The Apostle Paul has always been a controversial figure. The first time we encounter him in the book of Acts he is holding the cloaks of those who are stoning Steven. (Acts 7:58) Soon after we read that he is actively persecuting the Church. (Acts 8:3) But, after his conversion he becomes the most prolific of the New Testament writers. As a result, some question his apostleship. The combination of Paul’s adversarial role against the early church and subsequent transformation into the most prolific New Testament writer makes him a favorite of gospel skeptics throughout the ages. That Paul spends some time in I Corinthians chapter 9 and Galatians chapter 1 defending himself against those that would degrade his God given authority is an indication of this common accusation. I would like to spend a little time examining what the scriptures can tell us about Paul’s qualifications to be an apostle.
Paul said he was an apostle
Paul tells us he was an apostle. We must take his word as truth unless there is indisputable evidence that he was lying.
- Romans 1:1 “Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God,”
- 1Corinthians 1:1 “Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes”
- 2Corinthians 1:1 “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the church of God that is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in the whole of Achaia:”
- Ephesians 1:1 “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are in Ephesus, and are faithful in Christ Jesus:”
- Colossians 1:1 “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother,”
- 1Timothy 1:1 “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by command of God our Savior and of Christ Jesus our hope”
- 2Timothy 1:1 “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God according to the promise of the life that is in Christ Jesus”
- Galatians 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”
Paul in Arabia
Directly following his conversion, Paul spent a period of around three years in Arabia receiving his revelation from the Lord.
But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days. Galatians 1:15-18
Paul could distribute the gifts of the Holy Spirit
In Acts 8:14-18 we learn that only Apostles had the authority to distribute the miraculous gifts of the Holy Spirit. In Romans 1:11 Paul writes to the church in Rome: “For I long to see you, that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to strengthen you–” That Paul had the power to distribute the gifts of the Holy Spirit, something only apostles could do, is another piece of evidence that Paul was an apostle.
Peter was rebuked by Paul and Authorized his writings.
In Galatians 2:11-14 we are given an account where Paul rebukes Peter for hypocrisy. If Paul wasn’t an Apostle, Peter would have had an excellent opportunity to denounce him. Instead Peter endorses his writings in II Peter 3:15-16. In fact Peter tells us that people twist the writings of Paul to their own destruction. If the writings of Paul were the writings of another man, would twisting them have such dire consequences?
Christ Appeared to Paul and gave him his revelation.
I Corinthians 15:3-8 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.
Galatians 1:9-12 As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ. But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Paul was chosen by Christ to preach to the Gentiles
Acts 9:15-16 But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake.
Paul received his commission at Damascus. He was in Arabia for three years where he received his instruction from the Lord. At the end of that time he had the full power and authority of an apostle.