Academics (including the ridiculously named “Jesus Seminar”—a group of apostates who couldn’t handle the Bible accurately if their lives depended on it) teach lies couched in high-sounding theological terminology, such as the idea that Paul somehow HIJACKED Christianity, changed the teachings of Jesus and, then, created a completely new religion.
The simple remedy to this mishandling of the word of God is to “rightly divide the word of truth”. (2 Timothy 2:15, kjv) This means that we must read the Bible IN CONTEXT and we must read the text carefully, understand the author’s intentions and identify the author’s immediate audience, taking into consideration the historical and grammatical information that will give us an accurate understanding. Only then can we apply it to 21st century life in a legitimate manner. This should be grade school stuff, but some of the most highly decorated PhD’s and ThD’s in the nation seem incapable of accomplishing this task.
As when reading any other text in the Bible, we must look at the text and see what the immediate context is. There are different Dispensations (“economies”/ages) and each represents a difference in the manner in which God is dealing with mankind.
For example, Adam didn’t start a “new religion”. But God changed the rules after kicking Adam out of Eden. Why? The first dispensation, which began in a paradise garden, ended with Judgment. The second dispensation began with Adam and Eve outside of Eden with the commandment to replenish the earth. You will find some similarities but vast differences between these two ages (dispensations) but this is the continuing unfolding of the SAME RELIGION with the SAME GOD.
The Biblical account of history unfolds as we continue through Genesis. The second dispensation ends with a global flood. Only Noah and his family survive. This begins the third dispensation. Again, you will find some similarities but vast differences in God’s dealings with the post-flood world as compared to the second dispensation (pre-flood).
Gospel Transition Into Pauline Revelation
This brings us to the question of Paul and whether or not he “contradicted Jesus”. By taking note of the dispensational economy-age of each, we see the reason for any seeming differences between what we read in the Gospels when compared to the writings of Paul.
During His ministry on earth, Jesus was a circumcised Jew living under the dispensational economy-age of Law. He declared His intention of fulfilling the Law and spoke of the kingdom. The entire narratives of Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Acts are of transition from Law to Grace. You will find differences between Jesus and the Old Testament, especially as you move toward the end of each of the four Gospels.
Paul comes along and wasn’t even saved until Acts chapter 9, after much of the transition from Law to Grace was already completed. He, then, was ordained and used of God to complete the task and to establish the infant local churches in sound faith and doctrine.
With that said, we have yet to see that Paul actually “contradicted” Jesus at all! What we do see is that Paul’s message is directed toward the Gentile believer while Jesus did not go after Gentiles, as He said Himself in Matthew 10:6, But He did “…go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”
On the contrary, we see Paul at the end of the book of Acts rebuking the Jewish majority and saying, “Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it.” (Acts 28:28 kjv) Paul still preached “to the Jew first” (Romans 1:16) but found fertile ground among Gentiles.
The simple fact is that Paul continued the “revolution” that Jesus began. Jesus tried to pull Jews away from a superficial religion of works that could not save anyone and pointed them toward the Cross that He would bear as a Substitutionary payment for the sin of mankind. Once He accomplished this, He arose from the dead and ascended to Heaven, sending His Spirit to empower the apostles for the task of establishing local churches all over the world.
Paul was the hand-picked replacement of Judas Iscariot (Acts 9 & 1 Corinthians 15:8-10). He continued the work of establishing salvation as a gift from God that is based completely upon the finished work of Jesus Christ upon the Cross, sealed by His resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:1-7).
There is nothing contradictory. The Gospel, Acts and Pauline Epistles are a cohesive unit that, together with the other canonical books, tell us the whole story of God’s plan of the ages. That plan is still being worked out by the Sovereign hand of God.
Are you ready when the end comes? If you were to die tonight, would you be saved by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross, or would you be condemned by your refusal to receive God’s free gift of eternal life?
We urge you to believe and be saved.