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Because Paul did not consult with others about his own service, right?

Posted by on Sep 14, 2012 in scripture | 10 comments

Because Paul did not consult with others about his own service, right?

Over the next few days, I’m going to examine a few statements made by Paul that I think are taken out of context in the way the statements are often applied today. This is not really a series, because the posts won’t really build on one another. Each post will cover a different statement.

For example, in this post I’d like to consider another statement made by Paul that I think is often misunderstood and/or misapplied today. The statement is, “I did not receive it [the gospel] from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:12 ESV), and the related statement that follows soon afterwards, “I did not immediately consult with anyone” (Galatians 1:16b ESV).

Again, I don’t intend to interpret these statements. Instead, I hope to show how these statements are often exaggerated and misinterpreted. Here are the statements in context:

For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it. And I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers. But when he who had set me apart before I was born, and who called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me, in order that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately consult with anyone; nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia, and returned again to Damascus. (Galatians 1:11-17 ESV)

I’ve heard these statements taken to two different extremes: 1) That Paul never consulted with anyone else and was never taught by anyone else, only Jesus, or 2) that these statements demonstrate a rift between Paul and the other apostles. Unfortunately, both of these extremes lead to the justification of “lone ranger” type Christians who do not feel others have the right to examine or question what they are teaching.

Again, reading further in Paul’s letters or in Acts demonstrate that neither of these extremes is true.

For the first extreme, Paul could not have meant that he never consulted anyone else about the gospel or that he was never taught by anyone else (only Jesus). In the very next passage (in Galatians 2:1-2), we find that Paul DID compare the gospel that he was proclaiming with the gospel proclaimed by others to make sure they were all proclaiming the same gospel. Plus, most of the “one another” statements in Scripture come from Paul. It would be difficult to believe that he would think “teach one another,” “admonish one another,” etc. applies to everyone except him. Also, he told the Romans (in Romans 1:11-12) that he not only expected to serve them through the spiritual gifts that God gave him, he also recognized that he needed the service of their spiritual gifts as well. (And, as he would tell them later, that would include the spiritual gift of teaching.) Finally, we must consider Paul’s decision to consult with the apostles, elders, and others in Jerusalem concerning those who claimed that their teaching about salvation through keeping the law was coming from the Jerusalem church (Acts 15).

For the second extreme, Paul could not have meant that there was a rift between himself and the other apostles, especially Peter. These statements are often combined the Paul’s confrontation of Peter in Galatians 2:11-14 to indicate this schism. But, we also see in this same passage that Paul speaks positively of Peter and others (and in a comparative sense with himself) in Galatians 2:7-10. In other passages we see Paul speaking positively of Peter and the apostles and caring for other believers in Jerusalem.

Paul could not have meant either of these extremes when he said, “I did not receive it [the gospel] from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ,” and “I did not immediately consult with anyone.” Therefore, these statements are not justifications for “lone ranger” type Christians who refuse to allow others to question what they are teaching. Nor are these statements justifications for those who believe that they cannot (or should not) be taught by others. Nor are the statements justification for living with schisms between different groups of believers.


10 Comments

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  1. 9-14-2012

    Alan

    You write…
    “Unfortunately, both of these extremes lead to the justification of “lone ranger” type Christians who do not feel others have the right to examine or question what they are teaching.”

    You might NOT realize it – But – “lone ranger”…
    Is a favorite term used by “The Abusive Religious System” to keep butts in the pews. I have been called that more then a few times by those who didn’t like the questions asked. ;-)

    Just ask someone who thinks they are a Pastor/Reverend – Someone important…
    Did anyone, in the Bible, go to church, join a church, tithe to a church?

    And then ask – Why – In the Bible…
    NOT one of His Disciples was called to be a “Pastor/Reverend” leading a church?
    NOT one of His Disciples called themself – Pastor/Reverend?
    NOT one of His Disciples was called – Pastor/Reverend?

    When they have NO answer, the name calling begins: Rebellious, Lone Ranger, etc.
    When their – Power – Profit – Prestige – is challenged – things get ugly pretty fast.

    Then I have a “Light Bulb Moment.” And now I enjoy being called a “Lone Ranger” by those who do NOT like the idea that “In Christ – We have “Liberty.” Ga 2:4. And can fellowship where the Lord is leading. I NO longer have to be part of, pretend, attend, send support to, a 501 (c) 3, non-profit, tax $ deductible, Religious $ Corporation. The IRS calls church.

    You might be too young to remember the TV show “The Lone Ranger” of the 50’s.

    But – The “Lone Ranger” was the “Good Guy.” ;-)

    Fighting the “bad guys” who were taking advantage of, deceiving, and abusing,
    the “innocent-ordinary-sociable guys” who didn’t know how to defend themselves.

    And The “Lone Ranger” was never alone. ;-)

    The Holy Spirit – I mean Tonto was always there with him, **by his side.**
    To rescue him, patch up his wounds, after the bad guys (pastors) left him for dead.

    John 14:26
    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.

    Comforter in the Greek is Strongs #3875 – parakletos – and it means…
    Thayers – summoned, called to one’s side, esp. called to one’s aid.
    one who pleads another’s cause before a judge, a pleader, counsel for defense,

  2. 9-14-2012

    Amos,

    I’m sorry you didn’t like my term “lone ranger.” I wish you had commented on what I actually said in my post.

