church nonsense, Jesus, Light

Passionate About Paul?

 

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I love Jesus.  Not just because He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords.  Not just because His is the Name above all names.  At least it’s supposed to be.  Unfortunately, sinfully, at my church, and perhaps at yours, it isn’t.  It’s Paul’s.  For a while I kept track.  Two columns.  A hash mark every time Paul was mentioned or quoted and a hash mark every time Jesus was mentioned or quoted.  It was pitiful.  Jesus, I began to realize, is almost completely left out of Sunday morning services, and I miss Him.

I commented the other day that elevating Paul above Jesus is a nuance of false teaching.

The post garnered quite a bit of debate.  Some of it involved my comment:

One fellow commenter wrote:

“Paul and his gospel were “In Christ,” as long as that is acknowledged it should not be a problem. The ascended Christ hand picked Paul for the revelation of the secret which God kept hidden from the beginning. Through that revelation we are here in Christ’s place just as Paul was. Paul’s words were Jesus’s.”

This is a common church teaching, but are we sure it is actually true?  When did Jesus say that He hand-picked Paul to reveal these mysteries? I know Paul said it, but when did Jesus say it? Nowhere in Scripture does a voice from heaven say, “This is my servant, Paul, with whom I am well pleased, listen to him”. Paul certainly earned the right to speak by all he suffered, but I don’t think we should elevate his words to the status of a prophet. He never claimed to be a prophet. He was a church planter. We Protestants criticize Catholics for ascribing inerrancy to their Popes and yet we do the same with Paul. As you know, Paul was well-steeped in the teachings and traditions of the Pharisees, and ingrained teachings die hard. Perhaps that is why Jesus told His disciples to beware the yeast of the Pharisees. Perhaps that is why, high atop the Mt. of Transfiguration, God said to Peter, James and John, “This is my Son, whom I love, listen to Him!” [italics added].

Another commenter quoted 2 Timothy 3 :16-17:

“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be Perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.(K.J.V)”

Except that when Paul wrote those words to Timothy, he wasn’t referring to his own letters.  He was referring to the Law and the Prophets.  Extrapolating that verse to include all that man has canonized may be a mistake on the church’s part.  No where does God include New Testament writings as part of His Holy Scriptures.

You, like this commenter, might be thinking:

“During the lifetime of Peter and Paul there was an understanding that what the Christian prophets were writing was “Scripture” (2 Peter 3: 14-16). 2 Peter 3:14-16 14 Therefore, beloved, since you look for these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, spotless and blameless, 15 and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, 16 as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.

Peter tells his audience that Paul’s letters are equivalent to “the rest of the Scriptures”. Of course the “rest” means that remaining of what was considered Scripture at that time; basically this means what Jesus considered Scripture. For those who do not regard Paul’s letters as Scripture as much as anything else, please read the above verses many times before making that determination.”

My response:  You may not be reading this correctly. You are linking Paul’s letters with “the rest of the Scriptures”. But, if you read it carefully, the link is actually between “these things” (the difficult to understand Scriptures that were being distorted) and “the rest of the Scriptures”.

Peter was linking the distorted Scriptures that Paul was writing about with the other Scriptures that were being distorted. In other words, Peter was saying that Paul was writing to them about these things that the unstable distort – just as they distort the other Scriptures.

If you diagram the sentence, you may see that I am correct.

Finally, a third commenter warned:

“Beware of those who try to remove the inspiration of the books of the New Testament away from the time period when they were written to the time when they were “officially recognized”. Those who do so have an evil agenda to try and subvert and overthrow our confidence in the New Testament books handed down to us as the inspired, infallible, inerrant Word of God.”

A few years ago I wrote a Bible study which included two chapters on the subject of Paul.  I was on my knees as I wrote asking the Holy Spirit to be my Editor, to guide me into all Truth and to prevent me from writing a single thing that was incorrect or untrue.

