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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: Is the Bible the Authoritative Word of God?

Don Stewart :: Why Are the Writings of the Apostle Paul Considered to Be Divinely Authoritative?

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Question 21

Why Are the Writings of the Apostle Paul Considered to Be Divinely Authoritative?

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. He wrote thirteen letters that have been recognized as Holy Scripture by the Christian church. This brings us some obvious questions. Who was this man? What evidence do we have to call Paul’s writings Scripture?

The Identity of Saul or Paul

We have no physical description of Saul of Tarsus given to us in Scripture. Early tradition says that he was a small man with a bald head. No matter what he looked like, his writings have become part of the Word of God as found in the New Testament.

He was born Saul of Tarsus—a city which is in modern-day Turkey. Tarsus had been part of the Greek world for some time. Although the family members of Saul were Jews, Saul himself was a Roman citizen.

While still a young man, Saul traveled to Jerusalem to train as a Rabbi. In Jerusalem, he became acquainted with a group of people who believed Jesus of Nazareth to be the Messiah. Saul relentlessly persecuted these people while all the time thinking that he was serving God. He believed he was doing the right thing.

The Conversion of Saul of Tarsus

While heading for the city of Damascus to jail believers in Jesus, Saul had a blinding vision that knocked him to the ground. The voice that spoke to Saul identified Himself as Jesus of Nazareth—the one whom he had been persecuting. Thus began one of the great turnarounds in history. The greatest antagonist of the Christian faith—Saul of Tarsus—became its greatest missionary—the Apostle Paul. During his lifetime, he penned thirteen different works that have become part of the New Testament. It is impossible to overestimate the influence that Paul played in the spread of the Christian faith.

  1. Paul Believed His Message to Be Divine

    The first thing that must be noticed is that Paul believed his message to be divine. He wrote the following to the Corinthians:

    If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord. (1 Corinthians 14:37 NKJV)

    Paul emphasized his authority when he wrote to the church at Thessalonica. We read the following statement:

    We also constantly give thanks to God for this, that when you received the word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word but as what it really is, God’s word, which is also at work in you believers. (1 Thessalonians 2:13 NRSV)

    Paul believed his words were the words of God.

  2. Paul Spoke of “My Gospel”

    Paul spoke of “my gospel,” or the gospel that he preached. He said that the message of Jesus Christ had been kept secret in the past, but now had been revealed:

    Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith?to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen. (Romans 16:25-27 ESV)

    However, believing to have a divine message does not make it so. What evidence do we have that this message was sent from God?

  3. The Evidence: Paul Received Direct Revelation from the Lord

    The Bible teaches that Paul received direct revelation from God. Paul testified to the fact that he had actually seen the risen Christ:

    Am I not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? (1 Corinthians 9:1 KJV)

    After an encounter with the ascended Jesus on the Damascus road, Paul had it explained by a man named Ananias:

    Then Ananias told me, “The God that our ancestors worshiped has chosen you to know what he wants done. He has chosen you to see the One Who Obeys God and to hear his voice. You must tell everyone what you have seen and heard.” (Acts 22:14-15 CEV)

    In a unique way, Saul of Tarsus had been chosen by God to preach the good news of Jesus.

  4. Disobeying Paul’s Writings Brings Discipline

    Paul said that anyone who disobeyed his writings was to be disciplined by the local church. He wrote the following to the Thessalonians:

    Take note of those who refuse to obey what we say in this letter. Stay away from them so they will be ashamed. Don’t think of them as enemies, but speak to them as you would to a Christian who needs to be warned. (2 Thessalonians 3:14-15 NLT)

    To the Corinthians he wrote something similar. He promised to discipline those disciples who disobeyed his teaching. He said:

    I have already warned those who had been sinning when I was there on my second visit. Now I again warn them and all others, just as I did before, that this next time I will not spare them. I will give you all the proof you want that Christ speaks through me. Christ is not weak in his dealings with you; he is a mighty power among you. (2 Corinthians 13:2-3 NET)

    In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul made a claim of divine authority for his teachings. He wrote:

    Do you think that the knowledge of God’s word begins and ends with you Corinthians? Well, you are mistaken! If you claim to be a prophet or think you are very spiritual, you should recognize that what I am saying is a command from the Lord himself. But if you do not recognize this, you will not be recognized. (1 Corinthians 14:36-38 NLT)

    Paul believed that his writings and teachings held absolute authority.

  5. His Writings Were Considered Scripture During His Lifetime

    The final point to be noted is that the New Testament believers recognized Paul’s writings as Scripture. Peter wrote the following about the writings of Paul:

    And regard the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as also our dear brother Paul wrote to you, according to the wisdom given to him, speaking of these things in all his letters. Some things in these letters are hard to understand, things the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they also do to the rest of the scriptures. (2 Peter 3:15-16 TNIV)

    The writings of Paul complete the New Testament. He was the chosen instrument to explain the meaning of the two comings of Jesus Christ. His authority was recognized by true believers.

Summary - Question 21
Why Are the Writings of the Apostle Paul Considered to Be Divinely Inspired?

Saul of Tarsus was a great enemy of the church. However, he was converted on the road to Damascus while in the midst of persecuting Christians. He became the Apostle Paul—the greatest missionary the church has ever seen. Paul was given the task of explaining the ministry of Christ to the Gentile (non-Jewish) world. In doing so, he wrote thirteen books which became part of the New Testament.

From Paul’s writings we discover a number of things. For one thing, we find that Paul said that he received direct revelation from the Lord. Paul also believed his message to be divine. This included what he preached and what he wrote.

The Apostle Peter confirmed that Paul’s writings were Holy Scripture. Paul was God’s chosen instrument to reveal much about the central truths of the Christian faith. Consequently, Paul is a key figure in the program of God.

What Was Jesus’ View of the New Testament? ← Prior Section
Were Some of the Biblical Books Actually Written by a Scribe Rather than by the Named Author? (An Amanuensis) Next Section →
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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