Hello and welcome to Unapologetic, a podcast about defending, not apologizing for, your Christian convictions. Perhaps I should have said welcome back. It has been I think about three months since I did an episode and after doing about four years of weekly episodes and life and work getting hectic, I took a little bit of a break. So thank you to all of you who sent encouraging notes, wondering if emails just weren’t going out. No. The issue was I wasn’t doing podcasts to email anyone about or post on social media. So hopefully I’ll be getting in back and a little bit of a groove.
Today we’re going to talk about Jesus and Paul and the tendency that exists sometimes to pit them against each other to basically say, “I follow Jesus, I don’t follow Paul.” And that sounds really good and compelling, right? Because who wouldn’t want to follow Jesus, especially over some man? It sounds like we’re saying “Jesus is God. I’m following Him over some just mere mortal man.” But there are some large issues with this because in the New Testament, we have documents written by many different men and actually there’s a dual authorship to scripture where the Holy spirit has written what he wants to write. Everything in scripture is the word of God and it’s also the words of men.” So there’s this kind of dual authorship, and that’s important for us to remember. And these men record things that Jesus may have said and done, if we think of the gospels or teaching in the line of Jesus. So we think of Peter and Paul and others in the New Testament.
So Jesus never actually wrote a book. Isn’t that really interesting? For perhaps the biggest religious figure of all time he didn’t actually author an original work from a human standpoint. Jesus is God. God wrote the scriptures. So that’s true in that way. But the things written about Jesus are written by men. However, it’s really interesting if we acknowledge that point, we can still go on to say, and this is key, we should not pit Jesus against Paul because what actually ends up happening is we end up with a canon in a canon. The list of 66 books in the Bible that’s called the Canon, the rule, the measuring stick. These are true scripture. Others are not.
But if we acknowledge that some scripture is more true than other scriptures, we end up with a canon in a canon, kind of a more true group and a less true group or some that’s more scripture and some that’s less scripture. But in order to affirm that, we actually have to have a sub-biblical understanding of even what scripture is.
So I want to bring out some different points and evidence here and then we’re going to bring these together and show how this Jesus versus Paul thing doesn’t work if we actually even trust Jesus. So first, Jesus speaks on scripture often. In fact, he almost assumes scripture. And I don’t mean that in a negative way, I mean it in a positive way, where what He says is built on and flows from the Old Testament scriptures. You can’t read perhaps any of the accounts of Jesus without Him starting a reply, it seems like with, “Haven’t you read? Have you read the scriptures,” or “As the scripture say,” So for instance, Matthew 19, He gets questioned on divorce. And His reply says, “Haven’t you read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female.”
So if we want to deal with Jesus, perhaps over Paul, I think many of the people wanting to jettison ideas of gender and sexuality that are traditional today, aren’t even going to like what Jesus has to say here. He affirms that God made them male and female. Not that they just went on to identify that way, but that’s how God made them. But notice, He calls them back to Genesis one and two. He affirms the scriptures and He says, “Have you not read what was written.” And elsewhere in Matthew when He gets questioned on marriage after death, He says, “Haven’t you read what was spoken to you by God?” And He quotes the Old Testament. He even says it’s the speech of God, even though it’s written in the Old Testament. So Jesus affirms the scriptures, they’re in authority to Him.
And then in the New Testament we see that He appoints people who had been His disciples, 12 of them to go and be apostles, to be messengers, to take the good news of what He came to teach and take that to the ends of the world. And one of these people He chooses is Peter. So let’s see what Peter has to say about Paul. Remember, if we’re responding to the claim that Jesus and Paul are somehow in conflict, and Jesus chose Peter, wouldn’t it stand to reason that Peter would have something important to say about Paul? And here’s what he says in 2 Peter 3:16, he says, “Some things in Paul’s letters are hard to understand.” Can I get an amen? “Things that the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction,” and this is key, “as they also do to the rest of the scriptures.” Peter is including what Paul says as scripture, as among the scriptures. That’s incredible. And it’s just kind of a side comment. And his main point there is that they’re twisting these things. And Paul wrote them. They’re hard to understand, as they do the rest of the scriptures. In other words, what Paul writes is scripture.
Okay, so that doesn’t agree with what some people say today when they put Jesus against Paul and say, “Well, Jesus, His scriptures are true, Paul’s scriptures are not.” However, Jesus affirms Peter and Peter affirms Paul and actually says, “It’s scripture.”
Now in 2 Timothy 3:16, this is something that Paul writes and it sounds a lot like something Jesus would say. He says that, “all scripture is God breathed and useful for teaching, reproof, correction, and training and righteousness so that the workman of God can be capable and equipped for every good work.” He says that all scripture is God breathed. Now your translation might translate that as inspired. I’m not as much of a fan of that term just because of how it’s been kind of co-opted and redefined today. But literally what he’s saying there is it’s God breathed. He takes the word for God and he takes the word for breath and he sticks them together and makes up a word. And he says, “All scripture is God breathed.” That sounds a lot like what Jesus says when the Sadducees questioned him in Matthew on marriage after death. And he says, “Haven’t you read what was spoken to you?”
