Paul vs. Jesus? Not exactly.

A favorite updated for your reading pleasure.

A thread over at the false gospel-preaching Sojourners Blog had multiple accusations against a commenter about whether Jesus and Paul taught the same Gospel, saying things like:

. . . the question of whether the Gospel according to Paul agrees with the Gospel according to Jesus seem largely ignored.

A commenter there referred to someone quoting Paul as a “Paulian” instead of a “Christian” and a commenter here literally said that “Jesus trumps Paul.”  Another one kept saying that “Paul didn’t know about committed same-sex relationships,” as if the Holy Spirit didn’t know either or wasn’t involved in the writings.  And there have been whole TV shows and analyses about the alleged differences between Jesus and Paul.  But is this really the case?

The “Jesus vs. Paul” debate is what is known as a false dichotomy, or a false dilemma.  It implies that you have to choose one side or the other, when there are actually other options.  Please consider this:

1. Jesus is God.  The Bible is the word of God.  Therefore, it is all the word of Jesus.  The original writings turned out just like He wanted them to, including Paul’s letters.

2. The “red letters” (direct quotes of Jesus sometimes printed in red ink) carry no more authority than any of the other verses, let alone the ~3,000 verses saying, “God said,” “The word of the Lord came to me,” etc.

3. Roughly 10% of the “red letters” quoted the “black letters.”  Jesus unapologetically and frequently quoted from the Old Testament, including the most controversial parts such as Adam and Eve, Noah, Jonah and Sodom and Gomorrah.

4. Peter referred to Paul’s writings as scripture.

5. None of the people making this argument seem to question what Luke wrote in his Gospel, so why do they question what Luke documented about Paul in the book of Acts, including his encounters with Jesus and his acceptance by the other Apostles?

6. Unless you think Paul made up his whole story — which would raise a whole new set of issues — then his claims are just as authoritative as the Gospel writers.

For example, Luke was not a direct follower of Jesus but was a careful historian and under the tutelage of Paul.  Mark leveraged Peter for his Gospel.  But Paul heard directly from Jesus.

7. Think about how much you know about the concept of grace and where that came from.  Do you really want to toss that out?

8. Jesus and Paul don’t disagree.  The clear trumps the unclear, but a Gospel writer’s presentation of Jesus’ teachings doesn’t trump Paul’s presentation of Jesus’ teachings.

9.  Much of Paul’s writings pre-date the Gospels.

So I don’t think Paul disagrees with what others documented directly and indirectly about Jesus, and even if they did you wouldn’t necessarily go with the Gospels.

Quoting Paul doesn’t make one a “Paulian” instead of a Christian, it just means you are quoting the word of God.  Don’t let anyone dismiss your claims because you quote Paul.  And be wary of those arguing against Paul.

Just quote scripture, in context.  It’s all good.

Zacchaeus & Jesus’ slaughter of his enemies

Zacchaeus in the Sycamore Awaiting the Passage...

If you are paying attention you noticed the seeming non sequitur in the title.  How could anyone connect the joyful story of Zacchaeus (which many people know of from the memorable children’s song about him) with the notion that Jesus will judge those who refuse to let him reign over them?  Yet if you read closely, that is exactly what the Bible does.

First, the story of Zacchaeus.  It is truly a joyful account of a wretched, condemned sinner who repents, rejoices and gladly follows his Savior.  Remember that for the Jews this guy was the worst of the worst.  The Romans were hated, but the tax collector Zacchhaeus would have been perceived as a traitorous Jew who sided with the Romans and exploited his fellow Jews.  Yet he was not beyond Jesus’ reach.

Luke 19:1–10 He entered Jericho and was passing through. And behold, there was a man named Zacchaeus. He was a chief tax collector and was rich. And he was seeking to see who Jesus was, but on account of the crowd he could not, because he was small in stature. So he ran on ahead and climbed up into a sycamore tree to see him, for he was about to pass that way. And when Jesus came to the place, he looked up and said to him, “Zacchaeus, hurry and come down, for I must stay at your house today.” So he hurried and came down and received him joyfully. And when they saw it, they all grumbled, “He has gone in to be the guest of a man who is a sinner.” And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.”

Zacchaeus was lost, Jesus sought him, Jesus saved him, Zacchaeus demonstrated a changed life.  That’s great news.

But this is connected to Jesus’ next parable, the one about the ten minas.  I often miss transitions like this because I treat the stories as being independent, but when listening to this on the way to work today the first line stuck out to me.  Luke deliberately noted that this parable was told to the same audience.  Didn’t Jesus know that it was a time for celebration rather than warning?

