The issue of Paul’s writings being a stumbling block for the practicing Christian of today seems to have been addressed quite eloquently by the writer of II Peter 3: 15, 16: “And account (i.e., regard, deem, bear in mind) that the long-suffering (i.e., patience) of our Lord is salvation even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you; as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest (twist) as they do also the other scriptures unto their own destruction.”
There are a couple of things I’ve come across that must be considered when considering this most revealing passage: (1) the concept of Paul’s writings being hard to understand, when looked at in 1st century parlance, does not mean that the writings are problematic in a grammatical and practical sense—instead when mentioned in such a manner it denotes more the complexity but also the brilliance of the writer’s prose; (2) the writings of Paul must have come to the direct attention of the writer of II Peter in order for him to have made such a statement—which brings into question for some scholars the likelihood that the author of II Peter was not the illustrious Disciple->Apostle Peter but a pseudo-writer utilizing the recognition of Peter to get his second-century prose out into widespread circulation or to just honor the man Peter (the style of prose dramatically differs from that of I Peter which is considered more likely to have originated from the Apostle himself either directly written or via scribe); and just as there were in the days of the Old Testament and there are today, there are many false prophets and teachers who whether by ignorance or pure intent take the brilliant writings of Paul and tweak them to further their false doctrinal causes.
It is clear that the complexities of Paul’s writings have led, in a great part, to the many thousands of denominations and belief systems in today’s version of Christianity. I would doubt that this was indeed Paul’s intention. But suffice to say, the self-professing Christian finds him/herself at a crossroads of sorts whereby he/she must determine in their own minds and hearts whether to follow the teachings of the leaders of their denominations OR study their Bibles on their own accords and learn truth and put that newly discovered truth into practical and righteous living. I will say here and now: no one should ever tie their eternal life, their personal and family life and happiness, and their understanding and knowledge of the Bible to any denomination: doing so will only result in an unfulfilled and misled life that is not on the narrow path described by Yeshua in (Matthew 7:14). Although mentioned in one place in the New Testament, this 6-verse passage is often referred to in many sermons throughout the world, but the impact on today’s self-professing Christian seems minimal at best: “And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea (a city in Macedonia), who coming there went into the synagogue (the central house of worship in rabbinical Judaism) of the Jews. These were more noble (comparatively speaking the Bereans were more noble-minded in such a way that they aspired and lived in excellence of mind and spirit than their counterparts the Thessalonians) than those in Thessalonica in that they received the word (i.e., logos meaning discourse or speech) with all readiness of mind and searched the scriptures (i.e., the Old Testament writings) daily, whether those things were so” Acts 17:10, 11 (KJV).
The Bereans clearly set the bar for all self-professing Christians to aspire and follow. Do we consider ourselves of such noble and righteous character that we are willing to set aside denominational teachings and man-made traditions for the pure logos of the Old Testament Scriptures and the New Testament writings? I assert that when Christians are able to unshackle themselves from the traditions of denominations and seek the unadulterated truth from the pages of their Bibles, then and only then will they find that all that they once perceived to be the truth was not truth.
- The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, James Strong, LL.D., S.T.D., Neslon
- The IVP Bible Backgrounhd Commentary: New Testament, Craig S. Keener, IVP
- Vine’s Dictionary of Bible Words, W.E. Vine, Nelson
- The NRSV-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English, Marshall, Zondervan