Recently I have had a rather disturbing discussion with a pastor and several of his followers concerning eternal security. In recent years this point of view, in my mind, is becoming more mainstream. The question is often “there are too many verses that talk about losing your salvation in Scripture to be avoided.” I basically ask two questions. “Who is doing the saving and keeping?” and follow that question up with, “Is it you are or is it God?” To me, the answer is quite clear. I could never be good enough to keep myself in salvation. Only Jesus is the perfect offering. Only Jesus’ blood and righteousness can keep me saved.
Therefore, if Jesus is the One doing the Saving and the Keeping, then I cannot lose my salvation (see John 17). However, if I am the one who is doing the saving and the keeping, there is no salvation. It is only through the offering, once and for all, through the work of Jesus Christ, that I can be saved.
Note: Having eternal security does not give us a free pass to sin. For example, in Romans 6:1-2, Paul asks the question, “What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? 2 God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?
Is God for Us?
As you grow, one thing you will find is that mankind will let us down. Your “BFF” (best friend forever – I have grand kids) will let you down. You may be BFF’s one day and not speaking to each other the next. Human friendships are fickle at best.
God’s love, on the other hand, is forever. Our relationship with Him and knowledge of His faithfulness will help us in our times of great need.
If our vertical relationship, the one we have with God, is correct and strong, our desire will be to be close to Him.
However, if our relationship with Him is estranged, then we will take exception to any interference in our lives by Him.
As I have matured in Christ, I have found that if God seems to be far away, it is because I have moved away from Him and not vice versa. In order to realize God’s faithfulness, we must remain in fellowship with Him.
In my opinion, in Paul’s epistle to the Romans, chapter eight and verse 31, the phrase “If God be for us” has been poorly translated by some. Many have taken the “if” as a supposition. However, Paul is not giving a supposition, instead he is giving a certainty. “If” is not a question nor is it conditional.” Paul is giving a conclusion. “If” can also be translated as “when” or “as.” It should really read, “Since/as God is for us.” Because it is certain that God is for us, the conclusion follows, “who can be against us?”
Ephesians 1:13-14 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, 14 Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.
So far, we have been reviewing the “spiritual blessings in heavenly places” which are “according to the riches of his grace.” (Ephesians 1:7). The spiritual blessings have been from eternity and history past. Today we will look at those things that the church at Ephesus currently had and experienced. Therefore, we as Christians in the 21st century can also enjoy.
The Gospel First
Ephesians 1:13a In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,
The Apostle Paul reminds the readers that these blessings are only available to those that heard the Word of God, trusted in those scriptures and believed.
Notice with me how personal salvation is: “ye also trusted, ye heard the word of truth, your salvation, and ye believed.” They personally heard and they personally trusted. It was their personal belief and it is their personal salvation. No one else is responsible for your salvation but you.
Note: Trust stands in contrast to those that simply embrace salvation. My favorite question to really find out if a person is sure of their salvation is; “If you were to die today, are you 100% sure that you will spend eternity in heaven?” The answer to this question is very revealing. You can find out if the person trusts the Gospel or is simply in agreement with the Gospel. The Gospel may seem like a good idea, and it is, but to trust in the Word of God for your salvation is not the same than those that simply know about the Gospel.
Romans 1:16 For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile. (NLT)
The Gospel of Christ is the power of God at work unto salvation. The power of salvation is the Gospel. Gospel is translated as “God news” or “Good news.”
Also, please note God’s method of getting the Gospel out. Salvation comes through hearing, then trusting and finally believing the Gospel. The Gospel message is simply defined as the “death, burial and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah.” The truth of the Gospel message is placing your trust in God’s Word and trust brings belief and belief brings salvation.
The Gospel message is preached, and the Holy Spirit works in the hearer. The Apostle Paul wrote the book to the Romans and he clearly defined the role of Christians today in the process of Salvation.
Romans 10:13-15 For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. 14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!
Therefore, an important part of the plan of Salvation, after God and Jesus did their part, is that those that believe are to preach. Preach means to proclaim the Word of God. That is everybody’s task. We are to …be witnesses unto me [Jesus the Christ] both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.Acts 1:8
Our Jerusalem is the town in which you live. Judaea is the state of Texas. Samaria is North America and the uttermost part of the earth is the world. We all have been called to spread the Word of God. There is no way around it.
