Follow Paul?

Introduction

A fascinating but largely unknown fact of the New Testament is Paul’s command to believers to follow or imitate him. He issued this command several times throughout his letters. No other writer of Scripture issued such an imperative. We do not find it with Peter, John, James, etc. in the New Testament nor Moses or any of the prophets in the Old Testament. The only other person to issue such a command was Jesus the Messiah, the Lord God Himself. How could Paul make such a claim? Why was Paul unique in issuing this command? And most importantly, what did Paul mean by it? Why did he command us to imitate him?

The Language of Following and Imitation

One of the problems of translations is that translators are inconsistent with language. The word Jesus used most frequently for following Him was ἀκολουθέω (cf. Matthew 8.22, 9.9, 19.21, 28; Mark 1.17, 2.14, 8.34, 10.21; Luke 5.27, 9.23, 59; 18.22; John 1.43; 8.12; 10.27, 12.26, 21.19, 22. This word means “to follow one who precedes and accompany him.” Another word Jesus used was δεῦτε (Matthew 4.19, 11.28; Mark 1.17). This word means “come” and  is used often as an interjection, “Come!” Paul used neither of these words. Instead, Paul used the nouns μιμητής, συμμιμητής and the verb μιμέομαι. From them we derive the word “mimeograph,” to copy something. The nouns mean “imitator” and the verb “to imitate.” Paul used the same term (μιμητής) in Ephesians 5.1 in his exhortation be be followers of God. Coupled with the “μιμ*” words (Philippians 3.17, 2 Thessalonians 3.9) Paul used τύπος. This noun means an “example” or a “pattern.”

The Imitation Passages

PassageGreek Text
1 Corinthians 4.16παρακαλῶ οὖν ὑμᾶς, μιμηταί μου γίνεσθε.
I beseech [present active indicative] you therefore, become [present middle imperative] imitators of me.
1 Corinthians 11.1μιμηταί μου γίνεσθε, καθὼς κἀγὼ Χριστοῦ.
Become [present middle imperative] imitators of me, as I am of Christ.
Galatians 4.12Γίνεσθε ὡς ἐγώ, ὅτι κἀγὼ ὡς ὑμεῖς, ἀδελφοί, δέομαι ὑμῶν. οὐδέν με ἠδικήσατε:
Become [present middle imperative] as I, because I became as you, brethren, I beg of you. You have done me no wrong;
Philippians 3.17Συμμιμηταί μου γίνεσθε, ἀδελφοί, καὶ σκοπεῖτε τοὺς οὕτω περιπατοῦντας καθὼς ἔχετε τύπον ἡμᾶς.
Become [present middle imperative] fellow imitators of me, brothers, and fix your attention on [present active imperative] those who walk according to our pattern.
1 Thessalonians 1.6καὶ ὑμεῖς μιμηταὶ ἡμῶν ἐγενήθητε καὶ τοῦ κυρίου, δεξάμενοιτὸν λόγον ἐν θλίψει πολλῇ μετὰ χαρᾶς πνεύματος ἁγίου,
And you have become [aorist passive indicative] imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the word in much affliction with joy of the Holy Spirit.
2 Thessalonians 3.7αὐτοὶ γὰρ οἴδατε πῶς δεῖ μιμεῖσθαι ἡμᾶς, ὅτι οὐκ ἠτακτήσαμεν ἐν ὑμῖν
For you yourselves know [perfect active indicative] how it is necessary to be imitators [present middle infinitive] of us, because we were not disorderly (quit ranks) [aorist active indicative] among you.
2 Thessalonians 3.9οὐχ ὅτι οὐκ ἔχομεν ἐξουσίαν, ἀλλ’ ἵνα ἑαυτοὺς τύπον δῶμεν ὑμῖν εἰς τὸ μιμεῖσθαι ἡμᾶς.
Not that we do not have the power (or right), but in order that we might give [aorist active subjunctive] ourselves as an example to you to imitate [present middle infinitive] us.

Understanding the Passages

Introduction

Paul’s letters indicate he had to defend his apostleship constantly. He was not one of the Twelve or a follower of Christ in His earthly ministry. Instead, the glorified Christ specially commissioned him as the apostle to the Gentiles (Romans 11.13). The God who separated (ἀφορίζω, i.e., ἀπό + ὁρίζω)1, i.e., marked him from the womb (Galatians 1.15) and separated him from the Twelve (cf. Galatians 1.12, 16-19) after his salvation. Why? God had a special plan for Paul. The risen, glorified, heavenly Christ revealed “secrets” (μυστήριον) to Paul that He had kept unrevealed in His earthly ministry to the Twelve. Some of these “secrets” included the revelation of the Church, the body of Christ, the believer’s identification with Christ in His death and resurrection, the gospel of the grace of God, the Rapture, etc.2 Because he was not one of the Twelve and because Paul taught doctrines completely unknown by the Twelve, some believers regarded him with suspicion. For example, in the matter of salvation, concern and controversy over Paul’s gospel came to a head in 51 A.D. at the Council of Jerusalem. Believing Jews rejected Paul’s gospel to the Gentiles (1 Corinthians 15.1-4). They declared Gentiles had to be saved like Jews. They had to be circumcised and keep the Law of Moses (Acts 15.1, 5).3 Paul rejected their arguments and objections. Why? Paul had received his gospel and doctrine directly from the Lord (Galatians 1.1, 11-12). He wasn’t for a minute going to let the ideas of the Twelve overturn Christ’s direct commands to him. Fortunately, at the end of the day, the Holy Spirit moved Peter to recall his encounter with Cornelius (Acts 10), and Paul carried the day. This was a watershed event. In the conclusion, Peter made a stunning statement: “But we believe that we are saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, in the same way as they also are” (Acts 15.11). The idea that Jews would now be saved as Gentiles was unthinkable before this time. The conclusion of the Jerusalem Council was a massive paradigm shift in salvific history. After that decision, Paul wrote the Galatians that anyone who preached a gospel different from his gospel was accursed (Galatians 1.8-9).

