On an old post I said something about Paul “founding all those churches in Acts” and Matthew Perri corrected me saying that Paul did not found any of those churches.
So, since I was going to re-read Acts (after my discovery that Acts disproves Calvinism) I decided to pay special attention to this point. Does Acts actually say Paul planted any churches or not?
Well, I have read up to chapter 21 now. And I know that from chapter 21 to the end he is in prison, so he won’t have much opportunity to establish churches for the rest of it.
So what’s been done in the first 21 chapters is about it. So did he establish any churches?
In the first 15 chapters I see absolutely ZERO indication that Paul planted any churches at all whatsoever. Everywhere he goes there were already brethren there. He and Barnabas only “strengthen the churches” and “confirm the brethren.” He doesn’t plant any churches.
In chapter 16, at Thyatira, when he converts Lydia, it seems (simply due to the silence of the narrator) that perhaps there were no other disciples in Thyatira at the time. So it could possibly be argued that he planted the church at that place, in a manner of speaking, by baptizing Lydia and her house, although he was there for clearly less than a day or two. A similar situation could be argued at Philippi with the jailor and his house, if we assume from the narrator’s silence on the point that there were no other disciples there. But that’s really it.
As for the rest through chapter 21, again, he (and Silas this time, since Barnabas and Paul split up) go and “strengthen the churches” and “confirm the brethren.” Even at Ephesus, he already finds disciples there. He rebaptizes 12 men who have only been baptized with John’s baptism, but he’s not establishing a church, just correcting them on the point of baptism. Acts doesn’t even make the claim that Paul ordained the elders in Ephesus. So far as Acts is concerned, they were there before he got there.
So Matthew Perri is right. Paul didn’t plant those churches; he only preached to already established churches and converted a few individuals here and there.
As to the one church I think we might possibly solidly say Paul planted, namely that at Thyatira, this is what John writes to them in Revelation 2:18-25 (ASV):
18 And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: These things saith the Son of God, who hath his eyes like a flame of fire, and his feet are like unto burnished brass:
19 I know thy works, and thy love and faith and ministry and patience, and that thy last works are more than the first.
20 But I have this against thee, that thou sufferest the woman Jezebel, who calleth herself a prophetess; and she teacheth and seduceth my servants to commit fornication, and to eat things sacrificed to idols.
21 And I gave her time that she should repent; and she willeth not to repent of her fornication.
22 Behold, I cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into great tribulation, except they repent of her works.
23 And I will kill her children with death; and all the churches shall know that I am he that searcheth the reins and hearts: and I will give unto each one of you according to your works.
24 But to you I say, to the rest that are in Thyatira, as many as have not this teaching, who know not the deep things of Satan, as they are wont to say; I cast upon you none other burden.
25 Nevertheless that which ye have, hold fast till I come.
Paul’s one clear convert in Thyatira was a woman. Paul teaches in 1st Corinthians 8 that its Ok to eat meat offered to idols (although he says you shouldn’t do it in front of people who will be offended, of course). John writes against a false prophetess who teaches the disciples in Thyatira to eat meat offered to idols. Hmmm…sorry, Lydia, but your namesake may have been the false prophetess “Jezebel.” This same “Jezebel” apparently, per verse 24, taught “total depravity”…very interesting.
Rev 2:24 itself might be a clear indication that Paul did not even found the church in Thyatira, since John speaks of “the rest that are in Thyatira, as many as have not this teaching” as if there’s more churches there than just the one being run by “Jezebel,” in which case it would seem to me that the church of “Jezebel” is the one planted by Paul (since they have his doctrine on eating meat sacrificed to idols, and the “total depravity” doctrine that Calvinists swear up and down comes from Paul), and the “rest” by the real apostles.