Guile in Paul
A good introductory point to this topic is Proverbs 12:10 (NIV) which says "the LORD condemns a crafty man." We read similarly in Psalm 5:6: " deceitful men the LORD abhors." And finally, “Cursed is he who doeth the work of the LORD deceitfully.” Jeremiah 48:10. Cf. Rev. 14:5: "And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God."
What kind of teacher was Paul, by his own admission? Did Paul ever say he used deceit (guile) and used craftiness to capture disciples? We shall see.
Jesus' Example vs. Paul's Example
In Jesus was "no guile."
Jesus “left us an example, that we should follow His steps: who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth.” (1 Peter 2:21-22)(ASV.)
What if Jesus ever spoke the words "I was crafty, and captured you with guile (deception)"? Wouldn't we think then Jesus was a sinner, and could not be of God? Wouldn't we conclude that if Jesus had truly said such a thing that Jesus would be cursed by God pursuant to Jeremiah 48:10? We would be compelled to abandon Jesus if he ever made such an outrageous statement that "I was crafty and captured you with guile / deception."
But then Paul says the same thing in 2 Cor. 12:16 which we would be revulsed if Jesus had said it, but we just accept it from Paul:
But be it so, I did not myself burden you; but, being crafty, I caught you with guile. (2 Cor. 12:16, ASV.)
Paul elsewhere speaks of lies being a means of spreading the gospel: “What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.” Philippians 1:18. The Infinite Truth project ably comments on this verse:
Forgiving all his sins prior to his self-proclaimed conversion, let us ponder on the philosophy on which Paul preached. In Philippians Chapter 1, Verse 18: “But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.” Paul clearly does not care if you go by evil means to spread the message of Christ, so long as people hear of Christ. ("Paul: Apostle or Heretic?" Infinite Truth Project (3/3/2016).)
An example of such pretense was Paul having Timothy circumcised in Acts 16:3, even though Paul said that if a believer became circumcised that Christ would profit him nothing. Evidently, Paul had Timothy circumcised as a pretense to curry favor with Christians who felt it necessary, and not from an honest belief it was ever necessary. As the Infinite Truth Project also astutely commented on that development:
And as a teacher, Paul showed some of his own hypocrisy. While keeping in mind Paul’s attitude towards circumcision found in Rom 2:25-27, 1 Cor 7:17-20, Gal 5:2-4, and Gal 6:12-15, we can see that Paul himself circumcised Timothy [Acts 16:3], even though Christ would profit him nothing. [Gal 5:2] Id.
Even Jerome in the 400s raised Paul's actions with Timothy as proof of the very same "deceitful dissimulation" that Paul accused Peter of in Galatians. Jerome also cited as another such example Paul's behavior of taking vows to shave his head in Acts 21 to appear Law-obedient when asked by James to prove he does not teach against the Law. Jerome wrote:
"Oh...Paul...why then did you cause Timothy to be circumcised contrary to your own convictions?...I ask you again Paul, why did you shave your head? ....We have thus seen that for fear of the Jews...Paul pretended that [he] observed the precepts of the Law." (Quoted in Agenor Etienne Gasparin, The Concessions of the Apostle Paul, and the Claims of Truth (1854) at 57.)
A similar cavalier attitude by Paul toward lying for the gospel is found here: "For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto his glory; why yet am I also judged as a sinner?” Romans 3:7.
How instead should a follower of Jesus interpret Paul's statement in 2 Cor. 12:16 -- "being crafty, I caught you with guile"? We will prove this means we need to eject Paul from our minds and Bibles as an authority as his presence destroys the integrity of Scripture.
Also, we are fundamentally required to do so by our Lord's words. Jesus tells us the father of Paul's lies to a spiritual community was Satan. Jesus even explains this in John 8:44 in a way that brings Paul to mind who too was a "murderer from the beginning..." as Luke depicts Paul in Acts 9:7:
You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies. (John 8:44 NIV)
Paul was listening to Satan, our Lord says, and Paul in common with Satan was a "murderer from the beginning." One may even ask whether Jesus again was giving a subtle warning to us about Paul when we put two and two together.
To prove Paul's presence in the "Bible" destroys the Bible's trustworthiness, we will demonstrate how Paulinists defend Paul's use of guile. We will show you their explanation of how they justify Paul using intentional double-speak. Paul's agenda was, according to Luther and others, to get faith alone sold to the masses, and displace the gospel given by the 12--a defunct gospel these Paulinists assert. To do this, Paul had to use guile, but this goal supposedly justifies the means. This rationale has a familiar ring? The end supposedly justifies the means.
