Doctrines Taught by Apostle Paul

Doctrines Taught by Apostle Paul

Next to the Master Teacher Himself (Jesus Christ), the apostle Paul is probably the most eloquent and persuasive teacher in the Bible. Paul is so significant a figure in the New Testament and in the church’s history that he has been called the second founder of Christianity.

This, of course, is not true, for it ignores the continuity between Jesus and Paul and diminishes unfairly the contributions of men such as Peter, John, and Luke. But there is no question that Paul played a vital role in the growth and establishment of the church and in the interpretation and application of God’s grace in Christ.

His epistles make up almost one-fourth of the New Testament, putting Paul just behind Luke in the percentage of the New Testament written by a single individual. And if one adds the sixteen chapters of Acts (Acts 13-28) that are almost entirely devoted to Paul, Paul figures in almost one-third of the New Testament.

Major Teachings of Paul

Misinterpreting Paul and His Letters

One post on a Facebook Group I was invited in questioned how the apostle Paul differed in his teachings about God from every single one of the Old Testament patriarchs and even with Muhammad, the founder of Islam.

While the rest of them taught monotheism, that is, there is only one God; Paul taught polytheism – there is more than one God. Upon reading that, I couldn’t help but conclude that the conversation starter in the group hasn’t really read the Bible. And there’s no doubt that he misunderstood Paul’s teachings, especially about the Triune God.

Exploring Paul’s background will help us understand him better and to interpret his words more accurately. So who was this man Paul?

Paul’s Background

Paul himself provides a rough outline of his own background, but in his epistles, this material is scattered. The basic historical details are conveniently grouped in the speeches Paul gave (as reported by Luke) to a hostile crowd of Jews on the steps of the temple (Acts 22:1-21) and to King Agrippa II and the Roman procurator Festus (Acts 26:2-23).

Saul (Paul’s name before his conversion) was a Jew born in Tarsus of Cilicia (Acts 22:3), a region in the extreme southeastern part of Asia Minor. In Paul’s day, the city was the capital of the Roman province Syria-Cilicia (Galatians 1:21). It was prosperous, privileged (it was exempt from Roman taxation), and cultured, being famous for its schools. Not only was Paul born in Tarsus, but he was also a citizen of this “no ordinary city” (Acts 21:39).

More important, however, was the fact that Paul was a citizen of Rome. The Romans did not confer citizenship on just anyone; only a small percentage of people who lived within the Roman Empire possessed this privilege.

Paul’s Roman citizenship was inherited from his family (Paul claims, “I was born a citizen” (Acts 22:28), perhaps because of some deed of service performed by his father or grandfather for the Romans.

Doctrines Taught by Apostle Paul

However achieved, Paul’s Roman citizenship was an important and providential qualification for his role as a missionary to the Roman Empire. It enabled him to escape detainment when his preaching brought disfavor (Acts 16:37-39), to avoid punishment (Acts 22:23-29), and to plead his case before the emperor’s court in Rome (Acts 25:10-12).

His statement, “I was brought up in this city, taught according to the strictness of our fathers’ law, and was zealous toward God” (Acts 22:3), tells us that prior to his conversion on the road to Damascus, not only was Paul by birth a “Hebrew of Hebrews,” he was by conviction a serious and zealous follower of Judaism, a member of its strictest sect (Acts 26:5), the Pharisees.

But Paul’s encounter of the Lord Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:3-6; 22:6-11; 26:12-15) has turned him from being the number one persecutor of Christians into not only a follower but a preacher of Jesus Christ.

Paul’s Authority as an Apostle

Fundamental to Paul’s ministry was his consciousness of being an apostle. Like the other apostles, he had seen the Lord (1 Corinthians 9:1), and the Lord Himself, not any human being, had called Paul to his apostleship (see Galatians 1:1).

Because Paul was an apostle by God’s call, he could claim an authority equal to that of Peter, James, John, and the rest of the twelve—those whom some of Paul’s opponents had labeled “super-apostles” (2 Corinthians 11:5). Paul writes from the consciousness of this apostolic authority in every one of his letters.

Doctrines Taught by Apostle Paul

True, Paul can sometimes distinguish between his teaching and the teaching of the Lord (1 Corinthians 7:6, 10, 12; 2 Corinthians 11:17), and nowhere does Paul make it clear that he thought his letters to be inspired Scripture. Nevertheless, in differentiating his teaching from the Lord’s, Paul does not suggest that his carries any less authority.

And, while not perhaps conscious of writing inspired Scripture, Paul’s apostolic stance enables him to interpret with sovereign freedom the Old Testament Scriptures and to make demands on his people that he considered to be as binding as anything in Scripture.

5 Major Teachings of Paul

We read from his background and the testimony of the Word of God that Paul became a faithful follower of Christ, a dedicated missionary, and a respected leader in the early church.

Here are five of the major doctrines he taught and expounded.

