It has been taught by some that the apostles who were personally discipled by Jesus did not understand the true spiritual meaning of the cross, but rather Paul was the one who had the spiritual revelation. Yet it was Jesus who personally opened His disciple’s understanding to the meaning of His death and resurrection from the writings of Moses, the prophets, and the Psalms (Luke 24:44-48). Paul, who was later chosen, preached the very same message about Jesus’ death as did the apostles who walked with Jesus in the flesh (Acts 13:26-41, 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16).
The difference in Paul’s gospel, was his understanding of the grace of God towards the Gentiles and specifically how the Jew and Gentile have become “one new man” in Christ Jesus.
Paul’s persecutors, those who opposed his message of the Gospel, were insisting the Gentiles become “Jewish Converts” to the Law of Moses. This would have meant identification with the Messiah was dependent on national status. Paul vehemently opposed such notions. Those who are “in Christ” are “in Christ” because of their faith which brings about a “spiritual rebirth” which has nothing to do with national identity after the flesh. As N.T. Wright so eloquently puts it, “It is based on grace not race.”
Israel’s identity was defined by the Law of Moses which separated them from other nations. Paul believed that Christ had torn down this separating wall and now the people of God (Jews and Gentiles) were identified by their faith in Christ, rather than Jewish Law.
This is why many of the things which Paul writes about the cross are written within the context of the work of the Spirit in contrast to the Law. The work of the Spirit is not based on the Law, it is based on the finished work of Christ instead. According to Paul’s gospel, life in the Spirit through faith in Christ has taken precedence over serving under the law which was given to curve sin in the old creation (the old man in Adam).
Paul understood that not only had our sins been remitted, but that the old life of sin had been completely taken away. There is no longer any charges against those who are in Christ because they have been immersed (baptized) into the person and work of Christ by the Spirit.
Paul’s insight concerning the redemptive work of Christ had to do with his understanding of the work of the Spirit through the crucified and risen Messiah in bringing forth the new creation in the lives of both Jews and Gentiles.
Those who walk in faith, trusting the grace of God, are no longer condemned by the law, for they have died with the one who gave Himself as the sacrifice for their sins. Through the Spirit they are crucified, buried, and raised again to a new life with the Messiah who died for all so that all might live in Him.
The Law reveals man’s sinfulness, and for this reason, no one can be justified in the sight of God through the works of the Law. Only by the redemption that comes through the precious Blood of Jesus can our sins be completely removed. Redemption through the Blood of Christ doesn’t mean we are forgiven only, It is much more than that. Our redemption through the precious Blood of Jesus has purchased our freedom from our former union with Adam in whom we were dead in sin.
Christ is now “our Adam” and we are now “in Him” and serve God in the newness of life by the Spirit of holiness through the resurrection of Jesus. Therefore, there is no longer any condemnation against us because we are immersed (baptized) into the person and work of Christ by the Spirit. Those who have believed (have faith in Jesus and continue to live by faith in Jesus) are no longer condemned by the law.
There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit (Romans 8:1-4).
Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us (Romans 8:33-34).
ENDORSEMENTS FOR PAUL
There are people however, especially in the Messianic Movement, who attempt to disqualify the Apostle Paul altogether. They are in serious error, not understanding the scriptures.
If you disqualify the Apostle Paul, by default, you disqualify the Apostle Peter. Peter endorsed Paul by referring to him as “our beloved brother” and described Paul’s letters as both “wisdom from God” and “scripture” (2 Peter 3:15-17).
If you disqualify Paul, and by default disqualify Peter, you have also disqualified Luke who authored 2 New Testament books – Luke and Acts.
In Acts, Luke highlights Peter and Paul’s ministry and gives a detailed account Paul’s conversion, personal commission by Jesus, and his being separated by the Holy Spirit for the work to which God had called him.
We also know from the Book of Acts that most if not all of the original Apostles were headquartered out of Jerusalem (ex Acts 8:1, 14, 25). In Acts 15, Paul and Barnabas went to Jerusalem and were “received” by the church, and by THE APOSTLES, and by the elders.
James and Peter were among the Apostles who received Paul and Barnabas when they arrived at Jerusalem.
Luke tells us how men like James and Barnabas were also co ministers in the gospel with Paul and Luke himself was also a dear friend and fellow laborer with the Apostle Paul in the work of the ministry (Colossians 4:14; 2 Timothy 4:11). Luke, at times, also uses the pronoun “We” from the vantage point of the narrator, indicating that he was as an eyewitness of Paul’s ministry as recorded in the Book of Acts. Also throughout Acts, Luke tells us that Paul preached “the Word of God” and repeatedly tells us of brethren who were blessed by Paul and blessed Paul as well. Luke also tells us in his Gospel (the Gospel According to Luke) how Peter, who endorsed Paul, was chosen and ordained by Jesus to be an Apostle.
Those who disqualify Paul, by default, do the same to men like Peter, Luke, James, Barnabas, and other servants of Christ throughout scripture; and ultimately they reject Jesus according the New Testament revelation.