The Holy Spirit has sealed us
Ephesians 1:13b In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, “…ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise.”
Not long ago, I had to have a document notarized, to prove that I was the person in the document and that the signature was mine. I took the document to a Notary Public and in front of the notary; I showed some Id and signed my name. Then the notary signed her name and put a seal on the document. The seal was then imprinted to show that the contract was completed. The seal also implies that I was who I said I was and that I had the right to sign the document.
The Roman seal on the grave of Jesus carried the meaning of security and ownership. No one would attempt to enter the grave or else they would find themselves being pursued by the government of Rome until they were caught, arrested and judged. That grave became the property of the Roman government until that seal was removed.
In much the same manner, that is what the Holy Spirit does. He put His seal on us. God has transferred the title of our life unto Him. So, when God puts His seal on the believer, they are the property of God with all the security and ownership of the Lord himself.
And most importantly, the transaction is finished! The seal also shows that the believer is genuine.
“that holy Spirit of promise” – Jesus promised that the Comforter would come:
John 14:26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.
John 15:26 But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:
(See also John 16:7-11; 13; 15:26; 14:16-17)
The Holy Spirit gives the earnest of our inheritance
Ephesians 1:14a Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.
“Which is the earnest of our inheritance”. In the time of Paul, earnest was the down payment that guaranteed the purchase of property to seal the deal. The down payment was the guarantee that the buyer was serious. In this way, the Holy Spirit is God’s earnest to the believer of the salvation that is offered. God is serious about salvation and gives the earnest, Holy Spirit, to the believer.
Earnest is also translated as “engagement ring.”
Ephesians 1:14b Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.
“…until the redemption of the purchased possession”. Redemption is an interesting word. When we become believers, we are redeemed. I love that old hymn, “Redeemed”. That is what I am. But redemption has three parts:
I have been redeemed from my sins by my faith in Jesus the Messiah
We are being redeemed as the Holy Spirit does His work in and through the believer.
We shall be redeemed when Christ returns, and we become like him.
Ephesians 1:14c Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.
“…unto the praise of his glory.” – All of this, the believer’s sealing, the Holy Spirit as the earnest, for our inheritance is to the praise of God’s Glory!
The work of the Holy Spirit in God’s plan of salvation is amazing.
Each of us must grasp the importance of the proof of our faith is “being sealed by God with the Holy Spirit and
Each of us must grasp that just as God gave Jesus to the world so the world through him might be saved, God sent the Holy Spirit as the earnest of our salvation.
The Christians future rests in the work of the Holy Spirit.
The Apostle Paul’s Epistle to the church at Ephesus
With very little argument, the Book of Ephesians is attributed to the Apostle Paul. Paul’s ministry to the church at Ephesus is found in the Acts of the Apostles. (Acts 18:18-21; 19:2-41; 20:17-35)
Paul wrote this letter from his Roman prison cell, somewhere around 60-63 A.D. (Ephesians 3:1; 4:1; 6:20). Paul arrive in Rome in the spring of 60 A.D. and was placed under house arrest for approximately 2 years (Acts 28:30). Paul wrote his “Prison Epistles” somewhere between 60-62 A.D. or 61-63 A. D. The Prison Epistles were written to the churches at Ephesus, Philippi, Colossi and to Philemon.
There is a lot of similarity in the letters sent to Ephesus and Colossi, which would leave us to understand that they were probably written about the same time. In Colossians 4:16, Paul mentions another letter that was in circulation among the church of the Laodiceans, which he called the “Epistle from Laodicea.” Paul intended for all his letters to be “circular” in nature. That is that the letter would be circulated to believers everywhere.
Albert Barnes writes:
In 1 Thessalonians 5:27, the apostle also charges those to whom that epistle was addressed to see that it be “read unto all the holy brethren.” It is evident that the apostles designed that the letters which they addressed to the churches should be read also by others, and should become the permanent source of instruction to the friends of Christ.1
This epistle is chocked full of doctrine. It is apparent to me that Paul, knowing that his end was near, wanted to teach as much as he could to each of the churches. In that teaching he reveals God’s purpose through creation and His Son for the church. He encourages the brethren to unity and the hope that lays before them, eternal life.
