Jesus or Paul?
Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.
I Corinthians 11:1
Is the Red Writing More Important than the Black? How Do We Rightly Divide the Word of Truth Between the Teachings of Jesus and those of Paul?
Important Explanation to Readers
Jesus of Nazareth is both Lord and Christ. He is our only Saviour. To Him belong all blessing, honor, glory, power, riches, wisdom, strength, and praise forever and ever.
The Lord Jesus Christ of Nazareth is the Eternal Jehovah God, I AM THAT I AM, without qualification or compromise. He is the Son of God by virtue of His glorious incarnation in the womb of the virgin Mary. He is the Mediator between God and men by virtue of being made flesh with an impeccable human nature. In the beginning He was God; He is God; and He shall ever be God blessed forever. Amen!
Of Him, through Him, and to Him are all things: to whom be glory forever. Amen!
He is before all things, and by Him all things consist. Amen!
The greatest apostle, Paul, is nothing and less than nothing in comparison. Paul needed a Saviour as much as any man ever conceived, and by nature He lacked wisdom in things spiritual as fully as Cain or Judas. Before his regeneration, he was a captive in the house of the strong man, Satan. He needed the Stronger Man to rescue him, as much as any man.
There is nothing in this study to alter any of the above statements. If you detect the slightest compromise or confusion about the superiority of Jesus Christ our Lord to Paul, then come back to this page and read the paragraphs again. If you doubt our full integrity in owning Jesus Christ as the eternal Lord God of heaven and earth, you have misunderstood something.
The purpose of this study is to show how Paul, being the apostle to the Gentiles, opened up further spiritual truth than Jesus taught while being under the law as a Jew in Israel. Some of our Lord’s teachings were Jewish in nature and do not apply directly to Gentiles living outside the commonwealth of Israel and after the time of reformation.
It is important instruction, that after instructing the Corinthians to follow him as he followed Christ (11:1), that Paul praised them for keeping the ordinances as he had taught them (11:2). It is to Paul that we must chiefly look for our guidance in New Testament worship for Gentiles after the time of reformation.
We hope the following study will provide the full explanation for this assertion.
May Jesus Christ be praised! Amen!
Jesus or Paul?
JESUS WAS A MINISTER TO THE JEWS
Jesus was made under the law (Gal 4:4), as a Jewish son of Abraham (Matt 1:1; John 4:9). He was born in Bethlehem, and He grew up in Nazareth. After His birth, Joseph and His mother fulfilled the Law of Moses with the required sacrifices and events (Luke 2:21-24). And as a child, Joseph and His mother took Him to the Jewish feasts required by Moses’ Law (Luke 2:41-52). Later, as an adult, He continued to observe the Jewish feasts (John 2:23; 4:45; 5:1; 6:4; 7:2,10,37; 10:22; 12:12).
From the ministry of John the Baptist to the destruction of Jerusalem was the time of reformation (Heb 9:10), when the form of religious worship was violently altered to leave the kingdom of God and gospel era as taught by Paul (Luke 16:16; John 4:21-24; Heb 12:26-29). Our Lord’s short ministry of three years was at the beginning of this reformation and among those of His own nation, so His preaching and healing ministry was primarily to the Jews (Matt 10:5-6; 15:24; Rom 15:8).
As we study His life and teaching, we will discover numerous Hebraisms and ceremonial customs of the Law of Moses. And it is these discarded customs that Paul will save us from by his epistles, so the purpose of this study is to see those areas where Paul gives us Gentiles greater light.
PAUL WAS THE APOSTLE TO THE GENTILES
The Lord Jesus Christ chose Paul to be the apostle to the Gentiles (Acts 9:15; Gal 2:6-9). His life calling was to preach the truth of the gospel to the Gentiles and to suffer for the name of Jesus of Nazareth (Acts 26:16-18; 9:16).
