IS PAUL A TRUE APOSTLE?
The writer of almost half of the New Testament books, Saul of Tarsus later known as Paul, was called into the movement of Christ at the time when The Lord was already in heaven. He claimed to be 'appointed a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles' (2 Tim 1:11), basing this to be The Lord’s commandment for him (or them) to be set 'as a light to the Gentiles, that you should be for salvation to the ends of the earth' (Acts 13:47).
PAUL AS THE PROPHESIED LIGHT TO THE GENTILES
It is a fact that most, if not all, of the twelve Apostles (with Matthias as Iscariot's replacement) also preached to the Gentile nations, possibly as far as India and other parts of Asia, Europe and Africa. However, their work is almost in obscurity and almost not remembered because of Paul's direct claim of being the 'light to the Gentiles'. This simple claim has made him more prominent than most of the twelve apostles. For such claim he was ascribed as the (purported) apostle that brought the Gospel of salvation unto the Gentile world.
How did Paul claim to be the prophesied 'light to the Gentiles?
47 For so the Lord has commanded us:
‘I have set you as a light to the Gentiles,
That you should be for salvation to the ends of the earth.’ ”
Paul, citing Isaiah's prophecy (Isa. 49:6), claimed to be among the ones commanded by God and set aside as a light to the Gentiles and to be God's salvation to the ends of the earth. Could this prophecy be about Saul of Tarsus who later reintroduced himself as Apostle Paul? Here is the Isaiah prophecy that was cited by Paul in his claim:
(Isaiah 49:5a-6, all verses from the NKJV)
“And now the Lord says,
Who formed Me from the womb to be His Servant…
Indeed He says,
‘It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant
To raise up the tribes of Jacob,
And to restore the preserved ones of Israel;
I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles,
That You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.’”
Paul truly thought of himself as the prophesied 'light to the Gentiles' in Isaiah (verse 6). In fact, if we broaden our study, he also seemed to believe to be the prophesied one 'who was formed from the womb to be God's Servant' (verse 5). This was evidenced by his claim that 'when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace (Gal. 1:15)'. How did Paul insert himself in Isaiah's prophecy to justify his claim? Whereas the prophecy is very specific to the SINGULARITY of its subject Entity (as shown by the use of the pronoun YOU), Paul taught that the prophecy referred to multiple entities by his use of the pronoun US. This simple twist, by changing the number of the prophesied entity, has allowed his false claim of Isaiah's prophecy to be accepted by the entire Christian world since the very beginning.
How misleading was Paul's claim of being the prophesied 'light to the Gentiles for salvation'? In biblical proportion the term Gentiles refers to the rest of the world other than the nation of Israel. Thus, Paul's claim made him the purported LIGHT OR SAVIOR OF THE WORLD! Could this really be what Paul had considered about himself in relation with God's salvation unto the rest of the world?
14 But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
Paul's claim of being 'the light to the Gentiles (or simply, the world) for their salvation (Acts 13:47) is not just a simple case of prophetical miscalculation as it is rather more of a direct reflection of his personal conviction and outlook of being the prophesied Light or Savior who was tasked to complement the saving grace of The Messiah. There is a big chance that he erroneously understood The Savior's work to be focused on the Jewish people as He so stated in Matthew 15v24 that He "was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." As a matter of fact, Paul's erroneous and blasphemous conviction is further exposed by his personal outlook that he and the world are crucified unto each other through the cross of The Savior. How else did Paul put himself as a key player for man's salvation?
24 I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church
Despite the extreme injustice done unto The Christ by putting Him through all kinds of extreme physical torture, pain and eventual death, Paul calculated all those afflictions as incomplete and thus the need to complete and complement them with his own afflictions. Could the afflictions and sufferings that led to the death of the innocent Savior ever be lacking? Of course NOT! The physical torture and death that The Lord experienced in the hands of His Romans and Jewish punishers were even more than enough afflictions for a serial criminal who may have done multiple heinous crimes in his life. How could it ever be lacking in the case of the innocent Son of Man?
THE SAVIOR OR LIGHT TO THE GENTILES
Could Paul be the fulfillment of this particular Isaiah prophecy? Certainly not! The prophecy refers ONLY to The Lord Jesus Christ being a 'light to the Gentiles' and God’s salvation to the ends of the earth, formed and called by God from His mother's womb (Isa. 49:6, 1, 5) - and not (no dual fulfillment) for anyone else! Why does the prophecy state that God ALSO gave The Christ as a light to the Gentiles? Because His first task from God was 'to raise up the tribes of Jacob and restore the preserved ones of Israel' (Isa. 49:6). This was evidenced when The Lord Jesus first sent the twelve apostles 'to the lost sheep of the house of Israel' (Mat. 10:5-6).
