DO WE STUDY ONLY PAUL’S EPISTLES?
by Shawn Brasseaux
“If Paul is our apostle [yes, he is; Romans 11:13], does that mean that we study only his epistles, Romans through Philemon? Does that mean that only Paul’s writings are inspired of God? What about the rest of Scripture? Is not all of the Bible God’s Word? Are you telling me that I should study only Paul’s books?”
Sometimes, people who are really seeking to know the truth so they can believe it, will sincerely ask the above questions; they desire spiritual enlightenment, and that is fine. Other times, however, these inquiries can be utilized as “foolish and unlearned questions,” which Scripture says we are to “avoid” because “they do gender strifes” (2 Timothy 2:23). To wit, in an attempt to discredit dispensational Bible study (which threatens denominational systems and religious tradition), and in order to antagonize us dispensational Bible students, some malign us Pauline dispensationalists by claiming that we throw away everything in Scripture but Paul. Actually, someone once wrongly accused me of claiming that only Paul’s epistles were the “true Word of God.” What gobbledygook! What hogwash! What baloney!
It is said that we Pauline dispensationalists study only Paul’s epistles, Romans through Philemon. The assumption is that we do not read anything in Genesis through Malachi, or Matthew through John, or the book of Acts, or Hebrews through Revelation. Yes, some people study only Paul’s epistles, but, no, I am not one of them. Indeed, most of Christendom ignores Paul’s epistles and studies everything else in Scripture, but I am not one of those people either! (No one who knows my ministry could ever truthfully accuse me of studying only Paul’s writings. You can search our ministry websites to see that I teach from non-Pauline Bible books hundreds of times every year.)
Strangely, we have most in Christendom who ignore Paul’s epistles but who study the rest of Scripture, who then hypocritically condemn those who study only Paul. (Both groups are ignoring parts of God’s Word.) To make it even odder, we have a minority who study only Paul, who then hypocritically condemn those who study only the non-Pauline Bible books. (Again, both groups are ignoring parts of God’s Word.) Both groups are wrong because they are not studying all of the Bible. We should study all of the Bible, Genesis through Revelation.
Now, let us see how the people who study only Paul, and the people who ignore Paul, are both wrong. Neither party is in accordance with God’s will. Beloved, we must guard ourselves against both errors if we are to be spiritually mature people, “no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine” (Ephesians 4:14).
THE TWO-FOLD DIVISION IN SCRIPTURE
The very first verse in the Bible clearly demonstrates that Almighty God deals with creation on the basis of two realms: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). Notice how the Holy Spirit was very specific in the wording. Rather than saying, “God created the universe,” the Scriptures say, “God created the heaven and the earth.” The two-fold division in God’s Word is already apparent… the very first verse of the Bible introduces us to right division, dispensational Bible study, making divisions in God’s Word that He Himself has made it in.
We learn in Ephesians 1:9-10 about God’s original purpose in the creation of the heaven and the earth: “ [God the Father] Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself:  That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him.” From even before creation, God the Father wanted to unite all of the governmental offices of heaven and earth under the headship, the leadership, of His Son Jesus Christ (see Colossians 1:16-20). In other words, God the Father wants all of creation to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ.
To achieve this purpose, God has one program (agenda) for heaven, and another completely different program (another agenda) for earth. Both programs function in their respective realms to accomplish His overall goal: to make Jesus Christ head of all of the governments in heaven and on earth, that they all serve Him. But, these programs must be rightly divided if they are to make sense: the goal of dispensational Bible study is to ensure the Bible’s clarity, that it not be confused as Satan desires. To combine the two Bible programs is to confuse heaven with earth, and it is to introduce unanswerable confusion—that explains the doctrinal disorder in Christendom today! “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
PROPHECY. The program that God uses to magnify His Son in the earth is called the prophetic program, for it contains information/doctrine that was prophesied, or spoken about, since He placed man (Adam) on earth. Notice what the Apostle Peter preached: “[Jesus Christ] Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began” (Acts 3:21). From the beginning of creation, God revealed to mankind a plan to have Jesus Christ reign on planet earth. This information is found in the Bible books of Genesis through Malachi, Matthew through John, Acts chapters 1-8, and Hebrews through Revelation. The agency (group of believers) whom God will use to magnify His Son forever in the earth is the nation Israel (Exodus 19:5-6; Psalm 37:11; Matthew 5:5; Luke 22:29-30; Revelation 5:10). Law is the operating system for the prophetic program (Matthew 5:17-19). The Apostle Peter and the other 11 apostles of Israel are the divinely-ordained human leaders in the prophetic program (Matthew 16:16-19; Matthew 19:27-28; Luke 22:30; Galatians 2:7,9).