Paul magnified his office as apostle to the Gentiles (Rom 11:13; 15:16-19; I Tim 2:7; II Tim 1:11-12). He knew he had great grace from the Lord for a great purpose in His kingdom (Eph 2:11 – 3:13), and he labored more diligently than the other apostles with this grace (I Cor 15:10).
Consequently, he teaches us to follow him, as he followed Christ (I Cor 11:1-2; Phil 3:17). So we will search his epistles for the instructions for Gentiles in the kingdom of God under the new covenant. In addition to his general and pastoral epistles, we will also value the book of Acts, since Luke was a frequent companion of Paul and wrote of his labors and teachings among the Gentiles (Col 4:14; II Tim 4:11; Philemon 1:24).
THE TIME OF REFORMATION
The Lord God instituted formal and corporate worship at Mount Sinai to the small and despicable nomadic nation of Israel. The Law of Moses was a sensual and inferior way of worshipping God, for it was only shadows and figures of true worship and the promised Redeemer. It could not save from sin, and it never allowed the worshippers freedom of conscience regarding their sins. Its detailed laws and ceremonial obligations were the means of proving every man a failure and in need of a Saviour.
Thanks be to God, it began to end with the ministry of John the Baptist preaching the kingdom of God in about 30 A.D. (Luke 3:1-2; 16:16; John 1:17; 4:21-24).
And it was completely ended when the glorified Lord Jesus sent His servant Titus, Roman prince and head of its army, to destroy Jerusalem and all that went with it in 70 A.D. The temple was destroyed; the priesthood was ended; the sacrifices ceased; and a few token survivors were taken into captivity. The Seventy Weeks of Daniel and attached prophecies were now fulfilled (Daniel 9:24-27).
Between these two events occurred a violent spiritual shaking of heaven and earth to loosen and discard all the beggarly, sensual, and inferior aspects of Moses’ system. The language of a shaking is the figurative language of prophets describing fantastic changes in the spiritual realm. Haggai prophesied of this shaking (Hag 2:6-9), and Paul confirmed its fulfillment (Heb 12:25-29). The important events of this period included John’s baptism, our Lord’s earthly ministry, His crucifixion and resurrection, Pentecost, and the conversion of the Gentiles.
In Hebrews 9:10, we are told that Moses ceremonial law was imposed on the nation of Israel until this time of reformation. During the transition period of about forty years, the two covenants operated side by side with gradual replacing of the old covenant with the new. The council of Jerusalem as recorded in Acts 15 reflects a few of these dual considerations. The sensual, inferior, beggarly, and temporary aspects of
PAUL TEACHES CHRISTIANITY FOR GENTILES
Both Jesus and Paul were inspired by the Holy Spirit of God (John 3:34; I Cor 2:4; Eph 3:5). Yet since our Lord was a Jew teaching Jews and Paul was the apostle to the Gentiles, we must compare their teachings in order to rightly divide the Word of Truth and practice orderly Christianity for Gentiles.
And further, since John and our Lord taught at the beginning of the time of reformation and Paul taught near the end of it, we must compare their teachings in order to rightly divide the Word of Truth and practice that form of new covenant worship that was to remain for this era.
The admonition to study for a right division of the Word of Truth was not a vain admonition (II Tim 2:15), for there are many divisions to make. The time of reformation (Heb 9:10), in which profound changes took place in the worship of God and two covenants operated contemporaneously, leave numerous matters for us to properly judge and apply to either the old covenant, the period of transition, or the permanent new covenant.
Following are selected subjects addressed or practiced by Jesus but modified or developed by Paul. It is our duty to keep the ordinances as delivered by the apostle Paul to Gentile churches, for it was the Lord Jesus Who chose Paul for this work (I Cor 11:1-2). And it was Paul who ordained Timothy and charged him to train and ordain other men to perpetuate his gospel (II Tim 2:2).