Lifestyle and Doctrine

1 Corinthians 4.16

In chapter 4, Paul wrote that he should be regarded (λογίζομαι) as a servant of Christ and a steward of the mysteries of God. The word λογίζομαι was a favorite of Paul’s, which he used many times, particularly in the book of Romans. It means “reckon,” “count,” “consider” and has in view fact or reality. The “secrets” of which Paul wrote were secrets the risen Lord had revealed to him alone. In the remaining part of the chapter, he defended his work as an apostle and reminded the Corinthians that while they might have countless tutors (παιδαγωγός) in Christ, they had but one father in Christ: Paul. Paul became their father through his proclamation of the gospel to them and their believing it (1 Corinthians 4.15). Because of this, Paul commanded them to imitate him. While Paul’s life was worthy of emulation, his chief point was that they should imitate or follow his doctrine.

In 1 Corinthians 4.17, Paul wrote that he had sent Timothy to remind (ἀναμιμνῄσκω–another μιμ* word) them of his ways (ὁδός) in Christ which he taught everywhere in every church. Paul’s “ways” were his doctrines. The Corinthians needed to be reminded of these doctrines due to their many problems.

In the previous chapter, Paul wrote the following:

Κατὰ τὴν χάριν τοῦ θεοῦ τὴν δοθεῖσάν μοι ὡς σοφὸς ἀρχιτέκτων θεμέλιον τέθεικα, ἄλλος δὲ ἐποικοδομεῖ ἕκαστος δὲ βλεπέτω πῶς ἐποικοδομεῖ.
According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise architect, I laid the foundation and another builds upon it. But let each one discern how he builds (1 Corinthians 3.10).

Paul stated that he laid the foundation of the doctrines of Christianity, i.e., the “secrets” (μυστήριον) the Lord had revealed to him. As the master architect, Paul warned believers to be careful that their “building,” i.e., teaching, was consistent with his “architectural plan,” i.e., his body of doctrine.

Paul revealed more information in this line of thought when he wrote Timothy.

πιστὸς ὁ λόγος καὶ πάσης ἀποδοχῆς ἄξιος ὅτι Χριστὸς Ἰησοῦς ἦλθεν εἰς τὸν κόσμον ἁμαρτωλοὺς σῶσαι ὧν πρῶτός εἰμι ἐγώ. ἀλλὰ διὰ τοῦτο ἠλεήθην ἵνα ἐν ἐμοὶ πρώτῳ ἐνδείξηται Χριστὸς Ἰησοῦς τὴν ἅπασαν μακροθυμίαν πρὸς ὑποτύπωσιν τῶν μελλόντων πιστεύειν ἐπ’ αὐτῷ εἰς ζωὴν αἰώνιον.
It is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am first. But for this reason, I obtained mercy, in order that in me first, Christ Jesus might demonstrate all patience as a pattern to those about to believe in Him for eternal life (1 Timothy 1.15-16).

In the passage above, Paul claimed that he was the “first” (πρῶτος) to be saved in a new program of salvation. The word πρῶτος means first in succession and/or rank. He went on to explain that as “first” he formed a prototype of those who would follow him in salvation. Those who would follow Paul in salvation compose the Church, the body of Christ. God revealed to Paul the gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20.24; Romans 15.15; 1 Corinthians 15.10). In Paul’s gospel one is saved by faith + nothing–believing that Christ died for one’s sins and rose from the dead (1 Corinthians 15.1-4). Those who respond to this truth form the great organism of the Church, the body of Christ, which was one of the mysteries God revealed to Paul alone. Paul elaborated further on this new program in passages such as Colossians 1.24-27.

Another passage that confirms Paul’s uniqueness in terms of the doctrines he revealed is Ephesians 3.2-7:

2εἴ γε ἠκούσατε τὴν οἰκονομίαν τῆς χάριτος τοῦ θεοῦ τῆς δοθείσης μοι εἰς ὑμᾶς, 3[ὅτι] κατὰ ἀποκάλυψιν ἐγνωρίσθη μοι τὸ μυστήριον, καθὼς προέγραψα ἐν ὀλίγῳ, 4πρὸς ὃ δύνασθε ἀναγινώσκοντες νοῆσαι τὴν σύνεσίν μου ἐν τῷ μυστηρίῳ τοῦ Χριστοῦ, 5ὃ ἑτέραις γενεαῖς οὐκ ἐγνωρίσθη τοῖς υἱοῖς τῶν ἀνθρώπων ὡς νῦν ἀπεκαλύφθη τοῖς ἁγίοις ἀποστόλοις αὐτοῦ καὶ προφήταις ἐν πνεύματι, 6εἶναι τὰ ἔθνη συγκληρονόμα καὶ σύσσωμα καὶ συμμέτοχα τῆς ἐπαγγελίας ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ διὰ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου, 7οὗ ἐγενήθην διάκονος κατὰ τὴν δωρεὰν τῆς χάριτος τοῦ θεοῦ τῆς δοθείσης μοι κατὰ τὴν ἐνέργειαν τῆς δυνάμεως αὐτοῦ.
2if indeed you heard of the stewardship [dispensation] of the grace of God given to me to you 3that according to revelation was made known to me the mystery just as I wrote previously in brief, 4as to which you are able by recognizing to perceive my understanding into the mystery of Christ, 5which in other generations was not made known to the sons of men as it was now revealed to his holy apostles and prophets in the Spirit: 6the Gentiles to be joint-heirs and a joint body and joint-sharers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel, 7of which I became a minister according to the gift of the grace of God given to me according to the operation of His power.

