Some people claim that the words of Jesus and His Apostle named Paul in the Bible contradict each other. In this article, we will see whether it is true and if it is then whose report will you believe?
Recently, an article about the contradictions between the words of Jesus and Paul came out and rose a wave of hot discussions between Christians. The author claims that the words of Jesus in the Bible differ or even contradict the words of Paul in his epistles. We have decided to see what the author meant to answer the question he asks in his article: “Whose reports will you believe – that of Jesus or Paul?”
As the author states the words of Paul and Jesus are different, and since Jesus is the Lord and Paul is merely a human, he sticks to the words of Jesus and only believes what he says. The saying seems radical and sounds right; however, it is only so if you read the Bible not trying to understand what is under the surface of the words of both Jesus and Paul.
We will start this article with the general truth about the origin and authorship of the Bible, the whole Bible. God is in control of everything. Therefore, He is in control of how His main book He left for His children, the Bible, with its 66 books in it was written and passed on. Let’s look at what Peter says of how God explained the process of writing of the Bible: ‘We also have a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts: Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.”(2 Peter 1:19-21)
All the words in the Bible were said by men that were moved and inspired by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is one with Jesus Christ and God the Father, as the whole Trinity teaching says. Therefore, saying that Paul contradicts Jesus means that the author does not really know the Bible. The Bible and all the words by both Jesus in it as well as words of any other of God’s people are united and inspired by God. Don’t you think that God would not contradict Himself not to let His people remain confused and not to shake their faith and trust in Him?
Moreover, another text by Timothy reveals us the nature of the Bible. Timothy says: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” (2 Timothy 3:16,17)Each word in the Bible is here for a reason. It is not just a misunderstanding between the Lord Jesus and His people, but if someone sees contradictions in the Bible when reading it, he should pray that God will reveal him the truth, as the Scriptures do not contradict themselves.
Now, as we have clarified the nature, origin and the authorship of the Bible, let’s see what Jesus’s words he said were different from Paul’s. It is 100% healthy to believe Jesus’s words only, but one should also remember that His words exist in absolute accordance with the rest of the Bible.
The author of the article that went viral online said that the verse where Jesus says “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3) is different than the one where Paul says “We, who have the first-fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons.” (Romans 8:23) However, if you look deeper into the idea of God being our father, Paul does not contradict Jesus. We became sinners after Adam and Eve disobeyed God in the Eden Garden. That is why humans were no longer His children, but rather merely His creation. However, once we accept Jesus as our Savior, God says that He takes us back to His children. Of course, we do not die to be born again physically as His children, but in a spiritual meaning He adopts us and takes us back. These two images by Jesus and Paul do not contradict each other but complement each other instead, so that we will get a whole picture of God’s attitude to us.
Moreover, the author states that God is the Only Father for the believers, according to Jesus’s words in Matthew 23:9: “Call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven.” Paul in Philemon 1:10 says that “I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I became in my imprisonment.” Paul does not say that he is the alternative to God being our Father, but rather expresses how he feels about Onesimus whom he prayed for, carried him in his heart constantly just like the mother does before she gives birth to her child. Paul here does not claim that he is just as a father to Onesimus as Jesus is!
Another word of wisdom Jesus said is as follows: “I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one pastor.” (John 10:16) Here Jesus says that He is the only Pastor and Teacher we have. Meanwhile, in one of his epistles, Paul mentions that God has blessed His people with different gifts and talents. That is why some of the people in God’s church will be preachers, other pastors, and some mentors. “Truly he gave some to be apostles, and some to be prophets, and some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11-12)
Nowhere in this text Paul denied the superior power and leadership (if I can say so) of Jesus Christ. In many other places in the Bible Paul admits the superiority of Jesus Christ and God the Father. And here he mentions that God has the hierarchy in the Body of Christ. That is why some people were appointed to be in charge of other people not because they are better but because God has specially anointed them and provided them with the gifts for leading.
To support this idea, we can go to the Old Testament where God in the first books of Moses established the general principles of ruling the people. He stated that there would be judges and rulers over the rest of the people. This way, God ensured peace and order among His people without belittling His role above all of them.
Another place from the Bible the author of the “Whose report are you going to believe” claims to be contradictory is the one when Jesus is telling His followers a parable about a Pharisee that prayed in the temple: “When you pray, you shall not be like the hypocrites. For they love to pray standing in the synagogues and the corners of the streets so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you; they have their reward. But you, when you pray, enter into your room. And shutting your door, pray to your Father in secret; and your Father who sees in secret shall reward you openly.” (Matthew 6:5-6) As an example of the words that contradicted the words of Jesus the author gives 1 Timothy 2:8: “I desire that men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting.”
Jesus’s words of wisdom from Matthew pointed out that His children should not be doing certain “religious” acts only to be seen by people. Pharisees got their identity from what other people thought about them. Jesus warned His disciples against that, and the words of Paul are just a contrast of what the Pharisees did. The disciples, as long as they mean it, can lift their hands and pray to God having no doubts that He will hear their pleas. The part where Paul says that they can pray everywhere is crucial, as it means that people do not have to go to churches or temples to pray to God. They can do it anywhere! And that is in agreement with what Jesus believed: He never mentioned that the disciples have to be necessarily in the temple to pray, but rather that they should watch their hearts to be willing to pray and spend time with God.
