We receive all sorts of interesting messages here at the Biblical Science Institute.  This one came in some time ago from someone we’ll call “Simon.”  Simon seems to deny that the New Testament books authored by Paul are Scripture.  Let’s examine Simon’s reasoning.

Simon: You mentioned logic in your recent newsletter, but at the same time, you are citing Paul’s words.  That’s a logical problem because Paul’s claim to apostleship fails a logic test and so Paul should not be cited as a source of gospel truth.

Lisle: Paul was indeed an apostle, though not one of the original twelve that Christ selected before His own death and resurrection.  In fact, the Holy Spirit used Paul to author thirteen books of the New Testament – more than any other person.  In 2 Peter 3:15-16, the Apostle Peter affirms that Paul’s epistles are Scripture.  And Paul’s letters state that he was indeed an apostle of Jesus Christ (e.g. 1 Corinthians 1:1; Ephesians 1:1, Colossians 1:1).  Therefore, if Peter is an apostle, then so is Paul.

Simon: In the book of Revelation, there is a checksum on the number of apostles.  Revelation 21:14 says there are TWELVE apostles.

Lisle: This is an example of the “subset fallacy.”  Revelation 21:14 does not say that there are only twelve apostles.  Rather, it says that the heavenly city has twelve foundation stones, and on them were “the twelve names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.”  It certainly does not deny the existence of other apostles.  Moreover, do you think Judas Iscariot is one of those names?  He was numbered among the twelve apostles of Christ’s earthly ministry, yet Christ refers to him as a devil in John 6:70.  So it seems strange that Judas should have the honor of having his name written on one of the stones of the heavenly city.  Could it be Matthias instead who was appointed as the replacement for Judas (Acts 1:26)?  Or, could it even be Paul who was appointed last by Jesus Himself (1 Corinthians 15:8)?

Simon: So it’s not possible for Paul’s claim of apostleship to be true because he would be the 13th apostle and that would invalidate the checksum.  You know TWELVE does not equal THIRTEEN, and you know Jesus Christ did not miscount and would not forget about a 13th apostle if there was a 13th apostle. 

Lisle: Jesus had twelve apostles during His earthly ministry (Matthew 10:2-4), although one was a devil (John 6:70).  However, the Bible gives the title of apostle to some other people after the resurrection.  Paul and Barnabus are both called apostles in Acts 14:14.  Matthias was counted as an apostle in Acts 1:26.  James, the brother of the Lord, is also given the title of apostle in Galatians 1:19.  And Jesus Himself has the title of apostle in Hebrews 3:1.

Simon: No one in the bible ever referred to Paul as an apostle, except for Paul!   

Lisle: That is demonstrably false.  Luke refers to Paul and Barnabus as apostles in Acts 14:14 which states, “But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their robes and rushed out into the crowd, crying out.”  Since Luke is writing Scripture under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, this means the Holy Spirit also refers to Paul as an apostle.  Furthermore, Peter endorsed Paul’s letters as Scripture in 2 Peter 3:15-16, and these letters include Paul’s claim to apostleship.

Simon: We need the word of 2 or 3 for a claim to be true. 

Lisle: We have four!  Paul, Luke, Peter, and the Holy Spirit all affirm that Paul is an apostle.

Simon: Consider what Jesus Christ called Paul in Revelation 2:2.  He called him a FALSE APOSTLE and A LIAR!     

Lisle: No, He didn’t.  There is no mention of Paul in Revelation 2:2.  On the contrary, this section of Revelation is a letter to the church in Ephesus (Revelation 2:1).  They had rightly exposed some false apostles.  But they embraced Paul’s writings (Ephesians 1:1) because he was a true apostle of Christ.  Indeed, it was Paul who founded the church in Ephesus and was responsible for a great number of converts to Christianity there (Acts 18:18-19:20)!  The Lord performed many miracles through Paul in Ephesus (Acts 19:11).  This is one of the signs of apostleship (Acts 2:43; 2 Corinthians 12:12).

Simon: All the churches of Asia rejected Paul.  Paul admits it in his letter to Timothy.

Lisle: First, this is not what the text says.  On the contrary, many churches in Asia embraced the Gospel as a result of Paul’s teaching – including the church at Ephesus where Timothy was the pastor!  So, obviously that church had not rejected Paul.  Indeed, many people in Ephesus and throughout Asia became Christians through Paul’s preaching (Acts 19:1-20).  Acts 19:11-20 states, “God was performing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul…  and fear fell upon them all and the name of the Lord Jesus was being magnified…  So the word of the Lord was growing mightily and prevailing.”

