By Femi Aribisala
No Christian genuinely seeking the righteousness of God should imitate a man like Paul.
Jesus warns his disciples: “Beware of these Pharisees and the way they pretend to be good when they aren’t. But such hypocrisy cannot be hidden forever.” (Luke 12:1). This warning certainly applies to Paul. Paul declares: “I am a Pharisee, the son of a Pharisee.” (Acts 23:6). Moreover, his hypocrisy, hidden in his days, is now evident to all in the bible.
Paul is double-tongued in his epistles. He says one thing here and another thing there. He does the exact opposite of the righteousness he proclaims. The discrepancies between his words and his actions belie his highfalutin pretensions to lofty Christian morality and values.
Paul warns the Galatians: “If you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing.” (Galatians 5:2). And yet, Paul himself personally circumcised Timothy. Luke reports that: “Paul wanted to take him along on the journey, so he circumcised him because of the Jews who lived in that area, for they all knew that his father was a Greek.” (Acts 16:3).
Paul counsels the Romans: “Do not be wise in your own opinion.” (Romans 12:16). Then he says opinionatedly to the Galatians: “I have confidence in the Lord that you will take no other view than mine.” (Galatians 5:10). He declares in Galatia: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28). Then he contradicts himself in Corinth by proclaiming discrimination between men and women: “Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak.” (1 Corinthians 14:34).
Paul asked: “When one of you has a grievance against a brother, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints?” (1 Corinthians 6:1). But then, confronted by Christian antagonists, Paul chose to go to law before “the unrighteous:” “If there is nothing in their charges against me, no one can give me up to them. I appeal to Caesar.” (Acts 25:11). He says: “no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed.” (1 Corinthians 12:3). Then he himself declares that Jesus was accursed: “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us.” (Galatians 3:13).
Paul writes to the Romans: “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” (Romans 12:14). But he then goes on to curse his opponents, even including angels from heaven: “If we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:8). When the high priest ordered someone to slap him, Paul replied angrily with a curse: “God shall slap you, you whitewashed pigpen.” (Acts 23:2-3).
Paul insists Christians should not boast: “What, then, can we boast about? Nothing!” (Romans 3:27). “What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?” (1 Corinthians 4:7). But he then boasts repeatedly; claiming he prays more, labours more, and suffers more than everybody else. (2 Corinthians 11:22-27). He says it is unwise to compare oneself with others. (2 Corinthians 10:12). Then he declares that he is superior to the twelve apostles: “They say they serve Christ? I know I sound like a madman, but I have served him far more! I have worked harder.” (2 Corinthians 11:23). He says: “Christ is the end of the law.” (Romans 10:4). Nevertheless, he performed Nazarite sacrifices according to the law even after Jesus’ resurrection. (Acts 21:26).
Paul says to the Colossians: “Do not lie to one another.” (Colossians 3:9). And yet, Paul himself is not committed to truth. Instead, he justifies telling lies to the Philippians: “The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached.” (Philippians 1:18). Paul claims his lies promote the gospel: “My dishonesty brought (God) glory by pointing up his honesty in contrast to my lies.” (Romans 3:7). He even openly boasts of being a deceiver to the Corinthians: “Crafty fellow that I am, I caught you by trickery!” (2 Corinthians 12:16).
Paul is so unabashedly duplicitous, he admits to being guided by the shady principle of telling people whatever they want to hear: “I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some.” (1 Corinthians 9:22). Accusations that he was a liar trailed him everywhere, ensuring that he often resorted to swearing in self-defence: “The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying.” (2 Corinthians 11:31). But Jesus expressly cautions against this: “Do not swear at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool. Simply let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No,’ ‘No’; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.” (Matthew 5:34/37).
Paul is so malicious; he wishes those who persecute him would castrate themselves. (Galatians 5:12). Responding to his critics, he insists their “mouths must be stopped.” (Titus 1:11). Jesus delivers sinners from Satan (Luke 4:18); but Paul delivers them to Satan. He says: “Among them are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan to be taught not to blaspheme.” (1 Timothy 1:20). And yet, this same Paul moralises to the Galatians: “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness.” (Galatians 6:1).
He counsels the Romans: “Repay no one evil for evil.” (Romans 12:17). But instead of forgiving those who offended him, he asked God to punish them: “Alexander the coppersmith has done me much harm. The Lord will punish him.” (2 Timothy 4:14). While Jesus advocates non-retaliation in Christian conduct: “that you may be sons of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:45); Paul preaches it for malevolent reasons: “for in so doing you will heap coals of fire on his head.” (Romans 12:20).
Paul says: “Each man’s work will become manifest; for the day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire.” (1 Corinthians 3:13). The “fire” Paul lit led to the burning of innocents at the stake. (1 Corinthians 5:5). He was the father of the Inquisition, whereby hundreds of thousands were hanged, beheaded and stoned to death. His tenets were used to validate slavery (Ephesians 6:5-6); discriminate against women (1 Corinthians 14:34-36); as well as provide biblical authority for anti-Semitism and the Nazi massacre of six million Jews. (1 Thessalonians 2:14-16).
Jesus expressly warns us not to be hypocritically pharisaic like Paul: “The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.” (Matthew 23:2-3). But Paul contradicts Jesus by asking Christians to be hypocrites just like him: “I urge you to imitate me.” (1 Corinthians 4:16).
However, no Christian genuinely seeking the righteousness of God should imitate a man like Paul. Paul’s spirit is a monstrous imposition on the Spirit of Jesus, and his word should never be mistaken for the word of God.
By Femi Aribisala