The scriptures are the speech of God. They are His breath out to us. This is Paul talking. He’s affirming the Old Testament scriptures, that’s something Jesus would do. So they’re at least aligned on this. But since this is a claim that’s true of the scriptures, and as Peter said, even Paul writes the scriptures, that means what Paul says, as is recorded in the scriptures, is also God’s word to us. There’s kind of a chain of evidence, chain of custody kind of idea here.
And Peter, remember that guy that Jesus appointed to be an apostle, to be a messenger that he imbued with authority? He says this in 2 Peter 1:20 “No prophecy of scripture ever comes about by the prophet’s own imagination. For no prophecy was ever born of human impulse, rather men carried along by the Holy spirit spoke from God.” Once again, the scriptures are the speech of God. And what is in scripture, these prophecies, this speech is from God, are not just of a person’s imagination. They don’t sit down and come up with what they’re going to say. No, it’s the words of God flowing through them. They intended to write them and God intended for them to write them. Remember a dual authorship.
So let me kind of sketch out the case here while we’ve got some raw biblical data. Jesus chose Peter as an apostle. The people who want to reject Paul affirmed Jesus. So they should affirm Peter then. If you reject what Peter and Paul have to say, you’re saying Jesus made a bad choice in apostles, in messengers, or that he was incapable of getting them to say the right things. None of that fits for the biblical Jesus, because if He is the person that He claimed to be, and we’re going to say that Jesus got things right, then the people He chose would be speaking for Him in line with what He says.
So Jesus chooses Peter, Peter is an apostle. Jesus chooses Paul as an apostle. Now some people reject this. But then how are you going to handle the fact that Peter affirms Paul and actually says, he wrote scripture? You can’t. You have to reject something about Jesus, in fact, to get rid of Paul or to get rid of Peter because He chose them and appointed them. And I think really what happens is that people choose to “just go with Jesus” because the people Jesus chose to lead His church, taught things they don’t like and taught things that are just on the wrong side of history today, some may say.
In reality we get rid of Paul, not because he doesn’t agree with Jesus, but because he doesn’t agree with us. And if we get rid of Paul, remember and Paul wrote scripture, which means scripture is the word of God. We get rid of what God says to us simply because we don’t like the person God moved through to write it or we don’t like what it says. And isn’t it interesting that Peter says basically what was happening back then is the same thing happening today.
Some things in Paul’s letters are hard to understand. Things the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction. That’s what we’re witnessing here. People are still twisting or rejecting Paul’s words ultimately leading to their own destruction.
Now, these people today who want to reject Paul, often, they’re going to reject the Old Testament moral teaching too. And Jesus affirmed that. So I have not met or read or heard a single person who rejects the ethical or moral teaching of Paul, who also wouldn’t disagree with Jesus on marriage. So it’s not that they want Jesus over Paul. They want their strip down kind of emasculated, soft edged Jesus over the Jesus in the scriptures. It’s not a Paul problem. It’s a Jesus problem too. He’s the one that said, “Unless you repent, you will die in your sins.” He’s the one that affirmed that marriage is between a man and a woman. So divorce for unlawful reasons, off the table. Adultery, off the table. Premarital sex, off the table. Homosexuality, off the table. Because he says that God created us male and female so that we would leave our parents and joined to each other. So one man and one woman becoming one flesh for one lifetime. That’s how Jesus describes and defines marriage. So everything outside of that is off the table. It’s illegitimate. In fact, it’s immoral and it’s a sin against God.
So we have to deal with Jesus as He is, not the Jesus we would like Him to be. And the Jesus that we find in the scriptures, well attested to through all time, not having been changed is a Jesus that affirmed the Old Testament. He’s a Jesus that affirmed Peter and who chose Paul. And Peter affirms what Paul says and calls it scripture. And as we saw, scripture means it is the breathed out word of God to us. It’s not something of the writer or the prophet’s own imagination. So you can’t get rid of Paul without getting rid of Jesus. And in reality, most of the time, we’re wanting to get rid of what Jesus says because of how it contradicts us, not because of how supposedly there are contradictions in the scriptures. We don’t like what it says about us and our obligations.
So hopefully now you’re a little more equipped to tease out some of the nuances in this conversation if we should just affirm Jesus and not affirm Paul. We shouldn’t put one over the other. Everything in scripture that Jesus says is just as authoritative as Paul because, and this is entirely key, the same divine author is behind all of scripture. It’s not more true If Jesus said it, and it’s recorded in scripture. It’s equally true if it’s in scripture because God spoke it all.
Well, hopefully I will talk with you next time on Unapologetic.