Was Paul an Apostle?

A number of years ago I was sitting curiously in a Unitarian Universalist church listening to, then Bishop, John Shelby Spong “rescue” the Bible by proffering that we read it in a speculative, post-modern way. During the Q&A portion of his talk, a friend of mine asked the progressive Spong why Paul converted from Judaism to Christianity. Spong answered that he had been wondering about that question for a long time.

Over the past few decades or so there seems to have been a resurgence concerning what to do about Paul. Some, like Spong, reframe Paul saying that he was a man repressing his sexual desires. Others, say that Paul should not be considered an apostle and that we should not take his writings to be a part of Scripture. After all, some argue, Paul is not even listed in the list of apostles (Matt 10:2-4, Luke 6:13-16).

Paul believed he was an apostle (1 Cor 9:1) sent by Christ (Gal 1:1) by the will of God (Eph 1:1, Col 1:1) but that is not enough. The qualifications for being an apostle are found in Acts 1:21-22. These verses say that a necessary qualification to be considered an apostle is that one see the risen Christ. Paul saw the risen Christ according to 1 Corinthians 15:8. Check #1!

Second, Paul performed miracles like apostles (Acts 14:8-10, 15:12, 16:16-19, 22-28, 19:11-16, 20:9-12, 28:3-6). Paul also laid his hands on John the Baptist’s disciples, they spoke in tongues, and they prophesied (Acts 19:4-6). The other apostles did these same kinds of acts as well (Acts 8:14-17). Check #2!

Third, another big credential is the fact that the Apostle Peter implied that Paul was an apostle writing Scripture prior to AD 70. The purpose of 2 Peter 3 is found in verses 1-2. It states that Second Peter was written so that you might remember the words, “spoken by your apostles.” Paul’s words are lumped in here by Peter. 2 Peter 3:15-16 goes on to state that Paul was writing Scripture. It says,

15 and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, 16 as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction

Check #3! Peter wants us to remember the words of the apostles. He then tells us to give the same respect to Paul’s writings–like the rest of the Scriptures.

Here we have a short, cumulative case that Paul was an apostle and that he wrote Scripture: 1) Paul met the qualifications. 2) Paul performed the miracles. 3) Apostle Peter said so. So, at this juncture, we have better reasons to believe that Paul was an apostle and wrote Scripture than not.

(Special thanks to Dr. Rob Bowman)

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