However, the Christ-centered response is that it is destructive of our Savior's message to keep such a voice alongside our Savior as any trustworthy authority. If we rationalize Paul can legitimately deceive us, and this is accepted to justify accepting a different Gospel than Jesus truly preached, then we will be permitting Paul's guileful tactic to rationalize destruction of the path to righteousness---the WAY Jesus taught. No man comes to the Father but by Jesus and His Principles. Thus we cannot let Paul draw us from the Way by guile to listen to a different voice than our Savior's.
As Gasparin wrote in 1854 in The Concessions of the Apostle Paul about such accomodating principles that such principles are self-destructive. They represent a "system of dogmatics in which truth has no absolute value, in which there are as many truths as apostles" which renders the Bible's truths "entirely broken;" it represents "quicksand [where] we have no longer any assurance of anything." Id. at 63.
Thus, when Paul's principles of duplicity to feign a view are accepted as a Biblical morality, as most do (and it is a literally valid reading), such principles destroy the entire Bible. For now nothing about what it stands for can be trusted as true because we accept as Bibically valid that nothing Paul teaches can be trusted as really true. We simply can trust what we surmise was the purpose of Paul's self-contradictory talk. It all becomes subjective, and what you prefer it means. Paul is the leaven that ruins the whole loaf.
Paul Defends The Use of Guile To Gain Followers
Paul admits he was often being deceptive. Paul distinctly says, “being crafty, I caught you with guile” (2 Cor. 12:16.) In Greek, it means Paul used an “artifice” by seeming to be other than what he was.
Jesus spoke in condemnation of such tactics by men He called "Hypocrites!" These men were the Pharisees. Then consider Paul counted himself still a member after becoming a Christian: "My brothers, I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee..." Acts 23:6.
A Greek commentary on 2 Cor. 12:16 explains and defends Paul as meaning:
“I ensnared you by an artifice...in order to make you my prey by means of others my emissaries.” (C. Wordsworth, The New Testament of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ in the Original Greek; with notes by C. Wordsworth, Canon of Westminster (London: 1859) at 179.)
Paul’s self-professed guile compounds itself when he tells the Thessalonians to the contrary: “For our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile.” (1 Thess. 2:3.) Which way is it Paul? Honesty or guile? You cannot even decide! Are you truthful here, or merely more guile?
As a result, Paulinists delight and exalt in Paul being duplicitous, fully admitting he quotes Bible passages out of context, speaks contradictorily, and misleads the reader to think he endorses the Law, repentance and obedience for salvation so as to deflect the criticism from the 12. But all the while these Paulinists admit Paul is merely opening the door for a different gospel, and that is his real agenda. Paul’s record of all such crafty arguments is admiringly reviewed and defended in a book by the evangelical Mark D. Given entitled Paul’s True Rhetoric: Ambiguity, Cunning, and Deception in Greece and Rome (Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 2002)
Praise Of Paul's Use of Guile to Win Followers
Given’s book is even highly praised in mainstream Biblical journals. For example, see the favorable review in Samuel Byrskog, “Paul’s True Rhetoric: Ambiguity, Cunning, and Deception in Greece and Rome,” Journal of Biblical Literature (December 31, 2002).
This characteristic in Paul has a long history of recognition and praise by both Erasmus (1466-1536) of Holland and by Luther.
Erasmus was the first European reformer in the early 1500s. He recognized Paul’s use of cunning and deception. Erasmus said in glowing terms that Paul in Romans uses “pious cunning and holy flattery.” Erasmus elsewhere similarly says: “This apostle of ours is always skillful and slippery...such a squid, such a chameleon — he plays the part of Proteus or Vertumnus.” This quote is found in Holy Scripture Speaks: The Production and Reception of Erasmus’ Paraphrases of the New Testament (ed. Hilmar M. Pabel & Mark Vessey) (University of Toronto Press, 2002) at 105.
FYI: “Erasmus, the greatest scholar of that age, had at first sympathized with Luther...[b]ut when Erasmus perceived that Luther’s teachings, instead of reforming, produced confusion, disorder and threatened to undermine society itself” he backed off. (Stang, The Life of Martin Luther (Pustet, 1883) at 53.)
One would imagine that if Paul used deception it would prove embarrassing to those who admired Paul. Yet, Mr. Given finds Paul’s guile as something praiseworthy. Paul was presenting a “mysterious...and finally sophistic God who cares enough to be cunning and is devoted enough to be deceptive.” (Given, Paul's True Rhetoric (2002), supra at 181.)
Paul's Self-Avowed Hypocritical Tactics To Gain Followers
Paul taught us the example to accommodate Gentiles when around Gentiles and to act like a Jew around Jews.
