The Gospel Of Jesus and Paul
May 16th, 1954
THE GOSPEL OF JESUS AND OF PAUL
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-16-54 10:50 a.m.
You are listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in downtown Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing the morning message entitled The Gospel of Jesus and of Paul. In our preaching through the Word, through the Book, through God’s Book, the Bible, we are in the twenty-sixth chapter of the Book of Acts. Acts, the twenty-sixth chapter; it is Paul’s defense before Agrippa. And in that defense, for the third time there is recounted the story of his conversion. And this is what Paul said, beginning at the thirteenth verse:
At midday, O king, I saw in the way a light from heaven, above the brightness of the sun, shining round about me and them which journeyed with me.
And when we were all fallen to the earth, I heard a voice speaking unto me, and saying in the Hebrew tongue, Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me? it is hard for thee to kick against the pricks.
And I said, Who art Thou, Lord? And He said, I am Jesus whom thou persecutest.
Before, He said, "I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest" [Acts 22:8].
But rise, and stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee
Delivering thee from the people, and from the Gentiles, unto whom now I send thee,
To open their eyes, to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in Me.
Our text: "For I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister and a witness both of those things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee" [Acts 26:16].
There are many terrible attacks against the Christian faith, against the religion of the Lord Jesus. Those attacks are sometimes directed against the prophecies, against the miracles, against all that is supernatural. They are directed against the Old Testament and against the New Testament. They are directed against the historicity of the founder of the Christian faith, the Lord Himself. They sometimes attack His deity. Sometimes they attack His miraculous and virgin birth [Matthew 1:20-25]. Sometimes they attack His atoning death [1 Corinthians 15:3; 1 Timothy 1:15], sometimes His resurrection [Matthew 28:5-7], sometimes His promised coming again [John 14:3]. But one of the most subtle and one of the most popular and familiar of all of the attacks against the Christian faith is this: they allege a vast disharmony, a great discrepancy between Jesus and His chief apostle, Paul, Saul of Tarsus. What they say is this: that Paul of Tarsus took the simple ethic of the Lord Jesus and foisted upon it a vast system of speculative theology, doctrines of sin and salvation, of forgiveness, of death, that were unheard of and unknown and untaught by the Lord Jesus Himself. What they say is this: that Paul of Tarsus took the peasant teacher of Galilee and transformed Him into a great High Priest who offers His own blood upon an altar for the remission of our sin. They say that Paul turned the course of the Christian church away from the simple, humble ethic of its peasant founder and made it into a vast system of theology. And they add, "In order to get back to the pure Christian religion, we must circumvent Paul, we must be rid of Paul, we must repudiate all of the doctrines of Paul, and we must get back to the historical Jesus." I have heard that and read that all my theological life.
Here is a passage out of Dr. Vedder’s book, The Fundamentals of Christianity, quote:
That Jesus of Nazareth spent his public life in giving to the Twelve [disciples] a teaching that he declared to be the Way of Life; and that he had no sooner left the world than from his state of glory he straightway deputed another man [Paul] to be his [mouthpiece and] chief accredited organ; and that through this new mouthpiece [Paul], he proceeded to set aside the chief part of what he had taught during his lifetime, substituting for his simple ethics a complicated group of theological speculations, so as to make a system of theology the gospel, instead of a proclamation of the Kingdom of God – this is a hypothesis so fantastic, so lacking in all elements of credibility, that one marvels how it could be found acceptable to a sane advocate anywhere. Who can credit that the heavenly Christ taught through Paul something so different from what the earthly Jesus taught the Twelve?. . . It is a historical fact, of course, that the entire Church of the following centuries proceeded to substitute Paul for Jesus, as the authoritative teacher of Christianity.
[The Fundamentals of Christianity: A Study of the Teaching of Jesus and Paul, Henry Clay Vedder, 1922, p 148-1]
Paul’s teaching was quietly put in the place of the teaching of Jesus; Dr. Vedder, one of the great scholars of our day. That is but an echo, a modern echo of what has been said about Jesus and Paul through the centuries.
