Post Author: Bill Pratt
We pick up from part 1 of this post to see why Paul could not have invented a version of Christianity foreign to Jesus’ teachings.
McFarland continues making his case:
The point is this: the key teachings of the Gospel (Jesus is the sinless Son of God; He died for our sins and rose again; we receive Him as Savior through repentance and faith) pre-date Paul. Paul taught these things, expounded on these things, and was used by God to write much of the New Testament. But the core of the Gospel was being widely spread even before Paul was a believer. In the final words of I Corinthians 15:8, Paul seemed to acknowledge that he was late getting to the party!
Look at Peter’s sermon at Pentecost, found in Acts 2:14-40. Peter presents the core facts of the Gospel, including Jesus’ Deity, death, and resurrection. Peter preaches the same truths again in Acts 3:12-18. In Acts 5:29-33, Peter addressed Jewish leaders, and again gives the key facts of the Christian message. By Acts 5:42, we read, “Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.”
So what can we conclude? The core teachings of Christianity predated Paul’s conversion and his later writings. Paul did not invent Christianity.
But there is one more important point to be made. If Paul’s teachings contradicted those of the other disciples, the disciples that spent 3 years under Jesus’ tutelage, then surely they would have called him out. In fact, just the opposite occurred. The apostle Peter, who was one of Jesus’ closest companions and a recognized leader of the early church, had this to say about Paul in 2 Pet. 3:15-16: “Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.”
Take note of the fact that Paul is a “dear brother” and that his words are compared to “other Scriptures.” Peter is effectively endorsing Paul’s teachings, so the idea that Paul hijacked Christianity from the true followers of Jesus is refuted. We can be confident that the entire New Testament, including Paul’s writings, were inspired by one and the same God.