"For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win the more; and to the Jews I became as a Jew, that I might win Jews; to those who are under the law, as under the law, that I might win those who are under the law; to those who are without the law as without law... that I might win those who are without law; to the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some." 1Corinthians 9:19-22
"Therefore, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks or to the church of God, just as I also please all men in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved. Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ." 1Corinthians 10:31-33
Again, can anyone imagine Jesus / Yahshua playing chameleon and saying anything like "I have become all things to all men" or "I please all men in all things" as does Paul? But clearly this was Paul's tactical use of guile to gain followers -- deceiving Jews by keeping the outside of the cup clean by obeying Jewish laws and deceiving Gentiles by appearing to countenance their behaviors when around them as well.
Paul's avowed principles and behavior could not be a godly person who was following Christ. As Gasparin wrote in 1854 in The Concessions of Apostle Paul:
"If the apostles habitually gave themselves the license of appearing different from what they really were, and if they taught the distinction between those truths which it was necessary to maintain and those which may be sacrificed or disguised, it follows that God Himself sanctions two principles, against which His whole revelation protests, namely, that the claims of truth are not absolute, and that we may do evil that good may come!" Id. at 60.
Based upon this, Gasparin sought a solution -- we must reconcile Paul as pro-Law, as Jesus was, and that Paul only meant to reject the Pharisees' changes and additions to the Law. Id. at 41. Otherwise, our faith falls to ruins as self-contradictory and built on deception by even our Savior who said the Law would continue until heaven and earth pass away.
Yet, Paul is certainly clear in support of an anti-Law position as an opposing conclusion to what Gasparin proposed. Yet, Gasparin's premise was correct - Paul's words as taken literally by most evangelical Christians and all Catholics, destroys the credibility of the Bible, including of Jesus. No one ever has accepted Gasparin's solution to the problem texts -- to substitute for "Law" the oral law and oral traditions. Gasparin's solution fails because Paul expressly endorsed using guile and deception to conform to Law principles when around those who were "weak" about thinking the Mosaic law continued. This was most notoriously clear in Paul's words on eating idol meat (which he allowed unless around someone who was "weak" and thought the Law ... a Mosaic law against eating such meat..still applied). As a result, Paul gave us a gospel of lawless accomodation to any level of morality, low or high. Gasparin's solution could not win out because it is a false solution itself: Paul endorsed deception and guile to appear law-compliant around those who thought the Law -- the written Law-- still was in effect.
As a result, the view Paul is an inspired voice is a destructive seed of the most important part of canon of all -- the words of Christ -- destroying anyone seriously taking Jesus' words as true. Why? Because this view allows them to use subtle manipulation of words to make Jesus sound like Paul (thereby "accommodating Jesus to Paul's principles").
Luther Defends Paul's Use of Deception To Win Faith Alone Argument
Sadly, Paul was used by Luther in the early stages of the German Reformation to justify hypocritical tactics to promote the 'gospel' of Paul. Luther recognized that Paul advanced his faith-alone gospel by means of what were kindly dubbed pious frauds. Paul would often affirm the opposite of salvation by faith alone, matching Jesus’ salvation formula. Yet, Paul’s ulterior goal (and hence allegedly his supposedly laudable goal) was cunningly to slip in the teaching of salvation by faith alone as the superior message.
In other words, you find the early German reformers admitted Paul used guile when Paul repeated Jesus’ message of faith and works. They said Paul advanced Jesus’ message of salvation by works and obedience only as a tactic to disarm the twelve apostles and James (the Lord’s brother) who suspected Paul was, in fact, retreating from Christ’s doctrine.
Luther recognized several passages showed Paul was working against the apostolic twelve. Paul often intimates the twelve apostles and James — the bishop whom the twelve appointed over Jerusalem — were the opponents of Paul's gospel. See Gal. 2:6 (apostles “imparted nothing to me”); Gal. 2:9 (referring to Peter, John and James, Paul sneers at them, saying they only “seemed to be pillars”); Gal. 2:11-14 (“condemns” Apostle Peter before “them all”); 2 Cor. 11:12-23, viz. verse 13 (“fashioning themselves into apostles of Christ” understood as allusion to the twelve being ‘false apostles’). See discussion in my prior work, Jesus’ Words Only (2007) at 336.
After reviewing these passages in Galatians, Luther justifies Paul’s disarming behavior in Luther’s commentary on Galatians chapter two. Luther embraces the idea that Paul was seeing the twelve apostles as false apostles from whom Paul (Luther implies) correctly desired to learn nothing. The twelve were advancing Jesus’ conditional gospel, and hence Paul saw them (correctly, according to the young Luther) as the enemies of the (supposedly true) unconditional gospel that Paul brought later. Luther writes:
Paul here explains his motive for going up to Jerusalem. He did not go to Jerusalem to be instructed or confirmed in his Gospel by the other apostles. [Gal. 2:6, the twelve apostles “imparted nothing to me.”] He went to Jerusalem in order to preserve the true Gospel for the Galatian churches and for all the churches of the Gentiles. When Paul speaks of the truth of the Gospel he implies by contrast a false gospel. The false apostles also had a gospel, but it was an untrue gospel. ‘In holding out against them,’ says Paul, ‘I conserved the truth of the pure Gospel....The false gospel has it that we are justified by faith, but not without the deeds of the Law. The false apostles preached a conditional gospel.’ (Martin Luther, Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians (1535) (trans. Theodore Graebner)(Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1949) at 48-60.)
