Author: Ron Graham
Is Paul’s Doctrine True?
—Answering Paul’s critics
Paul has had his enemies and detractors down through the ages. Some even today question whether Paul's doctrine is true. There is a view that Pauline theology is his own invention and differs from the teachings of Christ. In this lesson, we call witnesses to testify as to the veracity of Paul's teachings in the epistles that Paul wrote.
1st Witness ~ Paul Himself
In Galatians chapter 1, Paul makes a strong case under oath in his own defense. He he says, "In what I am writing to you, I assure you before God that I am not lying" (Galatians 1:20).
In this defense Paul claims that he got his gospel directly from Christ and from no one else. "For I would have you know brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man, for I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ" (Galatians 1:11-12).
Paul claims that he wrote the same things as the other apostles and prophets taught, and that they all received the same revelation (Ephesians 3:1-5).
2nd Witness ~ The Council at Jerusalem
An eminent council in Jerusalem decided on the issue of whether Paul's doctrine differed from theirs (Acts 15) and found themselves in full agreement with Paul. The issue which led to this judgment was whether the law of Moses should be bound upon Christians as necessary to salvation. That issue was debated, and the Council got right behind Paul and his preaching.
Two of the principal speakers in the debate were Peter and James. We will call Peter as a witness in a moment. However, is worth noting first that James taught the same principle for which Paul is famous, namely that we are saved and justified by grace through faith (James ch 2).
James does point out that we are not saved by faith only, but by faith perfected by works . This is not a disagreement with Paul, who often points out that we are not saved by works only, but require faith in Christ crucified.
Paul certainly believes in "the obedience of faith" (Romans 1:5 Romans 16:26). Paul and James are teaching and agreeing upon the same principle of faith and obedience.]
3rd Witness ~ The Apostle Peter
We now call as witness the apostle Peter. In 2Peter 3:15-16 the apostle commends Paul's teaching in the strongest terms.
- Refers to Paul as "our beloved brother"
- Commends "the wisdom given to Paul"
- Peter's only criticism of Paul (if indeed it is a criticism) is that Paul "says some things which are hard to understand".
- Claims Paul's teaching has been twisted by the untaught and unstable.
- Lays "all letters" written by Paul alongside "the rest of the scriptures". Here Peter makes it plain that he regarded all Paul's letters as belonging to the scriptures.
That last point is so strong a testimony in favour of Paul, from such an eminent and trustworthy witness, that there I rest my case.