Ephesus was an important port city in Asia Minor (modern day Turkey). The city had its roots. Due to its location on the root of the main highways of Asia minor in its natural, safe harbor. The surrounding land, rich in fertile, was excellent supply of fruits and vegetables to support the city and its growth.
However, the harbor became unusable in the middle of the first century, filling up with silt. However, the trade route had become so successful because of the religions of Diana and Artemis. Temples were erected in the city found new life as their worshipers made pilgrimages, if using much-needed revenue into the city.
Silversmiths brought a whole new industry to the city with idols made for Diana and Artemis. Prostitution in the temple was another revenue stream.
As harbor continued to be filled with silt, shipping found a nearby harbor at the port of Smyrna. As more and more of the shipping revenue is lost to Smyrna, the only income was from the temple rites and associated services. The city eventually died out.
The Church at Ephesus.
Apollos, was the pastor of the church, and Paul visited he found 12 believers. Apollo’s was inexperienced and somewhat misinformed concerning the Holy Spirit. Paul spent three months in Ephesus, teaching the church, and preaching in the synagogues. Because of the opposition, Paul moved the church to the house of Tyrannus. Paul spent the next two years, preaching and teaching the young church. (Acts 19:1-9). The church took on the role of the missions throughout Asia (acts 19:20).
Many miracles were performed in Ephesus, and many believed. The church grew mightily even in the face of the city filled with people of superstition, magic, and a desire for the sensual. It was in this city of immoral and pagan practices that the gospel was preached. People were saved. The church grew. The believer respected fellowship, the Lord supper, and baptism.
Even though the church grew and send out missionaries throughout Asia, they soon followed in the trend of the city, and the church declined as they left the teaching of the apostle Paul and Apollo’s. We see the mention of the church at Ephesus spotlighted in John’s vision of the revelation of Jesus Christ.
Revelation 2:1-7 Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks; 2 I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: 3 And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted. 4 Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. 5 Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent. 6 But this thou hast, that thou hatest the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate. 7 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God.
This week I was in a large corporate “Christian” book store and I was shocked at the number of books of “false teachers and heretics” that are stocked on the shelves and sold. As I stood in the isle, I must have been muttering to myself. as one of the store’s employees approached me with a smile and asked, “May I help you?” I knew that they were not the store’s manager, and a deep discussion concerning their agreements and contracts with the publishing houses would come to no avail. So, I simply said, “I was surprised that you were carrying this author.” They replied, with a smile on their face, “Oh, we sell a lot of these books from this author.” I was going no-where, so I thanked them and simply said I was just “killing some time until I meet my wife for lunch.” They smiled and as theywalked away, he said, “Let me know if there is anything else I could help you with.”
I wanted to shout, “Well, you could remove all the books of this heretic and burn them on a bonfire in the back” so unsuspecting readers would not be harmed by these false teachers. However, I understand where the problem really lays. It is not the reseller or the publisher, and to some degree not even the author. The fault lays clearly on the demand by the readers. If no one purchased their books, they would not be ordered, stocked and sold. They would make their way to the “deep discount” area and the publishers would stop going into contracts with those authors. The problem could be solved in just a couple of years. However, there is so much demand for these authors that until Christians “wake up and heed Jesus’ warning”, the authors will write, the publishers will publish, the stores will order, stock and sell, and the public will continue to be under the spell of “ravening wolves in sheep’s clothing.”
Jesus, in His Sermon on the Mount, warned His disciples concerning false prophets and teachers.
Matthew 7:1520 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.” (ESV)
I believe the reason so many people follow these false teachers is because they are lazy. “Lazy” you may ask? Yes, an emphatic “Lazy.” Instead of reading and studying their bible for themselves, they take the easy way of simply reading and following teachers that scratch their itch, instead of spending the time in prayer and study of the Bible.
2 Timothy 4:3-4 For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, 4 and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.
Understand this. You will be held accountable for allowing these false teachers into your mind. Jesus says that you can identify them because they bring forth thorns and thistles instead of good fruit. Translation: these false teachers bring disease that can only bring evil fruit and destruction.
