"All in Asia..."

As already mentioned, many are shocked to hear someone express doubts about Paul and his apostolic office. But why? After all, there were many in those early churches that doubted Paul’s legitimacy. Otherwise, he wouldn’t spend time trying to convince his readers that he was a legitimate, God-ordained apostle.[1] Furthermore, he's told us as much:

If I be not an apostle unto others, yet doubtless I am to you: for the seal of mine apostleship are ye in the Lord.

Some might suggest Paul is saying that he isn't the "apostle to the circumcision." But I believe this indicates there were some who didn't regard Paul as a legitimate, Jew or Gentile. 

Here, I’m going to supply a timeline of events and, or, statements that will demonstrate that there were many who seriously doubted Paul. In fact, they forsook him. I also want to preface this study by saying that, though I currently have doubts as to the legitimacy of the Revelation, the point remains the same without its witness. In other words, the segment titled "67 A.D. — John’s  Alleged Vision" can be excluded from this study and the point still stands: there were many who discredited Paul and who forsook him.   

61 A.D. — Paul writes to the Ephesians

Eph 1:1,2  Paul, an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, to the saints which are at Ephesus, and to the faithful in Christ Jesus: Grace be to you, and peace, from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ.

64 A.D. — Paul writes to Timothy

1Ti 1:3,4  As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine, Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: so do.

1Ti 2:7  Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity.

67 A.D. — John’s  Alleged Vision

Revelation 1:11 shows that the church at Ephesus, which Paul is concerned about, is receiving instruction.

Rev 2:1-6  Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks; I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name's sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted. Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent. But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.

The primary issue addressed here is the fact that the Ephesians were concerned about who was a true apostle or not, and they were commended for their rigid scrutiny. Perhaps the issue of “genealogies” that Paul is fervently rebuking in a number of his epistles goes beyond a desire to cling to the Levitical priesthood but also, depending on context, concerns investigations into his relationships with Jesus and the original apostles.

The Ephesians had one more thing to their benefit and that’s that they hated the “deeds of the Nicolaitans.” Nicolaitans are believed to be teachers and leaders who domineer others in the assembly, people who essentially have perverted their office and rule harshly. While I think this is true, I believe there’s another, overlooked, characteristic. We can find out more about the Nicolatians if we look at the other place it’s used:

Rev 2:14,15  But I have a few things against thee, because thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumblingblock before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed unto idols, and to commit fornication. So hast thou also them that hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. 

It’s evident that the “doctrine of Balaam” is the “doctrine of the Nicolaitans.” Another error we could categorize as a Nicolaitan teaching is the “gainsaying of Core” and “way of Cain” related by Jude.[2]

The Nicolaitans would’ve taught that it’s okay for believers to eat food sacrificed to idols[3] (doctrine of Balaam), would’ve exhibited envy and hatred of others (way of Cain), and also would’ve sought to usurp a gift or authority that wasn’t theirs to have (gainsaying of Core). Does Paul exhibit any of these? Let’s be like the Ephesians and test the alleged apostle. 

  • Doctrine of Balaam — 1 Corinthians 8 and 10, Paul taught food sacrificed to idols is ok. In Colossians 2, Paul attempted to make such dietary commands appear burdensome. He teaches believers shouldn’t be bothered with inquiring about whether or not food was scarified to idols. But, he says, if it’s made evident, only then should you abstain. In other words: if you want to eat food scarified to idols in the privacy of your home, you’re free to. But, don’t do it in front of young believers or unbelievers who invite you to partake. This advice is contrary to the advice of the other Apostles[4]. In reality, Paul’s advice seems to make the commandments of God subjective to personal circumstance.[5]
  • Way of Cain — As we’ve already demonstrated, Paul seemed envious of the other Apostles, even antagonistic at times.[6] Paul wishes the opponents of God’s people be “cut off” from this life. In other words, he wished harm upon those who interfered with his work.[7]
  • Gainsaying of Core — Considering Paul doesn’t fit the prophetic criterion for apostleship, he’s usurped a title only the Father or Jesus could truly bestow.[8]

68 A.D. — Paul writes Timothy again

So now we have a decent profile of who the Nicolaitans in Ephesus were and perhaps a glimpse into what they were teaching. Remember, Timothy, Paul’s young disciple, was among them for the purpose of stifling teaching contrary to Paul’s. Here’s what Paul reports to Timothy.

2Ti 1:15  This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me; of whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes.

This verse has more weight to it than many suppose. Even I can’t grasp the total weight of it, but in light of the history we’ve seen up to this point, it’s reasonable to conclude that Paul, Timothy, and others of Paul’s company, whom he termed “apostles,” were forsaken by all the churches in Asia, churches that could only be identified as the ones we read about in Revelation. In other words, Paul and company are the false apostles that the Ephesians were examining. John was the one who said “they went out from us, but they were not all of us.” Paul’s ministry became all for naught, or so he thought. His legacy has remained. The leaven has festered. Jesus foretold of the leaven of Pharisees.[8] 


Such an investigation into someone’s character is naturally going to arouse suspicion of the person making the investigation and publicizing such claims as have been published thus far. I will never claim to be a perfect follower of Jesus. There are things in my life that need to be worked on, no doubt. Perhaps even some of the issues addressed here. The difference, though, should be very evident. I’m not claiming to be an apostle with special revelation from the son of God concerning doctrine, especially if the doctrine would affect personal salvation. I’m not claiming to be greater than those who personally knew Jesus—the ones who walked and talked with him, who were actual eyewitnesses to the greatest events in human history. I’m just a seeker who desires to know the truth so I can have a closer relationship with Jesus and the Father. The truth as I see it indicates that Paul was forsaken by all the churches in Asia for a reason. Regardless of the authenticity of the Revelation and whether or not John actually had those visions, Paul was forsaken by many. You’re free to believe what you want. I won’t be like Paul who desires his opponents be “cut off” or Anathema. Instead, I’ll pray that the Father grant you eyes to see and ears to hear the voice of his son, the shepherd. Because the sheep don’t hear the voice of a stranger. 


[1] Galatians 1:20; 1 Timothy 2:7

[2] Jude 1:11// Numbers 16

[3] idolatry is fornication against God

[4] Acts 15:29; Acts 21:25

[5] Romans 14

[6] Antagonism

[7] Galatians 5:12

[8] Paul was a pharisee of pharisees (Acts 23:6)


This is an on going study and is subject to revisions.