In verse 1, Paul declared that he was the prisoner of Jesus Christ for Gentiles. This was in fulfillment of his special commission as “the apostle of the Gentiles” (Romans 11.13; cf. Acts 9.15. Notice the “pattern.” The Lord gave the “mystery” to Paul. Now Paul revealed it to the Ephesians. From his statement in verse 3, we learn that Paul had written them an earlier,  brief letter in which he told them about “the mystery.” He now expanded upon the things he had written. Paul declared that “the mystery” was just that. It was a “secret” God had kept hidden until He revealed it to His “holy apostles and prophets.” We know this cannot be Peter or the Twelve because they never mention the mystery and never had a ministry to Gentiles. These have to refer to Paul and then Paul’s co-workers: Barnabas, Silas, Titus, Timothy, etc. Paul was the first to receive the “mystery” and he communicated it to others. What was the mystery? For one thing, it was that Gentiles were now joint-heirs with Christ in a new body–the Church, the body of Christ. The Old Testament knew nothing of the Church, the body of Christ. None of the covenants revealed it. The prophets were wholly ignorant of it. Jesus, in His earthly ministry, revealed nothing about it. His ministry was wholly to Israel, not to Gentiles (Romans 15.8). It was a secret! In Ephesians 3.8-9, Paul again reiterated that the stewardship or dispensation of the “mystery” or “secret” was given to him.

1 Corinthians 11.1

In this passage, Paul commanded the Corinthians to become imitators of him as he was of Christ. Some might think Paul is speaking of his lifestyle, his behavior. Paul probably would have agreed but that is not the point of the passage. What Paul had in mind was his doctrine. The next verse makes this plain.

Ἐπαινῶ δὲ ὑμᾶς ὅτι πάντα μου μέμνησθε καὶ καθὼς παρέδωκα ὑμῖν τὰς παραδόσεις κατέχετε.
Now I praise you because you have remembered me in everything just as you hold firmly to the doctrines I delivered to you (1 Corinthians 11.2).

Galatians 4.12

Paul’s letter to the Galatians was to correct their doctrinal error of leaving grace and placing themselves under the Law of Moses. In Galatians 3, Paul asked:

This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? Did you suffer so many things in vain— if indeed it was in vain? So then, does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?

The Galatians had been saved by faith (grace) alone. Paul asked them since they had received life through grace did they think they were going to live by Law. Could they be that foolish? Continuing his appeal in Galatians 4, Paul wrote the Galatians they were not slaves (as one was under the Law) but sons (under grace). Being under the Law was bondage (Galatians 4.3).  Thus he wrote:

However at that time, when you did not know God, you were slaves to those which by nature are no gods. But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how is it that you turn back again to the weak and worthless elemental things, to which you desire to be enslaved all over again? 10 You observe days and months and seasons and years. 11 I fear for you, that perhaps I have labored over you in vain.

The “weak and worthless elemental things” were the requirements of the Law (Romans 8.1-4). This was the context in which Paul issued the command to the Galatians to “be as I.” He wanted them to return to what he had taught them and enjoy their Christian lives in freedom rather than place themselves in bondage. They were free! They were sons, not slaves!

Philippians 3.17

These passages provide a pattern. Paul wrote the Philippians to copy him and those who walked according to his example. In the next verse, Paul explained the primary reason for his insistence.

πολλοὶ γὰρ περιπατοῦσιν οὓς πολλάκις ἔλεγον ὑμῖν, νῦν δὲ καὶ κλαίων λέγω, τοὺς ἐχθροὺς τοῦ σταυροῦ τοῦ Χριστοῦ,
For many walk whom I have often told you, and now I tell you weeping, that they are hostile of the cross of Christ (Philippians 3.18).

What was the “walk” Paul was concerned over? Again, it was the doctrine of these men. They were hostile to the cross of Christ. Who were these men? They were all who taught doctrines different from those Paul had received from the ascended Christ. The preaching of the cross, the good news of Christ’s death for our sins and His victory over sin and death by His glorious resurrection was Paul’s essential message but Paul’s doctrines also included much more–the whole body of truth he called “mysteries.”

1 Thessalonians 1.6

In this verse we find Paul acknowledging and praising the Thessalonican believers’ for their imitation of him. Again, Paul associated their action with his gospel. In the previous verse (1 Thessalonians 1.5), he wrote,

“for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction; just as you know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake.”

When the Thessalonicans had received the word (message, doctrine) from Paul they imitated him (1 Corinthians 1.6).

