Faith & Self Defense

Building Confidence Through Evidence

Archive for the tag “Apostle Paul”

A Reading Plan for Christian Apologists – Part 3.11

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 complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16-17

But He answered and said, ‘It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’” 

Before we continue looking at the writings of early Christian apologists, I’d like to share something important for us to remember as we read post-Scriptural Christian writings.

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Arguments for the Resurrection of Jesus Christ – Part 1

Christians believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. In fact, the resurrection of Jesus is a MUST for the Christian worldview to be true. If Jesus Christ did not rise from the dead, then our faith in Him is empty and we are without hope in this world.

“Now if Christ is preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise up—if in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable.” 1 Corinthians 15:12-19

What are some of the best arguments for the resurrection of Jesus Christ? As we approach another celebration of the Resurrection, we will look at some of the strongest arguments for the reality of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection.
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Book Review: Rediscovering Jesus

Rediscovering Jesus“Rediscovering Jesus: An Introduction to Biblical, Religious and Cultural Perspectives on Christ” (IVP Academic, 2015) will get you thinking seriously about how both Christians and non-Christians view Jesus Christ.

The authors (David B. Capes, Rodney Reeves and E. Randolph Richards) present a variety of views about Jesus from both biblical and non-biblical perspectives. They include the views of several individuals and groups including each of the Gospel writers (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John), the Apostle Paul, the Gnostics, Muslims, Mormons, Liberals, Jesus Seminar, and Americans.  Which one is right? Which view answers this question best: “Who is your Jesus?”

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Evangelistic Apologetics – The Church Under Attack (Part 27)

Church Apologetics“The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever.” Revelation 20:10

It’s sometimes helpful to remember why we start things. We get so deep into a project that we can forget why we’re doing what we’re doing.

As I began to write this post I thought about why I started this series a year ago. Here’s how I explained it then:

“Some pastors I’ve talked with through the years about emphasizing apologetics in their church (especially with children, teens and young adults) either chuckle, roll their eyes or get upset with me at some point in our discussion. They tell me that apologetics should not take the place of evangelism. It’s unfortunate they see apologetics that way because biblical apologetics is evangelistic – thus the name of this series of studies.”

After writing this series for a year, let me strengthen that statement a bit by saying that the discipline of apologetics MUST have evangelism, the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the salvation of eternal souls, at the center of its purpose. Anything less than that misses the primary message of the Bible – Redemption.

We are currently answering seven questions about the spiritual battle Christians find themselves fighting every day and have answered questions 1 and 2:

  1. Why has God placed ‘you’ in this spiritual battle?
  2. What’s at stake in this spiritual battle?

We’ll now look at question 3 – Are you really involved in fighting this spiritual battle?

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The Gospel in the Marketplace of Ideas (Book Review 2)

Paul Copan and Kenneth D. Litwak, The Gospel in the Marketplace of Ideas: Paul’s Mars Hill Experience for Our Pluralistic World (IVP Academic, 2014). Paperback – Kindle 

Gospel in Marketplace of Ideas

Jesus chose Saul of Tarsus for a big task – take the Gospel of Christ to the Gentile world. Why did Jesus choose Saul? Why select a deeply devoted Pharisee from Tarsus to take Christianity to a world of pagans, idol worshippers and lovers of philosophy?

Saul viewed the Lord’s calling as extremely personal: “But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles” (Galatians 1:15-16). 

As the authors point out in this excellent book (be sure to read Book Review 1 which looks at the first four chapters of The Gospel in the Markeplace), Saul of Tarsus, Paul the Apostle, was well qualified to take the Gospel of Christ to the philosophers on Mars Hill:

“Paul was knowledgeable about the philosophical and religious beliefs of the Athenians. One prominent Athenian school was Stoicism, founded by Zeno of Cyprus and developed by a later Zeno from Paul’s hometown–Tarsus, another of the three great centers of learning in the Roman Empire (the third being Alexandria in Egypt). Paul would have had plenty of opportunity to learn about Stoicism and competing worldviews. No wonder, then, when Paul was challenged to explain the new foreign gods that the Athenians thought he was proclaiming, he brought together his knowledge of Scripture and Jewish traditions and theology with the practices of Gentile idolaters and philosophers.” (p. 13).

