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Only Jesus (great song by Big Daddy)

What Did Jesus Say? (2012) - 7 topics 

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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's Gospel) 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 in Acts that he interacted 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 it is not until Acts 16:13 that Luke switches for the first time 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 when trying to advance his 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? ; Paul Lies Twice and Commits Several Major Sins in Acts 23:1-5; 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 when it happened 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 constant inspiration of the person tasked for an activity. For example, Balaam was called as a true prophet initially and spoke a blessing by inspiration of the Holy Spirit (Numbers 24:12) but he later changed to a false prophet when -- after giving a true word from God about the coming Christ -- 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" -- remember only likely known to Luke through Paul's report -- it does not prove Paul met the true Jesus earlier. Nor does it invest Paul with constant inspiration that we can trust. This is especially so when Paul teaches the identical lesson of Balaam that it was permissible to eat meat sacrificed to idols. Or when Paul preaches the abrogation of the Sabbath -- one of the 10 Commandments. The fact that Paul's abrogates the Law, in particular the 10 Commandments, is supported by virtually all commentaries, including those written by the young Luther.  See JWO ch. 5

And does that statement in Acts 13:2, if truly by the Holy Spirit, tell us enough 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 (words "that come to pass") and who has "signs and wonders" but who tries to "seduce you from following the Law given here." (The Ten Commandments in context.) God says such a testing prophet 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. By refusing to be seduced.

Jesus even quotes this Deuteronomy passage in Matt 7:14-32. Jesus endorses this as the test for Christians to determine a true from a false prophet. Jesus speaks of those who have "signs and wonders" -- who cast out demons in Jesus' name. Who give prophecies in Jesus' name that come to pass. Jesus says such signs and wonders prove nothing if the prophet works ANOMIA. This word means negation of the Law - in line with Deut. 13:1-5.

Our ability to recognize what Jesus is quoting was minimized by translating ANOMIA as "lawless." Its translation should have been aligned with the text Jesus was quoting. It is clear because the Septuagint Greek translation of 247 BC used "anomia" as an expression of the apostasy from the Law which the testing prophet utters according to Deut 13:1-10.  See Meaning of Anomia.

Jesus concludes by warning he will tell such a prophet on judgment day that He "never knew them." See Matt 7:15-24

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, ...

This disruption of supposedly the Holy Spirit's plan started with Paul having "thought best" not to take John Mark - the later gospel writer. Umm.

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. Thus, 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 if truly given. 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. It all depends upon what Paul "thought best." It did not turn on the Holy Spirit talking to Paul or Barnabas to justify a change in plans. So this appears a sinful violation of Acts 13:2 to boot by both Barnabas and Paul, assuming it was trul an order from the Hoky Spirit which they both violated without any amended direction from the Spirit.

On balance, it also appears Paul is more in the wrong here. While John Mark did not want to help in Pamphylia, John Mark was now willing to help both men. He 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. 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. Paul's mission may be a test from God to prove we will resist apostasy -- lawlessness in the sense of ANOMIA -- proving our love of God thereby. Finally, Paul's split from Barnabas proves Paul was not faithful to the joint mission which the Holy Spirit supposedly gave both men. God possibly wants us to expose Paul as someone who will violate a "call" of God when he "thinks best" to do so.

The proof that this conclusion is correct incidentally comes in Acts almost right away. This next event proves Paul must be a testing prophet that God permits to test us whether we can be seduced by apostasy aka anomia. 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 Demoniac Python Priestess Endorses Paul's Salvation Message for Days Before Paul Casts Out Demon



Does it matter Paul cast out a demon from the priestess in the name of Jesus after many days of her endorsement of his "way of salvation" (gospel) by this influential demon-controlled woman, the Python? Certainly not. Jesus already explained that 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 referenced above.

I trust this helps answer your question.

Blessings, Doug