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Why Paul?

Why? Such a little word that asks such a profound question. From a very early age, we ask questions. Just ask anyone who has parented a toddler and they can tell you about a child’s penchant for asking the incessant “why” question. It’s a good question.

WHY JESUS?

When we are talking to people about salvation, we often ask them, “Why did Jesus have to die?” If we could be saved by works, Christ did not have to die. This shows the necessity of believing in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. A lot of people believe in God (even the demons, James 2:19), but just a belief in God will not get you into heaven. A lot of folks like to talk in vague terms about God in general, but when you start talking about God in particular—the Lord Jesus Christ, they start to get uneasy.

In Christian circles, a similar thing is true. As long as we talk about “Jesus” in nonspecific terms, everyone is happy. But say that He is indeed the Son of God, that He is Deity, that He is the ONLY way to heaven, then folks start to get nervous. Rather than allow Jesus to speak for Himself, they choose to speak for Him—and then they never get it right. They apparently think that He surely didn’t mean those narrow-minded, intolerant things (in their opinion) He said about being divine and the only way to God! Surely He was more “inclusive” and enlightened than that!

No, Jesus Christ said exactly what He meant! When He said that He was the Son of God, He meant it! When He said that He was THE way, THE truth, and THE life and that NO MAN comes to God EXCEPT through Him, HE MEANT IT! He IS the only way. Have YOU believed the good news of salvation for today? Christ died for your sins, He was buried, and He rose again the third day, proving that He was who He claimed to be. Believe this good news and you will be saved (1 Cor 15:1-4).

WHY PAUL?

Why? This is also a good question to ask regarding the Apostle Paul. “Why Paul?” If Paul just taught the same thing as the twelve, if he was in the same group as they, why bother? Why would God go through such trouble to raise up Paul if he was not doing something different?

While religious sorts get nervous when you say that Christ meant what He said, they get even more upset when you insist that Paul meant what he said.

In the gospels, Jesus clearly says that He came only to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” and that His disciples were NOT to go to the Gentiles (Matt. 10:5,6). Repeatedly, events related to Jesus were in fulfillment of prophecy; He never says one word about a new body, a new creation, or a new program. Jesus clearly says that He came in keeping with Israel’s prophetic program.

Likewise, Paul clearly says that he is the apostle to the Gentiles. But just as people think that they know better what Christ meant than Christ Himself, they also seem to think that Paul did not mean what he said either.

They will read Paul’s explicit statement that he is the apostle to the Gentiles (Rom. 11:13 cf. Acts 9:15; 13:47; 18:6; 22:21; 26:20; Rom. 1:13; 15:16,18; Gal. 2:2; Eph. 3:1,8; 1 Tim. 2:7; 2 Tim. 1:11; 4:17) and then turn around and explain Paul’s statement away to fit their theology or doctrine. “Oh,” they insist, “Paul was just preaching the same thing as the twelve apostles.” Some even go so far as to say that Paul was supposed to be the twelfth apostle to replace Judas despite the clear fact that he was unqualified for the position based on the requirements set forth in Acts 1:21,22 (not to mention the fact that these men were under the control of the Holy Spirit when they chose Matthias, Acts 1:24).

A point of clarification. When we say that Paul did not preach the same thing as the twelve, we are not saying that the twelve did not preach Christ. Both Paul and the twelve preached Christ—the difference is in HOW they proclaimed Christ. While it may be debated if the twelve began to preach the gospel of grace after Paul revealed it to them, it is certain that they did not preach it BEFORE Paul!

THE DIFFERENCE

The key is to recognize both the differences and the similarities between the kingdom program and the mystery program. The death, burial, and resurrection of Christ was not the mystery. This was prophesied. It was these same Old Testament prophecies that Paul used to convince his hearers that Jesus was indeed the Messiah.

Both Paul and Peter preached Christ. The distinction to be made is in HOW they preached Christ. In Romans 16:25 we read, “Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the Mystery, which was kept secret since the world began.”

Paul preached Christ and Peter preached Christ, but Paul preached Christ ACCORDING TO THE REVELATION OF THE MYSTERY, whereas Peter preached Christ according to (or in keeping with) the revelation of prophecy.

