No man in New Testament times received more attacks and criticism for his preaching than did the apostle Paul. Again and again he was called upon to defend his apostleship and the gospel which he preached. The book of Galatians is largely devoted to the proof of his apostleship and the divine origin of the gospel which he preached in contrast to the false doctrines which were carrying them away from the Lord. The ideas of what constitutes proof of sound doctrine today may vary, but the one way to prove what is sound doctrine was used by the apostle in Galatians 1:11,12: “But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
Of course, we do not today receive the gospel directly from Jesus Christ, but we do receive what was delivered directly to the apostles. What we read in the New Testament is the word of Christ just as Paul and the other apostles received it. But usually when one comes to prove a proposition or establish a practice he uses other arguments besides the fact that it is written in the New Testament. Those who do such are occupying the grounds of the false teachers against whom Paul wrote in the Galatian epistle. A certain doctrine is taught; and to make the hearer believe it, the teacher or preacher resorts to the following claims:
1. ‘My years of experience.’
Paul could not say much for his years of experience in the gospel as compared to the other apostles. He speaks of himself as “of one born out of due time.” Now one of the first arguments made is that of preaching so many years. That is supposed to make the hearer accept what he says. This is no proof because a man may preach error for fifty years and never get it right.
2. ‘My education.’
Paul mentioned his education in the righteousness of the law at the feet of Gamaliel (Acts 22:3), but he counted all this for nothing in preaching the gospel delivered to him by Christ (Phil. 3:7-9). One does not know God by the wisdom of this world (I Cor. 1:20,21). The number of degrees a man has does not prove his preaching to be true.
3. ‘I stand with great men of the past.’
Paul stood with one of the greatest teachers of his day – Gamaliel – but he did not offer that as proof of the truth he preached. Often great men of the past were wrong in what they taught. The thing to do is to prove that these men stood upon the only foundation of truth – the New Testament, then we have only proved that we have the truth because it is taught in the word of God. Just the fact that we stand with great men of the past does not give credence to what we teach; it is the fact that it comes from the New Testament.
4. ‘The majority agree with my stand.’
Not one time do we read of Paul, or any other apostle, using this argument to prove either apostleship or truth of the gospel which they preached. History abounds with proof that the majority are always opposed to the gospel of Christ. It is true that many people are more persuaded by the stand of the majority and the elite than they are by what is taught in the gospel of Jesus Christ, but this does not prove their doctrine to be true. Just the fact that one stands with the minority does not prove him right. It must be proved by what is taught in the word of God. Neither the majority nor the minority proves a man to be teaching the true gospel.
5. ‘I have never changed.’
This is supposed to guarantee that the position held without change is the true one. This is certainly not the proof Paul used to establish his apostleship and his gospel. He freely admitted his change and told why. His proof was not in the consistency of his own belief and practice through his years, but rather that he had learned and received the truth that did not come from man, nor by man, but from the Lord himself. He says that in his former course he “thought” he was right, but learned of his error and changed. The mere fact that one has never changed his teachings does not prove his doctrine to be true. The only proof of sound doctrine is what is taught in the New Testament. Let that be our only appeal.
By H. E. Phillips (Taken from THE BEACON – Electronic Edition)