Many people do not believe that Paul was a true apostle of Jesus Christ. Some of them are Jews and Muslims, but some say they are followers of Jesus Christ. Because they believe Paul was a fraud, they deny that any of his epistles are to be followed as part of Scripture. That’s almost half of the New Testament, so it’s a serious issue. That’s why we are investigating questions about Paul in this special series.
The evidence for Paul’s legitimacy as an apostle of Jesus Christ begins in the Gospel of Luke. Luke wrote an extraordinary narrative to a Greek friend for the purpose of explaining what happened in Israel 2,000 years ago.
“Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus, that you may know the certainty of those things in which you were instructed.” Luke 1:1-4
Luke is clear from the first sentence of his Gospel account that he was doing what many other people had done – “to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us.” Those others may have included Matthew and Mark. Luke’s Gospel has been known for centuries as an excellent account of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and to be synoptic with Matthew and Mark’s Gospel accounts.
Luke continued his narrative about the events in the life of Jesus Christ in what we know as The Acts of the Apostles.
“The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen, to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.” Acts 1:1-3
Luke established clearly in the early part of Acts that Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit were in charge of what was going to happen in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and the rest of the world. Jesus promised His disciples they would “receive power when the Holy Spirit” came upon them, and that they would be “witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1:8) Jesus, acting in His High Priestly and Prophetic Office, spoke and it was done. The Holy Spirit came upon the disciples in Jerusalem and the preaching of the Gospel began (Acts 2-3).
Thousands of people were saved on the first day of preaching. They continued steadfastly in the apostle’s doctrine, in fellowship, breaking of bread and in prayers. Fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. All who believed were together, and had all things in common. They sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all the people, as anyone had need. They continued daily with one accord in the Temple. They broke bread from house to house, ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people (Acts 2:41-47).
Peter was the primary preacher from the beginning of this new movement of the Spirit of God in response to the prophecy of Son of God, Jesus Christ. What was Peter’s message? That the Jews had killed the Messiah and God had raised Him from the dead.
“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know— Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.” Ats 2:22-24
“Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” Acts 2:36
“The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified His Servant Jesus, whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he was determined to let Him go. But you denied the Holy One and the Just, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses.” Acts 3:13-15
“Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them, ‘Rulers of the people and elders of Israel: If we this day are judged for a good deed done to a helpless man, by what means he has been made well, let it be known to you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. This is the‘stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief cornerstone.’ Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:8-12
“But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: ‘We ought to obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging on a tree. Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.” Acts 5:29-32
What did Peter tell the Jews to do because of what they had done to Jesus Christ?
“Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call. And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, ‘Be saved from this perverse generation.” Acts 2:38-40
“Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.” Acts 3:19-21
The tension is powerful in Jerusalem. Peter is preaching, the apostles are working wonders and miracles, the people are being saved and following the teaching of the apostles. The Jewish rulers are arresting Peter and the other apostles and demanding that they stop preaching in the Name of Jesus Christ. Peter and the others refuse to obey the Jewish rulers. Even though the rulers beat the apostles and threatened them, Peter and the apostles “daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.” (Acts 5:42) The rulers wanted to kill the apostles and began to plot how they could do it without causing themselves problems with the citizens of Jerusalem who were excited about the new Messianic fervor surrounding the preaching of the apostles.
That is the tension that brings us to Paul, known first as Saul of Tarsus. We’ll see the part he played in the Jewish rulers’ plans as we continue our investigation into Paul – Apostle or Fraud.
“Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”