This topic is huge! There is way too much information to try to cram it all into a single post, so I’m going to hit you with the basics, and then I am dedicating an entire section of this site to the topic. Reading this may blow your mind, maybe frustrate you, anger you… it all depends on whether you’re ready to hear what I have to say, or can read this with an open mind. (If you haven’t read my post about scripture yet, you may want to start there; otherwise you might have a hard time with this one.)
So what do we know about Paul?
Paul was originally a Pharisee called Saul, who was persecuting the early followers of Jesus. In Acts 22 we see that he was present for Stephen’s stoning; and not just present but approving. Then, according to Paul, he was on a journey to persecute some more followers of Jesus and was struck down and blinded by a bright light. Paul says that Jesus Himself appeared to him, and he spent three years alone with Jesus in the wilderness, and then he began his missionary journey. We know that Paul went to a great number of places and spoke to people of all different walks of life, from the poor to kings. Paul wrote a majority of the books that make up our New Testament. And almost every part of how the church operates is from Paul’s instructions; from the Catholic church to evangelical mega churches, small house churches, and even the false religions like Mormons and Jehovahs Witness.
What is the controversy surrounding Paul?
I think the biggest issue that comes up with Paul is that he seems to say “the law” is done away with, which contradicts what Jesus said. There are two different schools of thought on that. The first is that he does indeed say the law is done away with, and that was a special revelation from Jesus on the road to Damascus. The second is that Paul doesn’t teach we are to do away with the law but, as Peter said, his letters are confusing and so people misunderstand. I actually think this is typical of Paul’s teachings. Almost everything he teaches seems to be capable of being spun two different ways. He even says that he does this on occasion. This in and of itself is not really a problem that would cause concern, but as I’ve said before, it is at least curious. However, once you realize who the real Paul is, it doesn’t matter what side of the argument you are on.
So who is the real Paul?
Put simply, Paul is a false apostle, which was prophesied in both the Old Testament and by Jesus. Some of you might be shocked by this statement. Perhaps you’ve never heard this argument before. Others might immediately get defensive because Paul is so integral to your church system that you cannot accept it. This is why I wrote the first piece about testing everything. You have two options right now: You can blindly accept that Paul is a true apostle and all of his words are inspired because the church says so; Or you can look at what Scripture says, test Paul against Scripture, and decide for yourself. If you choose the first option, I wish you well, but just know that by not even investigating Paul you are going against instructions from God.
How do we know Paul is a false apostle?
I’ll start with Paul’s conversion. Paul says that he was on the road to Damascus to persecute more followers of “the Way”. A bright light appears, blinding him, and he is told to go into the city and wait for instruction (Acts 9:3). Then Paul spends time alone with Jesus and gets a special revelation that was only given to Paul (Galatians 1:11-12), and then he is told he is to go to the Gentiles (Acts 22:21).
Let’s pause here and look at some of the details.
1. Paul claims that he met the resurrected Jesus in the wilderness (I will discuss why this is a problem in a different post later), and Jesus gave him a special revelation that was only given to him, and God told him to go to the Gentiles.
None of of the people who started “the Way”, the entire movement that Paul was trying to stop, had all the information. Only Paul has the entire story. In fact, Jesus instructed his disciples go out to the entire world and preach the Gospel with only partial information! Doesn’t that seem odd? Also, Peter says God told him to go to the Gentiles. Was Peter wrong or was Paul wrong?
2. Paul says Ananias can confirm his story.
Who was Ananias? No one ever spoke to Ananias except for Paul, so the only proof we have that Ananias was a witness to Paul’s conversion is… Paul’s word.
Let’s move on.
3. Paul says he was called to go to the Gentiles at his conversion, but Paul also said that he is turning to the Gentiles when the Jews rejected him. (Acts 13:46 and 18:6)
4. The New Testament has two timelines for Paul’s conversion. Luke records one timeline in Acts 9, and Paul shares a different timeline in Galatians 1.
We know that Luke was a scribe, writing down all that was told to him. Did Paul tell him the wrong thing, or did Luke write it down wrong? How do we reconcile this if we are supposed to believe both are infallible and inspired?
