by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 2 Paragraph # 1 Study # 9 Lincolnton, NC September 12, 2004
7 Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity.
1901 ASV Translation:
7 whereunto I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I speak the truth, I lie not), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.
There is one variation between the Textus Receptus and the Nestle/Aland 26 in verse 7: the Textus Receptus has the phrase "in Christ", which the Nestle/Aland 26 does not have. This introduces only a very slight change in emphasis in regard to the nature of the "truth" Paul wrote and has almost no influence on his meaning in that he has already established the fact that the "truth" is "in Jesus".
I. Paul was appointed to be a "preacher", an "apostle", and a "teacher" in respect to the "testimony [regarding the ransom] in its own times".
A. The issue of being "ordained/appointed" is raised by Paul's use of a pretty general word that means "to put". It has a fair number of variations in its field of meaning (depending upon context), but Paul is claiming that his various identities/tasks all arise out of a divine activity that "put" Paul into the divine plan for those activities.
B. The identity/task issues...
1. He lists "preacher" first. The word arises out of a verb that means "to make a public proclamation in a way that cannot be missed". The issue of the word seems to be two-fold: the importance of the "message"; and, the deliberate "attention-attraction" that goes along with the desire to make sure people hear the message. In some ways, this concept explains the miraculous phenomena that often laid the ground-work for both obtaining an audience and making sure its attention was focused enough to get the message into its mind.
a. In light of Paul's statement that God desires all men to come to the knowledge of the Truth, we must recognize that Paul's "preaching" was, though extensive, not anywhere close to providing "all men" with a hearing of the "testimony of the Ransom".
b. It is fairly clear that Paul sought to reach "all he could" because he saw his task in the light of the commission by Jesus to His disciples that they make disciples of all nations...a commission that none of the disciples could fulfill either as individuals, or even as a group. This is an important observation in light of the issue of "inspired Scripture" that comes with the identity of "apostle".
2. Then he lists "apostle". This word is very 'authoritarian'. It signifies a "message" that is a dependable revelation of the desire of the one sending it forth. There are a couple of issues here. The first is that of a "message". There is specific content involved [i.e. "the testimony of the ransom"]. Then there is the issue of the apostle being "sent out from". The "apostle" is not the originator of the message; he is the carrier of it from the author to the audience. This raises the issue of God's use of intermediate agents. And, finally, there is the issue of the fidelity of the "message" to the Author's content and intent. Apostles were authoritative representatives whose "content" was underwritten: the Sender would back the sent one up in all that he declared as an apostle for the purpose(s) the Sender had in mind. Jesus claimed that this willingness to back the sent one up went all the way to even "jots" and "tittles".
a. Following the claim of "apostleship", Paul interrupts his flow of presenting his identities/tasks. He inserts an affirmation that he is telling the truth. This affirmation is odd...
1) In the first place, it is made to a man who has been mentored by the preacher/apostle/teacher for several years and who should not have had any qualms about Paul's identities/tasks.
2) Second, it is made both by positive affirmation and negative denial ("...I am speaking truth; I am not lying..."). That this is emphatic is obvious; that it needed to be said is not quite so obvious.
b. There is this implication regarding "apostleship": since it is a claim of human infallibility in respect to the content of the message, and since human beings are notoriously fallible, it is a point of weakness in the chain of "faith". What God "says" cannot be anything but "true" (arising out of omniscience and wisdom and love). But, since God is a User of intermediate agents, the question of whether the "agent" got it "right", or not, is always open in the face of the obvious fallibility of human beings. Thus, how can a man "believe" what a "man" claims is true? This is only possible if God guarantees the content of the claims. That Jesus, Who indisputably demonstrated His own infallibility by never sinning, claimed that the "jots and tittles" were sacrosanct is sufficient testimony that God did ordain that certain of His messengers would be absolutely accurate in their presentation of His message...but only "certain" messengers (biblically, only apostles and prophets were vested with infallibility of content, and even for them, the infallibility did not extend to their behavior -- sinners carried forth an infallible message). Historically, the only "vested" message that comes down through history with this infallibility is the written message (the container of the jots and tittles). The oral messages of the apostles and prophets were infallible, but the report of their content was not -- unless the recorders of the reports were being "inspired by God" [2 Timothy 3:16] to write "Scripture").
1) This raises another issue: what is the value of an infallible written record in the light of fallible "interpreters"? Neither "preachers", nor "audiences" are vested with infallibility of understanding. So, there is still a weak link in the "chain of faith". If one has an infallible record of God's message, but not an infallible understanding of that record, where are we? This is where all of the arguments start for those who actually buy into an infallible revelation. This is why there is a "King James only" debate and a Calvinist vs. Arminian debate and a Dispensationalist vs. Covenantalist debate and a Charismatic vs. Non-charismatic debate and a Baptismal Remissionist vs. Baptismal Illustrationalist debate and ... etc. etc. Every one argues as if their view is infallible, but no one can "prove" it. Why did God give an originally infallible message to men who cannot grasp it with the same level of infallibility?
