The question is not frivolous or trivial: was Paul an Apostle of Jesus Christ or a fraud? We’ve seen from the history of the early Church in Luke’s second letter to Theophilus (known to us as the Book of Acts) that Jesus Christ personally called Paul to be an apostle (Acts 9) and that the Holy Spirit called Paul to open the door of faith to the Gentiles (Acts 13).
About half of the Book of Acts references Paul’s ministry to Jews and Gentiles, and Paul wrote almost half of the New Testament. However, even with that overwhelming evidence, many people still refuse to believe that Paul was an apostle and go as far as to call him a fraud. In calling Paul a fraud they also call his writings fraudulent, which is a major issue for Christians. Most of the Paul-challengers I’ve heard from also believe 2 Peter is fraudulent, partially because the letter supports Paul’s apostleship and his authorship of Scripture.
If Paul is fraudulent, then what do we make of the writings of one of Paul’s most famous students, Luke? Can Luke be trusted if his mentor is a fraud?
Here are the Books of the New Testament that are most likely fraudulent if Paul is a fraud:
I hope you grasp the seriousness of this question. Much of Christian theology (“God knowledge”) is based on the prophetic and teaching ministry of Paul. If Paul was a fraud and his teachings are fraudulent, then Christianity as we know it is wrong and should be corrected. That’s what many people are challenging us to do – throw out Paul and correct our knowledge and practice to align ourselves with only a small number of New Testament Books.
That’s where some Paul-challengers differ. Some think Luke and Acts are okay, even though Luke was a student and fellow minister with Paul. Some do not think Luke or Acts are okay. Some think Luke is okay, but only the first six chapters of Acts are true. Some think Matthew is okay, but Mark, Luke and John are not. Some think 1 Peter is good, but 2 Peter isn’t. Some think John’s Gospel and 1st John are okay, but that 2 and 3 John and Revelation are not. Do you see the problem here?
If this is your first time reading this series, please read through the first 12 parts before continuing here. We established the foundation of Paul’s ministry in the first ten parts, then started answering specific questions by Paul-challengers in parts 11 and 12.
I’m answering every question sent to me about Paul during the past several months and posting them exactly as sent to me.
- If Paul’s claim in Galatians 2:16 is true, that we are saved by faith only, then why does James refute this in James 2:14-26 calling the author of this doctrine “o vain man” in v.20?
This is the most asked question I receive about Paul’s apostleship. How could Paul be an apostle if James taught something different?
First question that comes to mind is about James. This is not James the Apostle. King Herod killed him prior to the Jerusalem Council (Acts 12). The James who wrote the Book of James is believed to be the half brother of Jesus. This James was also a leader in the Jerusalem assembly. He is not called nor does he refer to himself as an apostle in Acts or the Book of James, but Paul does refer to James as an apostle.
“But I saw none of the other apostles except James, the Lord’s brother.” Galatians 1:19
In fact, it’s obvious from Paul’s writings and the Book of Acts that Paul had great respect for James. It also appears from Acts that James respected Paul and the special call Jesus and the Holy Spirit had for Paul.
“Then all the multitude kept silent and listened to Barnabas and Paul declaring how many miracles and wonders God had worked through them among the Gentiles. And after they had become silent, James answered, saying, ‘Men and brethren, listen to me: Simon has declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name. And with this the words of the prophets agree … Then it pleased the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas, namely, Judas who was also named Barsabas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren … it seemed good to us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Act 15:12-15, 22, 25-26
“And the day following Paul went in with us unto James; and all the elders were present. And when he had saluted them, he declared particularly what things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry. And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord.” Acts 21:18-20
“But from those who seemed to be something—whatever they were, it makes no difference to me; God shows personal favoritism to no man—for those who seemed to be something added nothing to me. But on the contrary, when they saw that the gospel for the uncircumcised had been committed to me, as the gospel for the circumcised was to Peter (for He who worked effectively in Peter for the apostleship to the circumcised also worked effectively in me toward the Gentiles) and when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that had been given to me, they gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.” Galatians 2:6-9
Many scholars estimate that Paul wrote Galatians early in his ministry (approx. 50 AD), so Peter, James and John would have had plenty of time before their deaths to refute Paul’s claim concerning what happened in Jerusalem and Antioch. James may have written his letter before the Jerusalem Council, but Peter and John wrote years later and could have addressed Paul’s statements if false.
If James wrote his letter prior to the Jerusalem Council, that would explain why he did not address the issue of Grace to Jews as Paul did later to Gentiles. James wrote specifically to Jews – “to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad” (James 1:1). James’ letter is entirely Jewish. Nothing is addressed about any Gentiles members in the local assemblies. Given the surprise and concern expressed by the apostles (except for Peter) and the elders in Jerusalem (Acts 15), James writing his letter prior to that would explain why.
Paul is often accused of having no place for “works” in his Gospel. That’s not true.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:8-10
Salvation is by grace through faith. It is not something we deserve or can earn. We cannot boast about “working” for our salvation. Our boasting is in Christ. Paul’s letters are abundantly clear that God provides “justification” through faith, not works – “knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but by faith in Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law; for by the works of the law no flesh shall be justified” (Galatians 2:16).
However, we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus “for” (Greek – with a view to) good works, which God prepared “beforehand” that we should walk (order our behavior) in the sphere of them. “Works” is absolutely part of Paul’s Gospel, so much so that he warned the Corinthians that God would test each one’s work, of what sort it was.
“For we are God’s fellow workers; you are God’s field, you are God’s building. According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.” 1 Corinthians 3:9-15
Paul told the Corinthians to “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58). In another letter to the Corinthians, Paul wrote, “And God is able to make all grace abound toward you, that you, always having all sufficiency in all things, may have an abundance for every good work” (2 Corinthians 9:8). Again, works is a vital part of Paul’s Gospel. It is what God has called us to do “after” we are saved. We are saved by grace through faith for the purpose of serving God. We were chosen, saved and set apart “for good works.”
Join us again next time as we continue to investigate whether Paul was an apostle or a fraud.
“Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”