CIRCUMCISION (Luke 2:21)
If we were to follow our Lord’s life exactly, we would need to be circumcised. Yet Paul would not circumcise Titus (Gal 2:3-5) and condemned its religious requirement among the Galatians as a perversion of the gospel (Gal 5:1-8; 6:15; Col 3:11; I Cor 7:19). When this issue was tried at the council of Jerusalem, at which Paul was present, it was rejected as having any application to Gentiles (Acts 15:1,24-29). Therefore we reject circumcision as having any spiritual or religious value whatsoever; and any use of it must be limited to health, cosmetic, or other natural reasons.
BAPTISM (Matthew 3:1-15)
Our Lord was baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan River to fulfill all righteousness. And prior to Pentecost, immersion by John was a proper Christian baptism. However, immersion after Pentecost required our Lord’s authority and the identifying formula of the Trinity (Matt 28:18-20; Acts 2:33-38; 8:12-16). So true was this reformation of baptism that Paul rebaptized twelve disciples who only had John’s baptism (Acts 19:1-7).
THE PHARISEES (Matthew 23:1-3)
Jesus taught obedience to the scribes and Pharisees, yet Paul counted his education as a Pharisee to be a total loss and but dung (Phil 3:4-8). Furthermore, he ridiculed the Jews as the concision (Phil 3:2), which is a derogatory corruption of the word circumcision. Rather than obeying the Pharisees, Paul obeyed the council of Jerusalem, which opposed the Pharisees (Acts 15:5), and promoted their resolution among the Gentiles (Acts 15:30-35; 16:4; Gal 2:4-5).
THE SABBATH DAY (Luke 4:16; 6:5)
As a Jew under the Law of Moses, Jesus observed the weekly Sabbath by formally worshipping on the seventh day of the week. However, Paul takes our Lord’s resurrection and appearances on the first day of the week (John 20:1,19,26) as evidence enough to worship on the first day instead (Acts 20:7; I Cor 16:1-2), just as they did at Pentecost (Acts 2:1; Lev 23:15-16). When at the council of Jerusalem, he approved resolutions that totally ignored any Sabbath obligation (Acts 15:28-29). And he further condemned any requirement of Sabbath observances, as they were but the beggarly shadows of the true worship in Christ (Col 2:16-17; Gal 4:9-11).
FOOTWASHING (John 13:1-17)
Just before His death, our Lord washed the disciples’ feet and told them they ought to wash one another’s feet. Many presume from these words that the churches of Christ ought to have a footwashing service, usually attached to the Lord’s supper. However, Paul never mentions such an ordinance in either his general epistles or his pastoral epistles, even though we should keep the ordinances as he delivered them to the Gentile churches (I Cor 11:1-2; II Thess 3:6). And he clearly denies any such public observance by listing the washing of the saints’ feet as an extraordinary private act of only exceptional widows (I Tim 5:10).
DIVORCE (Matthew 19:3-12)
Our Lord, being a member of the commonwealth of Israel with an exclusive national religion, only addressed divorce where both spouses were worshippers of God. The apostle Paul, when teaching Gentile converts about divorce, confirms and repeats our Lord’s instruction (I Cor 7:10-11). But he then adds further instruction by addressing those mixed marriages where one spouse was an unbeliever (I Cor 7:12-15). His language is wonderful as he agrees with the Lord (10-11) and then adds to the Lord’s teaching (12-15). In mixed marriages, Paul required the believing spouse to remain with the unbeliever, but he also justified divorce when the unbelieving spouse departed. So Paul adds desertion by an unbeliever as sufficient grounds for divorce to our Lord’s provision of fornication (Matt 5:32; 19:9).
THE CHURCH (Matthew 16:18; 18:15-17)
With the full establishment of the New Testament church as a future event, the Lord did not give many details regarding its nature, offices, or activities. The Spirit had not even been given yet, Who would be the Presence and Power of the church (John 7:39; 15:26; Acts 1:5; Eph 2:22). So we are dependent on Paul for filling out this important and extensive subject (I Cor 12:12-31; 14:33-34; 16:1-2; Eph 2:11-22; I Tim 3:15).