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The Gospel in the Marketplace of Ideas (Book Review 1)

Paul Copan and Kenneth D. Litwak, The Gospel in the Marketplace of Ideas: Paul’s Mars Hill Experience for Our Pluralistic World (IVP Academic, 2014). Paperback – Kindle 

Gospel in Marketplace of Ideas

I remember hearing as a young Christian that the Apostle Paul made one glaring mistake in his ministry and that was his sermon on Mars Hill in Athens. Even though that seemed to be the majority opinion of Christians I knew at the time, I had a hard time understanding how a man chosen by Jesus Christ as the Apostle to the Gentiles and called and sent out by and filled with the Holy Spirit would have made such an error.

Drs. Copan and Litwak make the point very well that what Paul did was approach the philosophers in Athens on their own turf, using their rules, and demonstrated the superiority of the Christian worldview. Isn’t that what every Christian is called to do?

I love the way the authors use Paul’s experience in Athens to demonstrate both the need for meeting non-believers in the marketplace and God’s supply of wisdom for sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.

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Paul – Apostle or Fraud (Part 17)

Saint PaulWe began this special series about whether Paul was an Apostle or a fraud last summer. It was for the purpose of answering the many questions we receive anytime we refer to one of Paul’s letters to address a point of Christian theology. Though we are usually asked why we defend Paul, that is not our purpose. We reference Paul’s letters because we believe his writings are apostolic and inspired by the Holy Spirit. They are, as Peter wrote, Scripture (2 Peter 3:14-16).

Here’s a reminder of what we wrote in the first part of this series

“For the person who does not accept Luke, Acts, 2 Peter, Hebrews and all of Paul’s letters, I don’t think there’s anything anyone can do to help you. You’ve chosen to throw out every possible piece of evidence that would tell you anything about Paul. That’s like a trial judge who disallows every piece of evidence that would prove the defendant not guilty just because the judge does not want the defendant found not guilty. The court is stacked against the person in that case. The same is true in the way many people handle the evidence for Paul’s apostleship. If the evidence could possibly support Paul’s legitimacy as an apostle of Jesus Christ, they throw it out. That’s not reasonable, logical, ethical or legal, so there’s nothing I can do to convince you because your mind is made up and closed to the possibility of being wrong. You have come to the table of discussion with presuppositions, preconceptions and thick ear plugs. You do not want to know, so you won’t know.”

The battle about Paul’s apostleship and his writings is far from over, even though the evidence is overwhelming in favor of God’s choice of Paul to open “the door of faith to the Gentiles” (Acts 14:27). We will continue to add to this series as we receive more questions about Paul’s apostleship and whether his writings should be considered Holy Scripture.

Faith&SelfDefense

Paul – Apostle or Fraud (Part 16)

Saint PaulThe Apostle Paul is a spiritual lightning rod. His calling and ministry were so different from the men who Jesus Christ called to be apostles before His death and resurrection that many people think Paul was a fraud.

I hear from those people on a regular basis. Some write just to tell me Paul was a fraud. Others ask questions to try to convince me Paul was a fraud. As I bring this special series to a close, we’re looking at the questions we’ve received during the past year to see if we can get to the truth of this important question.

I’m often asked why I “defend” Paul and not Christ. I wonder if they’ve read other posts on this blog and the GraceLife Blog. It should be obvious that my primary defense is for the existence of the God of the Bible and for the Life and Ministry of His Son, Jesus Christ. I defend anything Jesus did and what He did was call Paul to be an apostle to the Gentiles. I also defend what God said and what He inspired men to write as communication of His Word. Paul wrote almost half of the New Testament. Defending God’s call of Paul as apostle to the Gentiles is also defending God’s Word. That’s why I “defend” Paul.

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Paul – Apostle or Fraud (Part 15)

Saint PaulIn our last post about Paul, we addressed a question about what Paul believed about eating meat sacrificed to idols. We showed from 1 Corinthians and Galatians that Paul opposed idol worship and did not promote eating meat sacrificed to idols.

We received another question about the same subject and will begin there.