Luke 19:11–27 As they heard these things, he proceeded to tell a parable, because he was near to Jerusalem, and because they supposed that the kingdom of God was to appear immediately. He said therefore, “A nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and then return. Calling ten of his servants, he gave them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Engage in business until I come.’ But his citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We do not want this man to reign over us.’ When he returned, having received the kingdom, he ordered these servants to whom he had given the money to be called to him, that he might know what they had gained by doing business. The first came before him, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made ten minas more.’ And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant! Because you have been faithful in a very little, you shall have authority over ten cities.’ And the second came, saying, ‘Lord, your mina has made five minas.’ And he said to him, ‘And you are to be over five cities.’ Then another came, saying, ‘Lord, here is your mina, which I kept laid away in a handkerchief; for I was afraid of you, because you are a severe man. You take what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.’ He said to him, ‘I will condemn you with your own words, you wicked servant! You knew that I was a severe man, taking what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow? Why then did you not put my money in the bank, and at my coming I might have collected it with interest?’ And he said to those who stood by, ‘Take the mina from him, and give it to the one who has the ten minas.’ And they said to him, ‘Lord, he has ten minas!’ ‘I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. But as for these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slaughter them before me.’ ”

Did you catch that last part?  The same Jesus who saved Zacchaeus and celebrates at his house proceeds to tell a parable with a chilling ending.  This King has enemies who will not let him reign over them.  What happens?  They are slaughtered in his presence.

Oh, and Jesus apparently expects his authentic followers to demonstrate changed lives and to help advance his kingdom.  Go figure!

I’m fond of pointing out that there are 100 verses noting that Jesus is the only way to salvation.  The volume isn’t what makes it true, of course.  His resurrection does that. But it does mean that anyone claiming the name of Christ must hold to that explicit and supremely important teaching.  But there are actually more than 100 verses, because the passage above is one of the many that aren’t even on that list.  You will die either as a servant of the King or as his enemy.  Choose carefully, because eternity matters.

Jesus came full of grace and truth.  Grace and truth.  All grace and no truth is a lie that makes people think they don’t need Jesus.  All truth and no grace is a lie that crushes people and removes hope.  There is great grace in that awful sinners like Zacchaeus and I can be saved by the blood of Christ.  There is great truth that without Jesus we would be condemned for eternity.

John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Repent and believe. Seriously. God commanded it.

Eternity is a mighty long time.  Here’s the Good News: By God’s grace alone, He adopts, completely forgives and eternally blesses everyone who repents and trusts in Jesus.

Brandon had a great list of passages to consider in Do you have to repent to be saved? « Touch ya Neighbor Ministries:

God said repent: (Ezekiel 18:30-32; Acts 17:30), the Prophets said repent: (1 Kings 8:47-49; Ezra 10:11; Isaiah 55:6-7; Isaiah 1:16-17), John the Baptist said repent: (Matthew 3:1-12; Mark 1:4; Luke 2:3; Luke 2:8),Jesus said repent: (Mark 1:14-15; Luke 5:32; Luke 13:5; Luke 15:7; Matthew 4:17; acts 5:31), the disciples said repent: (Mark 6:12), Paul said repent: (Romans 2:4-5; 2 Corinthians 7-10; Acts 17:30), Peter said repent: (Acts 2:38; Acts 3:19-20; Acts 11:18), John said repent: (Revelations 2:5; Revelations 2:16; Revelations 3:3; Revelations 3:19), James said repent: (James 4:9-10).

My favorite (I love Acts 17!):

The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead. Acts 17:30-31

Point people to the Word (Jesus – John 1) and the word (the Bible).

Number of things Jesus said about giving away your money: A lot.

Number of things He said about petitioning Caesar (i.e., the government) to take from neighbor A to “give” to neighbor B and considering it charity on your part: None.

Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite is a professor and former President at Chicago Theological Seminary and she wrote the piece below.  As I think you’ll see, it is more evidence that a seminary designation means nothing until you peel back the layers to see what people believe.  She is a prime example of a false teacher.

Her premise is that in the passage in Luke 18 about the rich young ruler Jesus was telling us to redistribute wealth via the government.  Here’s the passage in question.

Luke 18:18–30 (ESV) 18 And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 19 And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. 20 You know the commandments: ‘Do not commit adultery, Do not murder, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother.’ ” 21 And he said, “All these I have kept from my youth.” 22 When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 23 But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. 24 Jesus, seeing that he had become sad, said, “How difficult it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God! 25 For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” 26 Those who heard it said, “Then who can be saved?” 27 But he said, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.” 28 And Peter said, “See, we have left our homes and followed you.” 29 And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothers or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, 30 who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.”

This was timely considering that at lunch today a non-believing friend asked me about the basics of giving from a Christian worldview.  Now on to her analysis, which is basically the opposite of what the Bible teaches.

Jesus to the rich young ruler: “distribute the money”

She fails from the title onward.  Jesus said for the young man to distribute his money, not someone else’s.

A deal President Obama struck with Republican leaders last week will extend tax cuts across the board including, controversially, to the richest Americans.

While it may indeed be “controversial,” is it that illogical that if tax cuts are extended then all who pay taxes would receive the same extension?