Nor does Paul say that the churches rejected him or the Gospel.  Rather he says, “All who are in Asia turned away from me, among whom are Phygelus and Hermogenes” (2 Timothy 1:15).  From context, this appears to refer to those who traveled with Paul from Asia to Rome, who turned away in shame from Paul when he was imprisoned in Rome (2 Timothy 1:16-18).  Moreover, Paul gives an exception: Onesiphorus, who did not turn away from Paul during his imprisonment.  Paul asked the Lord to bless Onesiphorus as a result (2 Timothy 1:16-18).

Finally, what is the significance of the fact that some people turned away from the Apostle Paul?  Many people rejected Jesus as well.  This shows the sinfulness of people; it does not detract from the authority of either Jesus or Paul.

Simon: So why are you citing Paul’s words when he was rejected by all the early churches and called a FALSE APOSTLE and a LIAR by Jesus Christ?

Lisle: First, Paul was not rejected by all the early churches.  On the contrary, he founded many of them!  And they circulated and copied his letters – which is why we have them in our possession today.  Second, Jesus certainly did not call Paul a false apostle.  On the contrary, Jesus is the one who appointed Paul as an apostle (Galatians 1:1; 2 Timothy 1:1; Ephesians 1:1)!  Third, I cite Paul because he wrote Scripture by the authority and inspiration of the Holy Spirit – as the Apostle Peter confirms in 2 Peter 3:15-16.  Fourth, I recognize the voice of my Shepherd in Paul’s writings (John 10:27).  If you don’t recognize Christ’s voice in Paul’s epistles, then it is because you are not as yet saved (John 10:26).

Simon: I encourage you to forget everything you were taught about Paul by the denominational church system, …

Lisle: I would suggest that Simon find a good Bible-teaching church and become a member.  Jesus gave us the church partly to prevent and correct the very kinds of errors in reasoning we see in Simon’s message.   Like iron sharpening iron, Christians encourage and challenge each other to rightly understand all the Scriptures.

Simon: …and analyze his letters using LOGIC and Jesus Christ’s words as a foundation. 

Lisle: This is what Jesus Christ said about Paul in Acts 9:15, “For he [Paul] is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and sons of Israel.”  The Holy Spirit said this of Paul and Barnabus, “Set apart for Me Barnabas and Saul [Paul] for the work to which I have called them” (Acts 13:2).  Then we read, “So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia and from there they sailed to Cyprus” (Acts 13:4).  The term apostle means “sent ones.”  Biblically, it refers to those people who had seen Jesus and were sent out by God Himself.  Paul is therefore an apostle when we apply logic to the Scriptures.  Moreover, God gave miraculous gifts to the apostles as signs of their authority (Acts 2:43), and this includes Paul (Acts 19:11-12).

Simon: Hopefully, you will stop walking on Paul’s broad path, stop eating his leaven (that Jesus warned about when he said beware the leaven of the pharisees),  and onto Jesus Christ’s narrow path – the only true path to salvation.

Lisle: Actually, we will see that Simon is the one eating the leaven of the Pharisees who taught works-based salvation (Luke 18:9-14).  He rejects or distorts Scripture just as the majority of Pharisees did (Matthew 15:1-9).

Simon: The entire bible (not including Paul’s letters) has a message of repentance and obedience and works for God’s kingdom as a path to salvation.

Lisle: No, that’s heresy.  The Bible teaches that salvation is entirely by God’s grace and received through faith in Him (John 3:16; Hebrews 11:1-2, 7; Romans 9:15-16).  Thus, Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness (Genesis 15:6; James 2:23).  All those who are saved are saved by faith alone: “And all these, having gained approval through their faith…” (Hebrews 11:39).

Obedience to the law never results in salvation; rather, obedience to the law follows from genuine salvation.  This is the consistent testimony of all the Scriptures (e.g. Hebrews 11:8).    No one has ever been saved in whole or in part by obedience to the law because no one obeys the law perfectly (Psalm 14:2-3).  Therefore, God saves us through faith.  “But My righteous one shall live by faith” (Hebrews 10:38a).  Obedience follows saving faith (Hebrews 11:8, 33).

Acts, 15:1, 11 states, “Some men came down from Judea and [began] teaching the brethren, ‘Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved….’  But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are.”  It is not “by the grace of the Lord Jesus and doing sufficient good works.”  Likewise, the Bible teaches, “And it shall be that everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Acts 2:21; Joel 2:32).  It’s not “those who call on the name of the Lord and do a certain number of good deeds” who will earn salvation.  Salvation cannot be earned; it is inherited by faith (Hebrews 1:14, 6:12).