May I quote one passage from Renan, the great French critic of over a hundred years ago? Renan said, in the conclusion of his Life of Saint Paul, quote from him:
After having been for three centuries, thanks to orthodox Protestantism, the Christian teacher par excellence, Paul sees in our day his reign drawing to a close. Jesus, on the contrary, lives more than ever. It is no longer the Epistle to the Romans, which is the resume of Christianity, – it is the Sermon on the Mount. True Christianity, which will last forever, came from the gospels, – not from the epistles of Paul. The writings of Paul have been a danger and a hidden rock, – the causes of the principle defects of the Christian theology. Paul is the father of . . . the fierce theology which damns and predestinates to damnation. Jesus is the father of all those who seek repose for their souls in dreams of the ideal.
The simple ethic of the humble peasant of Galilee, so different from the fierce theology of the apostle Paul; that is the occasion of this message.
It’s a fierce accusation and one most learnedly and scholarly defended. I say it’s a serious accusation because it has fallen into the common theological parlance of the man on the street. I heard the president, former, of the United States, say that his religion was the Golden Rule [Matthew 7:12], and the Sermon on the Mount [Matthew 5:1-7:29] was enough for him; that is, all of the rest of this theology, all of the rest of this speculation, all of the rest of the doctrine of this Bible is just so much superfluous. The only thing that matters was the simple teaching of the Galilean peasant, "Do to others as you would have them do to you," and that is religion enough.
I say it’s a serious accusation again because most of the Bible that I hold in my hand was written by that apostle Paul; and a great deal of our theology, the doctrine, the teaching of the Christian faith, comes from the hands and the heart and the revelation made to Paul. So we look at it this morning. We’re going to look at Paul, and the Twelve, and his teachings; and we’re going to find out today if what Paul taught was a different system, and a different gospel, and a different message, and a different theology from that of the simple, humble peasant, the Lord Jesus.
Now, first to look at Paul himself: he certainly never had any idea that what he taught and what he was preaching was any other thing than what the Lord Jesus had taught him to teach and had commissioned him to preach. Three times in the Book of Acts his conversion is narrated. And in all three instances, Jesus is represented as saying to Paul, "Paul, I have chosen thee; stand up on thy feet, I have chosen thee to be a minister and a witness of the things wherein I shall appear unto thee" [Acts 26:16]. And there’s not a syllable of a word in any of Paul’s writings that gives anyone the impression that what he was teaching was anything different than what Jesus called him to teach.
And another thing, Paul had a tremendous avowal to make about his apostleship, and it was this: that the things that he preached were not taught him by man, but came by direct revelation to him from Jesus Christ. In our Scripture passage we read this morning, "I certify, my brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not from man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it by man, but it came to me directly by revelation from Jesus Christ" [Galatians 1:11-12; Ephesians 3:3]. That’s what Paul said of his own preaching and his own ministry.
What did the Twelve, the other disciples, what did they think about Paul? They are as ignorant of any innovation in Paul’s preaching as Paul himself. In that same chapter in the Book of Galatians, Paul says that when he was converted, the disciples and the churches in Judea heard of his preaching, and this man who once had wasted them and persecuted them and had taken their chief deacon, Stephen, and had supervised his execution, had seen him beat to death into the dust of the ground, he, this persecutor, they heard was preaching the gospel. And when they heard how he preached the faith which once he destroyed, they glorified God in Paul [Galatians 1:23-24]. When they heard it and the message he preached, they were unconscious of any difference.
