How much authority can we give the writings of the Apostle Paul when all the other apostles saw him as an extremist?
First of all we need to discover how the other apostles reacted towards Paul’s preaching. A good example of this can be found in: Acts 15:1-3
“Some men came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the brothers:
“Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question.
Where there was a conflict between gentile Christians and Jewish Christians. The Jews insisted that the gentile Christians had to be circumcised to be saved. To solve the issue, Paul and Barnabas would go to the council in Jerusalem, where the majority of the other apostles were, and bring this issue up.”
“When they came to Jerusalem, they were welcomed by the church and the apostles and elders, to whom they reported everything God had done through them.”
They were welcomed to Jerusalem, not avoided as being extremists. In fact the assembly highly respected Paul and Barnabas:
“The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the miraculous signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them.”
Paul and Barnabas were among the chosen ones to bring the decision of the council. This would be highly irregular, if Paul was considered an extremist!
“Then the apostles and elders, with the whole church, decided to choose some of their own men and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They chose Judas (called Barsabbas) and Silas, two men who were leaders among the brothers.”
Peter in his letters speak of Paul’s letters with high regard. The only observation he made is that Paul’s letters are hard to understand sometimes, and that some people distort Paul’s letters.
2 Peter 3:15-16
“Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.”
Paul was not considered an extremist among the apostles. He was the forerunner of bringing the good news to the gentiles. If that is being considered an extremist, then I want to be one too. If his letters and epistles were considered not trust worthy, they would have never been accepted in the N.T. canon. When the pronouncement was made about the canon, it merely ratified what the general sensitivity of the church had already determined.
You see, the canon is a list of authoritative books more than it is an authoritative list of books. These documents didn’t derive their authority from being selected; each one was authoritative before anyone gathered them together.
Firstly, I am not aware that the other apostles thought Paul was an extremist. Where does that idea come from? I am aware that certain women’s groups have this opinion for the things Paul said about the role of women in the church etc. That is another topic and I won’t go into it here other than to say that Paul also considered the culture of the times and it is the principle of what he said we need to understand and apply. I suspect the asker of this question has made an incorrect assumption.
In fact, Paul has given us most of the guidelines we have for practical Christian living, including the following statement:
2Timothy 3:16-AV All scripture [is] given by inspiration of God, and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
Paul was called to service in what can only be described as dramatic circumstances by no other than Jesus Himself, was instructed directly by the Holy Spirit, and given the task of taking the Gospel to the Gentiles (that’s us).
John 14:26-AV But the Comforter, [which is] the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
1Corinthians 2:13-AV Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
1John 2:27-AV But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.
Acts 28:28-AV Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and [that] they will hear it.
Paul continually put himself down, uplifting the power of the Holy Spirit which directed him even in what to say. That the Holy Spirit dwelled in him is evidenced by the miracles that attended his ministry. He spoke in other languages that he had never learned. Those he ministered to, received the Holy Spirit and also spake in other tongues. He healed and raised from the dead. One could not do these things unless indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Were he a deceiver, using the power of Satan, no good thing could have come of his ministry. Satan can perform healing so long as it does not require the creative power of God, which he does not have. Satan can not create life and that rules out raising from the dead.
1Corinthians 2:1-AV And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.
1Corinthians 2:2-AV For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified.
1Corinthians 2:3-AV And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling.
1Corinthians 2:4-AV And my speech and my preaching [was] not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power:
1Corinthians 2:5-AV That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
Acts 20:9-AV And there sat in a window a certain young man named Eutychus, being fallen into a deep sleep: and as Paul was long preaching, he sunk down with sleep, and fell down from the third loft, and was taken up dead.
Acts 20:10-AV And Paul went down, and fell on him, and embracing [him] said, Trouble not yourselves; for his life is in him.
There was one small dispute concerning circumcision. Jewish converts expected the converted Gentiles to be circumcised according to the laws of Moses. Paul dissented with them on this and the Jewish converts insisted on going to the disciples to resolve the dispute. After some argument the disciples backed Paul, and sent some of their number back with Paul to bear witness of this. The instructions of the disciples to the Gentile converts were as follows:
Acts 15:1-AV And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, [and said], Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.
Acts 15:2-AV When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question.
Acts 15:24-AV Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, [Ye must] be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no [such] commandment:
Acts 15:25-AV It seemed good unto us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men unto you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,
Acts 15:26-AV Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Acts 15:27-AV We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell [you] the same things by mouth.
Acts 15:28-AV For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things;
Acts 15:29-AV That ye abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.
There is no evidence of any dissension between the Disciples and Paul. They were all in one accord with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not the author of confusion, and is responsible for every word of scripture, that written by Paul as well as all the rest. You may rest assured that the Bible is consistent throughout, does not contradict itself, and that it is the Word of God, given to us as a testimony of our Lord Jesus Christ.
John 5:39-AV Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.
Paul and the Disciples were in ‘one accord’ with the Holy Spirit. Therefore there was no dissension between them. All scripture is to be regarded as the Word of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit. If any reader thinks they see a conflict between certain passages, it simply means that they have misunderstood something and will have to search deeper for an answer. Any claims that certain Bible authors ‘got it wrong’ are saying that the Holy Spirit ‘got it wrong’. In the words of Sir Humphrey Appleby in the Yes Minister TV series, such a statement would be described as, ‘courageous’.
I pray that the Lord will bless the reader with understanding of this matter.
I’m not just sure how to answer this one. I didn’t know the other apostles thought he was an extremist. Do you have a Scripture that would point to that analysis?
I think Paul’s writings are of the utmost importance in the Bible. He was a wise man and led by the Spirit of God. I enjoy His writing very much, some are quite encouraging. If only Christians would realize the WHOLE bible is written to Christians and find out if they are guilty of the things Paul writes about. He tells it as it is but always holding out the hope of forgiveness.
I love the Apostle Paul, course I love all the books of the Bible. I’m amazed at how it tells not only the good but the bad. Thus it’s for our admonition, rebuke, reproof and inspiration. Written for our good.
Blessing to you and your family