    -Alan

  3. 9-14-2012

    an

    I agree when you write…
    “Again, reading further in Paul’s letters or in Acts demonstrate that neither of these extremes is true.”

    I dis-agree when you write…
    “… these extremes lead to the justification of “lone ranger” type Christians…”

    In my experience…
    Believers – Often – will have to walk this walk – alone. (NO human support)
    And Jesus is all you have to depend on. That’s a benefit.

    When Jesus removes the vail – and you see the dangers of – Traditions of Men…
    Often – There is NO one else around – Who you can speak with – or understands…

    You either believe what Jesus is showing you – And follow the cloud and fire…
    Or – You go back to Egypt – With the leaks and onions – the fellowship – the music…
    And live in bondage to Comandments, Doctrines, and Traditions of men…
    Making bricks without straw – Without Jesus – who holds all things together…

  4. 9-14-2012

    Amos,

    I think you’re making a false dichotomy. You suggest the option is either 1) Jesus and you alone or 2) the traditions of men.

    When we read “teach one another” or “admonish one another” or “correct one another,” does that mean “Jesus is all you have to depend on”? No, it means that we can expect other Jesus followers to help us. They all (along with other “one another” type statements) point toward interaction with other disciples of Jesus.

    That’s what this post is about.

    -Alan

  5. 9-14-2012

    Alan

    NO “false dichotomy.”

    I did say – “In my experience”

    And – I did say – Often – I did NOT say – always.

  6. 9-14-2012

    Amos,

    I would say the normal situation should be what we see in Scripture. Only in cases where we find there are no followers of Jesus around us should we not expect to interact with other believers.

    -Alan

  7. 9-14-2012

    Alan

    In the early 90’s – when I first left “The Corrupt Religious System”

    This was NOT available for over two years…
    “No, it means that we can expect other Jesus followers to help us.”

    When I realzed and recognized – “Pastors who Abuse.”
    “Pastors addicted to Exercising Authority” And
    “Pastors addicted to – Power – Profit – Prestige – Recognition – Reputation.”

    There were NO “Jesus followers to help.”

    Little by little – God would bring someone acroos my path – who understood.

    Today – I know many – and fellowship with others who have left “The System.”

    Yes – for me – there was a time – And now count it a blessing – that

    ALL I had was Jesus.

  8. 9-14-2012

    Amos,

    Thanks for sharing part of your story. That’s a good example of what I’m talking about.

    -Alan

  9. 9-14-2012

    Alan

    You write…
    “ I would say the normal situation should be what we see in Scripture.”

    Seems “what we see in Scripture” – Often – depends on our “Traditions.”
    And – Our Agendas – What we have put forth as truth – And now have to defend.

    Once I left “The Corrupt Religious System” traditions of men began to fall away.
    Since I was NO longer in Leadership – NO longer a teacher – I could start over.
    NO longer having to defend what I taught in the past – Just looking for Jesus.

    I now stress that believers can, and should go – first – to Jesus – to “Learn Truth.”

    Here is what I see in scripture – Where Jesus confirms HE is the “ONE” teacher.

    Jesus instructs His Disciples NOT to be called Rabbi/Teacher…

    Mat 23:8 NASB
    But do not be called Rabbi/Teacher
    for “ONE” is your Teacher, and you are all brothers.

    John 6:45
    It is written in the prophets, And they shall be “ALL taught of God.”

    John 14:26
    But the Comforter, [which is] the Holy Ghost,
    whom the Father will send in my name, **he shall teach you all things**

    Deuteronomy 4:36
    Out of heaven he made thee to **hear His voice,**
    that *He might instruct thee*…

    Psalms 32:8
    I (God) will ***instruct thee and ***teach thee
    in the way which thou shalt go: I (God)will ***guide thee with mine eye.

    ***Instruct – 07919 sakal {saw-kal’}
    KJV – understand 12, wise 12, prosper 8, understanding 5, instruct 3, teach 2,
    Strongs – to be circumspect, inteligent, have understanding, prosper, teach, instruct.

    ***Teach – 03384 yarah {yaw-raw’} or yara’ {yaw-raw’}
    KJV – teach 42, shoot 18, archers 5, cast 5, teacher 4, direct 1, inform 1, instructed 1
    Strongs – to throw, to point out, show, to direct, teach, instruct

    ***Guide – 03289 ya`ats {yaw-ats’}
    KJV – counsel 25, counsellor 22, consult 9, give 7, purposed 5, advice 2, advise 2; 80
    Strongs – to advise, consult, give counsel, counsel, devise, guide.

    Seems – Jesus desires to be our Teacher.

    Jesus is the best Teacher – Yes?

  10. 9-14-2012

    Amos,

    You said: “Seems “what we see in Scripture” – Often – depends on our “Traditions.”
    And – Our Agendas – What we have put forth as truth – And now have to defend.”

    Exactly. That’s part of the point of this post. If we refuse to listen to others who are following Jesus, then we will only have our on interpretation based on our own agendas.

    Absolutely, Jesus is our primary teacher. He can and does teach us directly. Since we all understand him imperfectly, we cannot rely ONLY on that direct communication. Jesus also teaches us through other people. This post is about those who use Paul’s statement to justify NEVER consulting other people, but assuming instead that they perfectly understand what Jesus is teaching them.

    -Alan