SPIRITUAL PERSPECTIVES


JESUS VERSUS PAUL?

GARY W. SUMMERS

   

Recently someone e-mailed me "Jesus Versus Paul" from Biblical Errancy by Dennis McKinsey (April 1986). [This is the same writer whose tracts I reviewed during November 1998.] It contains seventeen points in which Paul allegedly disagrees with Jesus. Most of the "contradictions" are of a trivial nature. Due to space considerations, we will need to abbreviate McKinsey's points (without removing any of the substance from them).

Paul claims to speak for Jesus, to be his voice ("I say the truth in Christ, I lie not"--Rom. 9:1, 1 Tim. 2:7), ("As the truth of Christ is in me"--2 Cor. 11:10), ("Since ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me"--2 Cor. 13:3), despite abundant evidence to the contrary: (1) Jesus--"Go not into the way of the Gentiles" (Matt. 10:5) and "I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matt. 15:24), and "...for salvation is of the Jews" (John 4:22) versus Paul--"For so the Lord has commanded us, saying, I have set you to be a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the uttermost parts of the earth" (Acts 13:47) and "from henceforth, I (Paul--Ed.) will go unto the Gentiles" (Acts 18:6) and "that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it" (Acts 28:28) and "that I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles" (Rom. 15:16) and "that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ" (Eph. 3:8).... Jesus told his followers not to go to the Gentiles and Paul countermanded the order.

First of all, the reader should notice how much effort was put into looking up all these Scriptures--but only for the purpose of finding a contradiction. Had the writer put in as much time in trying to understand them, he would know a great deal more than he does.

The responses to each point are in essence the same ones given in the e-mail correspondence. A few adaptations were necessary to fit this format. A response to each "contradiction" will immediately follow the false allegation, beginning with my first response below.

1. This point reflects the poor thinking of so many who criticize the Bible. There are certain rules of interpretation (hermeneutics) that we all use in studying the Bible (or literature, for that matter). The fundamental ones are: 1) Who is the speaker? 2) To whom is he speaking? 3) What is the purpose of his speaking?

These basic rules resolve all that McKinsey writes. Jesus did not come to preach to the Gentiles. His mission was to speak to His own people (John had prepared the way for Him). The great commission (which He gave to His apostles) was to "go into all the world." Paul was appointed to go to the Gentiles specifically (although he spoke to his Jewish brethren first). Thus Jesus and the apostles before the cross concentrated on the Jews; afterward, the gospel was to be spread to all humanity. Only someone trying hard to miss this point would fail to see it since it is quite obvious.

(2) Jesus--"Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments and shall teach men so, he shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven...." (Matt. 5:17-19) and "it is easier for heaven and earth to pass, than one tittle of the law to fall" (Luke 16:17)...versus Paul--"Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ" (Rom. 7:4) and "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law" (Gal. 3:13) and "For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace" (Rom. 6:14) and "But now we are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held; that we should serve in newness of spirit, and not in the oldness of the letter" (Rom. 7:6).... Jesus said the law would stand till heaven and earth passed, while Paul said it need no longer be followed.

2. This second "discrepancy" involves the same type of flaw as the first: one needs to know the circumstances under which each statement was made. When Jesus taught, it was during a transition period. The Law was still in effect, but He was teaching His New Testament system. Some would want to know, "Since you are teaching a new law, shall we forget the Law of Moses?" The answer is an emphatic NO--not until everything in the law was fulfilled. But it was fulfilled with Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection. In Luke 24:44 Jesus says that all things written concerning Him were now fulfilled. Therefore, Paul is correct to say that Jews are no longer under the law; it was nailed to the cross (Col. 2:14). It is this simple: before the cross the Jews had to keep the Law of Moses; after the cross they (and all men) are governed by the new covenant of Christ, "the perfect law of liberty."

(3) Jesus--"Go not into the way of the Gentiles and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not" (Matt. 10:5) versus Paul--"they (Paul and Barnabas--Ed.) passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles" (Acts 15:3). Jesus said Samaria was not to be entered which Paul chose to ignore.