2 Thessalonians 3.7 and 2 Thessalonians 3.9

The two verses in view here focus more on personal behavior. Paul warned against associating with unruly (ἀτάκτως) believers (2 Thessalonians 3.6). Paul reminded them that when he was with them that he did not eat their food without paying for it (2 Thessalonians 3.8), that he and his companions worked day and night so as to not be a financial burden (v. 8), and that when he was with them the rule he gave was that if someone was unwilling to work he was not to eat (2 Thessalonians 3.10). But even here, Paul appealed to the matter of the doctrine (παράδοσις, 2 Thessalonians 3.6) they had received from him.

Conclusion

Paul commanded believers to imitate him. We have seen that while personal behavior was sometimes in view, (2 Thessalonians 3.7, 9) Paul’s primary concern was that believers follow the doctrine they had received from him. Paul had received his doctrine from the risen, glorified Lord. Paul called these doctrines “mysteries” (μυστήριον) or “secrets.” Paul used this term because the teachings the Lord gave him were secrets, i.e., doctrines the Lord had revealed to no one before. The ascended Lord saved Paul to become a prototype for a new creation, namely, the Church, the body of Christ. As believers today, to imitate Paul means to recognize and obey the truths Paul revealed. Such obedience is essential to the process Christians call sanctification. Apart from it, the believer in Christ cannot mature spiritually and conform to the image of His Son (Romans 8.29). Only by obeying the doctrines the glorified Lord revealed to Paul can we grow into the person Christ has destined us to be.

1 The verb ὁρίζω means “to mark a boundary” and ἀπό means “away from.” God kept Paul away from the Twelve in order that He might reveal a new and different program to him than the prophetic program He had revealed to the Twelve. Incidentally, ὁρίζω with the α privative is how we get the word “aorist” as in aorist tense. The aorist denotes past action without definition or boundary as to the extent of time of the action. It is also described as punctiliar.
See the author’s article on Paul’s Mystery.
3 These events took place 14 years after Paul was saved. That’s a long time. During this period Paul preached his gospel, the gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20.24), and the Twelve preached the gospel of the kingdom, inaugurated by John the Baptist and continued by Jesus and the Twelve.

©2012 Don Samdahl. Anyone is free to reproduce this material and distribute it, but it may not be sold.


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66 Responses to Follow Paul?

  1. Steve Caldwell says:

    Praise God is all I can say! Thank You. I do have one question. When Peter confessed Jesus as Messiah,Son of the Living God. Jesus said upon this rock (foundation) I will build my church.
    Matthew 16:18
    I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.
    Is this reference to the gentile church?
    May God richly bless you.

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Steve,
      Thank you. Peter’s ministry was to Jews. Jesus promised Peter and the Eleven would sit on twelve thrones ruling the twelve tribes of Israel (Matthew 19.28). Paul laid the foundation for the Gentile church according to 1 Corinthians 3.10 and 1 Timothy 1.15-16.

      • Nnamdi Eyinnaya says:

        Hi Don, thanks for your write up. Do you not find it strange that the master indeed said that the Lord declared to Peter “…upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it”, yet decided to ignore the same Peter and according to you reveal the secret of the Church rather than Peter? It just doesn’t make sense.

        Thank you.

      • @doctrine- you wrote “peter’s ministry was to the Jews”, which is obviously true prior the D,B &R of Jesus Christ, but shouldn’t we take the word of Peter himself when he said:
        Ac 15:7 And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles BY MY MOUTH should hear the word of the gospel, and believe.

        Which was the entire point of Acts 10 & 11?

        And Paul’s ministry to the Children of Israel was as much a part of his ministry to the Gentiles as seen in his commission given to him by Jesus; where Paul stated: Ac 9:15 But the Lord said unto him, Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of ISRAEL:

        • doctrine doctrine says:

          Jeff,
          We never read of Peter having a ministry to Gentiles after his encounter with Cornelius. Paul’s commission did include Jews and we see him going to them first throughout Acts. By the time he wrote Ephesians, cf. Ephesians 3.1, that priority ended. God had told him they would not receive his testimony but Paul loved them and tried anyway (Acts 22.18).

  2. Steve Caldwell says:

    May God Bless You Always,
    When the Apostle Paul says in Eph. 2:20, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, is he referring to the Old Testament Prophets and the Apostles of Christ ,the 11 plus Matthias. I believe he is referring to the “Good News” Apostles and Prophets. Thank you for your time and effort to clear up misunderstanding of Scriptures. It is shocking to see a more thought out understanding rather than parroting some one who just repeats someone else’s teaching.
    In Him, Steve

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Steve,
      Thank you. I think Paul had in mind God’s revelation all the way back to Abraham when God gave him the promise that his offspring would be as the sand of the seashore (Israel, God’s earthly people) and the stars of the heaven (Church, God’s heavenly people). Romans 11 with the olive tree example is another expression of this truth.

      • Steve Caldwell says:

        Don,
        Thank You for getting me back on track. I know God is the same yesterday and forever and scripture never contradicts itself. I must be careful when reading scripture not to read things into it that are not present. It is nice to able to bounce off of others knowledge of scripture to glean a true understanding.
        God Bless,
        In Him,
        Steve

  3. cig says:

    When Peter received the vision, did he not understand the gospel of Grace at that moment, or was that a way of pruning him for the arguments set forth by Paul at the Jerusalem council?

    How foo err know that the 13 weren’t pegging faith alone?