a) Even if we had "infallible interpreters", we would not have a solution unless "we" are the "infallible interpreters"...i.e. there is still the problem of infallible understanding and it matters not how many in the chain between God and the hearer are infallible, unless the final person in that chain (the final "hearer" who must "believe") is also vested with infallibility, how can one "believe"?
b) This is where the whole issue gets "murky": what is the point of an infallible written revelation?
i. Both the "problem" and the "answer" involve the way God has designed the human mind to work in conjunction with the Holy Spirit's activities in respect to that human mind.
ii. It is apparent from Scripture and experience that men are "persuaded" by human "argument" (there would be no need to warn men of false prophets if "faith" does not come through human argument, nor would the words of true prophets have any impact if the human mind was not influenced to faith by those words).
iii. It is apparent from Scripture and experience that humans are brought to saving faith by the activity of the Holy Spirit as He works in conjunction with human instruments. He is never revealed as by-passing human instrumentality except in the cases of "inspired doctrine-producers" (apostles and prophets). In the vast majority of cases, even with doctrine-producers, He is presented as "indirect" (even Paul wanted Timothy to bring him "the books" [2 Timothy 4:13] even as late as it was for him in view of his impending death).
iv. It is apparent from Scripture and experience that humans are matured in the faith that saves incrementally as their minds are influenced by Truth however it enters that mind. This means that no one's grasp of Truth is comprehensively accurate. All men have a shadowy grasp in terms of the overall issues and any level of concreteness unto "faith" is primarily limited to individual particulars of the overall Truth. For example, one can believe that Jesus is God without a clear grasp of trinitarianism, or, for that matter, even without a clear grasp of what "God" means. By the same token, men can "believe" things without any notion of "how" they came to "believe" them.
3. Then he is a "teacher"...
a. The bottom line issue is the issue of "faith" -- what a person comes to believe from the "preacher", "apostle", and "teacher".
1) It is "faith" that determines what a person will do.
2) It is "faith" that determines what a person will experience in the process of life.
a) It is "faith" that enables a person to "interpret" his experiences so that his soul and spirit (and even his body) can "relax", or "get highly charged", as a consequence of those experiences.
b) It is "faith" that is fundamental to the way a person experiences his experiences.
3) How much does the issue of "infallibility" enter into this?
a) It is impossible to "believe" something while entertaining the possibility that it is not true.
i. "Something" has to be held to be "infallibly true" before "faith" can exist.
ii. Whence comes this sense of "infallibility"? It generally arises from the sense of coherence that all have in respect to details and the larger picture. People believe "larger picture" issues; they entertain "possibilities" of the truth of the smaller details.
b) It is not necessary to "be convinced of", or even to "understand", a great deal of the information attached to a given "belief". It is possible to be "convinced of" a given "general truth" even though a large amount of the "supporting data" is not understood, or even known.
i. "Beliefs" are, typically, "large issues" that rest upon a great deal of supporting data.
ii. It only takes a clear grasp of one or two bits of the supporting data to actually "believe" the larger Truth as long as those bits are understood in terms of their implications for that larger Truth. Nicodemus' "...no man can do what You do except God be with him..." is a small bit of data that he "knew" with certainty. Where that bit of data was to take him depended upon what Jesus "taught".
b. This is where Paul's identity as a "teacher" comes into play.
1) It is the "teacher's" place to move the "disciple" into a greater understanding of the "supporting data".
2) The issue of "supporting data" is the issue of the "strength of faith".
a) The Bible recognizes "great", as well as "little", faith.
b) The "strength" of faith is connected to...
i. How significant the impact of the Truth is at the level of body, soul, and spirit (small faith often allows a queasy stomach, and "jittery nerves") is dependent upon the "strength" of faith.
ii. How significant the impact of the Truth is also has something to do with how easily, or with how great a difficulty, a "tenet of faith" is overturned.
3) A "teacher's" job is to buttress the fledgling faith until it comes to the point of "substance" that will not yield.
c. Paul does not mention the role of the Holy Spirit in this text, but it is an indisputable part of the entire issue of how a person comes to "believe" a Truth of God: the bottom line is the convincing ministry of the Spirit as He typically uses intermediate agents to bring "truths" into consideration and then He brings about "conviction" of the infallibility of those "truths".
1) There is a significant amount of mystery here because there are other factors that play into "the shipwreck of faith" (why does the Spirit allow this?) as well as "the growth of faith" (what is the "teacher's" part in this?).
2) The issue of "faith" as a result of the ministry of the Holy Spirit is as complex as the myriad of details regarding "life".
a) The Scriptures teach the significance of the impact of human teachers, both for good and for ill.
b) The Scriptures teach the bottom line of "faith unto life" to be a result of the Teacher's "teaching us all things" (the Holy Spirit).
c) The confusion rests in the tension that has always existed between the human responsibility and the Spirit's "grace"...and there is no easy solution because there is no telling what "grace" will do. Because "grace" is "grace", no man can "demand" it, nor can any man "discount" it. Our lives are in "our" hands; our lives are in "his" hands. "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling" because "He works in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure".