1. Relating to Revelation 2:1-2
a. Does Paul indeed address those at Ephesus as an “apostle” in Ephesians 1:1? Yes, Paul does call himself an apostle in Ephesians 1:1 as well as other places.
b. Rev 2:2 speaks in past tense of this occurrence. Was Paul’s ministry before or after 90AD when the vision of Revelation was given? Paul’s ministry was before 90 AD and the writings of Revelation.
c. How can Paul be a 13th apostle when Revelation 21:14 says there are only twelve?
d. If Paul is a 13th apostle, then why does Jesus tells us in Matthew 19:28 there are only twelve?
1c and d. This is a great question, but Paul answers it himself. Paul didn’t count himself with the 12. When Judas hung himself, we see that the 11 remaining apostles replaced Judas with Matthias (Acts 1). Some say that the 11 were wrong to select Matthias and should have waited on Paul’s appointment, but there is no evidence of this. Paul was selected by Christ to be an apostle to the Gentiles. Even Paul considered himself unworthy. In 1 Cor. 15:9 Paul says “I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God, but by the grace of God I am what I am, and his grace toward me was not in vain.” Notice that he didn’t count himself among them just a few verses earlier in verses 3-5: “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raided on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, THEN TO THE TWELVE.” The “twelve” used here is in reference to the office of the twelve. Remember, at this point, Judas was dead and Matthias hadn’t been selected yet. But, the office of the twelve was still existent. Paul never considers himself as one of the twelve. It occurs to me know that the entire question is faulty because if you count each apostle, Paul is the 14th, Matthias is the 13th.
e. If Paul’s apostleship was not in dispute by believers, then why does he defend it in 1st Corinthians 9:1-3? I’ll answer this question with a question. Have you ever seen a preacher speak on some evil act and then see a person who is committing that act condemn the preacher instead of repenting of the evil they are doing? Of course, we all have. This is what Paul was addressing here. Paul knew that there would be those who condemned him because of his past and so he brings two bits of evidence that he was an apostle. The first is that he had seen Jesus and the second is the God has blessed his work. He wasn’t defending himself against believers. The other apostles accepted him as an apostle. Rather he was defending himself against those people who would refute his apostleship to those in the Corinthian church. He was also giving those in Corinth evidence as to his apostleship so they would remain strong. As an added note, Jesus also explained to people who he was. John 14:6 says “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.” Why is it wrong for Paul to explain what position he holds, but OK for Jesus to?
f. Why does he speak in 1st Corinthians 9:3 of those who “try” him unless he was “tried” as Rev 2:2 alleges? There is no evidence that Revelation 2:2 has anything to do with this or that he was one of the ones who was tried. But, he did understand that there would be those who examined him closely. And that is a very wise thing. The other day, I was driving down the road, and I saw a sign for a church with a picture of the preacher on the sign. Below the picture was his name. It said “Apostle Randy Smith”. Shouldn’t I examine this man to see if he is an actual apostle? What evidence can he give me that he is an apostle? None. Paul gave evidence. And that evidence is corroborated by other inspired writers. Aren’t the others examined as well? That’s one reason there are four gospels so that all the apostolic appointments are corroborated.
g. If Paul was not one whom the Ephesians found to be a liar in Rev 2:2, then why does Paul say in 2nd Timothy 1:15 that “all they which are in Asia have turned away from me.”? I don’t think this refers to a turning away from the faith by those Christians in Asia but rather a turning away from Paul personally in helping him in his trial before Nero. He brings this up as a memory of one who did stand by him in the next 2 verses: “The Lord grant mercy unto the house of Onesiphorus: for he oft refreshed me, and was NOT ASHAMED OF MY CHAIN; but, when he was in Rome, he sought me diligently, and found me”
h. If Paul was not called a liar about his apostleship as Rev 2:2 says, then why does he specifically say in 1st Timothy 2:7 he is not lying about his apostleship? This is a form of oath and is another way of saying “I am telling you this by the authority of Christ”. He did the same thing in Gal. 1:20. Even Jesus did this in Luke 4:25 and John 16:7. If Jesus told people that he was telling the truth, why shouldn’t Paul?
2. If Paul’s words are “holy scriptures”, then why does 2nd Timothy 3:15 say Timothy had been reading them since he was a child? Were Paul’s letters even written when Timothy was a child? At the time that Paul wrote this, much of the New Testament had already been written and had been in circulation for up to three decades. Yes, some of the New Testament was yet to be written, but the central message of the gospel had already been published for decades. “From a babe” is also used sometimes as a hyperbolic. In other words, it doesn’t have to literally mean “from a babe”. It can mean “for a long time”. All these were ways that Paul was telling Timothy that “You have been taught and have been studying this for a long, long time…” Some people think that Paul didn’t consider his writing as part of the scripture, but many times he used the same formula as the prophets of God by saying things like “thus saith the Lord” or “He saith” such as in 1 Thess. 4:15. Paul is talking about all inspired scripture both Old Testament, New Testament, and writings to come (Revelation, the Johns, Jude).
