseph, of Moses, of Samuel, of Ruth, of Esther, of David, or of the great prophets as not being profitable for us. These are the stories that make our faith grow, that reveal to us the depth of God’s mercy, and tell us of how His holiness interacts with our sinfulness. And the Psalms are the blessings of life. I cannot imagine a pastor stating that you should not delight in them. And yet, I hold the Pauline epistles in a special place, because for me they tie the whole of Scripture together not only in rich theological treatises, but also in practical instruction for living.

Nevertheless, no one can sincerely hold only to Paul’s epistles as the basis for truth. The reason I can say this so definitively is because if one accepts Paul’s instruction, then one must accept the rest of Scripture because Paul teaches us to accept the rest of Scripture. Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 that all “Scripture” is inspired by God AND is profitable for believers, so that we may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. Paul uses this term “Scripture” 14 times in his writings. It always includes the Old Testament (see Romans 1:2; 4:3; 9:17; 10:11; 11:2; 15:4; 16:26; 1 Corinthians 15:3, 4; Galatians 3:8, 22; 4:30; 1 Timothy 5:18 and 2 Timothy 3:16). Look them up. They reference Scriptures that predate Jesus. The only New Testament book Paul ever references as Scripture is the book of Luke (see 1 Timothy 5:18 and compare with Luke 10:7). Thus, when Paul uses the term “Scripture” in 2 Timothy 3:16, we understand that he is talking about the Old Testament. This Scripture is profitable for us.

Paul is consistent in his view that the Old Testament is profitable for us. He goes so far as to tell us that the purpose that God had the Old Testament written was to instruct us (1 Corinthians 10:11). God spoke to and through Israel. But the messages were written down so that we might learn from their example. Paul repeats the necessity of the Old Testament for our instruction in Romans 15:4 where he tells us that these things were written for our learning. Paul writes to the Colossians and tells them to let the Word of Christ dwell in them richly (Colossians 3:16) singing with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs. Thus, if one truly follows Paul’s teachings, then one is going to be taken back to the Old Testament. In fact, Paul quotes the Old Testament more than any other author—over 100 times. Accordingly, if one follows the Pauline epistles, one will be led into the other Scriptures and into the God who is revealed in them.

But even more importantly, apart from Paul’s writings, no one can claim to be a follower of Jesus Christ and reject what Jesus teaches. Paul is not our Savior. Jesus is, as Paul Himself so argues (1 Corinthians 1:12-13, 23-24, 30; 3:5-11). If anyone rejects Jesus’ teachings, they are rejecting God (John 12:47-49). Jesus teaches us that the one who hears His sayings and does them is like a wise man but the one who hears them and does not do them is like a foolish man (Matthew 7:24-27). So, as believers in Christ, we cannot ignore the gospels, because they contain the teachings of Christ Himself. We do not want to be foolish. In fact, all of the church, from the first century onwards, has accepted the four gospels as divinely inspired. The only ones who did not, at least within the early church, were the followers of Marcion who accepted only Paul’s writings and parts of Luke as being inspired. They were rightly branded as heretics by the early church, and plainly did not even accept what Paul wrote, as I point out above.

But as stated above, I sincerely hope that there is merely a misunderstanding with your pastor. If your pastor truly believes that we as followers of Christ should not be listening to the words of Christ, then I pity him and I would urge you not to listen to him. He cannot be of God if he rejects the words of God’s Son. Those who are of God will keep the words of Christ (John 14:23-24) and the words of His apostles (2 Peter 3:2; 1 John 4:6; Jude 17). I come back to Paul’s statement that all Scripture is profitable to the believer. May you enjoy every last morsel of Scripture as one of God’s great gifts to us (1 Peter 2:2-3).

You state that you read some very smart person who said that Paul was a liar and a self-appointed apostle. If the person truly was smart, he would know not to make such a claim. First, the person did not live at the time Paul lived and so he did not even know Paul. How then can he know so certainly that Paul was a liar and a self-appointed apostle? Second, as Paul himself so succinctly stated, God demonstrated through Paul the marks of an apostle (2 Corinthians 12:12; 1 Corinthians 9:1-2). Christ Himself said that the works bear witness of the person (John 5:36; 10:37-38). A good man bears good fruit and an evil man bears evil fruit (Luke 7:43-45). And the works of the apostle Paul are quite impressive. Luke tells us that he cast out demons, God sprung him from prison in Philippi, saved him and an entire crew of a ship from death, delivered him from the bite of a deadly snake, used him to raise the dead, and through him proclaimed the good news of Jesus Christ to Asia and Europe. That is pretty convincing evidence that God was with him. What evidence does this person who is doubting Paul have? Peter himself bore witness to Paul (2 Peter 3:15-16). I can tell you that there are many smart people who fully accept Paul’s writings based on the above stated evidence. Paul has been tested and found to be true by many, many scholars. Given the extensive early evidence for Paul’s veracity, including the workings of God Himself on Paul’s behalf, I think I would err on the side of Paul over the views of this other person.

I trust you will seek to follow God and not man. This does not mean that you should ignore or disdain your pastor. But we should be like the Bereans who received the word with open minds and then searched the Scriptures to see if what they were being told was true (Acts 17:11). Hopefully, your pastor would encourage the same type of searching on the part of everyone. And I do the same. It is our intent to provide you the basis for why we believe what we believe with the encouragement that you will look up the Scriptures, study them for yourself, study other Scripture as well, and let the Holy Spirit guide you into truth.

May our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, lead you into His truth and into His peace through His Spirit who teaches us (1 John 2:27). And may you be a blessing to your class, to your church, and to all who are around you as you reflect His beauty, grace, mercy, and love.

a fellow sojourner,

tim

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