Luther must be correct that Paul viewed the twelve as false apostles for advancing Jesus’ conditional gospel as still valid. This perfectly explains why we find in Romans that Paul AT FIRST endorsed the Law and salvation by works (Romans 2:6-7; 3:31;7:12) — Jesus’ doctrine of salvation in the Gospel of Matthew.
Examples of Paul's Guile in Romans About Salvation
Specifically, in Romans 2:6-7 (KJV) Paul affirms unquestionably the key component that good works plays in salvation as Jesus taught the rich young ruler in Matthew's Gospel and in Jesus' statement "every tree without good fruit is cut down and thrown in the fire" (Matt. 7:19). Paul says:
Who will render to every man according to his deeds: 7To them who by patient continuance in well doing [i.e., ERGA AGATHA -- "Good works"] seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life:
[See Eerdman's Dictionary at 1387 on "Works" in 2:6-7 - erga, meaning "human activity" / "works"; see Bible.org, confesses 2:7 means "good works"; see also Biblos Greek - although it admits 'erga' is noun, it renders as verb 'doing.' See also Greek NT in transliterated form here.]
Indeed, in Romans 2:6-7 we find the conditional gospel of the 12, in particular the Gospel they quoted from Jesus in Matthew's Gospel. Paul says God will repay you for your deeds, and if you patiently do good deeds, God will render you "eternal life."
But in a short span, Paul will take that all back. The most emphatic is Romans 4:3-5 (KJV) -- which was the key passage upon which Luther built the faith-alone-without-works doctrine. Paul says there:
3For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. 4Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. 5But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.
As commonly interpreted by faith-alone advocates, this teaches that Abraham was "ungodly" when he had his first faith, and this faith alone justified him (saved him by grace), but he "worketh not." This is construed to mean good works including repentance were not involved in Abraham's justification (salvation). This is our supposed model, regardless of what Jesus taught, and thus Paul is understood (and I believe this is the correct reading of Paul) to be teaching in Romans 4:3-5:
- God justifies the ungodly without repentance
- God justifies the ungodly without any good work
- God justifies the ungodly solely for belief
- Therefore, God justifies based upon faith alone.
How do Paulinists reconcile this obvious use of guile between Romans 2:7 and Romans 4:5? We read one example:
Good works please God (Romans 2:7), and yet they are not faith (Romans 4:5). ("Is Obeying God the same as Trusting God" (2011).)
Yet, Romans 2:7 does not say that "good works please God...." No! It says "good works" are what you do patiently, and then God rewards you with "eternal life." So some Paulinists blind themselves so they do not have to confront the fact Paul used guile to affirm a truth he later disproves. Paul clearly used 2:7 to disarm the counter-attack of the 12 apostles or their allies, and once disarmed, he bombed them with Romans 4:5 to destroy their conditional Gospel -- the Gospel handed to them by Jesus Himself.
Mistranslation of Gen. 15:6 Affects Paul's Conclusion
Incidentally, Paul in Romans 4:3-5 relies upon a Septuagint Greek mistranslation from 257 BC of the Hebrew of Gen. 15:6. The original passage, as it even reads in the KJV of Gen. 15:6 is: "And he believed in the LORD; and he counted it to him for righteousness." Well, the second 'he' is interpolated to open up the possibility the second 'he' is not Abraham. However, in Hebrew there is no second 'he,' and instead the subject of the first clause -- Abraham -- is the intended subject of the second verb 'to count.' So it actually reads "he believed in the Lord and counted it to Him [i.e., God] as righteousness." (See our webpages where this is discussed: JWOS ch. 26 part 7.)
Hence, Abraham believed God about the promise of a child in old age (promised in the preceding verse - 15:5) and counted God's promise as righteousness toward Abraham. There is thus nothing here about salvation/justification when one reads the original Hebrew of Gen. 15:6.
Regardless, the point is that Paul in Romans 2:6-7 affirms salvation includes a component of good works, but in Romans 4:2-5 Paul denies that and says justification comes to the ungodly without any good works, and solely hinges on belief.