MYSTERY. The program that God uses to magnify His Son in the heavens is called the mystery program, for it contains information/doctrine that was kept secret, or not spoken about, since He placed man (Adam) on earth. Notice what the Apostle Paul wrote: “Now to him [God the Father] that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began,  But now is made manifest…” (Romans 16:25-26). From the beginning of creation, God kept secret (kept it a “mystery”) a plan to have Jesus Christ reign in the heavenly places. This information is found in the Bible books known as “Paul’s epistles,” Romans through Philemon. The agency (group of believers) whom God will use to magnify His Son forever in the heavens is the Church the Body of Christ (Ephesians 1:3; Ephesians 2:6-7; Philippians 3:20; 2 Timothy 4:18). Grace is the operating system for the mystery program (Romans 6:14-15). The Apostle Paul is the divinely-ordained human leader in mystery program (Romans 11:13; Romans 15:16; Galatians 2:7,9; 1 Timothy 1:15-16).
IF WE IGNORE PAUL’S EPISTLES (AND STUDY ONLY THE OTHER SCRIPTURES)
It is spiritually dangerous to ignore Paul’s epistles and focus only on the rest of the Bible books. Many times, the Apostle Paul is viewed today as a missionary whom the 12 apostles at Jerusalem sent out into the Roman Empire to lead others to Jesus Christ. Paul is seen as nothing more than a “supplement” to Peter and the 11. It is ever so sad that much of Christendom is willfully ignorant of the fact that Paul’s apostleship had nothing to do with Peter and the 11’s apostleships, that Paul’s Gospel message was different from Peter and the 11’s Gospel message, that Paul’s believers were saved into a separate body of believers than Peter and the 11’s “little flock” of Jewish believers, that Paul’s converts had a dissimilar eternal hope than Peter and the 11’s eternal hope. The differences between Paul’s ministry and the 12’s ministry are made very clear in Galatians chapter 2.
If we ignore Paul’s epistles, we have no idea what God is doing today because only Paul’s epistles describe God’s current dealings with mankind (Israel is fallen, salvation is going to the Gentiles through Paul’s ministry, salvation is not found in Israel today but only in the Church the Body of Christ, et cetera—these facts are only found in Paul’s writings). To ignore Paul is to concentrate only on God’s will for the earth; you force yourself to be unaware of God’s will for the heavenly places. The 13 books of the Bible that apply to what God is doing today, describe what God is doing today, are the books of Romans through Philemon. To ignore the writings of Paul is to disregard what the Holy Spirit says to us Gentiles—how the church is to function, what it is to do, what it is to believe, its operating system, its destiny, and so on. Ignoring Paul’s epistles will cause you to see only what God did in time past and what He will do in the future—you will be ignorant of what God wants you to do today!
We read that Paul is “the apostle of the Gentiles” (Romans 11:13). The resurrected, ascended, and glorified Lord Jesus Christ sent Paul to us, so if we reject God’s spokesman to us, we reject God Himself! Jesus Christ said in John 13:20: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me.” The Holy Spirit led Paul to write in 1 Corinthians 14:37: “If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord.” According to the Bible, the test for spirituality today is if someone recognizes Paul’s writings at Jesus Christ’s commandments to us. Verse 38 says, “But if any man be ignorant, let him be ignorant.” God knows that many, however, will be willfully ignorant of Paul’s epistles, and He instructs us to leave them in that spiritual darkness (their preference).
The Apostle Peter urged his Jewish believers to read Paul’s writings: “ And account that the longsuffering 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, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:15-16). In Peter’s mind, Paul’s epistles should not be ignored (Peter acknowledged that Paul wrote about things that he [Peter] did not understand; this means Paul’s message and Peter’s message were different). According to the Holy Ghost in Peter, Paul’s epistles should be studied—much of what Paul writes about cannot be found elsewhere in Scripture!