3. If “none are righteous” as Paul universally declares in Romans 3:9-20, then why are the parents of John the Baptist declared “righteous before God” in Luke 1:6? This question is a mincing of words and is taking a lot completely out of context. Paul is quoting Psalms 14:1-3 and Psalms 53 in Romans 3:10-12. Does that mean that Psalms was telling an untruth since the parents of John the Baptist were declared righteous? If Paul was wrong and Paul was quoting Psalms then Psalms is wrong. There are other places in scripture where it says that someone was found to be righteous. So, even if I throw out all of Paul, I still have the problem between Psalms and other places such as Genesis 6:9 where it says that Noah was righteous. What does it mean to be righteous? Doesn’t it mean to do good by following God’s precepts? Psalms 53:3 says “there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” Righteousness is simply the act of doing what is right in the sight of God. Scripture (and Paul) are both correct. No one has their own righteousness. No one does only that which is good in the sight of God. We have all fallen short. But, we can still be clothed in righteousness by following God and His Son.
4. Why does Paul say, “as it is written” in Romans 3:10 and then string together single sentences from no less than six places in the Bible, stringing them together as if they are one statement? Does he truly represent it “as it is written?” Are his conclusions the same as the original? Just because you take many parts of scripture and “string” it together doesn’t make it implicitly wrong. If you take all of those pieces out of context you can be wrong. For instance, scripture says that Judas hung himself, scripture also says “go and do ye likewise”, and it also says “whatever you do, do quickly”. But by taking all of those things out of context, I’ve constructed a false thought. If, however, I say “God is the great I AM”, “He is the author and sustainer of life”, “He created the world and all that is in it”, have I created a false statement? No. Paul has not done this in Romans 10. His writing is completely on par with what was written in Psalms and other places throughout scripture. Man CANNOT be righteous all by himself. The whole point of the Roman letter was to explain to those Jews who had become Christians that they were no better than the Gentiles who had become Christians. That God has put us all on equal footing under Jesus and that it is only through Christ that we can be justified.
5. Why does Paul quote the “old testament” at all if it is not authoritative? Whoever said the Old Testament is non-authoritative? I think this question is misleading. I think the underlying question goes something like this: “Christians think that you don’t have to obey the precepts of the Old Testament anymore. What do you think about this?” I’ll answer that question in a separate writing.
6. Part of Paul’s Romans 3:10 quote comes from Psalms 14. If there are “none righteous” including believers as Paul alleges, then why does Psalm 14:5 say, “for God is in the generation of the righteous”? Why would God speak of those who Paul says never existed? Please see the answer to questions 3 and 4.
7. If Paul acknowledges being Herodian in Romans 16:11 and Jesus tells me in Mark 8:15 to beware the leaven of Herod, then shouldn’t I obey Jesus and beware the leaven (doctrine) of Paul? Another contextual problem. Paul is not saying he is Herodian. He is using a proper name. He is saying “Salute Herodion (some translations use Herodias), who is my kinsman.” He is talking about a person, not a group of people. The group is spelled “Herodian”. The spelling of Paul’s kinsman is “Herodion”.
8. If Paul even late in his ministry claims to be a Pharisee in Acts 23:6 and Jesus tells me in Luke 12:1 to beware the leaven of the Pharisees, then shouldn’t I obey Jesus and beware Paul? Another contextual problem. To understand what Jesus was talking about when he said “beware of the leaven of the Pharisees”, we must first understand leaven. Leaven is used in scripture to denote some impurity of ideals. Jesus is basically saying they should watch out for those who used hypocrisy and deceit as a means to refute Jesus’ claim of Messiah. He was not saying to avoid and condemn all Pharisees. Jesus didn’t do that. He even ate with a Pharisee in Luke 7.
9. Paul claimed to have encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus. Jesus told me in Matthew 14:15 when someone claims to see him in the desert don’t believe him. Should I take the advice of Jesus and doubt Paul’s story? Incorrect scripture reference. The scripture you are referring to is Matthew 24:26. And once again, this is a contextual problem. In context, Christ was telling them to watch out for people who were saying Christ had returned. The fact that they watched him ascend and expected him to return made them vulnerable to the claims of false Christs who were pretending to be the Messiah. Paul did not claim to be the Messiah but fully supported the one he knew to be true. Also, in the passage Christ was telling them that his second coming would be worldwide, glorious, and sudden which was a contrast to those false Messiahs who came in secret or in the remote wilderness. Once again, Paul wasn’t claiming to be Messiah, he was placing that honor exactly where it belonged.
10. Paul in Galatians 1 emphasizes his knowledge comes directly from Jesus and not from man. Jesus says in Matthew 14:5 if someone claims to see him in the secret chambers, I should not believe him. Who was telling me the truth? Please see the answer to question 9. Furthermore, Paul didn’t claim to see Jesus in “secret chambers.” He saw Him on a public road…with witnesses.
I’ll fully answer question 5 in the next part.