The Apostle Paul Taught
Don’t take the easy way out. the Apostle Paul understood this and in writing to his protégé Timothy;
“2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV) Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
The Apostle John quoted Jesus;
“John 5:37 -43 And the Father who sent me has himself borne witness about me. His voice you have never heard, his form you have never seen, 38 and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. 39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. 41 I do not receive glory from people. 42 But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. 43 I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him.
What Are We To Do?
Get a good “word for word” translation of the Bible, without commentary and without references and study the Bible after prayer asking for the Holy Spirit to lead and teach you.
Journal – write your questions, thoughts and impressions so that you can return to them later.
Be methodical in your approach to study. Learn how to study the bible by “Observing what the Scripture says; search out God’s interpretation of the verse, paragraph, text or book and then apply what you have learned to your own life.
Observation,Interpretation, Application – in that order. Don’t jump to interpretation until you fully understand what the “text within the context” is saying. Don’t leap to applying the Scripture until you have completed the hard work of Observing and then finding out what God is saying and what He means.
It takes time and is an investment in your spiritual health.
As Christians, we are to study the Word of God. We are to receive sound doctrine and oppose false teachers, even if they are the #1 best seller in your local “Christin” book store.
It is very important to understand the history of Paul. In his own words, he describes himself as: “I am verily a man which am a Jew, born in Tarsus, a city in Cilicia, yet brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, and taught according to the perfect manner of the law of the fathers, and was zealous toward God, as ye all are this day. And I persecuted this way unto the death, binding and delivering into prisons both men and women. As also the high priest doth bear me witness, and all the estate of the elders: from whom also I received letters unto the brethren, and went to Damascus, to bring them which were there bound unto Jerusalem, for to be punished.” (Acts 22:3-4).
Paul was not just a follower of Judaism; he was trained as a Pharisee and persecuted anyone that was not a devout adherent. This gives Paul great insight into the religion as well as describing his education. He was an enforcer of the Law. And yet now, he fully embraces salvation by grace as the only means of salvation.
Paul was God’s chosen vessel to proclaim grace to humanity and especially to the Gentiles. By his own words, it was by God’s grace that he was chosen for salvation and to be God’s messenger (Galatians 2:9).
Paul’s salvation (Acts 9) is well established by his first missionary journey in which he proclaimed the Gospel and started churches. His message of salvation is only by faith, by the Grace of God becomes the main point in all his writings.
The Apostle Paul, from the outset of the epistle to Galatia, is dealing with the heresy of adding requirements to the Gospel of Grace by faith. There is a great difference in believing that the grace of God is all that is required for salvation and those that would add works to salvation (circumcision in this case).
The Greek word for grace is charis. It is only found 13 times in the Gospels, but over 144 times in Paul’s writing. Paul’s epistles always use grace doctrinally, in connection with the dispensation of Grace.
The Apostle Paul goes so far as to proclaim; “Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace.” (Galatians 5:4)
Paul never said it was wrong for Jews to be circumcised. He never said that it was wrong to keep the Law or to observe the Jewish festivals. He said that these have nothing to do with salvation. While customs and practices may differ, salvation never differs. There is only one way to be saved and that is by the Grace of God through faith in Jesus Christ.
The Apostle Paul wrote at least 13 books of the New Testament (many theologians believe he also wrote the book of Hebrews). Some of his epistles (letters) were written to individuals (Timothy and Titus), and the rest to churches.
The epistle of Galatians was written to the churches scattered throughout Galatia (a portion of modern Turkey). It is one of the most important writings of Paul in establishing the importance of Grace compared to the Law.
The main purpose of the Book of Galatians is to vindicate Paul’s call by God and the Gospel of Grace. “I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ.” (Galatians 1:6-7)
Paul and salvation by grace alone were under attack by those in the churches of Galatia. Galatian churches were a mix of Jews and Gentiles. Some of the Jewish believers still held to the Jewish Law and traditions, called Judaizers. The term Judaizer, comes from the Greek word meaning “to live according to Jewish customs.” Their teaching states that God’s grace and human effort were required for salvation. Paul considered this theology heresy and those that teach it as false teachers, even though they professed to be followers of Christ. The problem hinged on two points: 1) If they were going to continue to keep the Law as part of their salvation, then they adhered to a belief that a person was partly saved by faith and partly by works. 2) To continue following the traditions and practices of Jewish custom, they taught that the spiritual growth of the person was partly by faith and partly by their own effort. For the Judaizers, a belief in Christ also meant following the main ritual of religion, specifically around circumcision, while adding works, such as, observing all the ceremonies, traditions and rituals of Judaism. This was a heavy burden for the Gentile converts.