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Cig,
      Peter knew nothing of faith alone because in the whole history of Israel and in the 3 years of Jesus’ ministry faith alone was never preached. Faith alone was a doctrine the ascended Lord revealed to Paul alone. Events at the Jerusalem Council revealed this fact also.

  4. cig says:

    Did Peter visit Antioch prior to the church council? Is this a sign that he was leaving to the gentiles?

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Cig,
      We have no record Peter visited Antioch prior to the Council. The only knowledge Peter, James, and the rest of the 12 had of justification by faith alone was from Paul’s ministry–and it upset them. Peter “got it” at the Council. But he lapsed at Antioch due to his fear of James, who, despite what he said, did not “get it” (see Acts 21.18-21). Paul taught doctrines the Lord revealed to him that the 12 had never heard of. Paul called them “secrets.” Paul also taught believers of his gospel were not under Law (Romans 6.14). This was completely alien to the 12. This is why Paul is the founder of Christianity. Paul is to Christianity what Abraham and Moses were to Judaism.

  5. mark panther says:

    I have just come across your website and it is exactly what I have been looking for.
    So far I think it is very comparable to Les Feldick, thank you.
    But there is some problems with your site. Some of the sub sites show up in computer language.

  6. KJ says:

    I have been reading your website for some time and it has help clarify some items I have always had trouble understanding, so Thank you for this work.
    In Acts 18, we are told Paul cut his hair because of a vow. Later in Acts we are told that Paul sponsored four men in a Nazarite vow.
    Could you please explain why Paul continued following the Torah Laws?

  7. Becky says:

    Hi Don, the Holy Spirit has opened my eyes to so much latey. A couple days ago the Spirit led me to look up ‘follow, followers’ in Paul’s writings. I’ve looked these up before, but with truly grasping that Paul is our Apostle and also the understanding that we must rightly divide which Scriptures are or are not written “to” us, the scales are literally falling off my eyes, the confusion and fog continues to lift.
    Anyway, I am reading Philippians 3 this morning and what an awesome chapter it is. I had to stop to tell you that I found you and Les Feldick in Scripture this morning. Php 3:17 Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample. I am told by Paul to mark those men who follow him for an example. I’ve never known anyone until now who followed Paul. Many years ago, the Lord spoke almost audibly to me in an answer to to a prayer of What teacher in this world can I trust? In which I immediately heard “Paul.” Since then, I have looked for others who truly followed Paul. During this period of time, I have been solely instructed and “kept” by the Holy Spirit alone in seeking the truth. Every truth I have grasped all these years was revealed directly to my heart. This is the first time in my walk that I’ve actually “listened” to teachers like you and Les, and to be honest, it has shaken me up a little bit. In reading Phil 3 this morning, my faith was increased. For years I “knew” that there was just no way Christians could be of “one mind” or “likeminded” without following Paul, our preacher, teacher, apostle (1 Tim 2:7, 2ti 1:11). It is impossible, and this has been a very troubling thing for me all these years. The other day I contacted the Berean Society to see if there were followers of Paul’s teachings in my city and there isn’t, at least not anyone who has let them know. I’m going to give them my name and see what happens. I’ve wondered for years why a door of fellowship has not opened up for me; why “going to church” doesnt work; and a big one, Why is it so hard to preach “THE gospel” to the lost. I could go on and on. All that to let you know that I have “marked” you and Les as two men who walk so as people like me have Paul as an example, plain and simple, all glory belonging to God of Whom we have received His Spirit that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. People don’t have to be afraid to follow Paul if they will pray and then seek until they find the understanding of Who sent Paul to us. May you continue to be richly blessed in all things, brother (and I do not say this lightly).

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Becky,
      Thank you for your inspiring comments and kind remarks. The more one reads Paul the better he gets. He is the channel of God’s blessing to all who have believed the gospel of the grace of God. May the Lord continue to open the eyes of your understanding (Ephesians 1.18) to the praise of the glory of His grace (Ephesians 1.6, 12, 14).

  8. Vanessa says:

    Just want to say how much I am enjoying reading your articles. May I ask if Water Baptisim is not for today is the Lords Table? Thank you.

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Vanessa,
      The Lord’s Table is definitely for believers today. Paul received special revelation about it and taught how we are to observe it (1 Corinthians 10.21, 11.23-34).

  9. Vanessa says:

    Yes, I read that today, where Paul said that he had directly received from the Lord. I read that many Pauline followers dont support the lords Table and as this Doctrine is new to meI am checking out everything. This morning when I studied I knew in my heart that it was for today, so your reply was expected to be a yes.
    Really, thank you for always taking the time to reply. Besides yourself and Les Feldick who else is there that does in depth studies on Pauls writings.
    We are ex Pentecostals and have stopped talking in tongues and had to admit to our family and friends that we had been deceived. Since then the lord has revealed so much to us where we had it all wrong. So for now we are feeling a little sore but our faith has not been shaken. Take care.

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Vanessa,
      Check out the Berean Bible Society. Cornelius Stam is excellent and his commentary on Acts is essential reading. Best commentary on Acts hands down. Your comments make the work worthwhile. May the Lord continue to bless and lead you in His grace.

  10. Vanessa says:

    Good morning Doctrine
    Its 5.41 am in South Africa and we, my husband and I have our lap tops opened looking through the Berean Bible Societies site. What a Glorious feast of the word we shall have. Might I again burden you and ask you what gifts are for today and is there a study we can do on them. Thanking you.

  11. Joe says:

    Ephesians 3:5–Paul speaks of other apostles and prophets. Do you suppose there were other apostles besides Paul and the twelve? Paul seems to say there were others (outside himself and the 12) teaching what he was teaching. Is Paul known because his letters were preserved? Did Apollos write letters to congregations of believers?

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Joe,
      See how Paul used the word ἀπόστολος. In this particular instance, I think Paul meant that the revelation of the Church, the body of Christ, was given to him (Ephesians 3.3) and the other apostles learned about it from him. We have no evidence Apollos wrote letters.

  12. Vernon says:

    Hi again Don,

    If we do not need baptism today, why did Paul baptize believers in
    1 Corinthians 1: 14 – 16? What am I missing here?

    Thanks,

    Vernon.

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Vernon,
      Water baptism was a holdover of the kingdom program. Keep in mind that Acts was a period of transition. Acts ended about 60 A.D. Paul wrote the Corinthians about 57 A.D. and had visited them earlier (c. 52-53 A.D.). Notice Paul stated that Christ did not send him to baptize but to proclaim the gospel. Even at the stage of this writing he dismissed its importance. However, God did send John the Baptist to baptize. Vast difference. By the time Paul reached Roman and wrote Ephesians (c. 61) he declared only one baptism existed–the baptism of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12.13 cf. Romans 6.3-5). The legitimacy of water baptism ended by the time of Ephesians 4.

  13. Vernon says:

    Hi Don,

    If the Galatians church was made up of Gentiles, why would they want to go back under the Mosaic Law? Surely they would have very knowledge of the law of Moses.
    Also, how can a believer be “accursed” (as in Galatians) if he has eternal security?

    Thanks,

    Vernon.

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Vernon,
      Paul’s correction stemmed from his battle at the Council of Jerusalem. He would preach and people would be saved. Jewish believers at Jerusalem would come and tell Paul’s converts they were not saved–they had to keep the Law (Acts 15.1, 5). Because of this, the Lord instructed Paul to go to Jerusalem to fix this problem. Peter declared Paul was right and they wrong (Acts 15.11) and this ended the gospel of the kingdom which required faith and works for salvation. Apparently, some did not accept this resolution and sought to bring the Galatians under the Law. Paul decreed a curse on them. Paul lost this fight. He lost Asia to the Judaizers. That was the source of the confusion in Christianity which has been going on for 1,900 years: failure to understand believers of Paul’s gospel, failure to understand Law and Grace, failure to recognize much less understand Paul’s secrets, failure to understand faith and works, etc. Believers can be accursed as was the man in 1 Corinthians 5.1-5. They cannot lose their salvation.

  14. Vernon says:

    Thank you for those answers,

    Vernon.

  15. Joe says:

    Please correct me where I am in error

    1. All sin, except for unbelief, has been forgiven (past, present and future)….even for those who are lost. So sin is not the issue in regards to salvation.

    2. Sin during the life of the believer (after salvation) can affect life (even to death) on earth and rewards in Heaven.

    3. Salvation is believing in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. (I Corinthians 15: 1-4. Purely a gift. Those who have lived and never heard the gospel of grace have no excuse as per Romans 1:18. …It appears they are given enough to understand and believe in their own way. (Newly discovered tribes in the Amazon come to mind)

    4. The gospel Jesus and the 12 preached (Kingdom Gospel) is not our gospel (Gospel of Grace). Anyone teaching it are ‘accursed’ even angels.

    5. Many churches today (maybe most) preach the Kingdom Gospel because it is associated so intimately with Jesus and his teachings (The Lord’s teachings were apparently all to Israel (Matt. 10) with 2 small exceptions)

    6. Peter may never have grasped the entirety of the Lord’s revelations to Paul.

    7. The agreement for Paul to go to the gentiles in Acts 15 was never withdrawn.

    8. The reference to ‘remember the poor’ in Acts 15 was to the poor in Jerusalem and not poor people in general. This explains the collections during Paul’s missionary journeys.

    Thank you

    9. Paul’s apparent law keeping (ex: vow after 3rd missionary journey for example) was because he would do almost anything to bring his Jewish believers into the Body of Christ.

  16. Tommy says:

    Doc,
    In Acts 17;2-3 , Paul was preaching the death, burial and resurrection of Christ (salvation).The jews made trouble and Paul was sent to Berea vs.10.The Bereans received the Word and searched the scriptures daily to see if these things were so. Since they didn’t have Romans thru Philemon and Jesus and the 12 didn’t preach faith + 0 then they were checking Paul out , out of the OT. Seems to me faith + 0 was taught in the OT,correct ! If not,then what were they searching for ?

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Tommy,
      The OT’s language about the death, burial, and resurrection of the Messiah was veiled. So the passages they examined were Isaiah 53, Psalm 22, 16.10 cf. Acts 2.27. Read Acts 13. This is a record of the message Paul proclaimed to the Jews.

  17. Becky says:

    Hi Don, in a passage you quoted above, Eph 3:2-7, in the last sentence it reads, “…the grace of God give to me….” Shouldn’t it read “given”?

  18. Vernon says:

    Hi Don,

    My question is…did Paul commit the unpardonable sin? Did he blaspheme the Holy Spirit whilst he was persecuting the Kingdom Church? He refers to himself as a blasphemer, (1 Tim.1: 13) but was this the ultimate blasphemy?

