- Paul believed his message was divine
- Paul spoke of "My Gospel"
- The evidence: Paul received direct revelation from the Lord
- Disobeying Paul's writings brings discipline
- His writings were considered scripture during his lifetime
These are five reasons many people would defend Paul. He definitely seemed willing to suffer persecution for his message, and it does appear that he'd encountered Jesus and had subsequent visions. Yet, these five reasons, and much more, need to be investigated. After all, we're advised to try the spirits.
In his article, Don Stewart begins with the very same claims many would use in introducing Paul and defending his ministry.
The apostles not only accepted the Old Testament and Jesus’ Words as divinely authoritative, they also taught that their teaching and writing possessed the same level of authority. Being led by the Holy Spirit, they believed and taught that they were speaking for Jesus Christ. They were His authorized spokesmen.
However, a large part of the New Testament was not written by one of Jesus’ innermost circle of disciples. Rather, it was written by Saul of Tarsus who became the Apostle Paul.
Stewart is right: whoever the apostles are, they were/ are his "authorized spokesmen." They have the authority to write letters of instruction to other believers: after all, they're his "innermost circle of disciples." But was Paul? This question and others needs to be answered.
But Stewart is a bit misleading here. He says "The apostles not only accepted the Old Testament...as divinely authoritative, they also taught that their teachings and writings possessed the same level of authority." This statement is immediately suspicious for the simple fact that many people who cite Paul as the "Apostle to the Gentiles" do so in their efforts to systematically dismantle the authority of the Old Testament, especially in light of "Torah observance," often referred to as "Judaizing." The contradiction in Stewart's assertions should be obvious to anyone. It seems many evangelicals are more interested in gleaning guidance from Paul--a champion of the "no more Torah" denominations--than any Old Testament writings, the other apostles, and even Jesus himself. There even seems to be a tension between James and Paul, or Peter and Paul for that matter, in the epistles. Theologians, Scholars--really anyone with interest--are sometimes baffled by the apparent contradiction between James' "faith and works" doctrine and Paul's "faith by grace alone." Still, there are some who are able to employ acrobatics (and a great deal of them) in order to harmonize these writers; but, it's striking any effort should be necessary if these men were all taught by Jesus.
While the purpose of this study isn't to take steps to begin torah observance in defiance of Paul's apparent antinomian/ hyper-grace teaching, we must still understand the dominant evangelical Christian reason Paul is so important.
God willing, in other studies, we'll be able to explore these claims and reasons a little more in depth.
This is an on going study and is subject to revisions.