Some politicians argue that religious values should be reflected in the public square. Should this faith-based view of politics be applied to the economy? Jesus said, “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”

Right.  He said, “Whatever you did to the least of these . . .”  He didn’t say, “Whatever you asked Caesar to do by taking from others . . .”

Also, as we’ll soon see, Ms. Thistlethwaite is pro-abortion.  I wonder how she reconciles that with her “least of these” theology?

. . .

Once a rich young ruler came to Jesus, wanting to know what it took to be “good.” ‘I’ve kept all the commandments since my youth,’ the young man said, bragging a little.

A little?! How about, “That was a spectacularly wild lie on his part.”

Well, Jesus replied, “there is still one thing lacking. Sell all that you own and distribute the money.” But the young man, “who was very rich,” turned away. Jesus’ comment? “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” (Luke 18: 21-25)

Note how she stops at verse 25.  If she would read the rest of the passage she would get a better idea of Jesus’ point: “What is impossible with men is possible with God.”  He also answers the “Who can be saved?” question, which I assume that Thistlethwaite and similar false teachers ignore.  After all, if Jesus answered who can be saved then that means some are unsaved.

All too true. It’s also easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than it is for a bill with the rich paying their fair share of taxes to get through Congress. Not gonna happen.

Was that Jesus’ point?

But that’s the moral thing to do. Our tax policies in this country are a way to help our neighbors who are the “least of these,” as Jesus also notes.

How outrageous of her.  That isn’t what Jesus noted.  He did say one thing about taxes in a separate passage, which was basically, “Stop whining and pay them.”  Matthew 25 had nothing to do with taxes.

We “distribute the money” so that we can help those who are the most vulnerable like children, the sick, those with handicapping conditions, and the elderly. It’s a way to “distribute the money” to those of our citizens who want to work and can’t find it. We give unemployment benefits to people thrown out of work while they struggle in hard economic times to find another job. We pay taxes to educate our young, keep our bridges from falling down, and support our troops.

But that isn’t what Jesus addressed in the passage.  If it was, why didn’t He force the rich young ruler to give?  The young man walked away and Jesus let him.  And Jesus didn’t go forward with a fundraising campaign or any lobbying of Caesar to get to the young man’s money.  The passage wasn’t about taxes and “giving” the money of others.

Politicians love to pontificate on how we need to restore “Christian values” in the public square, but that’s mostly limited to denying equal civil rights for gay Americans, or controlling women’s bodies. When it comes to what the bible says about wealth and poverty, however, you’ll never hear that touted as morality in the public square. No, no. That’s “private.”

Note the multiple fallacies and her true religion: Liberalism.  No one is denying civil rights for gay Americans.  They are welcome to marry someone of the opposite sex.  Whether they want to or not is their problem.  Skin color is morally neutral; sexual behavior is not.  She mocks black Americans with her civil rights blather.

And the “controlling women’s bodies” bit makes for a good bumper sticker, I suppose, but is easily disproven.  Pro-lifers want to protect the bodies of females and males in the womb.  Thistlethwaite thinks the mother should be able to have them crushed and dismembered.  Got any Bible verses for that?  It is a scientific fact that they are human beings and a theological fact that they were created by God.   This isn’t science versus religion.  Theological liberals oppose science and religion when it comes to life.

Baloney. The bible is filled with references to the religious imperative to “remember the poor” (Galatians 2:10) and “the worker deserves his pay.” (Luke 10:7)

Yep.  What workers have not been paid?  And yes, there are imperatives for believers to remember the poor with our money. It doesn’t say, “Remember the poor with your neighbor’s money.”

When Jesus went to Jerusalem, he “sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury.” (Mark 12:41) Jesus watched what people did with their money. He sees the money-changers in the temple charging pilgrims an exorbitant rate of exchange and he turns over the tables in anger, saying, “‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you have made it a den of thieves.” (Matthew 21:13)

So?  If this is going on in her church then the church should do something about it.  What a non sequitur.

For those who have eyes to see, the real moral values in scripture are about loving God with our whole heart and our neighbor as ourselves, and that includes what you do with your money.

That includes what you do with your money.  Is this so hard to understand?  Your money, not your neighbors’.

Even though it’s harder for Congress to pass through the eye of a needle than to pass legislation that will “distribute the money” in a fair way, I hope and pray they will. That’s real Christian values in the public square.

No, that’s her politics disguised as religion.

And one more thing: I don’t want my grandchildren saddled with paying off a huge deficit caused by giving more tax breaks to the very wealthy.

Boo-hoo.  I don’t want mine saddled with paying off Obama’s stimulus bill (mainly paybacks to his cronies) and his un-Constitutional health care bill, among other things.

If she wants to take the passage literally, why hasn’t she sold all her possessions and given the money to the poor?

And as Stan noted in his post, why do people like her ignore passages like this one:

I prefer to do nothing without your consent in order that your goodness might not be by compulsion but of your own accord (Philemon 14).

(Not surprisingly, I found the link to this at the site of false teacher Chuck “Jesus is not the only way” Currie.)