Paul seduces Christians from following Jesus into following him.
Jesus warns: “False christs and false prophets will arise and perform signs and wonders, to lead astray, if possible, the elect. But be on guard; I have told you all things beforehand.” (Mark 13:22-23).
Paul performed many signs and wonders. (Acts 19:12). Today, the word of Paul is presumed to be the word of Jesus. Indeed, Christians use Paul’s word to preach far more than that of Jesus. Can Paul be one of the “false christs” Jesus warns us about? The evidence suggests so.
Paul met Jesus as a disembodied voice on Damascus Road. Nevertheless, he says: “It pleased God, to reveal his Son in me.” (Galatians 1:15-16). This indicates he is determined to present himself as something of a reincarnation of Christ. He then commends the Galatians: “Though my condition was a trial to you, you did not scorn or despise me, but received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 4:14). But Paul is not Jesus, so why in heavens name should he want to be received as Jesus?
Paul says: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20). He even says he has Jesus’ crucifixion marks in his body. (Galatians 6:17). However, Jesus never says anyone would be crucified with him; not even figuratively. Instead, he says his disciples must carry their own crosses: “If anyone desires to come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24).
Rather than be crucified with Christ, Jesus maintains his disciples should lay down their lives for others, just like he does: “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:12-13).
Paul’s impersonation of Christ continues with his assertion that he has “the mind of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 2:16). But the same Paul says: “I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.” (Romans 7:19). This double-minded confusion is certainly not suggestive of someone who has the mind of Christ.
Paul insists unquestioned acceptance of his tenets is the sole determinant of true spirituality: “If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord. If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized.” (1 Corinthians 14:37-38).
He insists whatever he says must be deemed to come directly from God. Accordingly, he commends the Corinthians: “When you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God.” (1 Thessalonians 2:13). This should send alarm-bells ringing to true believers.
Whoever disobeys Paul must be ostracized: “If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him.” (2 Thessalonians 3:14). Paul then threatens the disobedient with the witchcraft of “weapons of warfare” which he claims are “mighty in God for pulling down strongholds.” (2 Corinthians 10:4).
Saviour of men
Jesus says: “I will build my church.” (Matthew 16:18). Nevertheless, Paul usurps Christ’s position by claiming to be the one who laid the foundation of the Church of God: “God was kind and let me become an expert builder. I laid a foundation on which others have built.” (1 Corinthians 3:10). However, he refuses to build on another man’s foundation. (Romans 15:20).
He personalises the gospel, calling it “my gospel” (Romans 16:25); a claim even Jesus does not make. If Paul’s “gospel” seems dubious to anyone, he insists it is because the person is blind: “If our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: in whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of them who believe not.” (2 Corinthians 4:3-4).
Paul claims his sufferings for sinners surpass those of Christ’s disciples: “Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one- I am talking like a madman- with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death.” (2 Corinthians 11:23).
The list of his alleged sufferings even seem to dwarf the sufferings of Christ: “Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers.” (2 Corinthians 11:24-26).
Indeed, Paul reckons Christ’s sufferings inadequate; creating the need for him to perfect them: “I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ.” (Colossians 1:24).
Since God says: “I am that I am” (Exodus 3:14), Paul mimics God by saying: “I am what I am.” (1 Corinthians 15:10). Since Jesus ascended to heaven (John 3:13; Acts 1:9), Paul also claims the same distinction. (2 Corinthians 12:2). He even arrogates to himself the status of a Christ-like high priest ordained to “offer up” Gentiles to God. (Romans 15:16).
Paul claims his ministry is a “divine office” long foretold; part of “the mystery hidden for ages and generations.” (Colossians 1:25-26). Indeed, it turns out on inspection to be the very ministry of Christ; commissioned with the exact same words God proclaimed to the Messiah: “I have set you as a light to the Gentiles that you should be for salvation to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 13:47; Isaiah 49:6). This allegedly makes Paul and not only Jesus, the saviour of men: “I am made all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.” (1 Corinthians 9:22).
Paul denigrates God’s Ten Commandments as “the ministry of death.” (2 Corinthians 3:7). He then issues his own commandments (1 Corinthians 7:10-16); declaring he is the one who “ordains in all the churches.” (1 Corinthians 7:17). He even claims the divine ability to be “absent in body but present in spirit.” (1 Corinthians 5:3). He also tells Timothy he is the transmitter of spiritual gifts and powers: “Stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands.” (2 Timothy 1:6).
Jesus says: “Call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven.” (Matthew 23:9). Nevertheless, Paul claims to be the father of Gentile believers. (1 Timothy 1:2). He says he is the one who gives birth to them. (1 Corinthians 4:15). Therefore, he insists he must be their term of reference: “Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me- put it into practice.” (Philippians 4:9).
The total effect of this exercise in megalomania is that, insidiously, Paul seduces Christians from following Jesus into following him.