3. This is essentially the same as point number one. When Jesus gave the limited commission in Matthew 10, He did restrict the disciples, but after His resurrection their field became the whole world. McKinsey, for all his research, apparently missed Acts 1:8 in which Jesus Himself specifically mentions Samaria: "And you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." How honest is it to try to make Jesus and Paul be at odds with each other when they were not?

(4) Jesus--"Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost" (Matt. 28:19) versus Paul--"For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel" (1 Cor. 1:17). To baptize or not to baptize, that is the question.

4. McKinsey should try to avoid taking Scriptures out of context. Paul is rejoicing that he did not personally baptize many since they might have called themselves his followers (instead of the Lord's). Anyone can do the actual baptizing; Paul did the preaching which leads people to be baptized.

(5) Jesus--"but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire" (Matt. 5:22) versus Paul--"Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die" (1 Cor. 15:36) and "O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you" (Gal. 3:1) and "We are fools for Christ's sake" (1 Cor. 4:10) and (Rom. 1:22, 1 Cor. 3:18). Apparently Paul doesn't feel "fool" is a dangerous word or hell fire is a thing to be feared.

5. This one looks good on the surface, but the problem is one of translation. The "fool" of Matt. 5:22 is moros in the Greek, from which we derive moron. Paul refers to himself by this designation (1 Cor. 4:10) as well as when encouraging the Corinthians in that same type of humble thinking (1 Cor. 3:18), but he uses a different word when speaking of others: aphron in 1 Corinthians 15:36 and anoeetos in Galatians 3:1. In the English, all three are unfortunately translated the same way. In Romans 1:22 Paul uses the verb form of moros, but this is a Divine assessment of those who lived long ago--not those currently alive.

(6) Paul--"I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me" (Gal. 2:20) and "who gave himself for our sins" (Gal. 1:3)...and "even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it" (Eph. 5:25)...versus Jesus--"...My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?" (Matt. 27:46, Mark 15:34) and "...My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death... O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me" (Matt. 26:38-39). "Cup" comes from a Hebrew word which actually means "fate" or, in this case, "death." If Jesus gladly gave himself as a sacrifice for all, you'd never know it from his words.

6. Why bother to pit Paul against Jesus? Jesus said He laid down His life of His own free will (John 10:17-18). Why not have the Lord disagree with Himself? Context is all-important. On the one hand, Jesus was willing to be the sacrifice; on the other hand, it involved great agony. Most of us have been happy to do something though it cost us a great deal to do it. These are comments about the intensity of the suffering; they do not negate the willingness of His sacrifice.

(7) Paul--"Honor thy father and mother: which is the first commandment" (Eph. 6:2) versus Jesus--"If any man come to me and hate not his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brethren, and sisters, yea and his own life also, he cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:26).

7. Does this really require an explanation? Paul is quoting from the ten commandments (Ex. 20:12). Was Jesus disagreeing? No, He was, through the use of a Hebrew idiom, showing that He must come first in the lives of His followers. This point is achieved by the use of a vivid contrast (hating all others). No serious student of the Word would make McKinsey's blunder.

(8) Paul--"I will therefore that men pray everywhere lifting up holy hands...." (1 Tim. 2:8) versus Jesus--"And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men.... But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret" (Matt. 6:5-6). Those clamoring for prayer in the schools had better quote Paul and not Jesus.

8. Paul was talking about public prayer with other brethren present; Jesus was talking about keeping private prayer private rather than making it public. Neither were talking about prayer in school.

(9) Jesus--"all power is given unto me in heaven and in earth" (Matt. 28:19) versus Paul--"The coming of the lawless one by the activity of Satan will be with all power and with pretended signs and wonders...." (2 Thess. 2:9 RSV). Who, then has all power, Jesus or the lawless one?

9. Obviously, Jesus has all power, period. But the man of sin would come with all the power Satan has.

(10) Paul--"In whom (Jesus--Ed.) are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Col. 2:3) versus Jesus--"But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son..." (Mark 13:32). Apparently Jesus didn't feel he was as omniscient as did Paul.

10. Paul is talking in general terms and showing that genuine wisdom is in Christ (as he opposes gnosticism's claim of special knowledge). Jesus was talking about one event whose time He did not then know (but which he may have known after His ascension into heaven).