PAUL’S GOSPEL – THE MYSTERY OF CHRIST
The Apostle Paul was a brilliant scholar in the Old Testament scriptures before he met Jesus on the road to Damascus. After coming to Christ and seeing Jesus in the Old Testament scriptures everything changed. Paul then considered his previous achievements and his knowledge of scripture “after the flesh” as worthless. He says so in Philippians 3. However, through the scriptural knowledge which Paul possessed, the Holy Spirit made known to Paul the revelation of Jesus Christ which had previously been hidden in a mystery.
The New Testament, much of which was written by Paul, is the only portion of scripture which reveals WHO the Messiah is. The Old foreshadowed and prophesied of His coming but only the New reveals His identity. Paul was anointed specifically by God as an apostle to the Gentiles, and through Paul’s knowledge of the Old Testament scriptures, the Holy Spirit opened Paul’s understanding to see the “mystery of Christ” even as Jesus had opened the original apostles understanding in Luke 24. Paul along with the other New Testament writers are the authoritative interpreters of the Old Testament scriptures. They interpret the Old in view of Christ and to interpret them in any other way is to interpret scripture after the flesh.
The revelation (the unveiling) of the mystery of Christ which was concealed in the Old Testament scriptures is revealed and brought to full light in the writings of the New. The New Testament authors were moved by the Spirit to reveal Jesus to us. Therefore we should interpret the Old in view of the revelation given to the authors who gave us the New. There is no other foundation to build on other that Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Furthermore we need to recognize the uniqueness of the callings of the various authors who gave us the New Testament scriptures under the anointing of the Holy Spirit. For instance, the apostle John doesn’t expound on the Kingdom in the way the synoptic Gospels do (Matthew, Mark, and Luke). John says very little about the Kingdom. Instead, John emphasizes being born of God or born again in a way which the other Gospel writers do not.
Paul’s writings are unique in that Paul was specifically called as an apostle to the Gentiles. In one place Paul refers to his calling by saying “I am appointed a preacher, and an apostle, and a teacher of the Gentiles.” Paul was anointed to teach us Gentiles about the truth in Christ and that is why his writings are so dear to us.
Paul is the only writer in all of scripture who explains that Jesus redeemed us from the curse of the Law. Paul is the only writer in all of scripture that gives us the concept of the body of Christ (the body of believers in Jesus). There are references to unity elsewhere but only Paul expounds on how Jews and Gentiles have become one body in Christ.
Also, there is no other writer who explains how the gifts of the Spirit actually work. We see these gifts at work all throughout the scriptures, but only Paul breaks it down to explain how God causes these to work within the body of Christ.
Also, Paul is the only writer who gives us some sort of guidelines to follow for church structure, who is qualified as leaders, and how we are to run the local church assemblies.
We should not exalt Paul, we should exalt Jesus, yet we ought to recognize the unique calling which Jesus placed on Paul and receive the things which Paul gave us as coming from Christ, for these things did not originate with Paul but with Christ who both called and anointed Paul. When we open our hearts to see Christ, the revelation given to Paul will enlighten us to truths “in Christ” which are concealed in the reading of the Old Testament after the flesh.
As already stated, the only place in all of SCRIPTURE that reveals the IDENTITY of the Messiah and redemption from the curse of the Law is the NEW TESTAMENT SCRIPTURES. Throw out the New Testament and the writings of Paul and there is no redemption from the curse of the law for you and I. NONE!
The New Testament is authoritative in expounding the Old Testament scriptures. Only the New Testament reveals how God’s promise to Abraham plays out and is fulfilled through the death and resurrection of the Messiah.
Without the New Testament, you would not know that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah, whose coming was prophesied in the Old Testament scriptures and you would not know what scriptures truly were Messianic and which were not. You would not comprehend why the Messiah had to die and rise again because that was hidden in the Old Testament scriptures until Jesus and the New Testament writers revealed it.
Furthermore, you would not know “how” the Messiah fulfilled those scriptures which foretold of His coming without the New Testament.
The death and resurrection of Jesus was the culmination of the story of Israel under the law. As the King of Israel, Jesus died on the cross to redeem us from the curse of the Law so that the promise which God made to Abraham (to bless all the families of the earth) would be fulfilled through His resurrection. God’s plan was never to have a people from just one nation who would serve Him. God’s plan was never a Hebraic people only. God’s plan was to have a family which would include people from every nation. The story of Israel is the narrative of how God accomplished his promise to Abraham to make him the father of many nations by justifying, not only the believing Jews, but believing Gentiles as well.
And the next Sabbath day came almost the whole city together to hear THE WORD OF GOD. But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and SPOKE AGAINST THOSE THINGS WHICH WERE SPOKEN BY PAUL, contradicting and blaspheming. Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that THE WORD OF GOD should first have been spoken to you: but SEEING YE PUT IT FROM YOU, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles. For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I HAVE SET THEE TO BE A LIGHT OF THE GENTILES, THAT THOU SHOULDEST BE FOR SALVATION UNTO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH. And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and GLORIFIED THE WORD OF THE LORD: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed. And THE WORD OF THE LORD was published throughout all the region (Acts 13:44-49).
Paul’s gospel is the “Word of the Lord”.