    Thanx,

    Vernon

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Vernon,
      No. Paul recognized he was a blasphemer because of his antagonism to Jesus of Nazareth, whom he came to know as the God of the Bible. Paul is God’s greates example of His grace. Saul of Tarsus went from being Christ’s greatest enemy to His most obedient servant.

  19. Vanessa says:

    Hi Don,
    I know of someone who mixes law and Grace. Their answer to my doctrine is that so long as they believe in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ the rest is not important. How does one answer this narrow mindedness?

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Vanessa,
      This is essentially the same argument one would make that as long as one has trusted in Christ he can sin as much as he wishes. It is a matter of obedience and faith–believing what God has revealed. God has placed us in the place of grace for our benefit. To refuse this position means we do not trust God or wish to obey Him. Grace and peace.

  20. Nathaniel Eli says:

    This article to me is the hallmark and the hub of rightly dividing the word of truth. In effect, any doctrine not taught by Paul and taught in the ekklesia of Christ today is a false doctrine, including but not limited to tithe payment, trinity and the like. May the Lord reveal his mind more to you in the mysteries revealed in the epistles of Paul. Maranatha.

  21. ashley le bron says:

    for the first time a deep reality has been revealed that was forgotten for thousands of years. when we became imitators of Paul we become like him in Christ . the rock on which Christ build His Church was revelation from God not Peter. we must imitate one another as true Christians. the gentiles was THE EXCLUDED PEOPLE , that become part of Christ. Jews had to follow the new way , for know.

  22. esteves says:

    Look in verse 17 paul says Christ sent me not to baptize but to preach the Gospel … 1 corinthians 1 : 17 kjv what was the Gospel paul was Preaching the Cross of christ verse 18 kjv

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Esteves,
      The gospel that Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead (1 Corinthians 15.1-4) was the preaching of the cross, Paul’s distinctive gospel. Paul declared the risen Lord Himself gave him this gospel (Galatians 1.11-12). See my article, The Preaching of the Cross.

  23. Corey Granger says:

    I must insist that Peter and Paul preached the same message..Peter was the 1st EVER(BC he had been given the keys of the kingdom by Jesus Christ) to preach after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and when the men that he was preaching to were convicted and wanted to know what to do he told them..Repent, be baptized everyone in the name of Jesus and you will receive the Gift of the HolySpirit.even though was one born out of season..he was born the same way and preached the same message. The key to get in the kingdom will always be Acts 2:38..it is forever settled..Paul enforced this doctrine and showed us the riches and mercies of Jesus Christ in Gods effort to deal with fallen mankind and the lengths he will go to save us. To further duplicate the ministry of our great God and saviour Jesus Christ.

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Corey,
      The problem with such a statement is it is based upon tradition, not Scripture. Had Peter and Paul been proclaiming the same message there would not have been an argument at the Council of Jerusalem. See my article, The Great Hinge. One cannot be saved today by Acts 2.38. Peter addressed Jews, not Gentiles. He told them to repent and be baptized. Paul said believe Christ died for your sins and rose from the dead. Totally different messages. Do you really think water baptism saves? Paul stated there was one baptism (Ephesians 4.5). That is the baptism of the Holy Spirit, not water (1 Corinthians 12.13).

  24. George says:

    Hello brother Don. Can u please tell me when Peter in the council in Acts 15 says to his kingdom brethren ” we will be saved as they” my interpretation is that Peter is saying we( the kingdom believers will be saved like Paul’s group which is by Grace through faith, only difference being Peter’s group at the Lord’s coming, and only if they endure to the end, doctrinally this sounds right however logically it is not the same at all , how do you reconcile this? Thanks!

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      George,
      I do not know if I quite understand what you have written, but when Peter said, “we will be saved as they” he was talking about Jews vs. Gentiles. The issue before the Council was whether Paul’s Gentile converts were truly saved apart from circumcision and keeping the Law. Peter stated they were, and not only that, but that Jews from now on had to be saved as Paul’s Gentiles had been saved. In other words, Paul’s gospel became the only valid gospel, the only valid message of salvation. This is why Paul wrote so strongly to the Galatians that any who preached a gospel other than his gospel was cursed (Galatians 1.6-9). Apart from Paul’s gospel, no salvation exists. That is why Paul wrote the Romans that God would judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to “my gospel” (Romans 2.16).

  25. George says:

    i agree with you, but why in 2 peter, after acts 15 do we find Peter Still preaching and encouraging the jewish kingdom believers and bot at all preaching Paul’s gospel of grace, on the other hand we find Priscilla, aquilla, apollos luke mark baranabas all who were saved under the kingdom gospel now helping and preaching the grace gospel, they adjusted Peter did not? Please shed some light if you can, also your view on which people are really in the body of Christ, i think only Paul, the rest were kingdom believers knowing their program had ended and jumping to help Paul”s message. Thanks in advance:)

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      George,
      Everyone saved in whichever program they were saved in stayed in that program. The exception was Paul. He was saved under the kingdom gospel but became the first member of the Church, the body of Christ, according to what he wrote in 1 Corinthians 3 and 1 Timothy 1. See my article, Paul: Chief of Sinners? Paul is like Abraham, who was not a Jew, but began a new program–a covenant program that would go through the Jewish line. Paul began a Church program. Peter wrote to Jews, saved under the kingdom program, since Peter was an apostle of Israel, according to Paul’s words in Galatians 2.7-9.