Question

  • Why did Paul tell the Corinthians idol meat was okay when the New Testament Church council at Jerusalem had specifically listed this as a forbidden practice to New Testament believers in Acts 15:29?

Answer

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Paul – Apostle or Fraud (Part 14)

Saint PaulWe continue with questions from people who believe Paul was a fraud and not a true apostle of Jesus Christ. What’s at stake is almost half of the New Testament.

Question

  • If eating meat sacrificed to idols is okay as long as your “weaker brother” is not around as described in 1st Corinthians 8, then why is this practice later described as being hated by Jesus as the “doctrine of Balaam” in Revelation 2:14? Why does Rev 2:20 condemn it when Paul says it’s okay if nobody knows about it?

Answer

Let’s look at each reference you mentioned.

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Paul – Apostle or Fraud (Part 13)

Saint PaulThe 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?

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Paul – Apostle or Fraud (Part 12)

Saint PaulWe are answering questions from people who believe Paul was a liar and a fraud. These people say they believe in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, so the questions go beyond the usual opposition we receive from Muslims, Jews and others about Paul’s apostleship. The questioners claim to love Christ and His Word, but deny half of the New Testament. That is a concern when we see in Acts that Jesus personally chose Paul for a special ministry to the Gentile world (Acts 9) and that the Holy Spirit chose Paul to open the door of faith to the Gentiles (Acts 13 – 14).

Because half of the New Testament is in question, we are addressing the questions we’ve received in recent months in the hope this will help the people who sent them and others who are not open to hearing from God in Paul’s letters. (Many of the people who do not accept Paul’s letters as Scripture also do not accept 2 Peter and other Books of the New Testament as Scripture.)

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Paul – Apostle or Fraud (Part 11)

Saint Paul

We’ve spent the past 10 posts in the Book of Acts building a case for the connection Paul had directly to Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, the 12 Apostles, and the disciples of Christ in Judea, Samaria and Syria. We’ve also demonstrated confirmation by the 12 Apostles of Paul’s call to be an apostle to the Gentiles. Not once in the Book of Acts do any of the 12 Apostles call Paul a fraud or apostate.

We come now to the direct challenge to Paul’s Apostleship. Many who believe Paul is a fraud use the “steamroller approach,” asking scores of questions accompanied by Scripture to give the questions an appearance of truth. Don’t be fooled by that technique. The proof is in the quality, not the quantity.

I’ve been contacted by multiple people about my quoting from Paul’s epistles, so I’ll take their questions in order.

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Paul – Apostle or Fraud (Part 10)

Saint PaulOpposition to Paul’s apostleship did not end at his death. The same group of Judaizers Paul warned about in his epistles continued to oppose the freedom Paul had preached to Gentiles.

“Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law. You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.” Galatians 5:1-4

The Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD and the deaths of the Jewish apostles led to a decline in the numbers of Jewish followers of Christ in Israel who held to circumcision and obedience to the Mosaic Law. However, that did not mean the opposition to Paul’s message to Gentiles disappeared. Even though the decision of the apostles at the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) should have ended the opposition to Paul’s apostleship and ministry to the Gentiles, Jewish followers of Christ continued to make trouble for Paul and the Gospel he preached “among the Gentiles (Galatians 2:2).

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Paul – Apostle or Fraud (Part 9)

Saint PaulSome Christian friends have asked me why I’m writing a series to answer questions about the legitimacy of Paul’s apostleship. Almost every Christian I know personally believes that Paul was an apostle of Christ and that the Holy Spirit inspired him to write letters to 1st century churches (e.g. Romans, 1&2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, etc). So, why bother with what appears to be a fringe group of people who call themselves Christians, but do not accept Paul’s apostleship? I am concerned about three important matters.

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Paul – Apostle or Fraud (Part 8)

Saint Paul“Now when they had come and gathered the church together, they reported all that God had done with them, and that He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles. So they stayed there a long time with the disciples.” Acts 14:27-28

Saul (Paul) and Barnabas returned to Antioch of Syria after many months on a journey that began with the Holy Spirt saying, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” (Acts 13:2) That “work” included preaching the Gospel in several countries and opening “the door of faith to the Gentiles.” This was something that “both” Barnabas and Saul did, so again we see a powerful connection back to the Jewish apostles in Jerusalem who sent Barnabas from Jerusalem to Antioch as their representative.

