The theory that the apostle Paul was a false prophet and not a true follower of Christ is usually put forth by those of the “Hebrew roots movement.” The proponents of this theory believe that Christians should keep the Old Testament Law. And they assume, since Paul said that Christians are no longer under the Law, therefore they consider him a false apostle. Let’s look closely at the life of Paul and the misunderstandings around some of his writings:
The Life of Paul
Paul’s apostolic authority has been well documented in Scripture, beginning with his Damascus Road experience which changed him from a Christ-hating persecutor of Christians to the foremost spokesman for the faith. His amazing change is a clear evidence of his anointing. His transformation, joining the very movement he violently opposed and finally his martyr’s death is a real proof to the work of the Holy Spirit in his life. We find the answer in Paul’s writings and the book of Acts. In Galatians Paul summarizes his story in this way:
“For you have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure and tried to destroy it; and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions. But when God, who had set me apart even from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, was pleased to reveal His Son in me so that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went away to Arabia, and returned once more to Damascus. Then three years later I went up to Jerusalem to become acquainted with Cephas, and stayed with him fifteen days. But I did not see any other of the apostles except James, the Lord’s brother. (Now in what I am writing to you, I assure you before God that I am not lying.) Then I went into the regions of Syria and Cilicia. I was still unknown by sight to the churches of Judea which were in Christ; but only, they kept hearing, ‘He who once persecuted us is now preaching the faith which he once tried to destroy.’ And they were glorifying God because of me” (Galatians 1:13–24).
Paul also writes, “But whatever things [his Jewish background and benefits that he had just listed] were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Philippians 3:7–11).
Beyond these facts is Paul’s own testimony that he left everything to follow Christ (the true test of a disciple as outlined by Jesus in Luke 14:26-33). “You will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16). Thus, the fruits of the apostle Paul leave no doubt that he was indeed the faithful and devote apostle of Christ before men and God.
The Teachings of Paul
Some say that the picture Paul paints of Jesus in his Epistles does not match the Christ presented in the Gospels. Is this true? No, because from Paul’s letters, we learn the following of Jesus: He is divine (1 Corinthians 8:6); He lived a sinless life (2 Corinthians 5:21); He died, buried and resurrected (1 Corinthians 15:4); He is now seated at right hand of God (Colossians 3:1).
Let’s examine some of Paul’s references that are often misunderstood:
Colossians 2:14-17 – “Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross… Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.”
Ephesians 2:15 – “Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace.”
In the above two passages, we find that the Law that was abolished was the law containing in “ordinances” or Moses’ law, which was a ceremonial law governing the sacrificial system and the priesthood. All of this ceremony and rituals foreshadowed the cross and ended at Christ’s death, as God had intended. Moses’ law was added till the “seed should come,” and that “seed … is Christ” (Galatians 3:19, 16). However, God’s Moral law (Ten Commandments of Exodus 20) could not be involved here, for Paul spoke of it as holy, just, and good many years after the cross (Romans 7:7, 12).
Galatians 3:13 – “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law.” What is the curse of the law? The curse of the law is death (Romans 6:23). Christ tasted “death for every man” (Hebrews 2:9). Thus, He redeemed all from the curse of the law (death) and in its place provided eternal life.
Romans 13:10 – “Love is the fulfilling of the law.” The Bible, in Matthew 22:37-40, commands us to love God and to love our neighbors, and ends with the words, “On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” Do these commands replace the Ten Commandments? No, the Ten Commandments hang from these two commands. Love to God makes keeping the first four commandments (which concern God) a pleasure, and love toward our neighbor makes keeping the last six (which concern our neighbor) a joy. Love fulfills the law by taking away the drudgery and by making law keeping a delight (Psalms 40:8). When we truly love a person, honoring his or her requests becomes a joy. Jesus said,” If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).
Romans 10:4 – “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth.” How is Christ the end of the law? “End” in this verse means purpose or object, as it does in James 5:11. The meaning is clear. To lead men to Christ–where they find righteousness–is the goal, purpose, or end of the law.
Ephesians 2:8,9 – “For by grace are ye saved through faith…Not of works, lest any man should boast.” Here, Paul is not saying that keeping the law is wrong. On the contrary, he exhorted the believers to establish the Law, “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law” (Romans 3:31). “For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid” (Romans 6:14, 15). Paul in Ephesians 2:8,9 is simply saying that we are saved by grace alone but then God’s Spirit will help the Christian to keep God’s Moral law. The believers don’t keep the law to be saved but they keep the law because they are saved.
The accusation that the apostle Paul was a false prophet has no biblical grounds. For Paul upheld the divinity of Christ. And he also upheld the moral law of the Ten Commandments as binding on the NT Christians. However, Paul correctly taught that the Mosaic Law of ceremonies was abolished at the Cross. Therefore, those that say that Paul taught that the believers should not keep the Old Testament Moral Law or the Ten Commandments, are erring in their understanding of the scriptures and the apostle’s teachings.
In His service,