By Femi Aribisala
If God were to inspire me to write a book, the words in my book would still be my words. They would not be the word of God.
Ask a Christian a question about Jesus, and he might answer with a quotation from Paul. But who tells us Paul speaks for Jesus? Why do we need Paul to speak for Jesus when Jesus speaks for himself? Why do we need Paul to speak for Jesus when Jesus himself warns us: “Be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time?” (Mark 13:23). If Jesus has told us all we need to know, why do we need someone else to add to, or subtract from, what he said?
Limitations of scripture
The word of God is, and will forever be, with God. (John 1:1). God created all things with his word. He spoke his word to the patriarchs and the prophets of Israel. Then he sent his word to the world in the person of Jesus, his Son. The word of God now sits at the right hand of God from where he speaks into the hearts and minds of sons of God and judges all things. There is no scriptural basis whatsoever for concluding that this word of God is the same as the word of Paul.
Daniel says: “I, Daniel, understood from the scriptures, according to the word of the LORD given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years.” (Daniel 9:2). This shows that the scriptures are separate and distinct from the word of God. The scriptures are given by men. The word of God is given by God. The scriptures are written by men. The word of God is spoken by God.
Accordingly, Jesus points out that the word of God gives life: scriptures do not. He says to the Jews: “You search the scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of me. But you are not willing to come to me that you may have life.” (John 5:39-40).
Paul says: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16). But this does not make the scriptures the word of God. There is a difference between what God says and what God inspires. If God were to inspire me to write a book, the words in my book would still be my words. They would not be the word of God. All that can be said is that my words were written by the inspiration of God. If God were to inspire me to do a painting, it would not thereby be the painting of God? It would still be my painting.
Contrary to popular perception, the writer of 2 Peter does Paul no favours. He says: “No prophecy of scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:20-21). However, Paul is not a prophet. 2 Peter does not classify Paul’s writing as prophecy but as “scripture.” Christians need to understand that the law and the prophets are the highest form of inspired Jewish writings. Other “writings” are considered of lower cadre.
2 Peter does not even acknowledge Paul as an apostle of Christ. Instead, it pointedly refers to him as “Brother Paul.” It does not say Paul writes by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Instead, it says Paul writes: “according to the wisdom that God gave him.” (2 Peter 3:15). That is certainly not a high commendation. It actually means 2 Peter does not accept Paul’s writings as the word of God. At best, they are words of wisdom. I also write according to the wisdom God gave me. But that does not make my writings the word of God.
Moreover, the major concern of 2 Peter is that Paul’s letters are inclined to lead unstable believers astray. I share that concern. However, there is no danger in the word of God leading anybody astray. Nowhere in the scriptures are we counseled to be careful that the word of God might lead us astray. 2 Peter says some of Paul’s writings are “hard to understand.” Again, this immediately shows they cannot be the word of God. The word of God is not hard to understand. On the contrary, it “gives understanding to the simple.” (Psalm 119:130).
Word of Paul
When Paul wrote his letter to Timothy declaring the scriptures to be the inspiration of God, the New Testament bible was non-existent. Therefore, Paul’s epistles can surely not be included in his classification of the scriptures. In any case, Paul’s view of the Old Testament contradicts that of Jeremiah. Jeremiah insists the scribes tampered with the bible. He asks: “How can you say, ‘We are wise, for we have the law of the LORD,’ when actually the lying pen of the scribes has handled it falsely?” (Jeremiah 8:8).
Paul is the only writer in the bible who says his word is the word of God. He says to the Thessalonians: “When you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God.” (1 Thessalonians 2:13). This is one of the most deceitful things Paul ever said. In the bible, Paul mostly speaks for himself and about himself. Time and again, he presents himself as his own authority, ensuring that his words should not be mistaken for the word of God.
The word of God can only come from God. It cannot come from man. Paul is a man; therefore, he cannot speak the word of God. John the Baptist, whose heavenly calling Jesus authenticates, never claims he speaks the word of God. Instead he says: “He who comes from above is above all; he who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all.” (John 3:31). “He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God does not give the Spirit by measure.” (John 3:34).
John is talking here about Jesus and no one else. Only Jesus and the Holy Spirit are divinely authorised to speak the word of God on earth. They are the only two people who come from heaven. They also never speak their own words. They only speak God’s words.
Jesus says: “I have not spoken on my own authority; but the Father who sent me gave me a command, what I should say and what I should speak. And I know that his command is everlasting life. Therefore, whatever I speak, just as the Father has told me, so I speak.” (John 12:49-50). The same principle applies to the Holy Spirit. Jesus says: “He will guide you into all truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak.” (John 16:13).
These principles have no applicability to Paul. Even by his own admission, Paul speaks his own words. He says: “What I speak, I speak not according to the Lord, but as it were, foolishly.” (2 Corinthians 11:17). But God does not speak foolishly. (Continued).