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Was Paul against Jesus?

Some Muslims claim that Paul and Jesus contradict. One of their reasons is that Paul preaches Jesus as God’s Messiah, the Savior of the world. It needs to be checked out if Paul promoted Jesus in a different way than the teachings of Jesus and if he had alternative moral practices, compared with what Jesus was telling.

Paul had a meeting with Jesus the Messiah

Paul had a remarkable life. First part of his life, he was called Saul and was as a devoted Jews who persecuted Christians. He was the Jewish leader who did a systematic persecution of the followers of Jesus and gave commands to stone them (Acts 8:1, 9:13-14). The turning point in the life of Paul was the moment when Jesus the Messiah appeared to him: “And he fell to the earth, and heard a voice saying unto him, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me? And he said, Who art thou, Lord? And the Lord said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest: it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.” (Acts 9:4-5). Jesus gave Paul instructions what to do. One of the Christians, Ananias also had a revelation of Jesus. Jesus told him to meet Paul and so it happened (Acts 9:17). This confirms that Paul had met the true Jesus the Messiah, the risen Lord.

Paul followed the teachings and guidelines of Jesus

As a Jew and with academic education in theology, Paul was a strict keeper of the law of Moses (Acts 22:3, Galatians 1:14, Philippians 3:4-6). After he met Jesus the Messiah, he did not stop with the practices of the Torah. However he added living by faith and grace through Jesus the Messiah, but only with the intention to stimulate in doing God’s will, like Jesus with his explanation of God’s Law wants: "Do we then make void the law through faith? Certainly not! On the contrary, we establish the law" (Romans. 3:31). So Paul has been misunderstood by some people. Paul has peace about righteousness on the Day of Judgment: “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7-8). As part of Torah practices and Jesus’ guidelines, Paul was fasting frequently: “Do not deprive one another except with consent for a time, that you may give yourselves to fasting and prayer; and come together again so that Satan does not tempt you because of your lack of self-control” (1 Corinthians 7:5). Reading the Holy Scriptures, the Torah and Psalms had high attention to Paul: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:15-16). It was Jesus (full of the Spirit of God) who rejected strict and traditional religious interpretations of the law, and said: “And he said unto them, The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath” (Mark 2:27) [1]. Paul’s teaching is that the written law kills, but the Spirit of God gives life: “Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life” (2 Corinthians 3:6). This means that Paul seeks for the guidance of the Spirit of God in meeting new moral situations [2]. Therefore it cannot be denied that Paul followed the teachings and guidelines of Jesus.

Paul didn’t promote a sinful lifestyle

Some people claim that the apostle Paul said that under all conditions man is justified only by works. However Paul makes distinction between faith before baptism (Romans 3:20) and faith after baptism (Galatians 5:6) [3]. Paul promoted the true faith by referring to Jesus the Messiah, his righteousness and works of love, peace, joy and comfort that will be produced in the soul.

Paul only preached salvation in Jesus the Messiah

When Paul became an apostle, he preached that Jesus is the Messiah to both Jews as non-Jews. As apostle, Paul was all the time in company of other Christians. The Christians as followers of Jesus the Messiah, knew all about Jesus as they were eye-witnesses of Jesus when he was on earth. Paul can therefore not be seen as the initiator of Christianity, because there were already many Christians, the disciples of Jesus the Messiah, including Peter and James were still alive. Paul as leader of persecution teams to kill Christians was aware of his sin and the magnitude of the grace that Jesus the Messiah gave him. Because Paul had studied the Hebrew Scriptures, he was able to preach the continuity between the faith of Abraham and that of the Christians (Romans 4:1-25) [4]. The preaching of Paul is therefore in line with the Gospel.

Conclusion

The apostle Paul had a meeting with the true Jesus the Messiah, the risen Lord and was accepted by the church. He preached that Jesus is the Messiah and there is evidence that he followed the teachings and guidelines of Jesus. The claim that Paul was against Jesus has been refuted.

Notes

  1. Keith Ward, Christianity: A Short Introduction, Oneworld, Oxford, 2000, 140.
  2. Ibid 130.
  3. Luke Timothy Johnson, The Letter of James, A New Translation with Introduction and Commentary, The Anchor Bible, Doubleday, 1995, 244.
  4. Alister E. McGrath, Christian History, An Introduction, Wiley-Blackwell, Chichester, 2013, 3.

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