>>I don't hold the position that he is a false Apostle
Paul most certainly was not a false apostle. His epistles show he suffered greatly in order to help spread Christianity among the gentiles and, according to tradition, died for it.
- Maybe he thought that if he got to be an insider with influence, he could corrupt the teachings from the inside?
But what would he gain by this? Christianity spread through his efforts. And I will show that his theology was in no way corrupt, particularly in regard to faith and works.
- Next, nobody witnessed his conversion. He was on the road alone, and we have only his word for it. Nobody can verify his claims.
Paul never claimed to have been converted on the road to Damascus - that comes solely from Acts of the Apostles, where there are three different versions of the event. We may not know why the author of Acts believed that Paul experienced a vision of Jesus on the road to Damascus, but certain aspects associated with this seem contradicted by Paul in his own epistles. Regardless of the historicity of the conversion account in Acts, Paul only claimed that it pleased God to reveal his son "in me," after which he conferred with no one but went immediately to Arabia (Galatians 1:16-17).
- his teachings on salvation apart from works seems to contradict other clear teachings
In his undisputed epistles, Paul taught that salvation is achieved by faith without works of the (Jewish) law. In these epistles, he preached that faith in Jesus was of the utmost importance but did not say that good works are not also necessary, in fact frequently preaching against sin and for good works.
Bart D. Ehrman says in Forged, page 99, that Paul was very concerned with arguing that performing the ‘works of the law’ could not contribute to one's right standing before God. For him, it was not the Jewish law that could bring salvation, but the death and resurrection of Jesus. Ehrman insists that When Paul talks about ‘works’, he means doing the things that the Jewish law requires, such as getting circumcised, keeping kosher, and observing the Sabbath. For example, reading Romans 3:27 in isolation could lead to the conclusion that Paul rejected salvation through works - until we read on, to verses 28-29, where we see in context that in "By what law? of works?" he was referring to the Jewish law:
27 Where is boasting then? It is excluded. By what law? of works? Nay: but by the law of faith.
28 Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law. Is he the God of the Jews only? is he not also of the Gentiles? Yes, of the Gentiles also:
In Romans 4:1-5,9-10 Paul says that Abraham was judged righteous by his faith in God (his willingness to obey a command to sacrifice his son), not because he was or was not circumcised:
What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness . . . Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? for we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness. How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision.
Ehrman says (page 197) the author of the Epistle to the Ephesians transformed Paul’s teaching that the works of the Jewish law could not bring salvation into a teaching that said good works could not save. Ephesians 2:8-9 certainly seems a direct contradiction to what Paul said in Romans and other undisputed epistles, clearly stating that salvation is by faith and (lest any man should boast) not by works "of yourself," but we should not judge Paul by this epistle, which the majority of critical scholars say was written in Paul's name sometime in the 80s of the first century:
Ephesians 2:8-9: For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.
Burton L. Mack says in Who Wrote the New Testament, page 214, that the Epistle of James was written partly as a response to the teachings of Paul, but is reacting not to what Paul said but to what later Christians, especially the author of Ephesians, misunderstood Paul as saying:
James 2:14-17: What doth it profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.
James 2:24 Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.
Paul's teachings on faith and good works were on song, but have been misunderstood because of the pseudepigraphical epistles, especially Ephesians.