From: Bob Williams
Over the years there has been controversy over the role of the apostle Paul and his writing. Some accuse him of being a self-exalting bigot who was sexist, racist, and anti-gay. Some even question why his writing is included in the Canon of Scripture. Instead, the more important issue for us is why the Lord from heaven’s glory reached down and saved the man who was His chief opponent, Saul of Tarsus, and made him Paul the Apostle.
The Scriptural answer is not hard to find; per Romans 11:13: “For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office.”
Note that Paul says, “I magnify mine office.” He clearly was not exalting himself; rather he was magnifying his God-given office as “the apostle of the Gentiles.” This is the office that Jesus Christ gave to Paul — and the ministry and message He gave to us through him.
By comparison, the Scriptures repeatedly refer to “the law of Moses,” but who would question that it is in reality the law of God? Moses was simply the one through whom the law was given to Israel. Thus Moses boldly declared, “Now therefore hearken, O Israel, unto the statutes and unto the judgments, which I teach you. . .Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.” (Deut. 4:1,2)
Was Moses being self-important and exalting himself? Would Israel be “following the man rather than God” when they “obeyed Moses?” Could the Lord have been exalting Moses above Himself when He told the leper to offer “those things which Moses commanded?” (Mark 1:44) Of course not!
Rather than exalting Moses, it is a recognition of his God-given office as the Law-giver to Israel, or the instrument through whom the Lord revealed His law to them. In like manner, Paul is the one through whom the Lord Jesus has made known the truth of “the mystery.” For us to recognize his special office no more exalts Paul over Christ than Israel’s honoring Moses’ position exalted Moses over Jehovah.
Paul’s epistles clearly set forth his position as the “Grace-giver” for the present dispensation. For example we find in Eph. 3:1-3, “For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for your Gentiles, if ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery. . .”
It was by direct, personal revelation from Christ Himself that Paul was given a new revelation about God’s secret purpose in the dispensation of grace. Thus he writes about “the grace that is given to me of God, that I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles.” (Rom. 15:15,16)
Paul’s epistles set forth his own inspired claims for the distinct character of his Apostleship and message. In addition to Ephesians 3:1-3, Romans 11:13 and 15:15,16, cited above, the following leaves no doubt about the matter:
“Now to him that is of power to establish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, but now is made manifest…” (Rom. 16:25,26)
“I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man, for I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (Gal. 1:11,12)
“…I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God: even the mystery which hath been hid from ages and generations, but now is made manifest to his saints.” (Col. 1:25,26)
These, and the list could go on, are Paul’s own words on this matter. Since he writes by inspiration, they are also God’s Word on Paul’s apostleship. Scriptures teach as fact that Paul’s apostleship is unique to the church, the Body of Christ and concerns the revelation of the mystery, “kept secret since the world began, but now is made manifest.”
To recognize the special place committed to the Apostle Paul in the program of God is not to exalt the man Paul. It is simply to honor his God-given position as “our apostle.” Is he your apostle?