What About Paul?
“We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error” (1 John 4:6). At least Jesus’ personal disciples could say that they were eyewitnesses of His ministry, and knew the Lord in person (1 John 1:1-4, 2 Peter 1:16-18). But what do we do with Paul? After all, he never knew Jesus in the flesh and always seemed like an outsider when it came to his interactions with the original apostles and church leaders in Jerusalem. Is he an outlier, a fringe element in the story of Christianity? Have we overinflated his significance to our faith?
First of all, Paul claimed he was inspired to say and write what he did. He noted that the things he taught were not mere words of men, but were imparted directly by the Spirit (1 Corinthians 2:12-13). Similarly, he elaborates in Galatians 1:11-12, “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 though a revelation of Jesus Christ.” He commended the Thessalonians for accepting his message as the “word of God” and not the “word of men” (2 Thessalonians 2:13). He also considered His teachings authoritative in every church (1 Corinthians 7:17, 4:17, 1 Timothy 3:15, 2 Thessalonians 2:15).
But is this enough? Was Paul only a witness for himself? One thing to keep in mind is that the scriptures are so intertwined that you cannot just throw out one part of the Bible without affecting the rest of it. It might seem like an easy thing to do to just toss Paul into the religious dumpster, but his apostleship is corroborated by Luke (Acts 14:14), whose gospel is of utmost importance to the historical reliability of the story of Jesus. After all, Luke’s account of Jesus and his history of the early the church in Acts are not independent of each other. If you want the Jesus of the gospel, then you have to accept the Paul of Acts. The same is true of Peter. If you accept Jesus, then you must accept Peter, who had the mark of divine approval (Matthew 16:13-19). If Peter’s word counts for anything, then we have to accept his assessment of the validity and inspiration of Paul’s writings – writings that he specifically calls “scripture” in 2 Peter 3:15-16.
I understand, to a degree, how hard it is for some people to make the jump from Jesus to His apostles. But if you want to be a Christian, live the life that He prescribed, and truly understand the depth of Christ’s message, then you must accept the apostles too. How much “gospel” do you actually miss out on when you limit your studying to only the gospels? How much of Jesus do you actually lose when you only accept Jesus without His ambassadors (2 Corinthians 5:20)? Remember what Paul said of His writings in Ephesians 3:3-5.