By Tyson Thorne

March 18 18, 2024

GMM Large

I’ve been seeing a particular heresy being taught on social media lately, and while you may never come across this yourself, I want you to be prepared in case you do. Here is what is being claimed:

  1. Paul was not one of the twelve disciples. Matthias was the twelfth.
  2. Paul doesn’t meet the requirements of an apostle as he was not with Jesus from the start of his ministry to his ascension.
  3. Paul wasn’t working under the “great commission” that Jesus gave the others, and in fact Paul claims to have not been sent to baptize.

I’ll mention that no Scripture passages are referenced for these claims, so it makes me think the people promoting this teaching are doing so from hearsay and not coming up with this on their own. I’ll discuss what is true and what isn’t, and what is important and what is not.

To begin, it is true that Paul was not one of the 12 disciples.What difference does this make? Absolutely none, as we’ll see.

Second, the definition for an apostle presented by this group is incorrect. Likely they are taking Acts 1.21-26 as the requirements for one to become an apostle. It isn’t, it is what the apostles though appropriate for the person who would replace Judas. Since Judas had been with the disciple since the beginning, they wanted to replace him with someone else who had been there from the start. There was no shortage of people to include, but Matthias was chosen. Why Matthias? The Bible only says it was a prompting of the Holy Spirit.

After the ascension of Jesus (Acts 1.6-11) the 12 are no longer referred to as “disciples” but are now referred to as “apostles”, but they are not the only ones. Apollos, who appears as a Johnny-come-lately in Acts 18.24 who didn’t even know that Jesus had been crucified and resurrected, is called an apostle later in life (1 Corinthians 4.6-9). Timothy and Silas are called “apostle” in the opening verse of both 1 and 2 Thessalonians and it is likely they were born after Jesus was crucified or around that time. In Romans 16.7 Paul refers to the apostles Andronicus and Junia. Even James, the half-brother of Jesus, did not follow Jesus until after the crucifixion but becomes an apostle later (Galatians 1.18-19). Clearly, then, having been with Jesus from the beginning of his ministry to the end is not a requirement for apostle.

However, if having been under Jesus’ instruction personally were a prerequisite (it isn’t), Jesus makes a post-ascension appearance to Paul (Acts 9.1-9) and brought Paul to the third heaven in a vision (2 Corinthians 12.1-11) for further instruction. The real kicker, as it were, is that Jesus himself gave Paul credentials to serve Him as an apostle (Acts 9.15-18).
Furthermore, Paul accepts the other apostles and they accept him as one of their own. Barnabus was one of the 72 sent out in Luke 10 (as a disciple at the time) and is called an apostle in Acts 14.1-4. Paul and Barnabus were commissioned to carry a donation to a church struck by famine (Acts 11.27-30) and became missionary partners on Paul’s first missionary journey (Acts 13.1-3). If Barnabus had any misgivings about Paul, he didn’t voice them. In his second letter, Peter calls Paul a “dear brother” and recommend the readers listen to his teachings (2 Peter 3.14-16). Clearly the apostles did not think Paul was teaching “another gospel” or was in any way lesser than themselves.

Third, the claim that Paul was against baptism is a false claim. They are referring to 1 Corinthians 1.17 where Paul states “Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the gospel...”. This is why context matters, people. Only a few verses earlier Paul mentions that he baptized two members of the church of Corinth, Crispus and Gaius. He was clearly not opposed to the practice. In context, the people of Corinth were dividing themselves up by their favorite church leaders and who was baptized by whom. This division is being addressed by Paul, leading him to proclaim that he is glad he didn’t baptize any of them save the two he mentions.

Very quickly we’ve shown that there is no requirement for an apostle to have been under Jesus’ teaching from the start of his ministry and, therefore, the fact that Paul was not one of the 12 disciples, or even the 72, makes no difference at all. We’ve also seen that through Jesus’ commissioning of Paul and Paul’s acceptance by other “apostles” that he is in fact a true apostle of Jesus Christ. Last, we’ve shown that Paul is not averse to the practice of baptism (something commanded in the Great Commission in Matthew 28.26-30), and had even baptized at least two people we know by name during his ministry.

When someone makes false claims about the Bible and it’s teachings it is likely that person is either ignorant or part of a cult. And while I do not know which group is making these claims on social media, I would not be surprised if they turn out to be such. Correct them if you see this in your feed or meet such a person in real life, please, and do not let the heresy persist. Paul was an apostle indeed.

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