Losing Paul: What Happens If We Deny The Apostle’s Authority?
Posted by Joseph Torres
What would happen if we removed Paul and his influence from the New Testament? That’s a question I’ve been thinking about ever since I was asked to help respond to a person who denied Paul’s apostolic authority. The more I reflected on what would be lost if Paul were removed, the more it appears that the loss of Paul from the canon creates an unstoppable domino effect.
So, how should we respond to a person who seemingly wants to affirm Scripture, but denies Paul’s apostolic authority?
First Things First. The important thing to remember is that your view is not on trial. You hold to the historical and consistent witness of Christians for 2,000 years in affirming Paul’s apostolic authority. The burden of proof is on the person who denies this uniformly affirmed Christian position. Questions should be asked. On what ground does he deny Paul’s authority? It cannot be on the authority of the Bible. Second Corinthians was written defending that very thing! Those who have called Paul’s apostolic authority into question throughout church history have usually been heretics.
The Price of Paul. According to the New Testament, Peter affirms Paul’s apostolic authority when he acknowledged that like the Prophets Moses and Isaiah, Paul’s writing is inspired by the Holy Spirit. Peter writes:
And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. (2 Peter 3:15-16)
And of course, there is the repeated testimony to Paul’s calling and conversation in Acts written by Luke (see Acts 9, 22, and 26). Likewise, half the book of Acts is dedicated to demonstrating that Paul was faithful to Christ’s calling on his life.
Rejecting Paul’s apostolic authority also has seriously damaging consequences for how we understand all of the New Testament. Here how that line of thinking goes: If Paul has no God-given apostolic authority, then he was not truly called by Jesus himself on the Road to Damascus. If Paul was not truly called by Jesus himself on the Road to Damascus, then the author of Acts (Luke) made up those accounts and therefore cannot be trusted. If Luke cannot be trusted, then the Gospel by his name cannot be trusted. If we lose Luke’s Gospel, we lose ¼ of the historical testimony to earthly life of Christ, as well as many details about the facts of Jesus birth.
A shockwave runs through the New Testament simply by calling into Paul’s authority into question. All distinctive teachings of Paul (teaching that are unique to Paul’s writings and not found in other Gospels or epistles) are lost.
But there’s more…
As we noted above, Peter endorsed Paul. This would mean that Peter was either mistaken or deceived, calling his authority into question. But we must remember that Peter is regularly acknowledged as the source behind Mark’s Gospel, which is usually recognized as the original Gospel and the Gospel which the apostle Matthew expanded upon. This means if Paul loses all credibility…
- Luke loses all credibility
- Peter loses all credibility
- Mark loses all credibility
- Matthew loses all credibility.
With further, and more detailed, argumentation I believe I could push this further, but in this conservative estimate the loss of Paul would reduce our New Testament from 27 books to a mere 8 (John, Hebrews, James, 1st, 2nd, and 3rd John, Jude, and Revelation).
That’s a lot to sacrifice.