Paul did not become an apostle in the same manner as did the rest of the apostles. He is first encountered as Saul at the stoning of Stephen in Acts 7. Acts 8:3 says, “But Saul began ravaging the church, entering house after house; and dragging off men and women, he would put them in prison.”
Acts 9, however, tells of his dramatic conversion after seeing Jesus while on the road to Damascus. In Acts 9:15, the Lord said to Ananias regarding Saul, “He is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel.” Acts 22:14-15 records that the Lord, speaking through Ananias said to Paul, “The God of our fathers has appointed you to know His will, and to see the Righteous One, and to hear an utterance from His mouth. For you will be a witness for Him to all men of what you have seen and heard.” In Romans 1:1, Paul said he was “called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God.” After obeying the command to “be baptized, washing away your sins” (Acts 22:16), “immediately he began to proclaim Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God”” (Acts 9:20).
Considering his past, it should not be surprising that Paul was not readily accepted by the church. Acts 9:26 says, “And when he had come to Jerusalem, he was trying to associate with the disciples; and they were all afraid of him, not believing that he was a disciple.” V27 tells how Barnabas convinced the brethren of the validity of Saul’s conversion.
Paul Defends His Apostleship
In response to further opposition, 2 Corinthians 10-13 records Paul’s determined defense of his apostleship and authority. Apparently there were those who denied that he was truly an apostle. They perhaps wished for a following of their own and thus set out to slander and criticize Paul (see 10:2,7,8,10).
Paul makes several valid points in order to establish his authority:
Despite his blatant defense given to the church in Corinth, Paul was actually very humble about his former way life and subsequent conversion and apostleship. In 1 Corinthians 15:9 he wrote, “For I am the least of the apostles, who am not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” He went on to express his thankfulness in v10: “For by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me.” He further exhibits his humility in 2 Corinthians 3:5: “Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God.”
Peter Defends Paul’s Apostleship
Probably the greatest proof of Paul’s apostleship and authority is found in 2 Peter 3:15-16. There Peter refers to Paul as “our beloved brother.” He states that Paul wrote “according to the wisdom given him.” Finally, Peter refers to (apparently) a collection of Paul’s letters and calls them “Scripture.” It is true that, in the early church, the term “Scripture” was generally used to refer to that of the Old Testament. But notice that Peter categorized the writings of Paul in the same class as “the rest of the Scriptures,” thus giving a clear indication that Paul’s writings are indeed truthful and authoritative. (A collection of Paul’s writings commonly known as the Pauline Corpus is dated from early in the 2nd century.)
Jesus said, “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13). The apostles would thus be divinely guided by the Holy Spirit in their teaching and writing. The apostle John was inspired when he recorded those words of Jesus. Luke was inspired when he wrote the account of Paul being called to be an apostle. Peter was inspired when he wrote that Paul’s writings were Scripture. Thus if Paul is not to be accepted as a true apostle and his writings as genuinely inspired, then several other inspired writers must also be shunned. It would be hoped that few would be willing to go to such an extreme.