Gospel of Jesus and Paul
April 22nd, 1979 @ 10:50 AM
THE GOSPEL OF JESUS AND PAUL
Dr. W. A. Criswell
4-22-79 10:50 a.m.
And once again welcome to the uncounted thousands of you who are sharing this hour with us over television and by radio. The First Baptist Church in Dallas greets you. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled The Gospel of Jesus and Paul.
It will be very infrequent, so seldom as to be almost never, that I bring to the pulpit anything out of this hypercritical world regarding the gospel message of Christ. But in preaching through the Book of Acts, and now in chapter 26, when Paul stands before King Agrippa, and for the third time, the account of his conversion is presented in the Book of Acts, there is something about it that Paul says that is so different from what the critical world avows. And that gives rise to the sermon.
In the twenty-sixth chapter of the Book of Acts, Paul, in recounting his conversion on the Damascus road, a glorious somebody appeared to him, and he said, "Who art thou, Lord?" And that glorious somebody said, "I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest" [Acts 26:15]. Then that glorious Person said to Saul,
Rise, 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 yet appear unto thee . . .
Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision:
But showed first unto them at Damascus, then at Jerusalem, then throughout all the region of Judea, and now to the nations, that they should repent, and turn to God.
[Acts 26:16, 19-20]
This is what Paul says concerning the message of Christ that he brings to the world. But there is hardly any part of the Christian faith that has not been viciously, and vehemently, and vengefully, and vitriolically attacked by modern, higher, liberal criticism. They attack the inspiration of the Scriptures [2 Timothy 3:19; 2 Peter 1:21], the infallibility of the Word of God; to them it is filled with error, mistake, historical inaccuracies. They attack the deity of the Son of God [Titus 2:13]. They attack His virgin birth [Matthew 1:20-25]. They attack His atoning death [Romans 5:11; 1 Corinthians 15:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 John 2:2]. They certainly attack His resurrection from among the dead [Matthew 28:5-7]. And they scoff at the possibility of His coming again [Acts 1:11].
Then they do also another thing that would surprise a child of God who was brought up in the faith, such as I was. They say that there is an abysmal and vast disharmony and discrepancy between the actual Jesus, the historical Jesus of Nazareth, and the Jesus of the theological speculations of the apostle Paul. They say that Paul took the simple, humble life of the peasant Lord Jesus and foisted upon it and grafted onto it a whole system of speculative theology regarding sin and salvation and faith. They say that Paul took the humble Nazarene, going about doing good [Acts 10:38], teaching how to be kind to one another, and made of Him a great high priest who offers atonement for the sin of the people [Ephesians 5:2]. Then they say, "What we must do is to get rid of all of the theology of Paul and come back to that simple, humble, do-good life of the Lord Jesus. Then the church will be back on the correct course from which Paul deviated it in the first Christian century." That is modern criticism.
For example, I read to you from Dr. Henry Clay Vedder; he wrote the book of Baptist history that I studied in the seminary. I quote from a book he wrote in the latter part of his life, entitled "The Fundamentals of Christianity." He’s a learned professor, was, in Crozer Baptist Theological Seminary. I quote, listen:
That Jesus of Nazareth spent His public life in giving to the apostles 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 to be His mouthpiece and chief accredited organ, and that through this new mouthpiece He proceeded to set aside the chief part of what He had taught during His lifetime, substituting for its simple ethics, a complicated group of theological speculation, 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 find a sane advocate anywhere. Who can credit that the heavenly Christ taught through Paul something so different from what the earthly Jesus taught the apostles? It is an historical fact, of course, that the entire church of the following centuries proceeded to substitute Paul for Jesus as the authoritative teacher of Christianity. Paul’s teaching was quietly put in the place of the teaching of Jesus.
That is an echo of the critic Renan of the last century, who was a great French genius and literary scholar. He wrote, in the closing chapter of his "Life on Saint Paul," he wrote in a same and similar vein. And I quote from Renan:
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, comes 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 of their souls in dreams of the ideal.
