Editor’s Note: This column is in response to “What would Christianity be without Paul?” by Chris Highland published on March 4.
We recently read “Without Paul…Jesus would not appear as a powerful Morality Policeman wielding a big nightstick to punish nonbelievers, or merely a Good Shepherd with a crooked staff tending and defending his well-fenced flock, but perhaps the Agitating Teacher who was most agitated by the oppressive theologies and strict moralities of the selfrighteous.[Sic]…History shows the result of a Paul-proclaimed Savior with a Sword as opposed to an Ethical Teacher reaching out with a hand of healing and compassion.”
Then, the question is asked, “Which religion makes the most sense for our day: Christianity, Paulianity, or an improved update?”
This obvious pitting of the Apostle Paul against Jesus the Messiah creates a false dichotomy. Furthermore, it fails to realize two basic truths.
First, Christianity, as it was revealed, includes Paul.
Would I have a “better” car if it did not include the four tires? Would I have a “better” device if it did not include the screen? Would I have a “better” lawnmower if it did not include the blade?
Christianity includes Jesus as well as many like Abraham, Noah, Mary Magdalene, Lazarus, Peter, the woman at the well, the widow at Nain, and others. Take Jesus out of Christianity, and there is no Christianity. Take Paul out of Christianity, and there is no Christianity. There is not “Christianity” and “Paulianity.” There is simply “Christianity.” Sure, God used different personalities like Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and others like Peter and Paul and James to reveal Christianity to us. Even so, we must realize that the One, True, and Living God used the diversity of various biblical writers to collectively reveal a unified Christianity.
Before his name was changed from Saul to Paul, Paul in fact did meet Jesus on the Damascus Road. Jesus said to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me? When Saul/Paul asked who he was, Jesus replied, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting.” (Acts 9:4-5)
While it might be interesting to speculate about the “what ifs” of God’s revelation of Christianity, and while I might like to know more than what has been revealed to me, the simple fact is that Christianity, as it has been given to us, is what it is.
Second, all Scripture is inspired by God
Jesus is the Centerpiece of the Bible. The Old Testament looks forward to the coming of Jesus. The Gospels speak of the life and teachings of Jesus. The books of Acts-Jude speak about life after Jesus and living in light of Jesus. The book of Revelation speaks about the second coming of Jesus. It’s all about Jesus, and it is all God’s Word.
God says (through the Apostle Paul) “All Scripture is inspired by God…” (2 Timothy 3:16) “Inspired” is the combination of two Greek words. “Theo” and “Pneustos.” “God” and “Breath”—Theopneustos. The English Standard Version of the Bible gets it right by translating this “God-breathed.” God did not breath on the words of the Bible that already existed. He breathed out the words of the Bible. There is a huge difference.
Growing up, I thought the words of Jesus were more important than the other words of Scripture since they were in red. Sure, the words of Jesus are the words of God’s Son, but we must remember that they are not more inspired than the words of Paul, or for that matter, than the words of Peter or John or Luke. All Scripture is inspired by God. For that reason, all the words in the Bible I use are written in one color.
I have underlined some verses in my Bible—not because they are more important than the others but because they carry a special significance for me. No one part of Scripture is more important than the other. There is a big difference between personal significance and overall importance.
It might be interesting to ask what Christianity would look like if it weren’t for Paul. While much could be speculated, rest assured. Christianity without Paul would not be Christianity.
Todd E. Brady is vice president for university ministries at Union University. Write to him at 1050 Union University Drive, Jackson, TN 38305.
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