Did Paul Teach a Different Gospel than Jesus?
To properly compare the teachings of Jesus and Paul it is necessary to understand who each of them was addressing. It can rightly be said that since Jesus had not yet ascended to heaven and imparted to us the Holy Spirit, the church was not founded until after those events. Therefore, the general audience of Jesus was comprised of sinners and followers that believed His message about the kingdom of heaven during His earthly ministry. On the other hand, Paul’s prime audience was that newly converted group of believers that came to be known as the church of Jesus Christ.
Jesus preached how to enter a relationship with God through believing in His death, burial, and resurrection. In other words, He stressed how to qualify for eternal life. He continued down the trail blazed by John the Baptist, who called for repentance, or a turning from sin to God. Jesus was truly the firstborn of many brethren and as such was solely qualified to usher in the kingdom of God.
Similarly, Paul was uniquely positioned as a messenger of the good news, by virtue of his personal encounter with Jesus on the road to Damascus, and he transmitted to the church the revelation of who we are in Christ. It could be said that Jesus taught us who He is and Paul taught us who we are in Christ. The Pauline epistles are essentially letters to various bodies of believers, e.g. the church at Rome, etc., teaching them whose they had become and what their inheritance was as believers, as evidenced by the bounty of scriptures revealing their spiritual blessings.
The apostle Paul stressed that he received the gospel by revelation from Jesus personally instead of through another apostle, thus cementing its authenticity. Author John MacArthur, in his book The Gospel According to Paul: Embracing the Good News at the Heart of Paul’s Teachings, calls the doctrine of justification by faith “the core and touchstone of the gospel according to Paul.”
Elsewhere in The Gospel According to Paul, MacArthur stresses, “The biblical doctrine of justification teaches that God graciously declares believing sinners perfectly righteous for Christ’s sake,” adding, “Paul neatly summarized the gist of the gospel: it is a declaration about the atoning work of Christ.” The messages of Jesus and Paul were divinely in sync with one another, reinforcing each other in their declarations of Christ and His place in believers’ lives. Their teachings are complementary and wholly supportive of the other.
To argue that Paul preached a different gospel than Jesus is to suggest that somehow the two were in disagreement, when in actuality nothing could be further from the truth. The Bible is the Word of God and as such is infallible. God does not contradict Himself and to suggest otherwise is incompatible with who we know Him to be in light of Holy Scripture.