ISRAEL (Matthew 10:6; 15:24)
Our Lord Jesus Christ was a Son of Abraham, a Jew, and an Israelite by natural descent. Though He taught the importance of the right heart condition over nationality (John 1:13,32,42,47; 8:44), it was the apostle Paul who fully developed this subject (Rom 2:28-29; 9:6-8; Gal 3:16,29; 4:21-31; 6:16). And he further revealed God’s eternal purpose of uniting both Jews and Gentiles in one spiritual body and congregation without any distinction or division (Eph 2:11 – 3:21).
THE PASSOVER (Luke 2:41; 22:15)
Jesus of Nazareth observed the Jewish Passover all His life, which was primarily a shadow and figure of our salvation in Christ. But Paul corrects any Jewish aspects of the Lord’s supper by identifying Jesus Christ as our Passover, Whom we honor by proper attention to ourselves and one another in our new testament communion (I Cor 5:8-13; 11:20-34).
THE NEW COVENANT (Luke 22:20)
Jesus introduced the new covenant at the Last Supper by His words accompanying the distribution of the wine, yet it would be Paul to elaborate on the replacement of the old covenant with the new (Heb 8:6-13; 9:1-10; 12:18-29).
SWEARING (Matthew 5:33-37)
Jesus flatly condemned any swearing in His Sermon on the Mount, and He further condemned any speech more than yes or no. But as we review the Pauline epistles, we find that Paul swore by God on numerous occasions to confirm his testimony (Rom 1:9; 9:1; II Cor 1:23; 11:31; Gal 1:20; Phil 1:8; I Thess 2:5; I Tim 2:7; 5:21). These two positions may be reconciled by understanding our Lord’s relative prohibition of the foolish swearing of the Pharisees by inferior objects and for minor issues. Paul explains swearing and used it often. Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mennonites, and others remain very confused about this subject by not rightly dividing the Word of Truth.
THE GREAT COMMISSION (Matthew 28:18-20)
Many think the commission by Jesus to His eleven apostles is the most important assignment for New Testament churches and saints, even though no man has the signs and wonders necessary for the proper fulfillment. They are convinced Jesus intends this commission to be accomplished by ordinary people with ordinary gifts. Yet Paul never mentions it even once in any epistle, including his three Pastoral Epistles. And he boldly declares it fulfilled numerous times (Rom 1:8; 10:18; 16:26; Col 1:6,23).
SIGNS FOR BELIEVERS (Mark 16:17-18)
Jesus promised special signs and wonders to believers, yet these sign gifts long ago passed away by the instruction of Paul. The revelatory sign gifts, such as tongues and prophecy, were to end as soon as the New Testament Scriptures came together (I Cor 13:8-10). And the non-revelatory sign gifts, such as healing, began to end as the time of reformation ended (I Tim 5:23; II Tim 4:20). According to the prophecy (Micah 7:15), we understand these mighty signs and wonders to have lasted as long as they did for Moses (Acts 7:36), the forty years of the time of reformation (Heb 2:1-4).
MINISTERIAL OFFICES (Luke 6:13)
Jesus chose twelve of his disciples to be apostles, which was the highest office in the New Testament (I Cor 12:28-31). But after His resurrection, He gave further gifts to men in the offices of prophet, evangelist, and pastor/teacher (Eph 4:8-11). After the time of reformation, the only offices remaining were bishop and deacon, as described and qualified by Paul (I Tim 3:1-13).
HOLY SPIRIT (John 7:39)
From the beginning, John the Baptist announced our Lord’s baptism with the Holy Ghost (Matt 3:1-12). Yet this dispensing of the Holy Spirit did not occur until Pentecost (Acts 1:5; 2:1). Though He had prophesied of the coming Spirit, it fell to Paul to reveal the great blessings and nature of this relationship with the very Presence of God (Rom 14:17; I Cor 6:19-20; 12:13; Eph 1:13; 2:22; 4:30; Gal 3:14; 5:22-23).