IF WE STUDY ONLY PAUL’S EPISTLES (AND IGNORE THE OTHER SCRIPTURES
If we study only Paul’s epistles and ignore the rest of the Bible, we have no idea what God did in time past or what He will do in the ages to come, because Paul’s epistles exclusively describe God’s current dealings with mankind (Israel is fallen, salvation is going to the Gentiles through Paul’s ministry, salvation is not found in Israel today but only in the Church the Body of Christ, et cetera). To ignore the rest of the Bible and study only Paul is to concentrate only on God’s will for the heavens; you force yourself to be ignorant of God’s will for the earth. If we know only Paul’s epistles, we know nothing about the events of creation, about the world prior to and immediately after the Great Flood of Noah’s day, about how God formed and protected the nation Israel through the centuries, Jesus Christ’s virgin birth and His childhood, the details (parables, miracles, sufferings, et cetera) of His earthly ministry, the specifics of His return in great power and glory to reign over Israel and earth in the ages to come, the binding of Satan in the future, the New Heaven and New Earth, et cetera. Paul’s epistles say little to nothing about those topics.
As we saw earlier, the Apostle Peter encouraged his audience to read Paul’s epistles in order for them to learn information that can be found in no other place. By the same token, Paul’s epistles do not repeat every prophetic word of God written beforehand. Other than Romans chapters 9-11, there is almost nothing in Paul’s epistles about God’s plan for the earth and the nation Israel. We must look to the other Bible books—the non-Pauline books—in order to learn about God’s purpose and plan for Israel. Just as Peter told his audience to study Paul’s books, so Paul urged us to study the Old Testament passages he quoted in order for us to get a fuller picture of the doctrine he was communicating (we will see this shortly). By recognizing the parallels in both Israel’s program and ours, we can better understand how they function as one to bring about God’s “eternal purpose” (Ephesians 3:11)—to eternally glorify Jesus Christ in heaven and on earth (Ephesians 1:9-10). By recognizing the contrasts between both Israel’s program and ours, we can better appreciate their unique identities, how they are separate and distinct, but still able to bring about God’s “eternal purpose” (Ephesians 3:11)—to eternally glorify Jesus Christ in heaven and on earth (Ephesians 1:9-10).
HOW PAUL VIEWED THE NON-PAULINE BIBLE BOOKS
Since the Holy Spirit operated in and through our Apostle Paul—which even the Apostle Peter admitted (2 Peter 3:15-16)—we should agree with the Holy Spirit as He spoke through Paul. What did the Holy Ghost say through Paul’s pen regarding the non-Pauline Bible books? Are the non-Pauline Bible books to be studied or ignored?
Romans 15:3-4 is a passage that clearly answers these questions: “ For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me.  For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” The Apostle Paul made a direct reference to Psalm 69:7, and then he referred to “whatsoever things [that] were written aforetime were written for our learning.” He was obviously describing the importance of the Old Testament Scriptures, teaching that they could benefit and comfort us.
In fact, we can study the Old Testament quotes found in the New Testament, to better understand the Old Testament Scriptures (or we can use the Old Testament quotes in the New Testament, to better understand the New Testament Scriptures). By doing so, we can see many parallels in both the Old and New Testaments. We can see Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry (His First Coming) and His earthly kingdom (His Second Coming) described throughout the Old Testament in vivid details, centuries and even thousands of years before those events happened, but we can only recognize and appreciate them if the New Testament writings exist to quote and interpret them for us. Additionally, by studying the Old Testament Scriptures, we can learn from Israel’s mistakes (1 Corinthians chapter 10 is a primary example of this)—the schemes and scams that Satan used to successfully attack Israel’s spiritual health are the ones he uses even today to hinder us the Church the Body of Christ!
Romans 15:3-4 says that Paul expected his Gentile converts to be familiar with the Hebrew Bible (what we now call “the Old Testament Scriptures,” the books of Genesis through Malachi). After all, even in those days, Moses and the rest of the Old Testament books (scrolls) had circulated to synagogues throughout the Roman Empire and beyond (see Luke 4:16-21; Acts 13:14-15; Acts 15:21; 2 Corinthians 3:15). Note Paul’s handling of the Old Testament and other non-Pauline Bible books:
- Paul expected his Gentile converts to be familiar with Israel’s deliverance from Egypt, her rebellion under Moses, and her wilderness wanderings recorded in the Old Testament books of Exodus and Numbers (1 Corinthians chapter 10).