I think if we had to pick one of the two, we would probably want to go with Paul’s own account, as told to the Galatians. That is, he went to Arabia for an unspecified time (Galatians 1:17), then to Damascus for three years (Galatians 1:18), then to Jerusalem, Syria, and Cilicia for an unspecified time. Then after 14 years he went to Jerusalem (Galatians 2:1). A minimum of 17 years from conversion to the council in Jerusalem, according to Paul.
Why does this matter?
If we take Paul’s account of his conversion timeline as fact, and we know that the council in Jerusalem was in 49 or 50 AD, this puts his conversion around 33 AD at the latest. (It could have been earlier because we don’t know how long he spent in Arabia, Syria, or Cilicia.) Paul says that he was in Jerusalem and fell into a trance and he had a conversation with Jesus. “And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves understand that in one synagogue after another I used to imprison and beat those who believed in You. And when the blood of Your witness Stephen was being shed, I also was standing nearby and approving, and watching over the cloaks of those who were killing him.’” (Acts 22:19-20) Stephen was stoned in 36 AD… at least three years after Paul says he was converted.
That’s interesting to say the least.
There is one other major piece of evidence I would like to present that shows Paul to be a false apostle: Paul’s own words. “You are aware of the fact that all who are in Asia turned away from me.” (2 Timothy 1:15)
How is this evidence that Paul was a false apostle? On its own, it isn’t. But now let’s take a look at Revelation 2 and 3. If you don’t know, these are seven letters that John wrote to seven churches in Asia, transcribed from what Jesus told him to write.
Message to Ephesus
2 “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write:
The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this:
² ‘I know your deeds and your labor and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil people, and you have put those who call themselves apostles to the test, and they are not, and you found them to be false; ³ and you have perseverance and have endured on account of My name, and have not become weary. ⁴ But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. ⁵ Therefore, remember from where you have fallen, and repent, and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and I will remove your lampstand from its place—unless you repent. ⁶ But you have this, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. ⁷ The one who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who overcomes, I will grant to eat from the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of God.’Revelation 2:1-7
Let’s stop here for a second. “You have put those who call themselves apostles to the test, and they are not, and you found them to be false.” Who is Jesus talking about? Are we to believe this is just a coincidence that Paul claims to be an apostle, went to Ephesus, and later complained to Timothy that they turned away from him… all while Jesus commends them for turning away a false apostle?
While you think on that, let’s read a bit more.
Message to Smyrna
⁸ “And to the angel of the church in Smyrna write:
The first and the last, who was dead, and has come to life, says this:
⁹ ‘I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich), and the slander by those who say they are Jews, and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. ¹⁰ Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, so that you will be tested, and you will have tribulation for ten days. Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life. ¹¹ The one who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who overcomes will not be hurt by the second death.’
Message to Pergamum
¹² “And to the angel of the church in Pergamum write:
The One who has the sharp two-edged sword says this:
¹³ ‘I know where you dwell, where Satan’s throne is; and you hold firmly to My name, and did not deny My faith even in the days of Antipas, My witness, My faithful one, who was killed among you, where Satan dwells. ¹⁴ But I have a few things against you, because you have some there who hold the teaching of Balaam, who kept teaching Balak to put a stumbling block before the sons of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols and to commit sexual immorality. ¹⁵ So you too, have some who in the same way hold to the teaching of the Nicolaitans. ¹⁶ Therefore repent; or else I am coming to you quickly, and I will wage war against them with the sword of My mouth. ¹⁷ The one who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who overcomes, I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white stone, and a new name written on the stone which no one knows except the one who receives it.’
Message to Thyatira
¹⁸ “And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write:
The Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and feet like burnished bronze, says this:
¹⁹ ‘I know your deeds, and your love and faith, and service and perseverance, and that your deeds of late are greater than at first. ²⁰ But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray so that they commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. ²¹ I gave her time to repent, and she does not want to repent of her sexual immorality. ²² Behold, I will throw her on a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds. ²³ And I will kill her children with plague, and all the churches will know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts; and I will give to each one of you according to your deeds. ²⁴ But I say to you, the rest who are in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not known the deep things of Satan, as they call them—I place no other burden on you. ²⁵ Nevertheless what you have, hold firmly until I come. ²⁶ The one who overcomes, and the one who keeps My deeds until the end, I will give him authority over the nations; ²⁷ and he shall rule them with a rod of iron, as the vessels of the potter are shattered, as I also have received authority from My Father; ²⁸ and I will give him the morning star. ²⁹ The one who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’
Message to Sardis
3 “To the angel of the church in Sardis write:
He who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars, says this: ‘I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, and yet you are dead. ² Be constantly alert, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God. ³ So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent. Then if you are not alert, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come to you. ⁴ But you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their garments; and they will walk with Me in white, for they are worthy. ⁵ The one who overcomes will be clothed the same way, in white garments; and I will not erase his name from the book of life, and I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels. ⁶ The one who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’
Message to Philadelphia
⁷ “And to the angel of the church in Philadelphia write:
He who is holy, who is true, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, and who shuts and no one opens, says this:
⁸ ‘I know your deeds. Behold, I have put before you an open door which no one can shut, because you have a little power, and have followed My word, and have not denied My name. ⁹ Behold, I will make those of the synagogue of Satan, who say that they are Jews and are not, but lie—I will make them come and bow down before your feet, and make them know that I have loved you. ¹⁰ Because you have kept My word of perseverance, I also will keep you from the hour of the testing, that hour which is about to come upon the whole world, to test those who live on the earth. ¹¹ I am coming quickly; hold firmly to what you have, so that no one will take your crown. ¹² The one who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of My God, and he will not go out from it anymore; and I will write on him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God, the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God, and My new name. ¹³ The one who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’
Message to Laodicea
¹⁴ “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write:
The Amen, the faithful and true Witness, the Origin of the creation of God, says this:
¹⁵ ‘I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. ¹⁶ So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will vomit you out of My mouth. ¹⁷ Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have no need of anything,” and you do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked, ¹⁸ I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to apply to your eyes so that you may see. ¹⁹ Those whom I love, I rebuke and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent. ²⁰ Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me. ²¹ The one who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat with My Father on His throne. ²² The one who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”Revelation 2:8-3:22
Do you see anything missing in any of those letters? Let me give you a hint…
“As we have said before, even now I say again: if anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!” (Galatians 1:9)
Paul is Jesus’ own special messenger (Romans 1:1; Galatians 1:1; Ephesians 1:1; 1 Corinthians 1:1; 2 Corinthians 1:1; 1 Timothy 2:7), someone He gave a special revelation not revealed to anyone else, even His own 12 (Romans 16:25; Galatians 1:11-12; Ephesians 3:2-3 and 9, Colossians 1:25-26; 1 Timothy 1:11). And Paul tells the Galatians that if anyone doesn’t believe Paul, they are cursed. If all of this is accurate, particularly the last statement, then why didn’t Jesus rebuke any of the churches for turning away from Paul? Based on Galatians 1:9, how could Jesus not rebuke the churches in Asia?
Take a look at a small sampling of comments I have received from random people for suggesting Paul is a false apostle:
- If you claim the apostle handpicked by our Lord to spread the gospel was a liar, then indeed I would have to seriously question whether or not you are a believer.
- Rejecting Paul is rejecting Christ’s apostle, it’s rejecting a part of Christ himself.
- To reject the teachings of Paul is to reject the word of God and that’s very dangerous.
If random people on the internet are rebuking me for rejecting Paul’s teachings, how in the world could Jesus not have rebuked the churches in Asia for rejecting Paul… assuming Paul was everything he claimed to be? It would be impossible! On the flip side, if Jesus doesn’t rebuke the churches in Asia for rejecting Paul, then Jesus can’t really rebuke us for rejecting Paul, right?
Let’s say you were around in 30 AD and you wanted, more than anything, to put an end to Jesus’ followers. You have full permission and authority to persecute, harm, and kill any of the followers at will. But you notice that your efforts are not slowing down the movement at all. This is very common, persecution typically increases the will of the persecuted. So what would you do? Perhaps you would infiltrate the movement, diminish the strength of the leaders, tell confusing stories, and disintegrate the truth from the inside. This is precisely what Paul did. Fortunately for us, the churches in Asia figured him out, and cast him aside… leaving an example for us to follow.