Paul's Claim to Be an Apostle
What appears to be confusing or metaphorical word usage on the part of Paul and the Apostle John is actually a faithful reproduction of terminology used by Jesus Christ himself. The Disciples, of course, were there in that upper room, but one of Paul's claims to apostleship is that he got the details of the Last Supper through a revelation of Jesus Christ himself. A similar claim is given in Paul's letter to the Galatians, where he points out that he preached the Gospel before he had consulted with or was "vetted" by the Disciples. He makes the same claim to the Corinthian church here and here. The question of whether Jesus Christ appears in visions for the purpose of revelation and education should be forever settled if one considers that the proper title of the book of Revelation is "The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him..." (Revelation 1:1-2).
Why the need to make this claim? Paul was being accused of "not being authorized" to preach the Gospel because he was not a follower of Jesus during the latter's sojourn on earth, nor personally chosen by him to be an apostle. Instead, he had been an enthusiastic, efficient, and zealous persecutor of Jesus' disciples. It was argued by Paul's opponents that Paul's Gospel of Grace was merely him creating a loophole for himself that would allow the Church to receive him as a member in good standing. It was through that same loophole that Gentiles were being admitted into the church without being circumcised and being made to keep the Law of Moses.
This denial of Paul's Apostleship on for years until he went to the Disciples, laid out what he was preaching, and got "approval" in the form of "the right hand of fellowship". The account shows that he felt that this "vetting" and "approval" were mere formalities with no real substance, bordering on the totally irrelevant. His account of his run in with Peter in Antioch over table fellowship with the gentile believers proves that, when it came to "vetting" who was right and who was wrong, Paul was right up there with the disciples. Peter himself, in 2 Peter 3:15-16, not only acknowledged Paul's greater understanding of the Gospel and its implications, but warned people to treat Paul's epistles as carefully as the Scriptures when it came to figuring out what they were saying.
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