Their teaching was in contradiction to the Apostle Paul’s teaching. Paul writes that salvation is by Christ and Christ alone. Paul taught that the message of God’s grace, of pure grace is salvation by Christ alone. A person cannot win, earn or deserve salvation, it is a gift of God and not of works. (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Therefore, the Judaizers charged that the Gospel that Paul was teaching was deceitful and that his apostleship was a false claim of his own making. They reasoned that he could not be a true minister or Apostle of the Lord as he claimed, by his own statement of his beliefs. They reasoned that by cutting out or minimizing the Law that he could not be a true, God called, minister of the Law.
Paul’s defense of the Gospel and his calling is the main focus of the epistle to the churches in Galatia.
I have been asked this question many times. Each time I give a quick response. But recently I was asked to support my position. So, I spent time in research and present the following.
Defining an Apostle
The Greek word for apostle, “apostolos” is defined as a “delegate, person sent by another, a messenger, envoy.” “He that is sent” is the most common definition. There are two instances where the Greek word apostolos is not translated as “apostle,” but rather as “messenger” or “representative” (2 Cor. 8:23 and Phil. 2:25).
There are two specific listings of the Apostles (Matthew 10:2-4 and Luke 6:14 (Mark 3:16 and Acts 1:13 list the disciples without naming them as Apostles).
What are the biblical qualifications for an Apostle?
First, the individual must have seen the resurrected Christ. (John 15:27; Acts 1:21-22; 4:33; 22:14-15; 1 Corinthians 9:1). All of the original Apostles saw the resurrected Christ (John 20:19-29) except of course Judas.
Second, they must have personally been called to that office by Jesus (Luke 6:13; Acts 1:2; Galatians 1:1). For example we have the recorded calling of only Peter, Andrew, James, John and Levi of the original twelve. The other seven are not recorded.
Third, they must exhibit the power of working miracles (Mark 16:20; Acts 2:33, 43; 5:2; 1 Corinthians 12:8-11). Jesus gave the twelve Apostles the power to perform miracles when He sent them forth (Matthew 10:1-4).
After Jesus was taken to heaven, the remaining Apostles and disciples decided to fill the vacancy by Judas. They added one other requirement:
Acts 1:21-22 Wherefore of these men which have companied with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, 22 Beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us, must one be ordained to be a witness with us of his resurrection.
They felt that the replacement should be a true replacement, must have accompanied “with us all the time that the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from the baptism of John, unto that same day that he was taken up from us.”
How many Apostles are there anyway?
If you answered 12 or maybe 13, you might be in for a little surprise The following names are specifically mentioned in the bible as being Apostles. For this exercise, I will be using the King James Version.
1. We have the original 12: Matthew 10:2-4 Simon, Andrew; James, John, Philip, Bartholomew; Thomas, Matthew, James, Lebbaeus, Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot – Matthew 10:2-4.
2. Matthias, Judas’ replacement, – Acts 1:26
3. Jesus’ half-brother James, the leader of the church in Jerusalem – Galatians 1:19
4. Barnabas, who accompanied Paul on his missionary journey – Acts 4:36; 14:14
5. Apollos – 1 Corinthians 4:6-9
6. Timothy and Silvanus – 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2:6
7. Epaphroditus – Philippians 2:25
8. Jesus Christ – Hebrews 3:1
For the purpose of this study I left out Paul, as that is the central question “Is Paul an Apostle?”
Should Paul be included in the list of Apostles?
First and foremost, if the Bible is true, and it is the Word of God, then by Paul proclaiming he was an Apostle of Jesus Christ ought to be enough for us to automatically include him in the list of Apostles.
But, is there more? Well the book of Acts records the calling and conversion of Saul of Tarsus, to Paul. Saul, was a staunch supporter of Judaism and as such he despised this new movement.
