Is Paul’s “gospel” a different gospel?
Did he change God’s Word to fit his gospel?
Why Paul’s writings are accepted by the church?
Paul’s writing and teachings are typically accepted by the church today. However, there are often groups that attempt to undermine Paul’s teachings by saying that they are different or contradictory to Jesus’ teachings. I have actually heard women say Paul hated women because they feel Paul placed women lower than men and confined them to silence and the home without allowing for their gifts. There is a new grouping called The New Perspective on Paul by NT Wright. John Piper actually wrote a book refuting that position. There are groups that say only the words of Christ are gospel (Red Letter Christians). I can’t keep up with all the various teachings that denigrate Paul to being unimportant or to have taught a different gospel than Jesus did. Some even call Christianity “Pauline Christianity”.
Satan wants to continually undermine God’s Word. He won’t come right out and say it is all false, but Satan, as since the beginning with Eve, just questions little bits and pieces until he leaves God’s Word full of holes like Swiss cheese.
The Early Church accepted Paul’s writing because the original Apostles accepted Paul’s writings.
The first time we meet Paul (Saul) in Scripture is here.
Acts 7:58 Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. ESV
1 And Saul approved of his execution. And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem, and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.
2 Devout men buried Stephen and made great lamentation over him.
3 But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison. ESV
By this point every single Apostle, believer and disciple knew who Paul was just as every German Jew knew Hitler. Paul was so feared that when he converted he still was rejected for fear of him being a spy.
Paul was so gung-ho about persecution that he sought letters to allow him to enter other synagogues instead of just the Jerusalem Synagogues. He wanted to eradicate all believers in Jesus.
But after the journey on the road to Damascus, Paul is forever changed and transformed.
We in Scripture are given little information about the entourage traveling with Paul at that time. But several men were traveling with him, remember he was going to round up believers and kill or torture them. That would require many men.
Acts 9:7 The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one. ESV
Don’t you know these men reported this and talked of it to many?
8 Saul rose from the ground, and although his eyes were opened, he saw nothing. So they led him by the hand and brought him into Damascus.
9 And for three days he was without sight, and neither ate nor drank. ESV
Then even after Ananis was told by God to talk to Paul he hesitated. Why? Because everyone knew Paul and his reputation. But look at what God told Ananis:
15 “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.
16 For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” ESV
That in itself is enough for us to trust what Paul says and has written. Notice also this information is from Ananis and is recorded in Acts by Luke. This isn’t Paul saying this. But is that not exactly what Paul did. God’s Word will be fulfilled exactly as He said, always.
Then next the turnaround in Paul was so distinct that everyone was amazed.
19 For some days he was with the disciples at Damascus.
20 And immediately he proclaimed Jesus in the synagogues, saying, “He is the Son of God.”
21 And all who heard him were amazed and said, “Is not this the man who made havoc in Jerusalem of those who called upon this name? And has he not come here for this purpose, to bring them bound before the chief priests?”
22 But Saul increased all the more in strength, and confounded the Jews who lived in Damascus by proving that Jesus was the Christ. ESV
Imagine along the lines of Hitler changing and becoming a Jew, not just a Jew in name only but out “Jewing” Jews.
The change in Paul was so profound that he was within a few days in risk of being killed by the Jews he had previously been working for.
Upon escaping Damascus and going to Jerusalem the disciples there would have nothing to do with him for fear of him. However, Barnabas took Paul to the disciples and vouched for him and his faith.
Acts 9:27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles and declared to them how on the road he had seen the Lord, who spoke to him, and how at Damascus he had preached boldly in the name of Jesus. ESV
But even in Jerusalem, Paul’s life was in danger and the disciples sent him to safety.
Paul spent many years in Tarsus but after Barnabas came to get Paul and brought him to Antioch, then the church there began to grow by leaps and bounds, so much so, that prophets came from Jerusalem to be a part of the church in Antioch.
Set apart as a Missionary
The church in Antioch was praying and fasting and the Lord told them that they should set apart Barnabas and Paul for missionaries.