To expand the proof, the prophecy in Isaiah 49:5-6 mirrors what the prophet Isaiah already prophesied earlier in his book:
“I, the Lord, have called You in righteousness,
And will hold Your hand;
I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people,
As a light to the Gentiles. (Isaiah 42:6)
It is very clear that The Lord Jesus was the prophesied covenant to the people and light to the Gentiles. Even the man who held the infant Yeshua at the temple when He was 'presented to The Lord', a man who was given wisdom by The Holy Spirit, referred to the infant Yeshua as the prophesied light to the Gentiles:
28 he took Him up in his arms and blessed God and said:
29 “Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace,
According to Your word;
30 For my eyes have seen Your salvation
31 Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples,
32 A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles,
And the glory of Your people Israel.”
This was further confirmed in the New Testament by Apostle John:
(I John 1:4-9)
In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. This man came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world.
An even much stronger evidence is the direct statement of Christ himself, regarding the prophesied 'light' of the world:
Then Jesus spoke to them again, saying, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life.”
If the Isaiah prophecy of being 'the light to the Gentiles' (Isa. 49:5-6) was fulfilled in The Christ, would it be rightful for Paul or anybody else to claim the same prophecy as referring to himself? Of course not, in fact, this is nothing short of blasphemy unto The Savior and could be perceived as an attempt to usurp His authority. There is only ONE prophesied Messenger in the time 'ends of the earth' and He is none other than The Lord Jesus Christ.
One more thing that we can notice from Paul’s citation of the prophecy is that when he quoted this in Acts 13:47 he changed the semantics of the sentence. He stated it as, “that you should be FOR salvation to the ends of the earth”, whereas Isaiah wrote, “that you should be MY salvation to the ends of the earth”. This simple alteration of a single word change the contextual message of the verse.
HIS CLAIM OF BEING SENT TO PREACH
Paul claimed of being sent to preach and he cited a prophecy to give him credibility and authority with his preaching. This is his claim and he backed it up with another biblical prophecy:
“And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, Who bring glad tidings of good things!”
This is the prophecy that he quoted from the prophet Isaiah:
(Isaiah 52:7, 13)
“How beautiful upon the mountains
Are the feet of him who brings good news,
Who proclaims peace,
Who brings glad tidings of good things,
Who proclaims salvation,
Who says to Zion,
“Your God reigns!”...
Behold, My Servant shall deal prudently;
He shall be exalted and extolled and be very high.
First, let us notice another error in his quotation. When he quoted this verse in Romans 10:15 he used the pronoun ‘those’, with an obvious intent to include himself, while the actual prophecy mentions (as singular) “him who brings good news”. The pronoun ‘Him’ referred in the prophecy is Christ as “He shall be exalted and extolled and be very high” (verse13). This is echoed in another of Isaiah's prophecy:
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me,
Because the Lord has anointed Me
To preach good tidings to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives,
And the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
2 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord...
The only One prophesied by Isaiah to bring good news or preach the gospel of salvation is none other than The Lord Jesus, as recorded both in Isaiah 52:7 and 61:1. In fact, The Christ himself directly claimed these prophecies to be fulfilled in Him:
17 And He was handed the book of the prophet Isaiah. And when He had opened the book, He found the place where it was written:
18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to the poor;
He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed;
19 To proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”
20 Then He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant and sat down. And the eyes of all who were in the synagogue were fixed on Him. 21 And He began to say to them, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.”
Only The Lord Jesus was the prophesied Messenger in Isaiah 52:7. Paul is grossly mistaken in including himself as one who was also prophesied in Isaiah's prophecy. Could this be an honest mistake on the part of Paul in his effort to exert authority and be also counted as an apostle of The Lord?
