Paul: Apostle or Imposter?
I wanted to write about Paul. Y'know, Paul, the guy who wrote most of the New Testament? The guy nobody likes or wants to believe? I'm not kidding - you wouldn't believe the people (even in my small circle of Xanga subscriptions) who completely dismiss anything written by Paul. "He never knew Jesus, he hated the Christians, and to mess up their faith from within is what his *real* agenda was. I don't believe a word he wrote." My jaw about hit the floor! And frankly, I can't address the 'chauvinistic asshole' problem with Paul until we prove his credibility. (If he's not credible, who cares if he was a chauvinistic asshole, eh?) So we start here. Was Paul an apostle, or an imposter?
I did a LOT of research on this a while ago... regarding a certain Snake's conversion which I recieved word of second-hand from a source with ulterior motives for stating as much (therefore, was not terribly credible, due to circumstances). How was I to believe whether the conversion was real or not? What did the Bible say about how to tell when a conversion was real or not? Well, a LOT, and Paul was case in point.
For those of you not up on your Bibles, Paul was originally Saul. He was a Jew, a highly educated, well-respected, very influential... Christian-killer. He was there when Stephen was stoned. He hated anything that had to do with Jesus Christ, although we have no record that he'd ever been near Jesus (that I know of). He was on his way to do more bad things to Christians when Jesus Himself struck Saul down on the road from Heaven, chastizing him for his wickedness and blinding him. There were eye-witnesses to this event, who heard the voice, too. Then there's Ananias - the prophet Jesus sent the blinded Saul to in order to be healed. Ananias also doubted - Acts 9:14-15. God Himself testified to the validity of Paul's conversion to Ananias.
And remember, Acts 9 was written by Luke, who not only traveled with Paul but was also a well-respected person of that time and openly states in the Bible that he wrote from the testimony of eyewitnesses (Luke 1:2), we have not only Jesus directly involved, eyewitnesses directly involved, Paul directly involved (and his writings by his own hand to testify), and Luke, who is a reputable physician and whose writings are compared to that of the likes of Homer attesting to the changes in character and belief of this man. So far that's God, Jesus, Paul, his traveling companions, Ananias, and Luke we have to give credibility to him.
Still, remember Paul's character. He was a louse. He was a rat-riding louse. He was a Christian-murdering louse. Who would believe that he was converted by that experience with Jesus? Would you trust the guy who helped stone and imprison your fellow believers? It's like a Jew trusting Hitler!! So we look at what happens next - Paul spends time with the Damascus believers (vs. 19). He dives in immediately to learn all he can about Jesus Christ and the Gospel. He surrounds himself with believers. He took the time to learn first. THEN...? Paul goes out directly and preaches the Gospel! (vs 20). As zealous as he was in killing Jesus followers, he becomes as zealous in winning Jesus followers! His *fruit* attest to his conversion, on top of it. Amazing!!
Because of his the actions his conversion brings about, the Jews start to seek to kill HIM!! (vs. 23). This is what many Christians experience upon conversion - a period of testing. Would he still claim the Gospel when his old superiors and fellow Jews come after him? Or will he revert and save himself the humiliation, degradation, and persecution? Paul does not turn back.
Verse 26 says he goes to Jerusalem and seeks out Jesus' disciples. Yeah, the original guys. Now... if you were a disciple in Jerusalem and a notorious Christian-killer was on his way to see you, would you be a *little* nervous? They were! It could be a trap, a trick. But what happened? Someone credible spoke up for him - Barnabas. (vs 27). Paul proved himself in his actions while with the disciples (vs. 28). They were cautious, watching him and tutoring him. But the big test was when he had to appear in front of the Pharisees of Jerusalem. Because he preached there, too, the disciples needed no more proof. They saw that God testified, Jesus testified, Ananias testified, eyewitnesses testified, Paul's behavior and fruit testified, and Barnabas testified. (and Luke testified). They needed no further proof, so they sent him home.
((Side note: This pattern was NOT present with the Snake in my scenario. No one credible testified, he never testified himself, his fruits testified AGAINST him - not in private OR in public - and the Spirit did not testify... and continued fruits and works are STILL against him. I do not and won't believe his conversion. I cannot. End of story. Based on this guideline to conversion belief from Acts 9.))
But about Paul... if you can't believe Luke, then you have to throw out the book of Acts and the Gospel of Luke - on top of all of Paul's books. Further you'd have to throw out the entire New Testament, because Matthew is one of the disciples who believed Paul, so if he's not credible, there goes another book. John, too - and there go five books. Jude, too - and there goes another book. Do you see what happens?
Was Paul an imposter? There's no possible way. He himself performed miracles in the name of Christ. He testified to the validity of the Gospel, converted in Christ's name, and was so interwoven with the apostolic fathers that he CANNOT be taken out of the equation without dismantling the entire New Testament. Because if you can't believe the disciples testimony about Paul, how can you believe their testimony about Jesus? The Gospels would be null and void. Do you see? And you can't pick and choose from the Bible - it turns you into a ridiculous hypocrite. The Early Church fathers already knew this, (not to mention they had the witness of the believers in Rome, Cyprus, Greece, and many, many other places from both primary and secondary sources.) They included Paul's writings in the Bible for a reason.
What tickles me? Is that these men LIVED THEIR LIVES for the Gospel. They were there, they knew the Truth, and they made the calls. And yet modern, self-serving yahoos flitting around Xanga who haven't read the scriptures all the way through (let alone have studied them) are announcing that Paul is an imposter. Yeah... who would *I* believe? You or logic, years of recorded history, eyewitnesses, and the Truth itself, which does not contradict any other teaching in scripture? Gee, that's a toughie...! ((shakes head))
Paul IS an apostle of Christ. He must be, or the Bible is a hoax, the prophets are liars, the saints are delusional, the early church father's fail us, and the faith falls. You take Paul with it, or you have to disbelieve it all. There's no choice but to believe that it's true... and that Paul was visited by Christ for a purpose - to direct the new church believers to a new level of Christ-mindedness, through miracles, prophecy, and teaching. Having said that, we're ready to look at whether or not Paul was a chauvinistic, legalistic, whacked-out loser apostle or if he's been given a bad rap by the church. Coming soon...!