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Acts 13:2 - Does This Prove Paul Met Christ? 

Raissa asks: Please read Acts 13.

My response.

Hi Raissa. I suppose you are noting verse 2 that the Holy Spirit at Antioch, Syria said to unspecified Antioch church members, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”

I suppose your argument is how can the Holy Spirit choose Saul /Paul for a "work" without Paul being truly visited outside Damascus as Paul claims. Several issues arise about this.

First, we must examine whether this verse is itself inspired or merely a report of a third person -- hearsay -- that Luke trusts. If such is the case, then Luke himself would not know whether it was true or not. Luke makes clear in writing both Luke and Acts that he himself is not writing under inspiration but in reliance upon third-party witnesses. Luke explains this by noting he is writing a two-part historical work -- Luke as volume 1, and Acts as volume 2 -- based upon what he considers reliable eyewitnesses. How do we know this?

Luke advises in Acts 1:1 that Acts itself is part 2 of what begins with Luke's Gospel. Verse 1 of Acts reads: "In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach." So then we read in Luke's Gospel ch. 1, 1:-4:

"1 Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. 3 With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, 4 so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught."

Hence, Luke confesses from the outset of volume 1 (Luke) that he is relying upon "eyewitnesses and servants of the word." Luke is thus claiming he is relying upon eyewitnesses to events rather than he himself is in communication with the Holy Spirit somehow. Then Acts is simply a companion volume with the same source of evidence.

 

Who then was the eyewitness to the events in Acts 13? The only person whom Luke mentions himself in Acts interacting with personally among those mentioned in Acts 13:1 is "Saul" aka Paul. When did this first happen? Well, Luke uses "they" pronouns to speak of Paul and others in Acts 14:24-26 and thereafter until Luke switches for the first time in Acts 16:13 to "we" at Philippi. At this point, Barnabas and Paul already split at Acts 15:36-41. See discussion link

Hence, Luke's source did not include Barnabas who appears in no "we" passages thereafter.

Thus, we can conclude this comment about Paul and Barnabas by supposedly the Holy Spirit mentioned in Acts 13:2 was only able to be confirmed through Paul in Acts 16 after Barnabas already separated from Paul.

So is Paul reliable?

We must consider on that score that Paul told the Corinthians that lying to capture someone's confidence is ok: "But be it so, I did not myself burden you; but, being crafty, I caught you with guile." (2 Cor. 12:16, ASV.) Paul repeats this same principle in Romans that lying can be justified by trying to advance the gospel: "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 KJV. And Paul justifies in evangelism using pretense of appearing obedient to the Law to gain over those who think the Law still applies - a practice the Savior called hypocrisy by the Pharisaical sect who cleaned the outside of the cup to appear Law-compliant. See 1Corinthians 9:19-22; 1Corinthians 10:31-33.

Further, there are many other proofs of Paul using deliberate deception and lies to protect himself (not the Gospel) during the court hearing before the High Priest, viz. Acts 23:6-7. See Did Paul ever deliberately lie?  and also see Guile in Paul.

Hence, Luke's source for what he is saying appears to be only Paul, and Paul is disqualified as a source due to his defense of lying, and doing so even in Court for his own selfish purposes. Paul should have told the High Priest the true reason Paul was on trial --his alleged encouragement to his travelling companion -- Trophimus --to enter the temple in an uncircumcised state which caused a furious uproar.

Second, Luke attributes -- remember based only upon his investigation not inspiration -- that the Holy Spirit only said the following in Acts 13:2: "2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”

So let's first ask: when God calls someone to a work, does that imply this person's words are always inspired? No, it only means a work is ordered, but does not mean inspiration. Also, even if otherwise, even Balaam was called as a true prophet initially (Numbers 24:12) but he later turned false when -- after giving a true word from God -- he taught the people they could eat meat sacrificed to idols in violation of God's law, as Jesus explains in Rev. 2:14. See JWO ch.7

(Paul taught the identical lesson of Balaam on idol meat, incidently, in 2 passages. See the same last link cited.)

