The current trend of down-playing the teaching of the New Testament apostles in the way the Church operates is a feature noticeable in some groups today.
Paul’s teachings on women in the Church, his emphasis on dealing with false teachers and his seemingly (at first glance) “different” gospel from that of Jesus, are all supposed to show us enlightened Christians of the 21st century that he is not completely to be trusted.
Similar criticisms are sometimes made about Peter, Jude and John.
In an effort to sound “cool” and acceptable to modern minds, attempts are made to bring those apostles up-to-date.
In this issue we look at some of these criticisms and demonstrate that the critics are way off the mark.
For example, many of the criticisms are made in the careless minds of those who do not understand the contexts in which some teachings were given, nor the arguments the apostles themselves use to prove a point.
The arguments the apostles use to give a binding teaching are, in fact, eternal truths based mainly on the patterns of God’s creation and man’s fall.
Was Paul Only Giving Suggestions?
A common criticism of the Apostle Paul by some Christian leaders and teachers today is that his instructions to Timothy, Titus and other Church leaders in the 1st century are so closely tied into the cultural norms of the time that they have no relevance for Christians in the 21st century.
Take the issue of women teaching men in the Church.
Paul does not permit women to teach men in the Church in 1 Tim 2:12.
And what does he use to back up his argument? He doesn’t say women are incapable, neither does he argue they should not pray in the Church, nor that they should not teach women and children.
Paul actually pointed to the two foundational doctrines taught in the Bible: creation and the fall.
He wrote in verses 13-14 that this is the PATTERN established by God in creation – the man was created first; also that the woman was deceived first by Satan.
Thus it is God’s pattern for the Church for the male to teach God’s Word. It is not just a culturally-based suggestion.
Just think – since the Church started until after half way through the 20th century, the issue of women preaching or teaching men was NEVER RAISED by Bible believers.
What has changed? The feminist movement has had its influence on the way the Church has regarded the NT. The irony of this cultural change seems to be invisible to many Christians. Or at worst they are just plain disobedient.
Was Peter Wrong?
The Apostle Peter is also treated with contempt by some Church leaders and teachers.
Apart from ignoring his letters, which is bad enough, the books of Peter are often “reinterpreted” so as to avoid his obvious belief in a literal worldwide flood, and thus in an historical Noah.
Peter wrote ” in the days of Noah … eight souls were saved through water.” [1 Pet 3:20].
If the Lord’s apostle believed in a worldwide flood, (remember he was only following the lead of Jesus in Matt 24:38) what business have you or I to dispute that?
Do you want to be accused of teaching that both Jesus and Peter were mistaken, or wrong?
To me, if I can’t trust the apostle to give me accurate information about an important Old Testament event, why should I trust him to explain my need for salvation?
Some teachers shy away from Peter because he clearly believed in the Flood, which by extension, means he disagrees with the theory of evolution.
Beware of teachers who don’t clearly deny evolution.
What About Jude?
Jude was a brother of Jesus who was not an apostle but became a Christian after the Lord’s resurrection [Acts 1:14).
His short book is routinely ignored by many teachers. Why? Your guess – but mine is that Jude was too outspoken about the false teachers floating around at the time he wrote, and that today too many people are afraid to do the same.
Jude’s attention was on the Gnostics, who taught that true salvation could only be obtained by those who had special knowledge of God’s secrets, and the Antinomians, who rejected all moral standards on the pretence that God’s grace would overcome all sin, a teaching also condemned by Paul.
Jude “contended for the faith” by attacking those false teachers.
Some of today’s ministers would fall into Jude’s descriptions of “wild waves”, “twice dead” and “shepherds who feed only themselves”.
If Jude was writing today, he might have railed against the lack of clear gospel proclamation, the prosperity doctrine and the emphasis on entertainment rather than true worship.
Maybe that’s why some avoid Jude – it’s too much like looking in a mirror.
The Revelation to John
Jesus’ revelation to John has been much maligned over the years, largely because Bible students could not understand it.
Luther and Calvin both avoided the book, but, since translations into the languages of the people, the ordinary people, the Church in persecution and those looking for Christ’s return and victory over Satan’s system, have all been uplifted and overjoyed at the message, even though the visions may be hard to understand.
And isn’t this the reason this book ought to be preached about?
Paul tells us, in regard to the return of the Lord, to “encourage one another with these words.” [1 Thess 4:18].
We need this sort of encouragement.