One other thing, in the second chapter of the Book of Galatians, Paul describes the conference they had in Jerusalem between Barnabas and him on one side and the apostles, the Twelve, on the other side. And the question arose over the Gentiles: heretofore only a Jew has been saved, only Jews become a Christian, now these idol worshipping Gentiles, these heathen Greeks, were coming out of the temples of Venus and Apollo and Adonis, and they were worshipping Jesus directly without any intermediary step of becoming a Jew at all. And Jerusalem, when they had their conference about the gospel message, they agreed there, they agreed there that the Gentiles were to be left alone; they were not to become Jews [Acts 15:13-19]. And then Paul says, "Then James," pastor of the church, the Lord’s brother, "and Cephas, Simon Peter, and John," pillars of the church, "gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, saying that we were to go unto the Gentiles, to the pagans, and they would go to the circumcision, to the Jews" [Galatians 2:9]. They had the same message and the same gospel, and they shook hands in fellowship as they turned their faces to preach the message of Jesus to the world; the same message, unconscious of any difference between them, the same gospel.
Now I want us to turn to the teaching and the preaching of Paul himself and see if there is a difference in what Paul had to say about the gospel and what Jesus had to say that it was. First, about the person of the Lord Jesus: who He is, who He was. Paul writes here in his epistles a whole lot about the character, the person, of the Lord Jesus – a Christology:
But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son,
made of a woman, made under the law,
To redeem them that were under the law, that they might receive the adoption of sons, children of God.
And of that Lord Jesus, made of a woman, born under the law, he says in the first chapter of the Book of Colossians:
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creation:
For by Him were all things created. . .
He is before all things, and by Him all things consist, sunecho, hold together.
That’s an exalted conception: born of a woman – not of a man, "born of a woman," says Paul. "Made under the law," says Paul. "The Son of God," says Paul. Preexistent says Paul; "and by Him all things were made," says Paul. And in Him, we have forgiveness of sin [Ephesians 1:7], says Paul.
When we go back to the Gospels, is that the same Lord Jesus? Has Paul changed that humble peasant of Galilee, has he? The Jesus of the Gospels is virgin-born, born of a woman, made under the law [Matthew 1:20-25]. The Jesus of the Gospels is also preexistent, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God,And all things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made" [John 1:1-3]. And He was conscious of His preexistence: "Verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I AM" [John 8:58]. The Jehovah of the Old Testament, the great "I AM" of the Old Testament [Exodus 3:14] is the humble Lord Jesus of the New Testament. No different at all, none at all. And this humble peasant of Galilee also said He was the Messiah, the Christ, the Son of the living God [Matthew 16:16-17]. And because of His claim to that awful and awesome title, they put Him to death. Jesus died because they said, "Being a man He made Himself God," and they said, "He blasphemes because He says, I am the Son of God" [John 19:7]. The same Jesus, the same Lord, the same Christ that we find in the message of Paul is the same Christ and the same Lord that walked in the days of His flesh through the syllables and the chapters of the Gospels.
Now we come to the chief point of the attack: Paul’s way of salvation; the preaching of the gospel, how we are saved, how Christ saves us. Paul has one message, one great central doctrine. That great central doctrine of the gospel message of Paul is this: that Christ came into this world to die for our sin [1 Timothy 1:15], and that in the cross of Christ, in His atoning blood, in His grace, He made propitiation, expiation, for all of the sins of the world [1 John 2:2], and those who come by faith in repentance, in confession, to the Lord Jesus, to them He gives the right to become the children of God [John 1:12]. Paul makes the heart of the Christian message the cross of Jesus Christ and says it is a substitutionary death [2 Corinthians 5:21]; He died for us [1 Corinthians 15:3], in our behalf, and in that death we find our forgiveness of sin [Ephesians 1:7]. Paul never varies from that theme; that is the gospel of Paul. In Galatians 6:14, "God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom I am crucified unto the world, and the world unto me." In the fifteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians, "Brethren, remember how I delivered unto you first of all, this gospel message that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures" [1 Corinthians 15:3]. In  Corinthians, the second chapter, the first and second verses:
And I, brethren, when I came unto you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the gospel of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.