Just a little of what you read when you look at modern, critical, liberal theology.
I think you could see, without my expatiating upon it, that this is a serious indictment of the whole Christian faith, that there should be a humble, beautiful ideal Lord Jesus, and that Saul of Tarsus took His story and character and foisted upon it all of these theological speculations regarding atonement and salvation and the coming again of our Lord. Certainly the apostle had no idea or thought that he was doing any other thing but carrying out the great assignment and mandate to which Christ had called him [Acts 22:10-15]. Three times in the Book of Acts alone is the conversion of the apostle Paul recounted [Acts 9:1-18, 22:6-16, 26:12-20]. And in all three of them, in all three instances, with his conversion he also describes his great assignment and call to preaching the gospel of the saving grace of Christ. You have it in the text I just read:
I am Jesus,Rise, stand upon thy feet: for I have appeared unto thee for this purpose, to make thee a minister, a preacher, and a witness both of these things which thou hast seen, and of those things in the which I will appear unto thee,Wherefore, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: But preached this gospel message of Christ that He gave to me, revealed to me, to the whole world.
That’s what Paul thinks of his own ministry.
Now, what he says, he says with great conviction, tremendous dedication. Listen to this word that Paul will write to the churches of Galatia: "Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now: If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed" [Galatians 1:8-9]. Dear me, what a conviction. Then he adds, "I certify unto you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by revelation of Jesus Christ. The message I deliver I received directly from the hands and heart of the Son of God" [Galatians 1:11-12]. That’s what Paul says of the message that he delivered.
What did the twelve, what did the apostles think of the message that Paul preached? In the same Book of Galatians, he says, that, "They heard that he who persecuted us in times past now preaches the faith which once he destroyed. And they glorified God in me [Galatians 1:23-24]. They rejoiced and praised God for the great message Christ had delivered unto me." Then recounting his experience in the Jerusalem Conference, he writes, "And when James, Cephas," that’s Simon Peter, "and John," the sainted apostle John, who were pillars in the church, "perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go to the heathen, to the Gentiles, and they would go unto the circumcision, unto the Jew" [Galatians 2:9], with the same gospel, men whose hands are clasped and whose hearts are raised in praise and prayer. Not in the Scriptures do I find any disunity or disharmony between the gospel preached by Paul and the gospel as it was delivered to us in the life of Christ.
Now, in the little while that I have I want us to see that. Number one, we shall speak of the person of Jesus, who He was. Do you notice that when Paul speaks of his conversion, he says that, "That glorious Somebody who appeared to me above the brilliant brightness of a meridian, noonday, Syrian sun, he said, I am Jesus of Nazareth" [Acts 22:8] – the historical Jesus. And when Paul writes of that historical Jesus, this is what he says, in Galatians, "When the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, a virgin born Child, made of a woman" [Galatians 4:4]. Then he writes of who He was, this glorious Son of God. Listen to him as he writes to the church at Colossae: he says,
God hath translated us into the kingdom of His dear Son: In whom we have redemption through His blood, even the forgiveness of sins: He who is the image of the invisible God, the first-born of all creation: For by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, in earth, visible and invisible, all things were created by Him and for Him: He is before all things, and by Him all things hold together, consist.
Is that what the Gospels say about the Lord? Listen to the Gospel: John’s Gospel begins,
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
The same was in the beginning with God.
All things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made that was made. In Him was life; and the life was the light of men . . .
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth . . .
For the law came by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.
[John 1:1-4, 14, 17]
The same message and almost the identical descriptive language.
Read in the Gospels and the Lord Jesus will say in the eighth chapter of the Book of John, "Before Abraham was, I Am" – the great I Am [John 8:58]. The same Jesus, whether presented in the marvelous messages of the apostle Paul, or whether in the incomparable descriptive words, infallible words, inspired words of the four Gospels; the same Lord Jesus.