Hence, the double-speak of Romans 2:6-7 would throw off the original twelve. Those passages made it harder to isolate Paul's contrary doctrine as his true position and hence made arguing against Paul virtually impossible or very difficult. Paul's defenders always could, and still do, cite the verses that conform to Jesus, while they privately know Paul does not stick with that view, and later unravels that view. They realize and defend this tactic among themselves as a purposeful and God-serving tactic of guile. They can beat back your criticism with some verses where Paul endorses Jesus' doctrine on salvation, the law, etc., but then squirm away in their own minds that it is necessary to use such guile then and even today to defeat those who follow Jesus' teachings on salvation. In the die-hard Paulinist mind, Jesus' teachings in the flesh are defunct, and part of a prior dispensation; only Paul supposedly carries the resurrected Jesus' message for the current dispensation. See our article, "Examples of Paulinism."
Paul on The Law: Another Example of Paul's Use of Guile
Another example of Paul's guile is Paul’s contradictory positions on the Law given Moses. First, Paul affirms belief in the Law given Moses. (Romans 3:31;7:12; Acts 24:14.) In particular, in Romans 3:31 (KJV), we read:
Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.
Why did Paul initially affirm these truths only to undercut them later in Romans (as we shall see)? The gospel text by Matthew was circulating contemporaneously with Paul’s writings. Paul, having thereby disarmed the twelve’s anticipated opposition that Paul was changing Jesus's view of the Law, NEXT slips in gradually and later strongly in the same epistle that the death of Christ put to death the bond of Israel to the Law which makes the Law now dead to us. We are now free to marry another without the bond to the old Law. (Romans 7:1-7. See our extensive commentary on Romans 7:1-7.)
Because of the pro-law passages in Romans 3:31, 7:12; Acts 24:14, faith-alone advocates can say Paul was “slanderously reported to be an Antinomian” [i.e., one who teaches the Law given Moses is abrogated]. (Edward Fisher, The Marrow of Modern Divinity (Boston: John Bryce: 1766) at ii.)
But nothing is more clear in Paul’s writing than that he taught the Law given Moses, including the Sabbath command (one of the Ten Commandments), was abrogated. See, Ephesians 2:15, Colossians 2:14, 2 Cor. 3:11-17, Romans 7:1-7; 7:13 et seq, and Galatians 3:19 et seq. For full discussion, see my prior book, Jesus’ Words Only (2007) at 83 et seq.
Hence, again, Paulinists can say Paul is not Anti-Law / Antinomian by citing some pro-Law verses. But when they think they have the 'laugh' on you, they reaffirm to themselves and their followers that of course Paul believed the Law is dead and gone. I assure you though, the last laugh will be on them -- and tragically so.
Spiritual Damage Due To Paul's Boasting Of A Good Use of Guile / Deception
Unfortunately, Paul’s example and words have had a tragic impact on Christian morals. Use of guile in argumentation became a revered principle of Roman Catholicism. Paul’s verse that he used “guile” was proof enough for Aquinas that “guile” (deceit) “is no sin.” (Summa Theologica Art. 4:1.)
Yet, God’s position in all of this is ignored: “Guile is in the heart of them that think evil things.” (Prov.12:20.) The one who slays with “guile” shall die. (Exodus 21:14.) Most ironic of all — because Paul in Romans 4:7 only quotes the first half of this verse to prove imputed righteousness by faith alone — Psalm 32:2 says: “Blessed is the man unto whom Yahweh imputeth not iniquity, And in whose spirit there is no guile.” There it is again! The righteous — the ones without guile — are the ones to whom God will impute no prior sin based on atonement! You would deliberately have to twist that verse around so that a person with guile has no sin imputed to him!
Luther was tragically defending that when Paul admits he used guile to capture the Gentiles that this justifies Christian pastors to use double-speak. Many of Paul’s writings never allowed you to pin him down to a decisive criticism of abandoning Christ’s doctrines unless you were willing to call him an out and out liar. Paul did this by using double-speak. Many faith-alone adherents still follow this model, and it takes careful dissection of their words to find their inconsistencies.
Scripture Loses Integrity When One Of Its Speakers Can Speak With Guile
One problem with thinking an inspired person can talk with guile is that it leads to a dissolution of the integrity of Scripture. If you can explain away Paul whenever his teaching becomes demonstrably false / inconsistent with Jesus by admitting he was simply lying under inspiration, why would this not apply to everything Paul said? For example, even if Paul intended a doctrine to be followed, a Bible-based argument can always be that Paul was simply lying again.
For example, Luther and Calvin each insisted Paul says in Romans 13:1-3 that a Christian must accept tyrants as God’s agents and thus a Christian must never seek revolution (even though Peter in Acts 5:29 speaks to the contrary). However, during the year 1776, colonial ministers who favored revolution said Paul did not mean what he said. In 1776, in a famous sermon Pastor West said as to Romans 13:1-3 that he “had to conclude that the apostle Paul meant the opposite of what he said.” (Quoted in Frazer, Political Theology of America's Founding (2006)(referenced at this link.) West’s argument that Paul in effect LIED won the day among the religious colonial revolutionaries. (West's words on the right of Revolution later appear verbatim in the Declaration of Independence.)