It was Barnabas, representative of the Jewish apostles in Jerusalem, who saw what God was doing in Antioch and traveled to Tarsus to find Saul. It was Barnabas, representative of the Jewish apostles in Jerusalem, who brought Saul back to the Antioch Church to minister to the congregation of Gentiles and Jews. It was Barnabas, representative of the Jewish apostles in Jerusalem, who the Holy Spirit sent with Saul to open the door of faith to the Gentiles. It was Barnabas, representative of the Jewish apostles in Jerusalem, who returned to Antioch with Saul to tell the church congregation all that God had “done with them, and that He had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles.” It was Barnabas, representative of the Jewish apostles in Jerusalem,  who traveled with Saul to Jerusalem to face those same apostles about what they had done in opening the door of faith to the Gentiles.

Was Paul an apostle or a fraud? Let’s see what happened when he and Barnabas met with the apostles in Jerusalem. If they thought Paul was a fraud, this would be their opportunity to call him out and set the record straight forever.

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Paul – Apostle or Fraud (Part 7)

Saint Paul“Now the apostles and brethren who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God. And when Peter came up to Jerusalem, those of the circumcision contended with him, saying, ‘You went in to uncircumcised men and ate with them!” Acts 11:1-3

Uh-oh, Peter’s in trouble. The other apostles and brethren who were in Judea heard what had happened in Caesarea. Those of the circumcision (Jews) “contended” with Peter about his going into the home of uncircumcised men (Gentiles) and eating with them.

Watch what happens next because it sets the stage for what God is going to do through Paul (Saul).

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Paul – Apostle or Fraud (Part 6)

Saint PaulIn the last part of our study, we saw disciples of Christ sending Saul (Paul) from Jerusalem to Tarsus for his safety. That led to a time of peace for the believers throughout all Judea, Galilee and Samaria. “And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied.” (Acts 9:31)

Luke, the human author of Acts, then turned his attention to the ministry of the Apostle Peter. Most of the people I’ve spoken with who believe Paul was a fraud look to Peter as one of the true apostles of Christ. That’s helpful to know because God used Peter in a special way to prepare the apostles and Jewish disciples to acknowledge and accept the special call Jesus had for the ministry of Paul.

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Paul – Apostle or Fraud (Part 5)

Saint PaulWe’re continuing an investigation into whether Paul was a true apostle of Jesus Christ or a fraud. A surprising number of people who call themselves Christians believe Paul was a fraud. They say that doesn’t affect their faith in Christ at all and even makes it stronger because they are following Christ and not “Paul.”

Paul wrote almost half of the New Testament, so people who believe he was a fraud do not obey the writings of Paul. Many of them also believe that 2 Peter is fraudulent, which just happens to support Paul’s apostleship. Others have doubts about some of John’s writings. However, most accept Luke’s Gospel and at least the first part of Acts, also written by Luke who was mentored by Paul.

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Paul – Apostle or Fraud (Part 4)

Saint PaulWe are laying an historical foundation for answering questions about the involvement of Saul of Tarsus in the growing movement of Jews who followed the crucified and risen Jesus Christ. There are many people today who identify themselves as followers of Jesus Christ who believe Paul was a fraud and not a true apostle of Jesus Christ. Because of that they do not subscribe to Paul’s epistles as Scripture, thus cutting out almost half of the Books of New Testament. Many of them believe 2 Peter is also fraudulent, which contains Peter’s support of Paul as an apostle and author of Scripture.

Paul made it clear in his epistles that he was “an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God” (Ephesians 1:1) and that he was speaking and writing what Jesus had revealed directly to him (1 Corinthians 9). So, for a group of Christians to deny that Paul was an apostle and to declare his writings as fraudulent is a major problem.

This is not the first time in the history of the Church that groups have opposed Paul’s apostleship and questioned his writings. As we continue laying the historical foundation for answering serious questions by these groups, we will also look at the history of anti-Pauline theology.

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