[1 Corinthians 2:1-2]
Second Corinthians 5:21, "For God hath made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him." Romans 5:6-8:
For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet peradventure for a good man some would dare to die. But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
And I could go on indefinitely. That is the gospel of Paul: "Christ died for us." And in that death, in that cross, in that atoning blood, we have our forgiveness of sins and the gift of eternal life [Romans 8:2].
Now is that different from the Jesus of the Gospels? We shall see. When you turn to the Gospels, you find an amazing thing, a startling thing, a wonderful thing, an astounding thing: the death of the Old Testament saints is hardly referred to; they are dismissed with a word or a syllable. The death of John the Baptist in the New Testament is incidentally told [Matthew 14:3-12]. When Herod Antipas said of Jesus, "He is John the Baptist raised from the dead" [Mark 6:16], the Gospel writer hadn’t told us that John was dead, so he takes a few sentences to tell us that John was dead. Luke, the careful historian, dismissed James, John’s brother, dismissed him with half a dozen words; just said that Herod cut off his head, and that’s all [Acts 12:1-2]. In those Gospels, there are only two of them that tell of the birth of the Lord Jesus, only two of them mention the temptation, only two of them refer to the Sermon on the Mount, only two of them speak of the ascension of the Lord Jesus to heaven. The apostle John, in his Gospel, did not even take time to tell about the transfiguration, or the Lord’s Supper, or Gethsemane, or a thousand other things. But there is one thing that all four of the Gospel writers delineate in minutest detail: when they come to the story of the death of our Savior, the days of His passion, all four of them carefully describe His betrayal, His arrest, His trial, His denial, His torture, His crucifixion, and His death. The four streams that go forth to water the earth all come together in a common channel: at the cross of the Son of God. The four winds of the Spirit of the Lord that go to the four corners of the earth all unite again in one great common testimony at the cross of Jesus Christ.
Where did those Gospel writers get that emphasis? Who taught them the supreme, preeminent, superlative importance of the death of the Son of God? Where’d they learn that? They learned that from Jesus Himself. It was the way He taught His disciples. His first appearance in Jerusalem, at the temple, He said, "Destroy this temple," referring to His body, "and in three days I shall raise it again" [John 2:19]. In that same Jerusalem visit, "By night there came to Him Nicodemus, a teacher of the Sanhedrin" [John 3:1-2], and Jesus, teaching the teacher, said, "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, lifted up, lifted up" [John 3:14]. Nicodemus had no idea what He was saying, but the Lord knew. The fact of His death was ever present before Him. Jesus lived His life in the shadow of the cross; He came into the world to die for our sins [Hebrews 10:5-14; Matthew 1:21; John 12:27].
When Mary anointed the Lord Jesus with ointment, He said, "This is done for Me, preparing My body for the burial" [Matthew 26:12]. When the Greeks came from afar, saying, "Sirs, we would see Jesus" [John 12:20-21], the Lord’s response to those pagan inquirers was this, "Except a corn of wheat, a grain of wheat, fall into the ground and die, it abides alone" [John 12:24]. "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me" [John 12:32]. He taught His disciples from the beginning that the Son of Man must suffer, and must die at Jerusalem, be crucified [Matthew 16:21]. And on that cross, He bowed His head and said, "It is finished. It is finished" [John 19:30]. What was finished? The work that He came to do:
All we like sheep – said the old prophet – have gone astray;
we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.
He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and with His stripes we are healed.
[Isaiah 53:6, 5]
Jesus taught His disciples that He came into the world to die for our sins.
Now, what was the meaning of that death? We know from Paul what it meant. Paul says that death was substitutionary: He died in our behalf, He died that we might live, He took our place, He suffered for our sins [2 Corinthians 5:21]. It was in our behalf that He laid down His life; we know what Paul says. What did Jesus say? Did Jesus have an explanation for His death? Did Jesus say that it had a meaning? Did He? Is the Jesus of the Gospels the same atoning Jesus of the apostle Paul? Is the humble peasant of Galilee the same High Priest who lays down His life and pours out His blood on a sacrificial altar for us, that we might be forgiven our sins, and might live in Him? Is He? What did Jesus say about the meaning of His life and of His death?