Now I am turning that Bible study into a book and my prayers are the same.  I ask God whether my thinking has gone astray.  Our conversation often goes like this:

Me:  “Am I unwittingly promoting an evil agenda?  Stop me if I am!”

Holy Spirit:  “Judge a tree by its fruit.”

Me:  “You and I have produced lots of good fruit together over the years, but what if it has become worm-infested?

Holy Spirit:  “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit.  What is your aim, friend?”

Me:  “My aim is to know You rightly and to make You known. To lift high the name of Jesus and give Him His due.”

Holy Spirit: “Fear not, loved one, because there is certainly nothing evil about that.”

Turn on your television, your radio or your computer and you will be smacked in the face with the harsh reality that today’s church has been woefully ineffective at stemming the tide of darkness.  Why?  Because there is no power in the name of Paul.

The only name that has any power is Jesus, and if we Christians are going to be effective, we are going to have to bring Him back to church.  How is your church doing?  How much of Christ is in your Christianity?

I would love to hear your thoughts, but I will not approve comments that merely throw knee-jerk Scripture at me.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Scripture.  But what I want to know is how your church is doing.  I want to know how this post strikes you emotionally, spiritually, logically?  Does it elicit any fear?  Fear not, if your faith is built on Christ, it will not crumble just because you question a few man-made things.  Jesus did it all the time.

© The Reluctant Baptist, 2014

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12 thoughts on “Passionate About Paul?

  1. I’m glad I read this since the comments on my blog are what led to you writing it.

    In 2 Timothy 3:16-17, I believe Paul wanted to reemphasize to Timothy the crucial role of God’s revelation in his present ministry. Paul reminded Timothy that all Scripture is God-breathed (“inspired”), that is, God’s words were given through men superintended by the Holy Spirit so that their writings are without error. This fact was virtually taken for granted by the Jews. Then Paul asserted the “usefulness” of the Word. For each aspect of Timothy’s ministry, whatever it might be—teaching (instructing believers in God’s truths), rebuking those in sin (1 Tim. 5:20; 2 Tim. 4:2), correcting those in error (2 Tim. 2:25; 4:2), and training in righteousness (guiding new believers in God’s ways)—for all of these and more the written Word of God is profitable. With it the man of God (one who must provide spiritual leadership to others) is “complete, capable, proficient in the sense of being able to meet all demands.” To drive home his point still more emphatically, Paul added equipped for every good work (2:21). Paul placed heavy burdens of ministry on his young disciple in this letter, but he did not do so irresponsibly. He was confident of Timothy’s commitment to and dependence on the Scriptures, and he was even more confident of God’s ability to supply all Timothy’s needs through the Word.

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    • Pastor Joe, Thank you for your comment. You gave a nice summary of the passage and I agree with it. Where we may disagree is whether or not Paul included his own writings in the Scriptures to which he was referring. He may have, but I don’t see proof of it in this passage. We hang a lot of our church doctrine on the assumption that he did so we ought to be sure. The Berean Jews were commended as noble for examining the Scriptures to see if what Paul said was true. I believe Christians in every generation should do likewise rather than just parroting what has been handed down to us.

      I applaud your gracious handling of the accusations leveled against you by another commenter. You set a good example.

      Eliza, I did not approve your comments because they were too long and too harsh. Paul said that God’s kindness leads to repentance. (Romans 2:1-4) If I am in error, I trust that whoever/whatever God uses to correct me will be kind. Accusations are the tool of the devil (Revelation 12:10).

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    • Jeremiah, Knee-jerk means “occurring quickly and without thought”, so by knee-jerk Scripture I mean Scripture that is just thrown out there without taking the time to understand what the other person is saying and, more importantly, what God might be saying.

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      • The Bible doesn’t mention “knee jerk scripture.” It does mention “all Scripture.” It also says that when rebuking, use scripture.

        “He showed me how the church has gotten some things wrong. I don’t believe we will be effective until we get them right. It is going to take the courage to question a few things and the humility to admit that we may have gotten some things wrong. Scripture is without error, God is without error, but the church is certainly not without error.”

