In the opening verse of all of Paul’s epistles, except the Thessalonians, it is clear that Paul was an apostle or servant of Jesus Christ. Even in Thessalonians you find verses such as 1 Thess 2:4 and 13 that declare his granted position from the Lord.
Inevitably, despite this servant relationship to Jesus, when I compare the messages of Paul or Peter (Gal 2:8-9), consider what the apostle of Jesus Christ says (2 Tim 2:7), or magnify his office as an apostle of Jesus Christ (Rom 11:13), the retort is always that I make too much of Paul.
They say, “We should glorify Jesus not Paul.”
Paul Glories in the Lord Jesus
Don’t they know that out of all the writers of scripture, Paul glories more in Jesus Christ than them all (Gal 6:14)? This is because he knew more about Jesus Christ than them all! He knew more not because of his intellectual brilliance but because of the mystery information revealed to him by the Lord (Gal 1:11-12, Rom 16:25).
It was his privilege to “fulfill the word of God” with a message that no one before him knew (Col 1:25-26).
Jesus made Paul the apostle and the pattern of salvation to us that “hereafter believe” (1 Tim 1:16).
Paul does not elevate himself above Jesus Christ when he bows to him and calls him preeminent (Eph 3:14, Col 1:18).
Following Paul’s pattern and instructions requires glorifying God by Jesus Christ (Rom 16:27, Phil 2:11).
A Gentle Three Words
“Making too much of Paul” is a common response that should be expected. It will be used at the point in the conversation when the other person does not know how to respond to the doctrine. They feel threatened and take solace in Jesus’ words in the red letters.
What they don’t understand is Jesus did not pen those red letters. God inspired those words in the same sense that he authored Moses or Paul. What they want to say is “I follow Jesus [in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John] and not Paul”.
They are at their wits end and are getting frustrated. This is when they expect you to apologize for not following Jesus. Do not back down; do not argue. Instead, with an aptitude to teach say only three more words. Do not press the conversation after this. Let them think about these words.
When they say, “I follow Jesus” calmly respond, “Jesus sent Paul.”