One of the greatest parables, one of the sweetest imageries you have in all the Bible is that of the good shepherd, the good shepherd. And in speaking of the parable, in taking up the parable, the Lord Jesus says:
I am the good shepherd; and the good shepherd giveth His life for the sheep. . .I know My sheep, and am known of Mine. . .And I lay down My life for the sheep. . .Therefore doth My Father love Me, because I lay down My life, that I might take it again. No man taketh it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down. I have power to take it again. This commandment have I received of My Father.
Do you see the difference between that and the shepherd of David’s twenty-third Psalm? The shepherd of David’s twenty-third Psalm leads beside the still waters and into the green pastures [Psalm 23:2]; not this Shepherd. This Shepherd lays down His life – dies for His sheep. How? In defense against a killer? Against a wolf, against the ravages of a lion? No. this Shepherd lays down His life of Himself: He gives His life voluntarily. He chooses to die for His sheep. His life is an expiation, His life is an atonement, His life is a gift, His life is a grace, He lays it down Himself; so Jesus says.
Look again at our Lord, "Even so the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister; and to give His life a ransom for many, and to give His life a ransom for many" [Matthew 20:28]. What is a ransom? You know what a ransom is: to redeem a lost possession, to redeem a man from slavery, to save a man from death; it is the price that a man pays to redeem another man from servitude, from bondage, and from death. And Jesus says, "Even so the Son of Man came to give His life a ransom" [Matthew 20:28], that we might be delivered from the servitude and the penalty of the kingdom of the power of Satan and of darkness. He gives His life to buy us back to God.
And last of all, and most beautiful of all, was it not the Lord Jesus Himself who said, at the last memorial Supper, "Take, eat. . .in remembrance of Me [1 Corinthians 11:24]. Drink ye, all of it; this is My blood, shed for the remission of sins" [Matthew 26:27-28]. Paul never said that. The Lord Jesus said that. "This is My body, broken for you. This is My blood shed for you. Eat, drink, in remembrance of Me" [1 Corinthians 11:24-25]. In this, the body and the blood, the death of Christ, the cross of Christ, we have the remission of our sins.
I used to wonder at that, until I came to see a thing – in the infinite wisdom of God, He saw – but after two thousand years just now have I come to realize. I preached in a pulpit in which every hymn that referred to the blood was taken out, taken out, taken out; the sermon never on the cross, the message never on the blood of Christ, the preaching of the gospel never centering around the atoning grace of the Lord Jesus. You can take it out of the hymnbook, you can take it out of the preacher’s sermon, you can take it out of the book of theology, you can take it out of the seminary, you can take it out of the church, but you’ll never take it out of the universal elements by which when we eat and when we drink we picture the atoning death and grace of the Lord Jesus Christ. You can never change it, never. "This bread is My body. This cup is My blood. And as long as men eat and drink, just so long will they picture the Lord’s death, the gospel of the Son of God, until He come" [1 Corinthians 11:26]. And it’s the gospel of the Lord Jesus. And it’s the gospel of the apostle Paul. And it’s the gospel of the epistle to the Romans. And it’s the gospel of the four Gospels. And it’s the gospel of the Christian saints and the true believers of all ages, and of all time. And it is our gospel message today; the gospel of Jesus and of Paul, that He died for our sins according to the Scriptures [1 Corinthians 15:3].
