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Bible Q

Are Paul’s writings guidelines for the times or commands for us today?

Paul’s writings were instructions/guidelines/commands for the times and for now.  We know from 2 Tim 3:16-17 that

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,  (17)  that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.

Paul’s writings are Scripture, therefore applicable for us today.  We read in 2 Timothy 1:10-14:

and which now has been manifested through the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel,  (11)  for which I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher,  (12)  which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.  (13)  Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.  (14)  By the Holy Spirit who dwells within us, guard the good deposit entrusted to you.

We learn from this passage that

  • Paul was appointed a preacher, apostle and teacher of the gospel
  • God is able to guard until that Day (Judgment Day — Rom 2:16), what was entrusted to Paul
  • Paul  taught sound words

This good deposit entrusted to Paul by God and then to the brethren, was to be guarded by God until judgment day.  This means Paul’s writings are binding on us today, as we have not yet reached Judgment Day.

In a similar way, Paul writes to the Thessalonian believers, 2 Thess 2:13-15

But we ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers beloved by the Lord, because God chose you as the firstfruits to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth.  (14)  To this he called you through our gospel, so that you may obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.  (15)  So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by our spoken word or by our letter.

Notice in vs 14 that it is God that called them.  How did God call them?  Through the preaching of the gospel, by Paul.  Notice too how they were told to hold to the traditions/gospel they had been taught.  What reasons are there for these things not to apply to us as well?

Peter testifies to the inspiration of Paul’s words in 2 Pet 3:15-17:

And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him,  (16)  as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures.  (17)  You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability.

Notice the relevance of these words to the last days.  2 Pet 3: 2-4

that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles,  (3)  knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires.  (4)  They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation.”

Note in verse 2 how the apostles were conveying the commandments of Jesus through their words.  Paul was an apostle – to dismiss his words as guidelines for the 1st century and therefore not relevant to us today, would be to dismiss Jesus’ words as being irrelevant to us.  This point is further emphasised by Ephesians 4:11-14

And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers,  (12)  to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,  (13)  until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ,  (14)  so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

The apostles words are there to build up the body of Christ.  The body of Christ still exists today and still needs building up.

The power and lasting application of Paul’s teaching, is stressed in Galatians 1:6-12

I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel –  (7)  not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.  (8)  But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.  (9)  As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.  (10)  For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.  (11)  For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel.  (12)  For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.

So Paul’s writings/gospel, are from Jesus Christ.  They are not to be distorted.  They are not to be ignored.  They are not outdated.  Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Heb 13:8   So are his words.  If we start selecting what we consider applies to other ages and not to us, I feel we are distorting the gospel of Christ.

Ephesians 3 tells us that Paul’s job was to make everyone aware of God’s plan.   Eph 3:7-12

Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power.  (8)  To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,  (9)  and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things,  (10)  so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.  (11)  This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord,  (12)  in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.

Paul’s words were God’s words.  They worked in the believers then and they work in us now.  1 Thess 2:13

And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.

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