- He even taught his Gentile believers in Thessalonica, prophecy (such as the Antichrist’s career during the seven-year Tribulation, Jesus Christ’s Second Coming, et cetera)—see 2 Thessalonians chapter 2 (some prophetic events are referenced in 1 Thessalonians chapter 5 as well).
- Paul quoted Old Testament passages in 2 Corinthians chapters 8 and 9 to illustrate how we should give of our resources under grace.
- The Apostle expected his Gentile converts in Galatia to be familiar with the historical narrative of Abraham, Sarah, Hagar, Ishmael, and Isaac as recorded in Genesis, that we understand that law and grace cannot and do not mix—see Galatians chapter 4.
- Paul also refers to many Old Testament passages—and quotes several—in Romans chapters 9-11, that we may understand Israel’s past, present, and future statuses before JEHOVAH God.
- The fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians refers to Old Testament verses and concepts to further illuminate/parallel the concept of our bodily resurrection at Jesus Christ’s return for us His Church (the Rapture).
- Romans chapter 13 makes references to most of the Ten Commandments, even quoting Moses’ words in Exodus and Deuteronomy, how grace living will produce in us the same good works that law-keeping was to produce in Israel (but failed because of sinful flesh).
- Although previously mentioned, Romans chapter 15 contains nearly a half-dozen direct quotes from the Psalms and the Prophet Isaiah’s book.
- Paul’s second epistle to the Corinthians references Moses and the Law (2 Corinthians chapter 3).
- You can learn much about how Satan wants to deceive us, by studying Genesis chapter 3, when he deceived Eve, the woman, but not Adam, the man (2 Corinthians 11:1-4; 1 Timothy 2:11-15).
- Ephesians (5:31) makes reference to the marriage of Adam and Eve, which would only make sense in light of studying Genesis chapter 2.
- Paul quoted the books of Deuteronomy and Luke in 1 Timothy 5:18.
Thus we see that Paul—yea, the Holy Spirit through Paul—never advocated discarding the non-Pauline Bible books. All 66 books of the Bible are God’s Word, and all should be studied in order to shed light on all of them.
Friends, considering the foregoing verses, it is not spiritually safe to ignore Paul’s epistles and it is not spiritually safe to study only Paul’s epistles. We should study all of the Bible from cover to cover—Genesis through Revelation. We should have a grasp of prophecy and mystery, the nation Israel and the Church the Body of Christ, law and grace, Peter’s ministry and Paul’s ministry. To ignore Paul and study everything else in the Bible is to cheat ourselves spiritually. To ignore everything in the Bible but Paul is to rob ourselves spiritually, too. God did not preserve only Paul’s epistles, and God did not preserve only the non-Pauline Bible books—He preserved Genesis through Revelation because He wants us to read all of those 66 books. He wants to give us spiritual stability not only through Paul’s Gospel and Paul’s writings, but also “by the scriptures of the prophets” (Romans 16:25-26)—hence, the New Testament prophets copied not only Paul’s epistles, but all of the scrolls of the Bible’s 66 books.
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God” (2 Timothy 3:16). The Holy Spirit wrote all of the Bible, not just Paul’s epistles (2 Samuel 23:2; Matthew 22:31; Acts 1:16; 2 Peter 1:21). All Scripture is written for us, but not all Scripture is written to us or about us. When a Bible passage says that it is speaking to or about the nation Israel, we cannot commit spiritual larceny and insert our names into the verses (we must not steal Israel’s verses). Just as we have part of the Bible written to us, Israel has a portion of the Bible written to her. Just as we would not steal someone’s mail, we should not steal God’s Word to Israel and pretend it was given us. Beloved, we should be honest with God’s Word.
In my ministry, I have never told anyone to study only Paul’s epistles, to throw away every Bible book but Paul’s writings, and I never plan to encourage such nonsense. In my personal Bible reading, I read through the Bible at least once a year, and I daily study Bible passages throughout the canon of Scripture. When I teach the Bible, I never confine myself to Paul’s epistles. However, it should be understood that Paul’s epistles deal directly with God’s current operations with man, and to mostly ignore or completely ignore his books would greatly contribute to Satan’s policy of evil. Let us study all of Scripture, Genesis through Revelation, but let us also remember that Paul is our divinely-ordained apostle! Paul’s writings are the Lord’s commandments to us (1 Corinthians 14:37).