Acts 9:1-2 ¶ And Saul, yet breathing out threatenings and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went unto the high priest, 2 And desired of him letters to Damascus to the synagogues, that if he found any of this way, whether they were men or women, he might bring them bound unto Jerusalem.
It was Jesus who chose Paul, in much the same fashion as the selection of James, John, Peter, Andrew and Levi. The only difference is that Saul was chosen by the resurrected Christ. His instructions from Jesus was to proclaim the Gospel to his people, the Jews, but his real ministry focused on proclaiming the Gospel to the Gentiles.
Witnesses proclaim that Paul was an Apostle
Barnabas witnessed that Paul had seen the resurrected Christ (Acts 9:27)
Luke, the author of the Gospel and the book of Acts declares that Barnabas and Paul were Apostles (Acts 14:14)
Paul proclaims himself to be an Apostle: (Romans 1:1; 11:13; 1 Corinthians 1:1; 9:1-2; 15:9; 2 Corinthians 1:1; Galatians 1:1; Ephesians 1:1; Colossians 1:1; 1 Timothy 1:1; 2:7; 2 Timothy 1:1; 11.
Let’s take the requirements listed above and see if Paul fits.
Did Paul see the resurrected Christ? The conversion of Saul is recorded in the ninth chapter of the book of Acts takes place as the resurrected Christ confronts him on the way to Damascus; “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” 5And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.”
1 Corinthians 9:1 ¶ Am I not an apostle? am I not free? have I not seen Jesus Christ our Lord? are not ye my work in the Lord?
Was Paul personally called to that office by Jesus? Since the definition of an Apostle is “one who is sent” it is clear that Jesus sent him, “…rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.” Did Paul perform miracles? The answer is yes! Look at the following list.
Blinded Elymus – Acts 13:11 And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun for a season. And immediately there fell on him a mist and a darkness; and he went about seeking some to lead him by the hand.
Healed a cripple man – Acts 14:10 Said with a loud voice, Stand upright on thy feet. And he leaped and walked.
Exorcised a demon – Acts 16:18 And this did she many days. But Paul, being grieved, turned and said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour.
Miracles in Ephesus – Acts 19:11-12 And God wrought special miracles by the hands of Paul: 12 So that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them.
Restored life to Eutychus – Acts 20:10-12 And Paul went down, and fell on him, and embracing him said, Trouble not yourselves; for his life is in him. 11 When he therefore was come up again, and had broken bread, and eaten, and talked a long while, even till break of day, so he departed. 12 And they brought the young man alive, and were not a little comforted.
Not affected by a deadly viper – Acts 28:5 And he shook off the beast into the fire, and felt no harm.
Healed a mon on Melita – Acts 28:8 And it came to pass, that the father of Publius lay sick of a fever and of a bloody flux: to whom Paul entered in, and prayed, and laid his hands on him, and healed him.
Paul’s testimony to the church at Corinth – 2 Corinthians 12:11-12 ¶ I am become a fool in glorying; ye have compelled me: for I ought to have been commended of you: for in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles, though I be nothing. 12 Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds. Did Paul Accompany Jesus from His baptism until the day He was taken from heaven. No. This was a requirement that Peter and the other Apostles applied to fill the spot vacated by Judas. But, Galatians 1:17-18 and 2 Corinthians 12:1-5 declare that Jesus taught Paul for 3 ½ years in Arabia.
Paul declared that his calling was “not of men, neither by man” (Galatians 1:1), unlike Matthias, his calling was not by man but by the Resurrected Christ. Paul states that he had no interaction with the other Apostles until many years later (Galatians 1:16).
Should Paul be included in the list of Apostles?
I believe it that Paul should be included in the list of Apostles. The canon of scripture includes it. Christ’s testimony and calling are sure. Paul did many miracles. Paul preached the Gospel to Jews and Gentiles alike. Paul saw the resurrected Christ. The only area where he did not meet the requirement was following Jesus for those 3 ½ years from His baptism to His ascension. But, Jesus spent the same amount of time with Paul as He spent with the original 12.
That was the headline for the announcement that the Denver Broncos head coach John Fox and Executive Vice President John Elway had come to an agreement that they would part ways. This separation of a winning head coach sent shock waves throughout the sports world.