I haven’t time to speak of the ethical content of the epistles of Paul and the ethical words of our Lord, say, in the Sermon on the Mount [Matthew 5:1-7:29]. You’ll find them the same. The great high noble ideal of the kingdom citizen found in the Sermon on the Mount is the same glorious ethical ideal that you’ll find in Paul, in a place such as the twelfth chapter of the Book of Romans: that we live godly lives, that we be children of the Father, that we shine as lights in the earth. In how many ways will you find the ethical content, the moral idealism of the apostle Paul in his epistles, congruent, parallel, with that beautiful ideal of holiness and heavenliness found from the lips of our gracious Lord.
Mostly though, I want to speak of the center of the attack against the idea that the Jesus of Paul and the Jesus of the Gospels were the same. That is, the center of their most vicious attack lies in Paul’s gospel of redemption, how we are saved: that the atoning blood of Christ washes us from our sins, and we’re saved by the blood and the suffering of the crucified One. Now, there is no doubting what Paul preaches about the atoning grace of the Son of God. It is his message.
Galatians 6:14 he will say, "God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world." In Galatians 2:20 he will say,
I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but the Lord crucified who lives in me: and the life that I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and huper humon, substituted Himself for me, gave Himself for me, died for me, suffered for me.
That’s the Gospel message Paul preaches. He will say in 1 Corinthians chapter 2 verses 1 and 2, "And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the oracles of God. For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified" [1 Corinthians 2:1-2]. He will say in the glorious passage that I had you read together this morning, "My brethren, I declare unto you, I make known unto you the gospel wherein ye are saved" [1 Corinthians 15:1-2]. What is it? "Namely, to wit, that Christ died," that same huper, "that Christ died in behalf of us, for our sins, according to the Scriptures; and that He was buried, and that the third day He was raised again according to the Scriptures" [1 Corinthians 15:3-4]. As Paul placed it in language in Romans, "He was delivered for our offenses, and was raised for our justification" [Romans 4:25]. As Paul would write in 2 Corinthians 5 and the last verse, verse 21, "For God made Him to be sin for us, Him who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him" [2 Corinthians 5:21]. And there again is that same Greek construction: "For God made Him to be sin, huper humon, for us, in our stead"; He died our death [1 Corinthians 15:3], He bore in His body our sins on the tree [1 Peter 2:24]. It was an atoning sacrifice, a substitutionary sacrifice. He did that for us.
Paul wrote it brilliantly and beautiful in the fifth chapter of the Book of Romans, verses 6 through 8:
For when we were without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
For scarcely for a righteous man would 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 there’s that same Greek construction again, huper humon, "in our behalf, as our substitute." That is the gospel of Paul. It is in the death of our Lord, in the cross of our Lord, in the blood of our Lord that we find forgiveness of sins and hope of salvation. That is the gospel of Paul.
Is that also the gospel of the four evangelists, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John? Look at them. The very format of the Gospels proclaim that. Do you realize that in all of this Bible, how many of the patriarchs and prophets and apostles are referred to in their death; but always with just a syllable, "And he died." Whether it be the life of Adam [Genesis 5:5], "and he died"; the life of Methuselah, "and he died" [Genesis 5:27]; or the life of the patriarch, "and he was gathered unto his fathers" [Genesis 25:8]. No expatiation upon it at all; he just died. John the Baptist was the greatest man ever born of a woman [Matthew 11:11], said the Lord Jesus; and the death of John the Baptist is told in a few lines [Matthew 14:6-12]. When Luke, the careful historian, tells us of the martyrdom of James, the apostle, the brother of John, by Herod Agrippa the First, he says it in half a dozen words [Acts 12:1-2]. The whole Bible is like that, except when these evangelists, the four Gospel writers, describe the death of Christ, it is at length; it is filled with detail, it is the very major consummation of the gospel message itself.