Thus, if Paul were called by the Holy Spirit to a "work," it does not prove Paul met the true Jesus earlier, and it does not invest Paul with inspiration that we can trust, especially as so many do to allow Paul to abrogate Sabbath (in the 10 Commandments), and all the Law. The fact of Paul's abrogation of the Law, in particular the 10 Commandments, is supported by virtually all commentaries, including from the young Luther.  See JWO ch. 5

And does that statement in Acts 13:2, if by the Holy Spirit, tell us enough of what kind of work that represents so that we can rule out God's plan was to use Paul as the work of a special kind of testing "prophet" which God allows in Deut 13:1-10?  

In that Deuteronomy passage, God says He allows a certain kind of prophet to give true prophecy ("that comes to pass") and who has signs and wonders but who tries to "seduce you from following the Law given here" (Ten Commandments in context) -- which God says is allowed to TEST you whether you love God with your whole heart, soul and mind -- the greatest commandment. You pass the test by rejecting such a prophet as false.

Jesus even quotes this Deuteronomy passage, and endorses this as the test for Christians to determine true from false prophets -- even those who cast out demons in Jesus' name. Jesus says such signs and wonders prove nothing if the prophet works ANOMIA (negation of the Law), and Jesus will tell such prophet on judgment day that He "never knew them." See Matt 7:15-24. See also http://www.jesuswordsonly.com/topicindex/737-anomia-in-nt-means-negation-mosaic-law.html

Finally, by Acts 15, Paul and Barnabas get in a very angry dispute over Barnabas' intent to take John Mark -- the author of the Gospel of Mark -- on their missionary trip. The reason? Paul rejects John Mark as explained in Acts 15:37-39:

37 Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. 38 But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. 39 And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, ...

Now if the Holy Spirit truly said what is said in Acts 13:2, the "work" was to be jointly the same between Paul and Barnabas. So these two men could not wilfully split from one another without violating the Holy Spirit's original purpose. Luke does not blame either man, but that does not matter. The point is both were wrong / sinning against the Holy Spirit's original words in Acts 13:2, and one of them should have backed down to comply with the Holy Spirit, unless a new direction was given by the Holy Spirit. But none is recorded. So this appears a sinful violation of Acts 13:2 to boot.

On balance, it also appears Paul is in the wrong because while John Mark did not want to help in Pamphylia, John Mark was now willing to help both men, and should have been forgiven not wanting to do so earlier. Paul's intransigence appears contumacy against the Holy Spirit (if 13:2 is true) which gave Barnabas and Paul a joint mission in Acts 13:2.

Hence, Acts 13:2 in summary does not have any reliability because Luke did not eyewitness it himself; and his only apparent source was Paul, as Luke never records meeting Barnabas -- the other beneficiary of this statement. And even if true, then (a) Paul's work of the Holy Spirit could be to allow Paul to do signs and wonders, and even true prophecy as the Holy Spirit also gave Balaam (which Paul matches also on the idol meat issue) to provide a test of whether you or I would allow ourselves to be seduced by Paul into lawlessness, or instead would we resist, proving our love of God thereby; and (b) Paul's split from Barnabas proves Paul was not faithful to the joint mission which the Holy Spirit gave both men.

The proof incidentally that Paul was in the wrong on splitting from Barnabas, and if Paul had the Holy Spirit's blessing up to that point comes right way. For right after splitting from Barnabas, we find in Acts 16:16 that Paul's salvation message was specifically approved by the highly popular demon-controlled Python priestess of Philippi. She for many days tells the people to follow Paul for he teaches a "way of salvation"" -- until Paul casts the demon out of her in Jesus' name a few days later. See http://www.jesuswordsonly.com/recommendedreading/373-spirit-of-python-promoted-paul-in-acts-16.html 

WHAT ABOUT PAUL CASTING OUT THE DEMON IN THE PYTHON PRIESTESS?

Does it matter Paul cast out a demon in the name of Jesus after many days of endorsement of his gospel by this influential demon-controlled woman, the Python? Certainly not, for Jesus already explained, it means nothing. See Matt 7:15-24 . There Jesus say that he "never knew" the prophet who comes with prophecy and signs and wonders to cast out demons in His ' name if that prophet also works "anomia" - negation of the Law (A-negative, + nomos -Mosaic Law). See our article explaining the meaning of Anomia.

I trust this helps answer your question.

Blessings, Doug