The next verse the author believes contradicts the teaching of Jesus is as follows: “I, Paul, say to you that if you are circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do all the Law, you who are justified by Law are deprived of all effect from Christ; you fell from grace.” (Galatians 5:2-4) As Luke mentions in his Gospel, Jesus was circumcised like the Law taught all the Jews to. “When eight days were fulfilled to circumcise the child, his name was called JESUS, the name called by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.” (Luke 2:21)
In you want to learn more about this subject and why Jesus was circumcised you’d better read the Acts and the whole Galatians book to be in the context of the teaching about the circumcision. Jesus needed to be circumcised for the Jews he was born among to see that He is not just a revolutionary that respects no laws and only came to bring chaos into their lives. He respected the law; moreover, as we know as a part of the Holy Trinity, He was there when the Law was written. And He came there to fulfill everything written in the law.
However, after Jesus died on the cross, He took all our sins on the cross as we were extremely sinful and would never be able to pay for those sins ourselves. That is what the Lord called grace. People before Jesus’s death on the cross needed to follow the law to get the salvation. The images of the sacrifices they had to pay for the sins they do were the pictures of Jesus that will come. Every time someone sinned an innocent young sheep had to pay for this sin with its own life. And this was supposed to be done every time.
But Jesus became the perfect lamb whose sacrifice was considered to be complete and sufficient to pay for the sins of the whole world. He was the God, and His death was enough to pay for everyone’s sin. That is why we do not need to stick to the ceremonial laws any longer. However, there are still laws that Jesus wants us to live in agreement with. Among them are 10 Commandments, and other practical laws Christians are expected to apply to their lives with God’s strength, of course. That is why Paul does not contradict Jesus’s words of wisdom or His life and understanding of life. You just need to see a bigger picture of what both Jesus and His Apostle Paul meant.
The next point that was brought to the light as the contradiction between the words of Paul and the words of Jesus is these two verses: “Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. You have received freely, freely give.” (Matthew 10:8) and “If we have sown spiritual things among you, is it too much if we reap material things from you?” (1 Corinthians 9:11)
As you know, in the times Jesus lived on earth and was teaching walking around Judea and other places, people were donating money to His ministry. Judas, the one disciple that betrayed Him, was in charge of the money people donated. Jesus healed and cleansed people despite their donations. It did not matter to Him what people gave them or whether they gave anything at all to support their ministry, He was kind and generous with people He was among.
The same applied to His disciples that lived after His death, walked on the earth from place to place and were supposed to heal people, cleanse them and cast our demons. They did not first get the payment and only then healed the person. They healed them right away, but also encouraged the believers to support them financially in their ministry of sharing the Good News among the peoples of the world. This is what is teaching us from the Bible even in the Old Testament.
The priests and the other ministers of the temple were getting a piece of all the sacrifices people brought into the temple. This is how those particular people that devoted all of their time to the ministry to God and people, and therefore, had no opportunity to work and provide for their families lived according to God’s plan. They did their ministry in the temple despite what people brought or left to themselves. That is why the disciples whose lives were devoted to sharing the Gospel with all the people had no time to work and earn money to get by. They lived on the donations of believers whose hearts God opened to be generous to the first missionaries.
Though, as we see from Paul’s letters to people from different cities, sometimes the Apostles had to work, as the believers were not willing to share the money with them or had no opportunity to do that. That is how the ministers of the churches still live. Otherwise, if they choose to work, they will have less or no time to take care of the congregations or reach out to people with the Gospel.
And finally, what does the author of “Whose report will you believe?” article characterize as a contradiction, but the Bible proves to be an inspired text by the Holy Spirit? Remember the verse when Jesus teaches us to love our enemies? “I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust.” (Matthew 5:44-45) In one of his letters Paul, though, mentions what the author claims to be “malicious reasons”: “If your enemy hungers, feed him. If he thirsts, give him drink. For in so doing you shall heap coals of fire on his head.” (Romans 12:20)
God says that He wants everyone to come to know Him personally through the person of Jesus Christ. How can people can come to know Jesus? Through the believers when they have the love for each other, a love that is beyond the understanding of non-believers, as it is kind and gentle even when it is absolutely undeserved. What Paul says in this verse is that when we are kind to this people, this makes them think of Jesus. The “heaping of coals of fire” on their head does not mean revenge, but rather a caring love that wants these people to come to Christ. To understand this, one needs to get to the historical context of the phrase about coals on the head.
Remember how people in the Old Testament used to our ashes on their heads when they were repenting? They were as if saying that I am the ash and You God is everything! The same applies here: heaping the coals of fire on their heads means bringing them to repent and realize that when they sin against you, they sin against God.
As you see what the author of the article described as the contradictions was rather the poor vision of himself as a result of lack of in-depth knowledge of the Bible. However, be careful, as such people are like wolves in sheep’s skin: they only come to make people that follow God to lose their track and get distracted.
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