Do you realize that only two of the Gospels describe the virgin birth of our Lord? [Matthew 1:20-25; Luke 1:26-35, 2:1-16]. Only two of them mention His temptation in the wilderness [Matthew 4:1-7; Luke 4:1-13]. Only two of them speak of the Sermon on the Mount [Matthew 5:1-7:29; Luke 6:17-]. Only two of them refer to His ascension into heaven [Mark 16:19-20; Luke 24:-51]. Do you realize that in the Gospel of John there is no Sermon on the Mount, there is no transfiguration [Matthew 17:1-5; Mark 9:2-7; Luke 9:28-35], there is no agony in Gethsemane [Luke 22:44], there is not even an account of the institution of the Lord’s Supper [Matthew 26:26-28]. But all four of those Gospels at great length tell the story of the suffering, the cross, the atoning blood of Jesus our Savior [Matthew 27:27-50; Mark 15:16-37; Luke 23:26-46; John 19:16-35. The very format of the Gospels proclaim the efficacy, the mightiness, the meaning, the significance of the death of our Lord. Now, where did they get that idea? Where did those evangelists who are recounting the death of Jesus, where did they get that idea that the death of our Lord was all important? My brothers and my sisters, they got that idea from Jesus Christ Himself. He taught them that. For a moment, just look at it.
In the tenth chapter of the Book of John, the Lord says, "I am the good shepherd, and I lay down My life for My sheep" [John 10:11]. You think how different that is from, say, David, who writes the most beautiful psalm the world has ever heard, "The Lord is my Shepherd. He anoints my head with oil; my cup overflows" [Psalm 23:1, 5]. How different when the Lord speaks: "I am the good shepherd, and I give My life in behalf of My sheep"; that we might be saved. Look again: the Lord is speaking to a doctor of the law, He is speaking to a leader of the Pharisees, He is speaking to a member of the Sanhedrin, the highest court of Judaism, and He says to him, "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up: that whosoever looks to Him, believes in Him, should not perish, but have eternal life" [John 3:14-15]. That is the same Lord Jesus who said, in the twentieth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew, "For the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister; and to give His life a ransom for many" [Matthew 20:28]. You could not think of an imagery more dynamically pertinent than that: "to give His life a ransom for many." The imagery lies on a slave block: we were sold under sin, in bondage to death and judgment, and the Lord redeemed us, He ransomed us, He paid the price for our freedom and deliverance from death and judgment. He did it with His own life [1 Peter 1:18-19]. That’s what that means.
When the Greeks came to see Him, representing the whole academic cultural world, the Lord when He saw their coming, He said, "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me" [John 12:32]. And then the apostle John writes, the next verse, explaining, "This He said, signifying by what death He should die" [John 12:33]; with the outstretched arms, lifted up on a cross. That’s the teaching of the Lord Jesus. When Mary of Bethany anointed His feet at the beautiful supper there [Mark 14:2-3], the Lord said, "She hath done this in preparation for My burying" [Mark 14:8]. In the twenty-fourth chapter of the Gospel of Luke, He speaks, having raised from the dead [Luke 24:1-7], He speaks, "That Christ should suffer, and that remission of sins should be preached in His name" [Luke 24:46-47]. That’s where the apostles learned it: it was from Jesus.
And we haven’t time to speak of the deep atoning significance of the Last Supper. "This bread," He said, "eat; this cup, drink" [Matthew 26:26-28; 1 Corinthians 11:24-25]. You see, language may change, but these symbols of eating and drinking never change. As long as men eat and drink, so these symbols set forth the tremendous teaching of the Lord Himself concerning His atoning death. "This bread, broken, represents my broken body; take, eat, in remembrance of Me [1 Corinthians 11:23-24]. And this cup of the red crimson crushed fruit of the vine, this is My blood of the new covenant, shed for remission of sins [Matthew 26:28]; drink in remembrance of Me." The heart of the teaching of Christ concerns His coming into the world to die for our sins according to the Scriptures [1 Corinthians 15:3]; and to be raised for our justification [1 Corinthians 15:4; Romans 4:25]. And that is the gospel of Paul; that’s the gospel of John; that’s the gospel of the faith; that’s the gospel of the true church, and will be until we join the heavenly choir and sing, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, to receive honor and glory forever and ever. Amen" [Revelation 5:12].
