There are multiple times in his epistles where Paul writes about ‘my gospel’ or ‘our gospel’ or ‘the gospel I preached unto you’ (Rom 16:25, 2 Cor 4:3, 1 Cor 15:1). As a result, many describe Paul as being either overly ambitious or arrogant. Paul even goes as far as to magnify his office:
Later, Paul tells the Corinthians to follow him as their doctrinal authority! What a seemingly arrogant statement when there were already the twelve apostles who had been with Christ ‘since the beginning’, and by whom was taught that there was a more ‘sure word of prophecy’ (2 Peter 1:19).
“Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” – 1 Cor 11:1
Is this arrogance or is this language authorized by God?
The Scripture tells us that Paul may have had good reason to use such authoritative language. It was not because he was arrogant, but that he received a special revelation and authority from the Lord. Paul was the dispenser of a new message from God!
“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.” – Galatians 1:11-12
“If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:” – Ephesians 3:2
As the dispenser of a new message and gospel, Paul was correct to assume authority over his audience. Much like Moses was the dispenser of the law, and all of Israel followed the ‘law of Moses’ (Josh 23:6), Paul is the dispenser of the grace of God for us today (Eph 3:2).
As a result Paul could boldly claim to preach ‘my gospel’ because it was ‘kept secret since the world began’ until revealed to him by Christ (Romans 16:25).
As Paul was facing competition from ‘vain talkers and deceivers, specially they of the circumcision’, Paul charged his hearers to teach ‘no other doctrine’ other than what he taught (Titus 1:10, 1 Tim 1:3)!
Paul’s message of grace through the free justification by faith in Jesus was in opposition to the message of the Circumcision who were teaching the covenant law for righteousness (Gal 2:7-8, 1 Tim 1:7, Gal 4:21). Having the sole responsibility to dispense this ‘hidden wisdom’ to every creature, Paul had every reason to be authoritative and forceful in his charge (1 Cor 2:7-8, Col 1:23).
“But we will not boast of things without our measure, but according to the measure of the rule which God hath distributed to us, a measure to reach even unto you.” – 2 Cor 10:13
Paul was ambitious, bold, and even boastful in his God-given authority and position as the dispenser of Grace, but it would be imperceptive to relegate his special apostleship to an arrogant personality. Whenever he speaks of himself apart from his position, Paul exhibits the utmost humility.
He calls himself the least of all saints in Ephesians,
Understanding the importance of his ministry and office we can understand why Paul says of his authority:
However, in reference to his personal qualifications he states:
This dual representation is either evidence of Paul’s schizophrenia or of someone who was given an immense responsibility beyond their qualifications – such as being the apostle of the Gentiles. This spiritual humility in light of his immense responsibility, should be considered before we diminish the importance of his apostolic authority to personal arrogance.