PAUL AS AN APOSTLE
Paul claimed to be an apostle (1 Cor. 1:1; 1 Tim. 1:11) by claiming that the signs of an apostle were fulfilled in him, and that for nothing was he behind the most prominent apostle (2 Cor. 2:11-12). How accurate could his statement be? First let us find out, who are the apostles of Christ? What is an apostle as described by the apostles themselves? Can a believer become an apostle simply because he has done the works of the Lord? Let us read the testimony of The Lord Jesus concerning His twelve apostles:
13 And when it was day, He called His disciples to Himself; and from them He chose twelve whom He also named apostles: 14 Simon, whom He also named Peter, and Andrew his brother; James and John; Philip and Bartholomew; 15 Matthew and Thomas; James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon called the Zealot; 16 Judas the son of James, and Judas Iscariot who also became a traitor.
Jesus answered them, “Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?” He spoke of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, for it was he who would betray Him, being one of the twelve.
The apostles were PERSONALLY CHOSEN by Christ and there were only twelve of them chosen. But we know that Judas Iscariot betrayed The Lord and ended his life out of guilt. How was he replaced? Here is a narrative of an important event when the apostles chose, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the replacement for Judas Iscariot:
(Acts 1: 15-17, 21-26)
“And in those days Peter stood up in the midst of the disciples (altogether the number of names was about a hundred and twenty), and said, “Men and brethren, this Scripture had to be fulfilled, which the Holy Spirit spoke before by the mouth of David concerning Judas, who became a guide to those who arrested Jesus; for he was numbered with us and obtained a part in this ministry.”.. “Therefore, of these men who have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John to that day when He was taken up from us, one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection.” And they proposed two: Joseph called Barsabas, who was surnamed Justus, and Matthias. And they prayed and said, “You, O Lord, who know the hearts of all, show which of these two You have chosen to take part in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place.” And they cast their lots, and the lot fell on Matthias. And he was numbered with the eleven apostles.
That there were ONLY twelve apostles chosen by Christ is a fact backed by Apostle Peter's declaration that they were NUMBERED - meaning they are a controlled group - and NOT just anyone can become one. What did they do in replacing Judas Iscariot in his place as an apostle? They proposed between Justus and Matthias, and after they have prayed to The Lord they chose Matthias to be numbered (as an apostle) with them. Why were Justus and Matthias nominated to become an apostle to replace Iscariot? Because they belonged to a company of men whom Apostle Peter recognized to "have accompanied us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John to that day when He was taken up from us" and so, "one of these must become a witness with us of His resurrection," as Peter further stated.
Basing on these notable facts, not just anyone can become an apostle of The Lord, he has to be chosen first and must have witnessed the life of The Lord and His earthly ministry. Otherwise, there would be an endless list of apostles from those who would claim to have done wonders and signs in the name of The Lord (unfortunately, some churches continue to choose and recognize their own present day apostles). For this same reason Paul could not qualify to be among those who were numbered as apostles of The Christ. Thus, his apostleship is simply self-proclaimed.
To further the evidence, even 'the wall of the Holy City had twelve foundations only, and on them were the names of the TWELVE APOSTLES OF THE LAMB' (Rev. 21:14). And we know that it is Christ Himself and God who designed and build this holy place (Jn. 14:2-3, 23). Where then would Paul fall in place if he really were an apostle of Christ?
PAUL’S CALLING AND THE WARNING OF THE LORD
Paul was a former persecutor of the believers, a Jew and a Roman who was himself a Pharisee (Acts 8:1-3; 9:1-2; 22:3; 23:6). Perhaps his biggest argument that made people accept him to be The Lord's apostle also is his claim that He has seen The Lord Jesus himself - in person! He was supposedly called by The Lord Jesus in the desert on His way to Damascus to persecute the Christians there. How did The Lord supposedly call him? This is the supposed narrative of Paul’s calling:
As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”
And he said, “Who are You, Lord?”
Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”
So he, trembling and astonished, said, “Lord, what do You want me to do?”
Then the Lord said to him, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”
And the men who journeyed with him stood speechless, hearing a voice but seeing no one.
The apparent calling of Paul was unique in such that he only heard the voice of The Lord Jesus in the wilderness. However, even this is very questionable as it conflicts with Paul's own statement that is recorded in verse 22:9 in the same book of Acts. Whereas in verse 9:7 quoted above it is stated that the men who were with him heard the same voice, Paul testified that "they did not hear the voice of Him who spoke to me." Did those men HEAR OR NOT HEAR the supposed voice in the wilderness? Either way, this is one proof how the supposed calling of Paul is riddled with inconsistencies. At what time frame in Christianity did this happen? When The Lord was already in heaven. Herein lies a doctrinal conflict. Could it be The Lord Jesus Christ’s voice calling Paul out in the desert when He is already in heaven at that time? On the contrary, what does The Lord warn about anyone claiming to be the Christ, or to any claim about his presence? Here is what The Lord Jesus forewarns us:
(Matthew 24:5, 23-26)
“For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many… “Then if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or ‘There!’ do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand. “Therefore if they say to you, ‘Look, He is in the desert!’ do not go out; or ‘Look, He is in the inner rooms!’ do not believe it.”
