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