A Courteous Contrararian

Predestination 2

Written By: Jon Jaroszewski - Jan• 14•15

We can’t start right in with the subject at hand. In order to get clarity, in order to find that third way, we have to start with the Apostle Paul’s mindset.

There is a thread that runs through most of his letters. Most of the time it is imperceptible. Occasionally it rears its head a little more forcefully, and it is because of those few incidents that we can ferret out that which is imperceptible in other passages.

I am talking about Paul’s defensiveness about his apostleship. Paul hadn’t walked with Jesus while Jesus walked the earth. That was one of the qualifications of an apostle, after all, that one had learned at the feet of Jesus, and in the strictest sense, Paul didn’t qualify.

In another way Paul did qualify. Jesus did speak to him on the road to Damascus. He was taught by the Lord somehow, although the means and the method is not very clear to us. But I think Paul either heard talk, or imagined talk that he didn’t qualify in the strictest sense and it caused a bit of an inferiority complex. Perhaps he imagined others thought of him as an Apostle Lite.

We can glean all this from his writings, especially when he wrote about apostleship or the other apostles. He complained that he and Barnabas had the same right to earn their living through their work that Peter and the other apostles did. (1 Cor 9:5). The complaint seems a little envious and entirely human. But is it what we would expect from the man who told us he no longer lives, but it is Christ who lives in him? Perhaps it was because Christ was more into carpentry than tentmaking.

And then there’s this from his letter to the Galatians. But from those who were of high reputation (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)–well, those who were of reputation contributed nothing to me. [Gal 2:6 NASB] Perhaps God is indeed no respecter of persons, but Paul isn’t commenting on who they were, he was talking about what they were. What they were was Apostles, at least Peter and John were. And James, according to Eusebius, was appointed head of the Jerusalem church – by the Apostles. So we are left with Paul, or maybe the Holy Spirit, looking like he (or He) wanted to take apostleship down a peg. And so much for apostolic succession.

But wait, that’s not it at all. The high regard Paul had for apostleship,or at least his own apostleship, is evident in his letters as well. In two-thirds of his New Testament letters he manages to work his own claim of apostleship into the very first sentence! So it wasn’t the office that was the problem. It seems more likely that he just wanted to be held in equal regard.

Especially when we compare the vignette is Acts to his reporting of it in Galatians 2. In Acts, the leaders of the church instructed him to continue his mission to the gentiles with no prohibition other than to refrain from sexual immorality and the eating of blood. In Galatians Paul says the only instruction was that they continue to care for the poor. More, Paul didn’t forget their advice, he disregarded it. Or he didn’t think it worthy of passing on. those who were of reputation contributed nothing to me.

Immediately after talking about the poor, Paul tells the story of how Peter bowed to pressures from the Judaizers at Antioch, and how Paul had to publicly rebuke him for it. Intimating that he had the right to do so.

If we add it all up, we see that Paul did recognize the importance of the work of the Apostles, he only wanted to be seen as their equal. His bombastic defensiveness shows through.

He wanted the Galatians, and the Corinthians, to realize he was an apostle on par with the rest of them. It wasn’t, in his own mind, “them” and him, it was “us”.

And the point of this post has been to get here, to that little word “us”. Because us and its correlate we become very important in the next post.

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