Thus, an entire country’s origin, spiritually speaking, relies on saying Paul lied, which justified rejecting Paul’s express guidance and then going ahead into revolt! (We could revolt based upon Acts 5:29 and passages in OT on resisting oppression. We did not have to affirm Paul was a pious fraudster to do so as the colonialists chose to do to resolve the spiritual dilemma Paul presented.)
This historical episode illustrates clearly the ongoing danger of Paul’s presence in inspired scripture. His presence destroys the integrity of ever taking anything God says as true. It may be all a lie like when Paul says one thing but means the opposite about faith-and-works.
Paul As A Master Of Guile Is The Only Way To Hold Onto Faith Alone
Yet, recognizing Paul sometimes lies has been the only intelligible means for some who follow Paul's faith alone view to reject Paul’s just as clearly expressed view of the following:
- his support that faith-and-works are necessary for salvation (Romans 2:6-7 "endurance in good works" (erga agatha) is unto "eternal life"); 3:31 ("we uphold the Law"); 7:12 ("the law is holy"); 8:13 ("if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live"); 11:20-22)
- justification comes by being "doers of the Law." (Romans 2:13)(" those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.")
- his support for salvation by repentance. First, he buffets his body so not to be "disapproved" / "rejected." 1 Cor. 9:27 (buffet body to prevent sin and become "disapproved"); second, sorrowful repentance is unto salvation: (2 Cor. 7:9-10 ("godly sorrow to repentance worketh salvation");
- that one can lose their salvation due to disobedience or certain enumerated sins identified in the Law (1 Cor. 6:9; Eph. 5:5-7; Gal. 5:19-20; 6:7-9; 1 Thess. 4:6-8);
- we must work out our salvation with fear-and-trembling (Phil. 2:12-13), and
- we cannot assure ourselves of personal justification before the day of Judgment for it would be prideful to do so even if we know of no present sin in ourselves. (1 Cor. 4:1-5; Phil. 3:12-13.)
But against these verses are raised the crystal clear explanations by Paul that works do not profit at all, obedience to the Law can never save (even severs us from Christ to attempt to perform), and salvation is like Abraham's -- faith alone on a man supposedly who was an ungodly sinner / unrepentant at the moment he had faith. (Eph. 2:8-9; Romans 4:4-5). "He who works not but believes on the one who justifies the ungodly (note: not the repentant) is being accounted with the faithfulness of Him unto righteousness." (Romans 4:4-5.) To gain this covering, one need only express belief once and one is saved forever. (Romans 10:9.) Then of course, any conditionality in ongoing good works / obedience/ repentance is erased by piling on top of these principles all the eternal security verses in Paul. Thus all the contrary bullet points above disappear into oblivion.
As a result, Paulinists teach if you make even one command, one act, or any effort at repentance, a requirement in addition to faith for salvation, Paul teaches you are lost! "But if you add something you have cancelled it out.” (R.B. Thieme Jr., Doctrine of Grace: Eternal Security (May 19, 1988) lesson 814.)
Consequently, no explanation of these conflicting messages is necessary for us dumb-folk by those who preach faith alone based upon Paul. Why? Because Paulinists believe their man justifiably uses guile to gain adherents to his point of view of faith alone. The Paulinist who is aware of the deceit too can play the same game, and boldly deny they 'see' the contradiction. They will straight-face insist these statements in the bullet-point list above are all compatible 'if you understand the full-context.' What they refuse to admit is these are self-contradictory doctrines by Paul because they do not want to admit what they privately believe: Paul spoke the bullet points as guile to draw you into an opposite gospel. The unconditional gospel as Luther identified it. A gospel Luther identified as opposite of the conditional gospel of the supposedly 'false apostles' i.e., the 12 still laboring under the belief that Jesus's words in the flesh were still part of the current dispensation of the church.
Leads To A Subjective 'What I Like' Hermeneutic To Rely Upon Self-Contradictory Paul
It begs all credulity that Paulinists can treat Paul as inspired when he talks like this. We supposedly know he is inspired when he talks one way, but somehow we just know he is uninspired and lying when he says things that support an opposing view. This is simply a subjective hermeneutic. If applied to true Biblical passages, such thinking that God can speak in contradictions undermines taking any passage specifically in one direction if there is a less costly and more attractive cost-free alternative. We just follow the easy way, not the Way that Jesus said involved "agonizing" effort to enter. (Luke 13:24, Greek agonozai, tepidly translated as 'strive' in KJV.)