When the Lord was lifted up, Pontius Pilate wrote a superscription above His head: THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS [Matthew 27:37]. For us Gentiles, the greater, better superscription could have been: "This is My blood shed for the remission of sins" [Matthew 26:28]. And as Paul stood by the cross and looked up into the face of the Lord Jesus, and as the saints of all generations have stood by the cross and looked up into the face of the Lord Jesus, and as the saints of all time gathered in glory look back into the face of the Lord Jesus, they all break out into that sublime and rapturous song: the song of the redeemed of all generations, "Look, look, look, look unto Him, who loved us, and gave Himself for us [Galatians 2:20]. Look, look unto Him who hath redeemed us by His blood, out of every race, and kindred, and tongue [Revelation 5:9]. And unto Him be glory, and honor, and riches, and power, forever, and ever, and ever. Amen. Amen" [Revelation 5:9-13]. The same Jesus of the Gospels, the same Jesus of the epistles of Paul, the same Jesus of the Revelation, the same Jesus adored and loved forever and ever, the Lord who died on the cross for our sins that we might become children unto God [Galatians 4:4-5].
This morning our hymn is "Of the Blood"; it’s in our hymnbook; it’s "Of the Blood." We still have it to sing about, this hymn; we still have it in our Bible, the atoning blood. We still have it in this pulpit, the blood of Christ. We still have it in our souls and in our hearts, our hope of heaven. We still have it in this present ministry, the cross of the Son of God. We still have it as the basis of this appeal: look unto Jesus. Looking to Jesus – not to the church, not to man, not to an ordinance, not to a ritual – looking to Jesus; looking to Jesus. In His cross, in His blood we have forgiveness of sin and hope of heaven; looking to Jesus. And that’s the hymn that we sing:
There’s a fountain filled with blood
Drawn from Emmanuel’s veins;
And sinners plunged beneath that flood
Lose all their guilty stains.
["There is a Fountain Filled with Blood"; William Cowper, 1772]
It’s the gospel of Jesus, and it’s the gospel of Paul. And while we sing it, in that topmost balcony, from side to side, anywhere, somebody you, give his heart to the Lord, in confession in faith, coming to Jesus. Would you stand by my side? Or into the fellowship of His church, while we make appeal would you come and stand with me? By confession of faith, by baptism, by letter, by consecration and dedication of life, as God shall make the appeal, would you come? While we stand and while we sing.
THE GOSPEL OF JESUS AND PAUL
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. Attacks against the Christian faith
B. Most popular says there is a vast disharmony and discrepancy between the historical Jesus and the Jesus of the apostle Paul
C. A serious accusation(Matthew 7:12, 5:1-7:29)
II. What Paul himself thought
A. His conversion account presents Christ as saying He has chosen Paul to be His witness and preach His gospel(Acts 26:16)
B. He never had any idea that what he taught was any other thing than what Jesus had taught him to teach
C. He avowed that what he preached came by direct revelation (Galatians 1:11-12, Ephesians 3:3)
III. What the apostles thought about Paul(Galatians 1:23-24, 2:9)
A. They were unconscious of any difference(Galatians 1:18-24)
B. Extended fellowship to him after Jerusalem conference (Galatians 2:9)
IV. The teachings of Paul
A. The Person of Jesus(Acts 22:8, Galatians 4:4-5, Colossians 1:13-17)
B. Same message and descriptive language of the Gospels(John 1:1-3, 8:58, 19:7, Exodus 3:14, Matthew 16:16-17)
C. The way of salvation
1. Paul makes the heart of the Christian message the cross of Christ(Galatians 6:14, 2:20, 1 Corinthians 2:1-2, 15:1-3, 2 Corinthians 5:21, Romans 5:6-8)
2. Is this the Jesus of the Gospels?
a. Format of the Gospels proclaim that – emphasize death of Christ
b. Apostles learned from the Lord Himself that His death was all-important(John 2:19, 3:14-15, Matthew 26:12, John 12:24, 32, Matthew 16:25, John 19:30, Isaiah 53:5-6)
D. The meaning of the death of Christ
1. Paul says it was substitutionary
2. What Jesus said about the meaning of His life and His death
a. The Good Shepherd(John 10:11-18, Psalm 23)
b. A ransom(Matthew 20:28)
c. Memorial of the Lord’s Supper (1 Corinthians 11:24-26, Matthew 26:26-28)