1. Justification by Faith

According to Paul, God ushered in a new era through the death of His Son. Under the old covenant, people such as Abraham were justified by believing God, looking forward to the promise of the coming Messiah (see Genesis 15:6; Romans 4:22).

Now believers are justified, or declared righteous before God, through faith in the Messiah, Jesus Christ, and His atoning death on our behalf. Our justification is based on the work of Christ, accomplished through His blood (Romans 5:9), and brought to His people through His resurrection (Romans 4:25).

Justified: The Bible’s Meaning

What does it mean to be justified? To be justified means to be declared right with God by virtue of the remission of sins accomplished by Jesus: Christ’s righteousness is imputed to the believer, and the believer’s sins are imputed to Christ, who bears them in His body on the tree.

God Who Justifies, The – eBook

By James R. White

The author of The King James Only Controversy calls believers to a fresh appreciation and understanding of the doctrine of justification by faith. White, a Reformed Baptist, offers an in-depth study that focuses on the pivotal place of this often-ignored principle in church history; and an exegetical defense of key biblical passages in Romans and James.


However, let us not forget that justification is by faith. You are justified only when God the Father, based upon the meritorious work of Jesus Christ in your place, declares you to be so upon the exercise of the gift of faith – faith that is directed solely to the God who justifies the ungodly (Romans 4:5).

Again, justification is the judicial act of God whereby He forgives the sinner of all his sins – past, present, and future – and declares him righteous in His eyes and free from guilt and punishment. It is an immediate and instantaneous act of God upon the sinner’s confession and his acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior (Romans 10:9).

2. Jesus Christ is the Risen and Living Son of God

Doctrines Taught by Apostle Paul - Jesus is the Son of God
Saul Encounters the Risen Christ

From the moment Jesus appeared to Paul at his dramatic conversion, Paul immediately started to proclaim without hesitation that Jesus is the Son of God (Acts 9:20).

Let us not forget who Paul was – a Pharisee utterly devoted to stamping out the new Christian movement. But Jesus sovereignly intervened in his life while he was on Damascus road.

Amazingly, the last words we hear coming out of Saul’s mouth before his conversion are, “Who are You, Lord?” (Acts 9:5); and the first words we hear out of his mouth after his conversion are, “Jesus is the Son of God” (Acts 9:20).

Paul’s world has just been turned upside down. The Jesus that he thought was dead was not dead. Not only that; He was the living Lord of the universe! Instantly, Paul’s whole worldview collapsed and was rebuilt with great, unshakable and solid pillars of truth about Jesus.

Luke, the author of the book of Acts, surely wants us to see how the doctrine that Jesus is the Son of God is foundational to being a Christian and foundational to the rest of Paul’s life as the greatest missionary who ever lived.

Paul’s Made-Up Gospel

The accusation that Paul made up his own doctrine about Jesus being the Son of God and God could not be further from the truth. He encountered the risen Christ and the gospel he had taught the early churches during his ministry came by revelation from Jesus Christ (Galatians 1:12, 16). In short, Paul’s was a supernatural gospel.

However, without taking anything away from this point, we must recognize that Paul on other occasions indicates his indebtedness to Christians before him for his teaching. In 1 Corinthians 15:1-3, for instance, Paul asserts of the Gospel that he preached to the Corinthians, “what I received I passed on to you.”

What Paul seems to be asserting is that elements of his gospel teaching, such as the truth of Christ’s death, burial, and resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:3-5), were handed down to him by other people.

To Paul, Jesus was the Messiah, God’s Son, the center of the gospel, and the One whom “all things were created” (Colossians 1:16).

*Related Article: Arguments Against the Deity of Christ

3. The Church is the Body of Christ

The only New Testament writer who speaks of the church as a body, Paul emphasized this fact in such passages as Ephesians 1:22-23; 4:7-16 and 1 Corinthians 12:1 2-27.

Meaning of the Word Church

First of all, the word “church” is derived from and understood in the light of the original Greek word ekklesia or the “called out ones.” So the church is a group of “called out” believers who have been placed into one Body by the Baptism of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13) at the moment of their salvation.

All believers have experienced this once-for-all baptism and nowhere in the Scriptures are we commanded to seek this baptism because we have already experienced it and it need not be repeated.

Jews and Gentiles are joined together to form a new entity through the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 3:6) and the only qualification for membership is faith in the risen Savior. It is clear that every believer since Pentecost, living and dead, is a member of the body of Christ, the universal church.

Major Teachings of Paul
Photo Credits: fohonline.com

Christ is the Head of the Church

Ephesians 1:22 says, “God has put all things under His (Christ) feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body.” As believers and members of the church (the body of Christ), Christ is our Head. This means that there is a living connection between us and Christ.

Through the Spirit, we are united to Him as the members of His body. This means that we also share in His death, resurrection, ascension, and exaltation (Ephesians 6:3-5). We too are seated in “the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 2:6) and all things are under our feet.