Then what instead should have been the response from a follower of Christ? When we see someone using double-speak to maneuver around Jesus’ message given the 12, then this should have raised an alarm. When Paulinists admit Paul quotes the Master with “extreme rarity” and came with a “fifth gospel” wholly devoid of what is in the other four, a red flag also should have gone up. Finally, we should have immediately questioned the supposition of apostleship and inspiration of one engaging in what everyone (Paulinists included) admits is duplicity — a clear pattern of bait-and-switch.
A theologian once addressed the identical issue of how we must assess someone like this. When there are indications that someone is fraudulently trying to pawn off his words as inspired and part of the Bible, we must pause. Speaking of a passage at the end of the Torah that speaks of Moses' death, Rawlinson says this cannot be inspired scripture. In this context, Rawlinson expresses a valid principle. Rawlinson says if one engages in “impudent fraud” to “palm [off] on the world a gross and elaborate deception... [that is,] to obtain for his statements a weight and authority which they otherwise would not be entitled,” such duplicity should destroy “our confidence in the integrity of the author.” (George Rawlinson, “On the Genuineness and Authenticity of the Pentateuch,” Aids to Faith: A Series of Theological Essays (Ed. William Thomson, D.D.) (N.Y.: Appleton & Co., 1863) at 273, 279.)
Similarly, while deception by Paul may be excused by Givens and others devoted to Paul, we should have instead lost all sense of confidence in Paul’s integrity if the case for guile be proven. And that case is impossible to deny. As Thomas Cosette recently wrote: “Paul’s teachings use the most double-minded expressions of thought and practice there is.” (Thomas L. Cosette, Hebrew Prophecies of the Coming of Paul (2007) at 37.)
When that is the inescapable conclusion, then how can we selectively pick verses to follow at odds with Jesus unless we are totally being subjective in our analysis? Aren’t we just picking verses from Paul solely because they conform to our predilection of an easy path even when at odds with Jesus? Aren't we favoring the easiest possible gospel to sell? Isn’t it human sensual thinking therefore that impels this desire for the easy way over the way that Jesus taught which He said requires “agonizing” effort to enter?
Do Not Let Paul Charm You Simply Because Sometimes He Taught Words Like Those of Christ
God is not amused by these developments. Paulinists may assume they can never be judged by the principles of repentance, good works, obedience, ongoing fear from sinning, or that charity is the most important virtue. They think they can insist Paul cunningly put those standards forth to throw off the “false [twelve] apostles.” Paul was supposedly acting with proper guile by pretending to endorse salvation principles based on faith-and-works, repentance and obedience in Romans 2:6-7; 3:31; 7:12; 8:13;11:20-22; Philippians 2:12-13; 1 Corinthians 4:2-5; 13:2,13; 2 Corinthians 7:9-10; Ephesians 5:6-7 and Galatians 5:19-20; 6:7-9, etc.
While Paulinists may think they will get away arguing this way with God, they are deluding themselves. God will never tolerate the idea that Paul could defend the allegedly true faith-alone gospel by deception and guile. God never could be the source of such bait-and-switch tactics.
A Judgment Day Excuse For Following Paul?
Or will God instead excuse the Paulinists because Paul had signs and wonders? Was it truly reasonable to assume Paul spoke from God because Paul was confirmed by ‘signs and wonders’? Indeed, Paul repeatedly defended himself from charges he brought a false gospel by insisting “signs and wonders” were the “signs of the apostles” that he enjoyed. (2 Cor. 12:12. See also Romans 15:19 “signs and wonders” validated himself.)
In other words, if signs and wonders are what Paul relied upon himself to prove his own validity, then will God have to accept that from you why you relied upon Paul? Will such an excuse protect you as a Paulinist if it turns out your confidence in Paul was misplaced?
Absolutely not! Jesus will respond to the die-hard Paulinists that He already said the “false prophet” would come “in my name” with “signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, the elect.” (Mark 13:22-23; Luke 21:8.)
In fact, signs and wonders are precisely what God allows false prophets to have in order to test the faithfulness of His people — to determine whether he or she loves God with his or her whole heart, mind and soul. (Deut. 13:1-5.) The key question, God insists, is not whether the would-be prophet has “signs and wonders” but whether such a pretender seeks to “seduce you from the way you were commanded to follow in the Law (given Moses).” (Deut. 13:3.)
As Tyndale says, this issue is whether such a pretender “juggles with [true] Scripture, and beguiles the people with false interpretations.” (Obedience of a Christian Man.) If so, God commands you to ignore such a would-be prophet despite verifiable “signs and wonders.”
What borders on the bizarre is that many Paulinists are admitting Paul is a deceptive lying teacher to advance a gospel at odds with the pre-Ascension-Jesus’ gospel but yet Paul has the superior gospel. Jesus must be scratching His head in wonderment. How did these Paulinists ever rationalize their final position of faith alone with this sorry record?
