There are so much strife and debate among the world and believers in Christ that it seems to be a waste of time that we debate among ourselves. So please understand that I do not come in the spirit of debate, but truly searching the Scriptures to see if it is so. Sha'ul (Paul) has been raising red flags and I have some questions from your site. I've had a few discussions on the apostleship of Sha'ul, but Scripture is used loosely and heavy commentary is added. Maybe there are some specific verses that I am missing?
D. Was Paul really an apostle?
2. The remaining apostles recognized Paul as one of them - Galatians 2:6-10
a. We even have Peter’s own testimony - II Peter 3:15-16
Does Galatians 2:6-10 really support this? They recognized him as to what exactly? A brother in Christ. Giving the right hand of fellowship and recognizing their "entrusted" gospel is not calling one an apostle. We are all brothers and sisters in Christ and the apostles recognized Sha'ul as such but did not call him an apostle. That is adding to what was written here. We are all entrusted with the ministry as believers in Jesus "just as" all of the apostles and saints before us, but we cannot label ourselves as apostles of Jesus Christ. In fact, in this verse, Sha'ul makes an interesting comment that Peter, James, and John "seemed" to be pillars. I would say they "were" pillars (i.e. support) of the faith.
Peter never called Sha'ul an apostle, he called him a brother in II Peter 3:15. Isn't that adding to what is actually being said?
E. Hence the church was founded on twelve apostles - Revelation 21:14
1. Fourteen men held the title, but essentially there were only twelve at any time.
Revelation 21:14 does not support this essentially. It specifically states that there are 12 apostles, not 14. It does not say "essentially there were only twelve at any time." What do Sha'ul and Barnabas do when they look at the twelve foundations? Their names are not on them, but they held the title?
Sha'ul was a brother in Christ, but an apostle? How can one get around Revelation 21:14? Maybe there is another verse that clears this up?
I see that you are a part of the Messianic Jews. This is a group that attempts to follow the Old Testament laws while simultaneously claiming to recognize that Jesus is the Messiah. One common trait of this group is their insistence on using Jewish pronunciation to do transliterations into English. Thus the use of Sha'ul instead of Saul and avoidance of using Saul's Greek name, Paul, which he himself used exclusively starting sometime after his conversion.
I realize that you are strongly motivated to discount the writings of Paul since his letters clearly state that the Law of Moses came to an end -- something that Messianic Jews deny. This shows through when you state that in "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 2:9), you think Paul should have said "were" instead of "seemed." I very much doubt you would argue that Moses miss-worded a sentence since you recognize that Moses wrote by the inspiration of God. Thus, you let it be known that you do not believe Paul to be an inspired writer. If you had recognized his inspiration, you would not dream of altering a word of what he wrote.
Your quotations are from the sermon outline "The Apostles." I'm glad the evidence bothered you enough to write, even though you tried to also discount the evidence presented as loosely using the Scriptures, heavily using commentary, and missing verses. For someone who claims not to like to debate, you manage to use traditional debate tactics, such as disparage your opponent when your own position is weak.
Let's start with Paul's claim (and yes, I will stick to using the name Paul preferred to use in reference to himself).
"Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God" (Romans 1:1).
"For I speak to you Gentiles; inasmuch as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry" (Romans 11:13).
"Paul, called to be an apostle of Jesus Christ through the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother" (I Corinthians 1:1).
"Am I not an apostle? Am I not free? Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord?" (I Corinthians 9:1).
"For I am the least of the apostles, who am not worthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God" (I Corinthians 15:9).
"Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in all Achaia" (II Corinthians 1:1).
"Paul, an apostle (not from men nor through man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised Him from the dead)" (Galatians 1:1).
"Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and faithful in Christ Jesus" (Ephesians 1:1).
"Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Timothy our brother" (Colossians 1:1).
"Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ, by the commandment of God our Savior and the Lord Jesus Christ, our hope" (I Timothy 1:1).
"For which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle--I am speaking the truth in Christ and not lying--a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth" (I Timothy 2:7).
"Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, according to the promise of life which is in Christ Jesus" (II Timothy 1:1).
"To which I was appointed a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles" (II Timothy 1:11).
"Paul, a bondservant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God's elect and the acknowledgment of the truth which accords with godliness" (Titus 1:1).
I think that well establishes that Paul claimed to be an apostle. But he claimed much more than this. His claim was that he was an apostle by God's will and command. He clearly states that no man made him an apostle, and that would include himself.
You play another debater's game by stating that other apostles did not use the word "apostle" in reference to Paul so, therefore, you conclude that they did not recognize him as an apostle, only as a brother in Christ. How interesting! Let's just humor your position for a moment and assume that Paul really wasn't an apostle. Then his claims of being an apostle were lies. But James, Cephas (Peter), and John extended fellowship to this "liar." And Peter tells us that Paul's writings are Scripture. "And consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation--as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures" (II Peter 3:15-16). Since Peter also claimed to write by the inspiration of God, this would mean that Peter was also lying. Very quickly the entire New Testament unravels -- if a lie is found within its pages. But the fact is that Peter did not lie. He spoke the words of God and wrote them down for us. His testimony is that Paul wrote by the wisdom of God (he was inspired) and his writings are a part of the Scriptures. They are on equal footing with the rest of the Bible, including the writings of Moses, because ultimately they all are authored by God. That means Paul's claim of apostleship by the command and will of God is was given to him by God Himself. And it means that James, Cephas, and John recognized Paul to be who he claimed to be, an apostle of Jesus Christ.
In the sermon, I presented in section II what the Bible meant by "apostle."
- The person was sent as a messenger
- The person gave an eye-witness account of Jesus' life
- The person was inspired by the Holy Spirit to accurately give the message
- The person was appointed to his position by Jesus
- The person's teachings were not his own. He had the authority from God to tell God's commands and those commands were permanent.
If you recognize this, then "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 2:7-10). Let's note several things:
- James, Cephas, and John, along with others, recognized that the gospel for the Gentiles had been committed to Paul. Committed by whom? There is only one who could do so, Jesus (Acts 26:16). Thus they testify that Paul was given the authority from God to tell the Gentiles God's message concerning Jesus Christ.
- James, Cephas, and John perceived the grace given to Paul. They recognize the gift given to Paul by God. This implies they recognized that Paul spoke by inspiration.
- They recognized that Paul was sent to deliver God's message.
These are all qualities of an apostle. But notice also that the word "apostleship" was applied to Paul's work: "for He who worked effectively in Peter for the apostleship to the circumcised also worked effectively in me toward the Gentiles." He who worked effectively for Peter also worked effectively for Paul. The purpose of His work in Peter was for the apostleship, as it was also for Paul. The only difference between their work was to whom they were sent. Peter was a messenger sent to the Jews; Paul was a messenger sent to the Gentiles. But they were both sent messengers -- apostles!
You want to play games with Revelation 21:14. I pointed out that there were only twelve apostles at any one time. But this isn't good enough for you. Fine. The following is a list of the twelve tribes of Israel (Jacob).
- Reuben (Numbers 1:21)
- Simeon (Numbers 1:23)
- Levi (Numbers 1:49)
- Judah (Numbers 1:27)
- Issachar (Numbers 1:29)
- Zebulun (Numbers 1:31)
- Joseph (Numbers 13:11)
- Benjamin (Numbers 1:37)
- Dan (Numbers 1:39)
- Naphtali (Numbers 1:43)
- Gad (Numbers 1:25)
- Asher (Numbers 1:41)
- Manasseh (Numbers 1:35)
- Ephraim (Numbers 1:33)