  26. courtney says:

    Dear bro. Thank you so much for a great article. I appreciate all your work. You are strong in the Word. You have really helped me and many others. Peace & Grace

  27. George says:

    Hello bro Don, always appreciate your help! Concerning Romans 9-11, we see Paul is referring to Israel and how their salvation is based upon confession of Jesus Christ as saviour and having been risen from the dead. This however is NOT the gospel of the mystery, why does
    Paul preach this gospel of the kingdom and for what purpose seeing that this kingdom gospel is found
    In Romans where it shouldn’t be? What is your take concerning Romans 9-11?

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      George,
      In these 3 chapters, Paul deals with Israel’s past, present, and future. He explained why they did not obtain salvation in the past (unbelief), why they were missing it at the present time but could obtain it (Romans 10.4, 9), and how they will obtain it in the future (Romans 11.26).

  28. George says:

    Hi Bro Don, I recently learned that Apollos, Silas, Barnabas, Luke, Mark , were all Jewish kingdom believers who not being in the body of Christ nevertheless jumped on Paul’s/God’s mystery bandwagon and helped and gave credence to Paul’s gospel of grace to both Jews and Gentiles after acts ch15. These Jewish believers were helping and promoting God’s dispensation of grace, however, still being a part of the future earthly millennial kingdom kingdom. What do you think of this view, would you agree ? Or is there something else that you see? Thanks alaways for your help?

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      George,
      I don’t know. Barnabas left Paul after the 1st missionary journey and so did Mark. Luke was with Paul to the end. Each of these men had a different association with Paul.

  29. Samuel says:

    2cor 7:10- For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.

    Acts 20:21- Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.

    Please explain.

    Seems like repentance is still a part of Pauls gospel.

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Samuel,
      Repentance takes place before belief. Repentance is the changing of one’s mind. One has to change his mind before believing. The point is that Paul emphasized faith, not repentance. Do a word study. Look at the times Paul used “faith,” “trust,” “believe” vs. “repent,” “repentance.”

  30. Isaac says:

    Can we by any means declare that Paul wasn’t a false prophet which Jesus warned about (Matthew 24:24)?

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Isaac,
      I have answered this matter several times. Where in the world does this thinking come from that Paul was a false prophet? Anyone who teaches this is of Satan. Paul’s apostleship and ministry are validated throughout the New Testament. See 2 Peter 3.15.16. Peter wrote that Paul’s letters were Scripture and issued the warning, “which they that are unlearned and unstable twist, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.” To reject Paul means you are on the road to destruction. Peter, James, John, Barnabas, Silas, Timothy, Luke, Mark all knew Paul. Some of them worked closely with him. Peter declared Paul was right at the Council of Jerusalem and James agreed. To not acknowledge Paul as God’s apostle of the Church means one must reject almost the entire NT. The only books that would be valid would be Matthew and Jude. Every other writer recognized Paul’s apostleship. It is through Paul’s gospel (1 Corinthians 15.1-4) that one is saved. No one can know the Lord apart from thiscomes. The risen Christ chose Paul Paul to begin the Church, the body of Christ, and provide the Church with its doctrines. Paul was to the Church what Abraham, Moses, and the prophets were to Israel. ALL Church doctrine comes from Paul. If you are associated with a minsistry that rejects Paul, it is a ministry of evil. Get out.

  31. Percy says:

    I salute you Don.I have question for what you say,you said that “Paul became their father through his proclamation of the gospel to them and their believing it”.(1 cor 4.15) what Paul mean in this line Rom 4:12.So my question is that has a belief who is my father between Paul and Abraham.

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      Percy,
      Paul was speaking generally and in particular. Abraham is the father of all who believe. Paul had a special relationship with the Corinthians and regarded himself as their father because he brought them the gospel. The principle is that we regard one who has led us to Christ as our “father.”

  32. George says:

    Hello bro Don, I have a question for you:) when Peter and Barnabas were in Antioch, they were doing as the body of Christ Christians, let’s say eating pork and fellowshiping together, but when the kingdom Jews came they seperated. Now two questions1) were kingdom Jews allowed to break kingdom protocol when in a gentile country, or better when with body of Christians in a gentile country, or was Peter not supposed to be there in the first place. Likewise Paul in Jerusalem in late acts, Paul certainly was like a Jew there but was he itching to get his grace gospel of grace out to lost Jews in Jerusalem, even though James said everything was fine there, both Peter and Paul seem to be like fish out of water in these 2 conflicting circumstances, I would like to know your interpretation on these events when u have time , thanks

    • doctrine doctrine says:

      George,
      Paul corrected Peter on his behavior in Antioch. Peter was free to eat with Gentiles but bowed to pressure from the believers who came from Jerusalem. This showed how much Peter’s authority had waned compared to James. James was now the leader in Jerusalem, not Peter. The issue of the gospel, of salvation, justification by faith alone, had been settled at the Council. But James and the Jerusalem Jews had no idea of sanctification by grace, by faith. Paul voluntarily placed himself under certain Jewish restrictions out of his love for the Jews (1 Corinthians 9.19-23). Peter’s behavior should be enough to convince anyone that neither he nor any of the Twelve had a ministry to Gentiles. Why Christendom has gotten in its head that any of the Twelve ministered to Gentiles is beyond me. Not one word in Scripture supports this idea.

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