The Lord Jesus warned about false christs and false prophets who will deceive many people when He is already in heaven. They could claim to be in the desert or in the inner rooms, however The Lord advised against believing them for it will NOT BE HIM who calling. Is this not exactly what happened in the supposed calling of Paul? Could it really be the voice of The Lord Jesus when in fact He is the one who warned about those deceptions?
The Lord's warning concerning the appearance of FALSE cHRISTS AND PROPHETS after His ascension has become Paul's biggest selling point that made it easier for people to accept his claim to be an apostle of The Lord. Among all of Paul's dubious claims (including having been to the third heaven - 2 Cor. 12:2), the most majestic and notable is his claim that He has seen The Lord Jesus himself - in person!
“Now when there arose a great dissension, the commander, fearing lest Paul might be pulled to pieces by them, commanded the soldiers to go down and take him by force from among them, and bring him into the barracks. But the following night the Lord stood by him and said, “Be of good cheer, Paul; for as you have testified for Me in Jerusalem, so you must also bear witness at Rome.”
(2 Tim 4:17)
But the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear. Also I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.
(1 Corinthians 9:1)
Am I not an apostle? Am I not free? Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord?
(1 Corinthians 15:8)
7 After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. 8 Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.
Could his claim that He has seen The Lord Jesus be ever possible when The Lord has not returned yet? Is this not part of The Lord's warning about false christs that many will claim to be in the desert as well as in the inner rooms (Mat. 24:26)? In contrast, what does The Lord Jesus say about His return? This is what He said:
“And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself; that where I am, there you may be also.”
The Lord will return to receive His disciples, and this will happen at the end of age (Mat. 24:3,33). And the manner of His return was described by the angels who were present when He ascended to heaven:
“Who also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.”
The moment in Paul’s time wherein The Lord stood by him in the barracks is not Gospel aligned. It could either be a made up story or the presence of a false christ. Why is that? Because The Lord's return to earth will only happen at the end of the world and His return will be in the same manner as when He ascended to heaven as attested to by the angels.
This is the first of a series of expose’ on the biblical Paul. On the next article/s, we will compare his teachings with that of The Lord’s and see if he really stayed with the pure gospel of Christ or has deviated from it, thereby exposing the believers to a corrupted version of the gospel. Once again, remember why The Lord Jesus warned about the false prophets – they will also teach about The Lord and His teachings based on their version or interpretation, and not how The Lord intended it to be.
I ask for your understanding if this expose’ has stirred up your thoughts. Please understand that I do not question the love and dedication of Paul to The Lord. However, I only aim to bring to light his claim to the prophecies of Christ, his claim of being a true apostle of Christ, as well as his representation of the gospel of The Lord Jesus Christ. He may qualify to be an apostle in the general sense, that because he preached about Christ he has become an ambassador of Christ. But then again, it would qualify all the other 'Christian' preachers as they also do the same.
NOTE: For anyone who thinks that Paul is the only one who preached among the Gentiles and believe that Paul must be 'the light to the Gentiles' below is a good article that explains where the 12 apostles reached in their preaching and died. However, maybe because they are not as scholarly or as educated as Paul they were not able to write their own missionary accounts (copy and paste to your browser).
Related Topic for Discussion
Did not the same thing also happened to Apostle John when he saw The Lord Jesus and hear his voice in Rev 1:10-19? Did he not hear and see Christ the way Paul did on the road to Damascus and in the barracks?
John did not claim in the book of Revelation or in any of his writings that He saw Christ in person after He ascended to heaven. What he experienced was a vision of "One like the Son of Man". A vision is in a way similar to a dream, except the one seeing it is awake. Other apostles have experienced seeing a vision when they saw Moses and Elijah talking with The Lord Jesus when He transfigured on the mount. Christ confirmed that what they saw was a vision when He instructed them not to tell anyone about the vision until He is risen from the dead (Mat. 17:1-9).
In contrast, Paul claimed to have experienced Christ in person. This is the manner forewarned by Christ concerning the false christs and false prophets who aim to deceive even the elect of The Lord.