        You are confusing the Church with God’s Word.

        The church certainly has error. God’s Word has none.

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  2. End Times Prophecy, How do you know they don’t obey His commandments? Do you know *all* of them? Romans 2:1-4 might apply here.
    “Who questions His Word?” If you are referring to me then I assure you I am not questioning His Word. I am questioning man’s interpretation of it. Nothing wrong with that. Jesus did. Paul did – he got chased from town to town by those who were seeking to discredit him, shut him up. Martin Luther did.
    I don’t think you have to be fearful about questioning a few things. If your faith is built on Jesus, then it is secure enough to withstand some questions. If your faith is so fragile that it crumbles under scrutiny of the Bible, then your faith is in the Bible and not in Jesus. Jesus is powerful enough to sustain our belief. No one can snatch us from His hand. On the other hand, I see all kinds of red flags when people use force, accusations and coercion to “defend the faith”. It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict us of error and to lead us into all Truth. Our job is to demonstrate the love of God. If we are not allowed to question anything then we are merely a cult.

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    • Romans 2:1-4 might apply, but it does not–unless you somehow are talking about Jews and Gentiles. Which you are not.

      ” If you are referring to me then I assure you I am not questioning His Word. I am questioning man’s interpretation of it. ”

      Sly.

      “I don’t think you have to be fearful about questioning a few things.”

      What ever would give you the idea that one who questions your attack on Paul is operating out of “fear?” You are free to question as you see fit. I am free to put such questions in their proper context.

      “If your faith is built on Jesus, then it is secure enough to withstand some questions. If your faith is so fragile that it crumbles under scrutiny of the Bible, then your faith is in the Bible and not in Jesus.”

      My faith doesn’t crumble. It compels me to answer such semantics with scripture.

      As per 2 Tim 2:4, you’re being rebuked with doctrine.

      As per 2 Tim 3:16, when you try to uncouple Paul’s writings from the Scriptures, you are wrong. When you say “No where does God include New Testament writings as part of His Holy Scriptures,” you are wrong.

      The article you cite gives chapter and verse as to why.

      Again, you are free to question and to undermine. I am free to rebuke it and to mark it. As stated before, to one who does not believe in the inerrancy of God’s Word, no conversation is possible.

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      • Again, I am not attacking Paul. I admire Paul. Paul had passion and perseverance in the face of an angry mob of Pharisees dogging him and trying to silence him. What I am “attacking” (I’d call it questioning) is the church’s propensity for making Paul their king. I would prefer to see Jesus on the throne. He died for me, not Paul. There is nothing sly, evil or undermining about being saddened by seeing Jesus’ glory given to another. And I’ll bet Paul is saddened by it, too. Paul might just be in heaven cheering me on.

        And, yes, I am free to question the practices and teachings of the church, just as you are free to rebuke me if you deem it necessary, but just remember that it is God’s kindness that leads to repentance, so be careful to not be harsh in your rebuke. And make sure you know a little something about the person you are rebuking lest you falsely assign motives. God knows my heart and He knows yours. I rest in Him as Judge.

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      • I am not imputing motives. We are not to judge motives. We are not to judge to condemnation.

        God does know your heart as He knows all human hearts.

        “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?”
        –Jeremiah 17:9

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        • The questions “What are we to think of people who … don’t obey his commands… Who question His Word? … Who plant doubts… Those questions sound somewhat like motive imputing to me.

          That verse in Jeremiah is why I often, as I lay in bed at night, ask God if and how my wicked heart has deceived me that day. And since He is perfectly capable of telling me, especially since James assures us He gives wisdom generously to all who ask, I will trust Him to let me know if my heart is deceiving me.

          Now, are you sure your wicked heart is not deceiving you?

          I would like to end the discussion here, please, because I need to move on to other things. Thank you for your insights.

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  3. Pingback: Going There Again | The Reluctant Baptist

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