2 While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”
3 Then after fasting and praying they laid their hands on them and sent them off. ESV
We read about Paul performing miracles.
8 But Elymas the magician (for that is the meaning of his name) opposed them, seeking to turn the proconsul away from the faith.
9 But Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him
10 and said, “You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord?
11 And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and unable to see the sun for a time.” Immediately mist and darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking people to lead him by the hand.
12 Then the proconsul believed, when he saw what had occurred, for he was astonished at the teaching of the Lord. ESV
Acts 14:3 So they remained for a long time, speaking boldly for the Lord, who bore witness to the word of his grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands. ESV
8 Now at Lystra there was a man sitting who could not use his feet. He was crippled from birth and had never walked.
9 He listened to Paul speaking. And Paul, looking intently at him and seeing that he had faith to be made well,
10 said in a loud voice, “Stand upright on your feet.” And he sprang up and began walking. ESV
Paul and Barnabus would not allow others to worship them, but pointed all to Christ.
11 And when the crowds saw what Paul had done, they lifted up their voices, saying in Lycaonian, “The gods have come down to us in the likeness of men!”
12 Barnabas they called Zeus, and Paul, Hermes, because he was the chief speaker.
13 And the priest of Zeus, whose temple was at the entrance to the city, brought oxen and garlands to the gates and wanted to offer sacrifice with the crowds.
14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard of it, they tore their garments and rushed out into the crowd, crying out,
15 “Men, why are you doing these things? We also are men, of like nature with you, and we bring you good news, that you should turn from these vain things to a living God, who made the heaven and the earth and the sea and all that is in them. ESV
After being stone Paul rose up and went back into that very same city preaching the gospel.
19 But Jews came from Antioch and Iconium, and having persuaded the crowds, they stoned Paul and dragged him out of the city, supposing that he was dead.
20 But when the disciples gathered about him, he rose up and entered the city, and on the next day he went on with Barnabas to Derbe. ESV
Even the demons knew who Paul was.
Acts 16:17-18 (ESV)
17 She followed Paul and us, crying out, “These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.”
18 And this she kept doing for many days. Paul, having become greatly annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I command you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour.
Many of the church and the disciples were given visions about the impending death of Paul.
Acts 21:4 And having sought out the disciples, we stayed there for seven days. And through the Spirit they were telling Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. ESV
10 While we were staying for many days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea.
11 And coming to us, he took Paul’s belt and bound his own feet and hands and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘This is how the Jews at Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and deliver him into the hands of the Gentiles.'”
12 When we heard this, we and the people there urged him not to go up to Jerusalem.
13 Then Paul answered, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.”
14 And since he would not be persuaded, we ceased and said, “Let the will of the Lord be done.” ESV
James, Peter and John accepted Paul as being sent to the Gentiles.
7 On the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the gospel to the circumcised
8 (for he who worked through Peter for his apostolic ministry to the circumcised worked also through me for mine to the Gentiles),
9 and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. ESV
Peter accepted the Word of God as revealed through Paul calling it Scriptures.
2 Peter 3:15-16
15 And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him,
16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. ESV
Calling writings Scripture is accepting the fact that they are God Breathed.
2 Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV)
16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,
17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.
So we can see that Paul’s writings were called Scripture by the Disciples and that Paul was preaching the Gospel of Christ, not Paul’s Gospel!
24 But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.
25 And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again.
26 Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all of you,
27 for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God. ESV
6 I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—
7 not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ.
8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.
9 As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed.
10 For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ.
11 For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel.
12 For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. ESV
So can we trust Paul’s word?
Definitely you can, unless you are then also going to throw out the other disciple’s writings or maybe the Prophets.
It is a very dangerous thing to throw out the writings of Paul.
It is also very dangerous to say that Paul contradicts the Lord’s Word.
Paul’s writings are just as valid Scripture as any other writings in the Bible.
So if there seems to be a contradiction we must study the issue better and ask God for the wisdom to reconcile all of Scripture with itself, not our feeble opinions.