John Fox was brought in when the team went a horrific 4-12. That is not the Denver tradition. He got his hands deep into the organization and went 8-8 the following year and into the playoffs. The next two years, the team went 13-3 after brining in Peyton Manning. In the 2014 season of 12-4, it was the fourth AFC West title since becoming the head coach. In four years the Broncos were 46-18, with four division titles. In 2013 the Broncos went to the Super Bowl.
With all the good work, vision and leadership, his good, just wasn’t good enough.
The problem was a 3-4 record in the postseason, a 43-8 thrashing in the Super Bowl and a one-and-out 24-13 loss this year spelled disaster for coach Fox.
The official statement from Elway said; “While we have made significant progress under Coach Fox, there is still work to be done. I believe this change at the head coaching position will be in the best interest of our long-term goal, which from day one has been to win World Championships.”
Your good, is just not good enough.
Like John Fox heard from his boss, one day, every one of us will face the creator of the universe. And when that day comes, the Bible tells us that no matter how hard we tried, or how good of person we are to others, our good, is just not good enough.
The Apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans lays it out pretty clear. “There is none righteous (no matter how good we try to be), no, not one.” (Romans 3:10). “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
But there is hope. Paul says “But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:10). So even though we could not be good enough on our own, God made a plan.
At one point or another, we have been exposed to John 3:16 in the Bible. In churches or at sporting events you will see signs that say, “John 3:16.” That verse says: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him shall not perish.”
Paul describes what John wrote in Romans 6:23 “For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Our attempts to be good fall way short of what God wants, but through faith in Jesus Christ, we can receive a gift from God, eternal life.
Wages or Gift…our very best efforts (Wages) will be NOT GOOD ENOUGH, but if we receive God’s free Gift, the work of Christ is GOOD ENOUGH.
The early church, persecuted to the point of imprisonment and death should have failed. The message they carried triggered division. Their leader was murdered and yet He was resurrected. Many saw him and heard him speak after He rose from the dead. The Roman guards were paid off to tell a lie.
And yet, His followers flourished. Everywhere new churches were forming. The Gospel Message was getting out. But how would they identify who they could trust. They had to have a way of identifying each other and to find safe places to hide and meet. For a while, Christian homes would display the ixthus (fish symbol, ‘ikh-thoos’) to identify a safe haven. Jesus calling of fishermen as His first disciples and the idea that spreading the gospel is like catching fish was easy for them to relate. Inside the sign of the fish would include five Greek letters. The letters formed “ixoye” is an acronym comprised of the first letter of five Greek words: iota – Jesus, chi – Christ, theta – God, upsilon – Son, and sigma – Savior…Jesus Christ is God’s Son, our Savior.
These five Greek letters became the message that Christians clearly identify with.
A password was also given that would be easy to identify and yet be general enough that the non-believer would not understand. The pass phrase would be spoken, “He is risen”. If the other person responded, “He is risen indeed” that would be the authority that they were followers of Jesus the Messiah.
History tells us of statements made that we will always remember.
J. F. K’s “Ask not what your country can do for you, but ask what you can do for your country.”
Do you remember when we were made to memorize the preamble to the Declaration of Independence?
I still remember every word of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address.
I remember hearing the scratchy recording of FDR’s words; “a day that will live on in infamy.”
In addition, I remember when Linda said she would marry me. These words are forever etched in my mind.
Today I would like to remind you of some words uttered by an angel to a follower of Jesus at His empty tomb that mankind must never forget.
“He is not here: for he is risen, as he said. Come, see the place where the Lord lay” (Matthew 28:6)
In churches all across the world today, the message of the resurrection of Jesus the Christ is celebrated.
This is the Christian High Day.
We remember today that death and the grave could not hold Jesus. Throughout the early church, the cross was not commemorated as the central theme of the Gospel, the resurrection became the capstone. All through the book of the Acts of the Apostles, we read that the Gospel presentation always included the resurrection as the cornerstone.
Biblical scholar, G. E. Ladd, stated, “The entire New Testament was written from the perspective of the resurrection. Indeed, the resurrection may be called the major premise of the early Christian faith.”
