A Question I Was Asked:

Wasn't Paul An Impostor?

Paul was at the Jerusalem council, but in view of what he writes in 1 Cor. 9:1, does that make Paul a liar and an impostor? Have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? (AFTER the ascension) yet in Matthew 23:30 Jesus said from henceforth no one would see Him until the 2nd coming. Indeed, Paul did not know Jesus on earth ..nor the disciples save Peter and James...for 15 days !! .... Is not Paul therefore, a self proclaimed apostle...after all, he proclaims his OWN gospel..and Jesus, as a mere teacher of it.? Romans 16 v 25.

UK Apologetics Reply:

I am sorry, but there is obvious confusion in this question and I cannot be entirely sure what the enquirer's main point is. Obviously, however, he believes that Paul the Apostle was some sort of impostor, disagreeing with the view of countless well-qualified church historians over hundreds of years!

Paul, with Barnabas, indeed attended the Jerusalem conference of AD49/50. See Acts 15:1-4. Then, in 1 Corinthians 9:1, Paul states,

Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not the result of my work in the Lord?

Paul saw the risen Jesus in a vision, of course. The entirety of established Christianity has accepted the veracity of that vision and experience. You need to review Acts 9:3-5. Also review Galatians 1:11-12. So Paul had a full vision of the risen Lord. Since he had been an active persecutor of the church, do you really think that his credentials would have been accepted on vague and scant evidence? No, the other early apostles and leaders in general became convinced of his deep integrity and he has rightly become one of the major figures of Christian history. Only certain of the more pharasaical Jewish leaders continued to give him opposition but the Apostle Peter, apparently the leader of the work among the Jews, fully accepted his credentials, as did James who is also a significant person to have accepted Paul since he (James) was the chief elder at Jerusalem. Refer to Acts 15:7-20. You then refer to Matthew 23:39, so let us check that:

"For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'"

The explanation here is simple. Jesus was talking to the disciples who were present with Him at that point (a long time before Paul was even called). He plainly also referred to His being bodily present - that is, prior to the crucifixion - since He would later appear to several of the disciples in His post-resurrection appearances.

So Paul could indeed claim in full integrity that he had seen Jesus - the risen Jesus - but my questioner seems to say it could not have happened because Jesus had already risen. Paul the Apostle - one of the most outstanding people in Christian history - was no impostor but a fully and deeply converted man, witnessed by his total change of life after Jesus had appeared to him.

Now to him who is able to establish you in accordance with my gospel, the message I proclaim about Jesus Christ, in keeping with the revelation of the mystery hidden for long ages past, but now revealed and made known through the prophetic writings by the command of the eternal God, so that all the Gentiles might come to the obedience that comes from faith - to the only wise God be glory forever through Jesus Christ! Amen. (Romans 16:25-27).

This Scripture, which my questioner infers reveals Paul's deviousness, actually clearly affirms that this man stood squarely with his Lord Jesus Christ. It is quite astonishing how some can see evil in such pure and unselish labour in the Gospel which can be witnessed in Paul the Apostle.

Robin A. Brace. May 17th, 2014.