Did Paul claim to be Authoritative?

April 20th, 2010

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How many times have you heard someone quote 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness…” and thought to yourself, “Did Paul really mean for us to consider the very words he was penning to Timothy Scripture as well?”

It’s an interesting question and got me wondering if Paul ever claimed to be authoritative.

As brought up in my last post, of the thirteen books found in the New Testament penned by Paul, only 1 Corinthians directly claims to be written for all Christians. “To … all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ – their Lord and ours” (1 Corinthians 1:2).

So in answering the question, “Did Paul himself claim to be Authoritative,” I will – at least in this post – limit my scrutiny to the book of 1 Corinthians.

Here is a quick rundown of what I found after sitting down and reading straight through the book of 1 Corinthians:

First, Paul actually lists a reason of proof that his message and preaching are authoritative, “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on men’s wisdom, but on God’s power.” (2:4-5)

Paul then claims to have secret wisdom, which was revealed to him, “We speak of God’s secret wisdom, a wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began …. God has revealed it to us by his Spirit.” (2:7-10)

He lists “expert” in his job description, “By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder…” (3:10)

Declares he has been entrusted with secret things, “Men ought to regard us as those … entrusted with the secret things of God.” (4:1)

Urges his readers (including us) to follow his example: “Therefore I urge you to imitate me,” (4:16) and, “I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the teachings, just as I passed them on to you.” (11:2)

Appeals to outside testimony regarding consistency in his personal life, “I am sending to you Timothy… he will remind you of my way of life in Christ Jesus, which agrees with what I teach everywhere in every church.” (4:17)

Maintains he received teaching directly from the Lord: “For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread …” (11:23) and, “For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins…” (15:3)

Claims Jesus personally appeared to him, “…last of all he [Jesus] appeared to me also, as one abnormally born.” (15:8)

So I would say that in the instances listed above Paul does imply authority. However, he also appeals the reader to make a correct judgment regarding his words:

  • “I speak to sensible people; judge for yourselves what I say.” (10:15)
  • “If anybody thinks he is a prophet or spiritually gifted, let him acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command. If he ignores this, he himself will be ignored.” (14:37)

    So there you have it.

    Photo Credit: Courtroom One Gavel
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