For you have their admission of following
- a deliberately “false (guile-ful) prophet,”
- who came in Jesus’ name based on “signs and wonders”
- who has a ‘contrary gospel’ to Jesus’ Gospel.
This is what Luther said in essence in his commentary on Galatians 2 which we quoted above.
How can anyone take these components, and rationalize a defense of holding onto a gospel from Paul at odds with Jesus? It makes no sense.
Consequently, on Judgment Day, Jesus will certainly not allow Paulinists to cite any faith-alone verse in defense. This is because Paulinists claim Paul was inspired. Since even Paul said “God cannot lie” (Titus 1:2), Jesus on judgment day is free to cite from Paul all the verses that prove Paul simultaneously endorsed salvation by obedience, repentance, and works -- the verses the Paulinists now place under the list of verses-by-guile to introduce 'faith alone' as the true doctrine.
Hence, all such Paulinists who defend deception to ignore works and obedience verses in Paul will be fairly judged by all these verses anyway. God will not treat these verses as legitimate pious frauds.
If the Paulinist relied on faith-alone doctrine to their detriment (lived sinfully) or they misled just one person (let alone millions) into a lawless and non-salvific life, they only have themselves to blame for treating Paul as their teacher. For Jesus clearly said He Himself was the “Sole Teacher.” (Matt. 23:8-11.) He was the Way, not Paul. If these contingencies occur (i.e., one soul is lost due to their false doctrine), these Paulinists will end up in the deepest darkness — the worst possible place in hell there is.
What Does ‘Sole Teacher’ Mean?
The author of the famous song Amazing Grace — Reverend John Newton (1725-1807) — explained this verse where Jesus cautions us against calling anyone else Teacher. Newton says it means that not even “the best” of the ministers, pastors, etc., are “so thoroughly furnished, nor so free from mistake, as to deserve our implicit confidence [which Jesus alone deserves].” (Rev. John Newton, The Works of the Reverend John Newton (Hamilton & Smith, 1821) Vol.7-8, Sermon 15, at 167.)
There was thus never any excuse for a true follower of Christ making Paul a teacher in Christ’s church, let alone one superior to Christ in effect. Jesus is and always will be our Sole Teacher.
Carlstadt had the priority of Jesus’ words right when he founded the German Reformation in 1517 with Luther. In his 1520 treatise, De Canoncis Scripturis Libellus, Carlstadt said:
It is necessary in fact to preserve obedience to the Lord, and as the Spirit of the Apostles is not a guide equal or greater than the Lord, thus also the heart of Paul within his letters does not have as much authority as has Christ. (Charles Beard's Martin Luther and the Reformation in Germany (1889) at 278 (reprint 2009) or 1896 edition at 401.)(translation from Latin).
Unfortunately, rather than accept this correction, Luther was infuriated with his partner. Luther drove out Carlstadt from the reform movement, declaring Carlstadt The New Judas. But Carlstadt was right: Jesus comes first. Everyone else is second tier. For there is only One Master. One Teacher.
Scholar Mark Given admits early on the truth about Paul's use of guile in his book Paul's True Rhetoric (Emory University, 2001), and lays out his biases:
Paul's rhetorical strategies...display such a degree of intentional ambiguity, cunning and deception as to make him justifiably vulnerable to the polemical charge of perpetuating sophistries." (Page 3)
"I am quite sympathetic with Paul, but I am also sympathetic to Paul's critics." (Page 3.)
Romans 3:7 - An Honorable Lie For God Exonerates Sin?
Doesn't Paul clearly excuse lying from sin if it supposedly advances God's glory?
For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto his glory; why yet am I also judged as a sinner? (Romans 3:7, King James Version)
But if through my lie God's truth abounds to his glory, why am I still being condemned as a sinner? (English Standard Version)
But if the truth of God through my lie abounded unto his glory, why am I also still judged as a sinner? (American Standard Version)
Thus, clearly Paul admits he knew he was lying, but Paul felt the end justified the means. Yet, how indeed does truth abound by a lie?
Femi Aribala of Nigeria has a quite pointed article Distorting the Word of God on this issue about Paul, and it can be excerpted in its entirety:
Whenever Paul swears, he tells a lie.
Jesus calls the devil “the father” of lies. He says: “He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth.” (John 8:44). This profile corresponds to that of Paul in the bible. Paul was a murderer of Christians from the beginning and he is an inveterate liar.
Paul disregards the truth. He says: “The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached.” (Philippians 1:18). Like a chameleon, he declares: “I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” (1 Corinthians 9:22). Accordingly, Paul says: "I try to please everybody in every way"(1 Corinthians 10:33). Then he contradicts himself: "If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ" (Galatians 1:10).
He even openly boasts of his deceitfulness: “Crafty fellow that I am, I caught you by trickery!” (2 Corinthians 12:16). This is not the way of Christ.