Paul Said What?

Imagine reading the daily newspaper. The paper tells of a legal dispute between an author and a typist. It seems that the typist put her name to a book the author had dictated to her, and everyone is giving the typist the credit for the book. That’s stupid, you think as you shut the paper. Then the headline, which you had ignored, catches your eye. “CNN Reporter Calls for End to Middle East Terrorism!” When you read the article, however, it turns out that the reporter was merely repeating what the President had said. That’s just like that typist! you think. What’s going on here?

Disgusted with the paper, you put it down and pick up a book on how to live the Christian life. “Paul says that we are not under the law, but under grace,” it says.

Wait a minute! you exclaim inwardly, suddenly realizing something. God said that, not Paul!

And yet, many Christians use the words, “Paul said,” or “the writer of Hebrews said,” or “John said,” or “James said,” etc., on a regular basis, ignoring 2 Timothy 3:16-17:

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.”

Many people agree whole-heartedly with this verse. But then they turn around and say, as do commentators Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown:

“Most of the New Testament books were written when Paul wrote this his latest Epistle: so he includes in the clause “All Scripture is God-inspired,” not only the Old Testament, in which alone Timothy was taught when a child (2 Tim. 3:15), but the New Testament books…”

Paul is the one who thought up and wrote down 2 Timothy? Then how do we know that he is telling the truth in this verse? In fact, do any of the commands and principles in the Epistles apply to today?

God gave an interesting statement in 1 Corinthians:

“If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 14:37

Saying “Paul said to the Corinthians” is not acknowledging that Paul wrote down the commandments of the Lord! It says instead that Paul himself gave the Corinthians (and only the Corinthians) that command.

Saying “Paul said” strikes at very heart of the Bible – its inspiration. Of course, everyone “knows” what you mean, but nonetheless, subconsciously, the Bible becomes the words of men. We see the evidences of this in the deterioration of belief in the inspiration of the whole New Testament. Some basically say that the Epistles are merely letters that Paul sent to different churches in the first century. Now, they say, those letters are outdated, and “let’s see what the Spirit has to say to us today.” This, I believe, is a by-product of saying “Paul said” for centuries (just look at the commentators from the 1700’s – John Gill and Matthew Henry, for example).

Paul is often credited as having authored parts of the Bible. However, he gave us an example of how to credit God (not Isaiah) with the authorship of the book of Isaiah:

“And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Isaiah the prophet unto our fathers…” Acts 28:25

Peter also gave an example of this:

“Men and brethren, this Scripture must needs have been fulfilled, which the Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake before concerning Judas, which was guide to them that took Jesus.” Acts 1:16

Both Peter and Paul credited the Holy Spirit with the message. As far as they were concerned, David and Isaiah merely acted as “megaphones” for God’s words.

The Bible has been deeply undermined by “Paul said,” “Peter said,” “the writer of Hebrews said,” “the Psalmist said,” etc. While many of those who use those terms believe that the Bible is 100% inspired by God, I have found by personal experience that the Bible subconsciously becomes the words of men. If you believe that the Bible is the words of men, it’s very easy just to throw it out the back door.

Interestingly enough, this concept seems very trivial to some. I experienced this in Sunday School one day. The title of the lesson was “Jeremiah Calls for Justice.” I brought up that nowhere in the entire passage of Scripture for that day was Jeremiah’s name mentioned. In fact, halfway through the passage it said “Thus saith the Lord.” The response from the rest of the class was basically “That’s not important, let’s not talk about that.” The trouble was, the title was in direct opposition to 2 Peter 1:19 :

“For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”

The prophets that spoke on their own were false prophets. Therefore, saying “Jeremiah said” (which implies he said it under his own authority) implies that he was a false prophet! Satan would love to make the true words of God the false words of men.

Saying “Paul said” attacks the practicality of Scripture as well. In many passages the commentators speculate on why Paul was writing this to the Corinthians, Ephesians, etc., or how the first recipients of the book were to apply it, without saying how we can apply the command, sent directly from God. When applied in this way, it allows for explaining away Scripture, based on the argument that the command was merely for the original recipients. Of course, some things were only meant for the first church, such as “Greet so-and-so, my laborer in the faith.”

But most of the Bible is directed to all Christians, in all places. The commands in the New Testament are applicable to today. As God told Paul to write in the introduction to 1 Corinthians:

“Unto the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours:” 1 Corinthians 1:2

1 Corinthians is clearly a cross-cultural book that is directed to all Christians. (See also 1 Corinthians 14:37 at the beginning.)

Yet another problem with “Paul said” is that it’s a step towards apostasy. Once you’ve said it enough, you turn the Bible into Paul’s words and then you disregard it.

God speaks many times throughout His Word about the purity of His individual words (Ps.12:6, Prov. 30:5,6, Matt. 4:4). God conveyed more than just thoughts to the apostles who served as His secretaries. He gave them His words! When we say “Paul said”, we subconsciously turn the Bible into the words of men. And, as God says in Psalms 11:3, “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?” The Bible is the foundation of the church, because it contains our only inspired record of all the principles, doctrines, and commands of the Christian religion. Weakening the Bible will weaken Christianity.

The worst part is that the same people that use “Paul said” will turn around and say that they believe that the Bible is 100% inspired by God. But do they?

A better way is to say things like “God said through Paul”, “God says in 1 Thessalonians,” “The Bible says in 1 Thessalonians,” or the like. “God said to the Philippians” is a step in the right direction; however, it still implies that God said it only to the Philippians.

Remove “Paul said”, “the writer of Hebrews said,” “the Psalmist said,” etc. from your vocabulary. Stand on God’s authority – “God said”!

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