Is There a Crisis in Christianity over
the Apostle Paul?
For some odd reason, it appears that the body of Christ is periodically tempted to forget its mission and so it instead falls prey to navel gazing rather than doing as Jesus commanded and going into the world to make disciples. The enemy of our souls loves nothing more than to distract us from the calling given to us by the founder of the church Himself, Jesus Christ.
If there is a crisis in Christianity over the apostle Paul, it is a manufactured one and without substantive merit. Any perceived differences in the messages of Paul and Jesus are essentially matters of emphasis and degree. Suffice it to say that God is not the author of confusion so any that arises comes not from God but the devil, whose mission is to create division and sow discord among the brethren.
One of the first principles of biblical interpretation is to allow Scripture to interpret itself. And Scripture indicates that Paul delivered the gospel to a different group than Jesus, and Peter also, for that matter. It is imperative that each minister’s message be considered in light of the messenger’s main audience. By definition, Jesus preached exclusively to unsaved people since He had not died yet to reconcile man to God. Peter was called primarily to reach the Jewish population and his writings reflect that context. And Paul was especially sent to teach the good news to the Gentiles beyond the Holy Land.
Author John MacArthur, in his book The Gospel According to Paul: Embracing the Good News at the Heart of Paul’s Teachings, reminds readers that the gospel of Jesus Christ was part and parcel of Paul’s life and ministry. “As we have seen from the beginning, ‘Jesus Christ and Him crucified’ was the principal theme of everything the apostle taught or preached,” stresses MacArthur. “There are dozens more passages we could examine where the apostle explains and reiterates the way of salvation by grace through faith in the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.”
In summary, while some suggest that Jesus and Paul presented different gospels, it is rather the same principal message of good news delivered to distinct people groups and reflects the corresponding emphases designed to minister to the unique needs of each group. Rather than being contradictory of one another, the messages are complementary. Any controversy over the matter is quickly reconciled by focusing on first principles.