The Gospels reveal the remarkable events that Jesus said and did during his three and a half years of ministry. However, the remainder of the New Testament barely mentions these miracles. The emphasis is on Jesus death and resurrection. Much of what we consider Christianity and the message of the early church; how to live, how to love, how to defeat sin, and our hope for the future is centered on the resurrection of Jesus the Messiah.
Without the resurrection, Jesus was just a prophet going about doing good. With the resurrection, Jesus is the Lamb of God that takes away our sin.
Without the resurrection, many of the prophecies remain unfulfilled. With the resurrection, only the final chapter remains.
Without the resurrection, God’s redemptive plan is without the perfect sacrifice. With the resurrection, Jesus sits down next to the Father waiting to return to earth to gather in His bride.
References to the Resurrection in Scripture
In the fifteenth chapter of First Corinthians, the Apostle Paul clearly identifies the importance of the resurrection of Jesus.
“And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain”…”And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.” (1 Corinthians 15:14, 17)
In order to be considered an Apostle, the qualifications included seeing Jesus after His resurrection. (Acts 1:22)
On that great Feast Day of Pentecost, Peter spoke of the resurrection of Jesus. (Acts 2:31)
Peter and John preached the resurrection of Jesus, after which they were arrested. (Acts 4:1-2)
The Apostle Paul preached “Jesus and the resurrection.” Acts 17:18)
The Apostle Paul in writing to the church at Rome declared “Jesus to be the Son of God and His resurrection”. (Romans 1:4)
The Apostle Paul lays out the importance of the resurrection to the church at Corinth. He takes great care to give the brethren hope and encouragement to those who are grief-stricken. Jesus was the fulfillment of the prophecies. With the resurrection, Jesus conquered death.
The Bible speaks of resurrection in both the Old Testament and the New Testament.
Resurrections of the Bible
Elijah raises the Widow’s son 1 Kin. 17:17–22
Elisha raises the Shunammite’s son 2 Kin. 4:32–35
Unnamed man thrown in Elisha’s grave 2 Kin. 13:20, 21
3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; 4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures: 5 And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve: 6 After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep. 7 After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles. 8 And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time. (1 Corinthians 15:3-8)
12Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? 13 But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: 14 And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. 15 Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. 16 For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: 17 And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. 18 Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. 19 If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. 20 ¶ But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. (1 Corinthians 15:12-20)
51 ¶ Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. 53 For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? 56 The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. 58 ¶ Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord. (1 Corinthians 15:51-58)
The resurrection of Jesus is the pinnacle of Jesus being God. Other religions may be ethical, moral, agree that there is an afterlife and even have their own scriptures. But Christianity stands alone because God became flesh and dwelt among us. Jesus died for His people and He was raised from the dead in power and glory.
You may be saying, “Preacher why are you so focused on the resurrection?” Well let me give you some reasons why the resurrection of Jesus is so important.
The resurrection proclaims the deity of Christ (Romans 1:4)
The resurrection turns the tragedy of the murder of Jesus into the triumph of God’s redeeming power.
When Jesus was raised from the dead, the world now faces redemption instead of ruin.
When Jesus rose from the dead, He conquered death and therefore His Bride will conquer death as well.
When Jesus rose from the dead we know that He will keep all the promises recorded in Scripture.
When Jesus rose from the grave that early Sunday morning, the Church was given a message to proclaim to the world. The Apostles preached that Jesus had been raised from the dead!
The resurrection of Jesus gives us hope in times of great tragedy and hope for the future.
The resurrection of Jesus assures us that Jesus is on the throne, sitting on the right hand of God.
The same power that resurrected Jesus will one day bring our mortal bodies to life. (1 Corinthians 15:12–19).
After the resurrection Jesus has been preparing a mansion for me (John 14:1-6)
In Christian denominations, we can look different, worship differently, and even have differing views on politics, how to live our lives and varying theologies. But the one point that is true of all Christians today is: Jesus rose from the dead.
The resurrection celebration of Easter invites all to believe that Jesus is the Son of God!
The decision is yours. The gift has been laid before you. Will you accept it?
 Thomas Nelson Publishers. (1995). Nelson’s quick reference topical Bible index. Nelson’s Quick reference (530–531). Nashville, Tenn.: Thomas Nelson Publishers.