(11) Jesus--"but the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you" (John 14:26) versus Paul, [who] "opposed" [Peter] "to his face" (Gal. 2:11-14 RSV).

11. Peter knew and proclaimed the truth, but on this occasion he acted in a way contrary to it. For that reason Paul rebuked him. This was not a matter of revealed truth; it was a matter of behavior. Peter knew to act better than he did; can not the same be said of all of us at some time or another? [This is not even a good quibble, let alone an argument.]

(12) Paul--"And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses" (Acts 13:39) versus Jesus--"...but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him neither in this world, neither in the world to come" (Matt. 12:32) and "But he that shall blaspheme against the Holy Ghost hath never forgiveness, but is in danger of eternal damnation" (Mark 3:29). According to Jesus you can never be justified for all things.

12. How could McKinsey have missed "he who believes" being contrasted with blasphemers who obviously do not believe? Paying attention to context really helps.

(13) Jesus--"...for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted" (Luke 18:14) versus Paul--..."I am become a fool in glorying; ye have compelled me: for I ought to have been commended of you: for in nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles..." (2 Cor. 12:11).... Apparently Paul did not feel being abased was something to be feared either.

13. McKinsey should really try and read the context before he mistakenly applies what is said. Paul had said that the Corinthians gladly bore with fools; so he would speak as one. Some define this technique as humor.

(14) Paul--"For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ...." (2 Cor. 5:10) versus Jesus--"Ye judge after the flesh; I judge no man" (John 8:15) and "...who made me a judge and a divider over you?" (Luke 12:14) and "...for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world" (John 12:47 and John 8:50). Somebody should have told Paul that Jesus doesn't want the job.

14. Jesus did come to save the world and not judge it--the first time, but He also said He was returning to JUDGE the world (John 5:22, 27). This is not a discrepancy between Paul and Jesus or even Jesus and Jesus. McKinsey must be desperate to find "contradictions."

(15) Paul--"...who (Jesus--Ed.), being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God" (Phil. 2:6) and "For in him (Christ) dwelleth all of the fulness of the Godhead bodily" (Col. 2:9) versus Jesus--"...for my Father is greater than I" (John 14:28).... Paul may consider Jesus God's equal but clearly Jesus does not.

15. Jesus, as part of the Godhead, was equal. When He took on a human body, He was still God but also man. While in that state, the Father was greater (John 10:30).

(16) Jesus--"With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible" (Matt. 19:26) versus Paul--"it was impossible for God to lie...." (Heb. 6:18).

16. With God all things (within the realm of possibility) are possible. Reading the context of each statement can be so helpful. Some things are impossible: God cannot be other than what He is.

(17) Jesus--"If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven" (Matt. 19:21) versus Paul--"For every man shall bear his own burden" (Gal. 6:5). One wonders why people are obligated to aid the poor if every man is supposed to bear his own burden.

17. This one is really comparing apples to asparagus. The burden in Galatians 6:5 has nothing to do with money. Paul taught helping the poor (2 Cor. 8-9).

Most of these "contradictions" between Jesus and Paul are just plain silly to those who know and have studied the Bible. They come from a man who is willfully ignorant and who studies selectively--just for the purpose of dissuading people from touching the Holy Word. He clearly has an agenda to overlook obvious answers to his own questions--either that or he lacks common sense.

One wonders why a few individuals devote nearly their entire adult lives trying to tear down the Bible. Most of us, if we did not believe it, would ignore it. But some feel compelled to make up even ridiculous objections to its unity and harmony. One suspects they have a deep-seated anger against something that the Bible teaches--or that they have a loved one who has died in an unsaved condition. Perhaps instead of vilifying that which is holy and railing against the God who loves them, they ought to take a cue from the rich man of Luke 16:19-31. He did not want any family member or loved one to join him in his torment. We do no favor to departed loved ones by doing everything in our power to influence others toward torment. They will not be gratified, and we shall suffer the more for being Satan's dupes and spreading destruction.

*Send comments or questions concerning this article to Gary Summers. Please refer to this article as: "JESUS VERSUS PAUL? (01/14/01)."


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