I would just like to close with one little observation. When Paul stands saying, "I am crucified with Christ, though I live it is not I, Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me" [Galatians 2:20]. And by His side stands the apostle John, now a hundred years old, exposed to death and privation on a stony island named Patmos. He sees the glory of the Lord [Revelation 1:9-13], and he cries, "Unto Him who loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, to Him be glory, and honor forever and ever. Amen" [Revelation 1:5]. By the side of those sainted apostles of Christ, I would like to take my stand, and lift up my voice in praise and in thanksgiving for Him who died in my place [1 Corinthians 15:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21], washed away my sins in His own blood [Revelation 1:5], gave me hope for heaven in the grace that poured so aboundingly and efficaciously from His riven side, and whose nail-pierced hands will open for us the gates of glory as they have opened for us the gates of grace.
It is such a precious and beautiful and meaningful thing for somebody you to stand before men and angels and say,
"This day, in thanksgiving to God, I receive the Lord Jesus as my personal Savior, to forgive my sins in His cross, to raise me from the dead if I lie in that grave before He comes, and some day to be numbered with the redeemed family of God. Count me as one of those who believe in the Lord. Write my name in the Lamb’s Book of Life, and as a fellow member of His church, His living body. Here I stand."
In a moment, you shall have the incomparable opportunity: "And while my mind is sane, and my life still pulsates through my veins, and my heart still beats, and I have my faculties of volition and decision, may God register it, that this day I give my life in trust to the able saving hands, the keeping, loving hands of the Lord Jesus. And here I stand." I’ll be right there; you come and stand by me. "Today, this day, I have decided for God, and here I stand." A family you, to put your life with us in this wonderful church, a couple you, or just one somebody you, down one of these stairways, down one of these aisles, "Pastor, today I have made that decision; and here I come." Love to stand with you, praying with you, believing with you, rejoicing with you, with heads and eyes lifted up, looking for the glorious appearing of the God and our Savior Jesus Christ [Titus 2:13]. Make that decision in your heart. And when we stand in a moment, as you stand, stand walking down that stairway, walking down this aisle. "Here I am, pastor, I have decided; and I’m on the way." May angels attend you, the Holy Spirit bless you as you respond with your life; while we stand and while we sing.
THE GOSPEL OF JESUS AND PAUL
Dr. W. A. Criswell
A. Many parts of the Christian faith viciously attacked by modern criticism
B. Say there is a vast disharmony and discrepancy between the historical Jesus and the Jesus of the apostle Paul
1. Dr. Henry Clay Vedder
C. A serious charge – Paul teaching what Jesus did not and would not
D. What Paul himself thought(Galatians 1:6-12)
E. What the apostles thought(Galatians 1:23-24, 2:9)
II. The teachings of Paul
A. The Person of Jesus(Acts 22:8, Galatians 4:4, Colossians 1:13-17)
B. Same message and descriptive language of the Gospels(John 8:58)
C. Ethical content (Romans 12, Matthew 5-7)
III. The way of salvation
A. No doubt what Paul preaches about atoning grace of the Son of God(Galatians 6:14, 2:20, 1 Corinthians 2:1-2, 15:1-3, 2 Corinthians 5:21, Romans 5:6-8)
B. Is this the Jesus of the Gospels?
1. Even the format of the Gospels proclaim that
a. The emphasis on the death of Christ
b. Apostles learned from the Lord Himself that His death was all-important(John 10:11, Psalm 23:1, 5, John 3:14-15, Matthew 20:28, John 12:32-33, Mark 14:8, Luke 24:46-47)
c. Significance of the Lord’s Supper(1 Corinthians 11:24-25, Revelation 5:12)