No one can be saved in whole or in part by obedience to the law because no one keeps the law.   “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.  For He who said, ‘Do not commit adultery,’ also said, ‘Do not commit murder.’  Now if you do not commit adultery, but do commit murder, you have become a transgressor of the law” (James 2:10-11).  No one becomes righteous even in part by obedience to the law because we are all transgressors of the law: “For in Your sight no man living is righteous” (Psalm 143:2).  Psalm 130:3 states, “If You, Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand?”  We cannot be free from our slavery to sin by obedience to the law; this is why Jesus alone can save us.  Acts 13:39 states, “And through Him everyone who believes is freed from all things, from which you could not be freed through the Law of Moses.”  Acts 4:12 states, “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”  That name is Jesus – not Jesus plus good works.

Simon: That is what Jesus Christ preached.

Lisle: No.  Jesus preached salvation by way of God’s grace received through faith alone.  Jesus said, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).  And again, “He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:18).  There is nothing about good works in these salvation passages because salvation is solely by faith, not by works.  Good works simply follow from genuine salvation and are evidence of it.

Salvation is entirely of the Lord Yahweh and is not contingent upon our good works.  In fact, that is what the name “Jesus” means: “Yahweh is salvation.”  It’s not “Yahweh plus good works is salvation” because that would be a false gospel.  Jesus said, “Unless you believe I am [He], you will die in your sins” (John 8:24).  He did not say, “Unless you believe I am [He] and also obey the law, you will die in your sins.”  Jesus does command obedience to the law of course – but not as a means of salvation.  Rather, obedience is but the lifestyle of faith.  It is the outward evidence of inward saving faith (James 2:18).

Simon: Paul’s letters are completely different and involve the magic of easy-believism which is contrary to the entire bible.

Lisle: No, Paul teaches along with the rest of Scripture that saving faith is entirely God’s gift to us.  God’s gracious gift of salvation is received through faith in Christ and not by works (Ephesians 2:8-9).  Furthermore, Paul teaches that those who are saved will want to obey God’s commandments out of love and gratitude for salvation – not in an attempt to earn salvation.  See Romans 6:1-23.

Simon: Jesus teaches in the Parable of the Sower that the seed that is sown can be withered immediately OR grown significantly and then choked. This parable destroys Paul’s easy-believism message.

Lisle: First, it is dishonest to claim that Paul taught “easy-believism.”  Rather, he taught along with the rest of the Scriptures that sanctification and increased obedience to the law are the natural result (not cause!) of saving faith.  Romans 6:1-2 states, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?  May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?” Likewise, the Apostle John agrees, saying, “The one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked” (1 John 2:6).

Second, Simon has misunderstood the Parable of the Sower.  Jesus is certainly not teaching that good works are required for salvation or required to maintain salvation.  Rather, He teaches that the proclamation of the Gospel will result in different outcomes for different people (Matthew 13:18-23).  There are some who intellectually embrace the Gospel, but their faith is not of God and therefore doesn’t truly save them; these fall away in time.  But those whom God saves will produce fruit in time as a result of (not the cause of) their salvation.  God always completes the good work that He begins in us (Philippians 1:6) because He is both the author and perfector of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).

Simon: Paul’s easy-believism salvation path is used by the denomination harlot church system.

Lisle: We have shown from the Scriptures that Paul didn’t teach “easy-believism.”  We have also shown from the Scriptures that salvation is entirely by God’s grace, received through faith in Christ, and not by works.  Rather, good works follow from saving faith.

Simon: The same system that Jesus Christ called people out of (Revelation 17 and 18).

Lisle: Ironically, the “Babylon” of Revelation 17 and 18 represents all who reject Christ as the sole means of salvation.  This would include Simon, of course, since he thinks good works are required for salvation.  Simon’s gospel is a false gospel that cannot save.

Simon: In the name of Jesus Christ, come out of her, Jason.

Lisle: That’s blasphemy.  Jesus created the church (Matthew 16:18) – He’s not going to call me out of it!  Jesus grants salvation to those who believe in Him (John 3:16), not those who believe partly in Him and partly in their own good works to save themselves.  Furthermore, Jesus said that we are to live by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God (Matthew 4:4).  This includes the epistles of Paul, which the Apostle Peter confirmed are Scripture (2 Peter 3:15-16).  I would encourage Simon to repent and believe the Gospel and to embrace all the Bible.  Simon’s good works will not save him or contribute to his salvation in any way.  Only Jesus saves.  Rather than trying to get me out of the church, Simon should get into a good Bible-affirming church just as the Scriptures teach (Hebrews 10:25).