At the same time, Paul reminds Christians that their various gifts were to be used in building up the body of Christ and that they should work together for the common good of the Christian cause (Romans 12:4-5).

4. The Power and Influence of the Holy Spirit in the Christian’s Life

Paul taught that the Holy Spirit was a more effective power for holy living in the Christian’s life than the old Jewish Law had ever been. The Law told people what to do, but it could not provide the will of the power to do it.

But God’s Spirit could provide the necessary power and motivation (Romans 8:9-17; Galatians 5:16-25). As a loving and wise mother tenderly watches over her child, so the Holy Spirit cares for the children of God.

The Works of the Holy Spirit in Christian Living

a) The Holy Spirit indwells Christians.

The Bible teaches that all believers are indwelt by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19). The purpose of this indwelling ministry is to control the newly created nature given at conversion (2 Corinthians 5:17).

b) The Holy Spirit fills believers.

Doctrines Taught by Apostle PaulWe are admonished to “be filled with the Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18). The word “filled” means to be controlled. So to be “filled” with the Spirit is to be controlled by the Spirit and is therefore crucial to successfully living the Christian life.

Unlike the indwelling of the Spirit, “filling” is a repeated experience. This is understood by the use of the present tense (“be filled”) as well as by biblical examples of Christians who were filled more than once (Acts 2:4; 4:31). Just as important, we must observe that filling is a command to be obeyed, not an option.

c) The Holy Spirit sanctifies the believer.

Romans 15:16; 2 Thessalonians 2:13

The basic meaning of sanctification is “separation” or “to be set apart.” In John 17:19, Jesus spoke of Himself as being sanctified; in other words, He is holy and set apart from sin and so His followers are to be similarly set apart from sin and for God’s use (1 Peter 1:16).

*Read here: Understanding the Personality of the Holy Spirit

In the spiritual sense of a believer’s life, sanctification means to be set apart by God, for God, from sin, unto a holy life and to be made more holy through conforming to the image of His Son Jesus (Romans 8:29).

d) The Holy Spirit produces fruit in the life of the believer.

This fruit is described by Paul: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).

The contrast between results and fruit is important. A machine in a factory works and turns out a product, but it could never manufacture fruit. Fruit must grow out of life, and in the case of the believer, it is the life of the Spirit (Galatians 5:25).

Believers are to live by the Spirit, which means keeping in step with the Spirit if they are to bear fruit in abundance. This involves the Word, prayer, worship, praise, and fellowship with God’s people.

e) The Holy Spirit imparts gifts to Christians.

Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:1-11; Ephesians 4:7-12

A spiritual gift is an ability imparted to every Christian (1 Corinthians 7:7; 1 Peter 4:10). The purpose of these gifts is twofold, namely, to glorify God (Revelation 4:11) and to edify the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:12-13).

f) The Holy Spirit teaches believers.

The Holy Spirit will instruct us in all spiritual things as we read the Word of God (John 14:26) and abide in the Son of God (1 John 2:24-27).

5. The Second Coming of Christ

Paul taught that Christ will return to earth at the end of this age and that all Christians will share in His glory in the age to come.

The return of Jesus Christ will happen in two phases:

a) The Rapture which is when Christ will return in the air and take with Him to heaven every person – both living and dead – who has trusted Christ as Savior (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 1 Corinthians 15:20-28).

Doctrines Taught by Apostle Paul
Photo Credits: GotQuestions.Org

b) The Second Coming or Second Advent which is the return of Jesus with an army of angels and raptured believers to destroy the forces which are arrayed against God and to deliver the Jewish people (Zechariah 14:4 Revelation 19:11-21).

Bottom Line

Many of the doctrines taught and expounded by the apostle Paul are considered the hallmarks of the Christian faith. He may not be here anymore but he continues to minister to us today through the thirteen epistles he wrote that have become part of the canon of the New Testament.


References:

1) The NKJV Prophecy Study Bible Edited by John Hagee

2) An Introduction to the New Testament by D.A Carson, Douglas J. Moo, and Leon Morris

3) The God Who Justifies by James R. White

2 Replies to “Doctrines Taught by Apostle Paul”

  1. The humility that accompanies apostle Paul is the central factor why I like him the most. Despite achieving all these and writing so many books of the Bible, he still claims to be the least of the apostles. Really his teachings are still with us till today and for more years to come. 

    The teaching I like most is the one in the church as a body of Christ. Really great to read on. Thank you for sharing. I will bookmark and reread it constantly. 

    Thanks

    1. Yeah, I like Paul too. His contribution to Christianity is immeasurable and no matter how often people try to discredit him and accuse him of changing the major doctrines of Christianity as taught by Jesus Christ and the other apostles like Peter and John, to me he’s still one of the greatest apostles.

      Paul’s transformation from being the number 1 persecutor of Christianity to the number 1 propagator of Christianity says a lot about what happens when one truly encounters the Lord Jesus personally.

      Thanks for your comment, Shelley.

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