“The Pauline Complex”


For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you,  how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly.

Ephesians 3:1-3 ESV


Pauline: of or relating to the apostle Paul, his epistles, or the doctrine or theology implicit in his epistles. Complex: an emotional problem that causes someone to think or worry too much about something. (Webster’s dictionary)


The Pauline complex, is an affliction common to those that focus their lives on Paul’s teachings, and ministry to the exclusion of other New Testament teachings. They begin to see Paul’s teachings as equal to, or greater than the teachings of Christ. They begin to believe it is their responsibility, and theirs alone to correct all believers they deem to be in error. While the apostle Paul was commissioned by the Lord himself, the one that suffers from the Pauline complex commissions themselves to the work of correcting individuals, and congregations deemed to be in error.

This complex does not manifest itself quickly, it appears slowly over an extended period of time. The afflicted is wholly unaware as the complex begins to take over their personality, and affect those around them. Over time the afflicted withdraws from all others because there are none adhering to the apostles’ teachings as closely as they are. They find safety in seclusion, while sniping at others from their self imposed place of exile.

The Pauline complex can be very destructive, and cause great pain to many. But, there is hope. When the one afflicted realizes that there is no way they could possibly be the only one rightly dividing word, and that perhaps they’ve gone too far in how they have criticized and attacked others. Slowly the realization that they have not been ordained directly by the Lord to police the church dawns on them, and they start to leave room for others to learn and grow.

Recovery from the Pauline complex is possible, but there will be setbacks, temptations, and struggles along the way. Over time the individual will come to understand that stewardship of the church universal was never theirs. They will come to grips with these facts; they didn’t die for the church, they haven’t planted every church, and they too need to workout their own salvation with fear and trembling.

Pray for those with this affliction. Be patient with them. And always remember the words of Paul; “Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” Philippians 2:12-13 ESV

© 2015 Leo J. Woodman


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