In Acts 2, Peter proclaims that Jesus is the Messiah. But he does this in the context of the millennial kingdom. The entire focus is that if Israel will accept her Messiah, God will send Christ back and set up the long-awaited kingdom of God on earth. The Jews always had an earthly hope—a heavenly city yes, but a heavenly city on the earth!

THE PROBLEM WITH PAUL

Do you see the problem here? The church at large continues to disregard the clear statements of both Christ and Paul and reinterpret them to fit their own scheme of things. How strange that readers can think that they know the intent of an author’s statement better than the author himself does!

But nothing has really changed has it? After all, this is exactly what the Pharisees and Scribes did during Christ’s earthly ministry. They had so twisted God’s law to fit their desires that they argued with the very author of those laws as to their meaning (Matt. 12:2-8; 15:3-6; Mark 3:1-5; 7:7-13).

This brings us back to my original question, “Why Paul?” If Paul’s epistles only repeat or continue the program and message of the gospels, then why this need to directly intervene in time and history and overwhelm Paul on the road to Damascus?

Why Paul? Paul was raised up because God instituted a whole new program with him. Prophetically, God’s next step should have been the Great Tribulation (70th week of Daniel’s prophecy, Dan. 9:24-27) to punish Israel for rejecting Jesus Christ. But instead we see God, in the person of the risen, glorified Lord, confronting Paul on his way to Damascus.

And what did the Lord Jesus Christ tell Paul that day? Did He tell Paul that he was going to be a messenger to proclaim the gospel of the kingdom to the lost sheep of the house of Israel? No. Just the opposite. From the beginning, Paul was called specifically to be an apostle to the Gentiles—in keeping with God’s new program.

Listen to what God told Ananias about Paul: “he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: For I will show him how great things he must suffer for my name’s sake” (Acts 9:15,16). In Acts 26:17, in his defense before King Agrippa, Paul says that he was sent to the Gentiles by God.

Can there be any question when we allow the plain words of Scripture to speak for themselves? Christ came to Israel (“He came unto His own, and His own received him not.”—John 1:11). His disciples were sent only to Israel (Matt. 10:5,6). Peter preached only to Israel (Acts 2) with a message straight out of the prophetic books. Paul never says he was sent to Israel. But he says or implies many times that he was sent to the Gentiles.

HOW ARE WE SAVED TODAY?

Why Paul? Where else in the Bible do you find salvation by grace through faith alone explicitly stated and laid out so clearly? Where else do you find the concept of the Body of Christ? (Others have seen this distinction as well—see Scofield’s preface to Paul’s epistles in the Old Scofield Bible.)

But some may be thinking that salvation by grace through faith is found before Paul. We beg to differ! While it’s true that salvation has always been by faith, it is only with the dispensation of Grace that it has been by faith ALONE. Salvation has always been by a faith response to what God has said. In previous dispensations, He said “believe and DO.” It is only now (as Paul says, “But now”) that the message is to “only believe.”

Some folks insists that the same salvational message is found before Paul and use John 3:16 or Revelation 3:20 as evangelistic verses. BUT, without being explained in light of the gospel of the grace of God, these verses could never be used to save anyone today!

The word “believe” in John 3:16 is always explained as having to do with belief in the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ—the gospel as related to us in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. In it’s context, John 3:16 says nothing about the gospel of the grace of God. What was Nicodemus supposed to believe? That Jesus was the Messiah, that He was the Son of God, and in that context, that belief also included baptism and continuing to keep the law (Matt. 3:8; 5:20; John 20:31). Without Paul’s gospel to explain what it is we are believing, no one is saved.

Revelation 3:20 is really a stretch, but some people do still try to fit it into their evangelism. “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me” (Rev. 3:20). By itself, there are zero facts about the gospel in this verse. At least John 3:16 had the word believe in it, but Revelation 3:20 doesn’t even have that. You can never be saved by “opening the door of your heart” and “letting Jesus come in”—not unless you use Revelation 3:20 as an analogy and compare “opening the door of your heart” to believe the gospel for today (1 Cor. 15:1-4) and “letting Jesus come in” with being saved.

The point is, without reading Paul’s gospel back into these passages, you do not find the message of salvation for today. It is only by explaining these verses in terms of God’s plan for today that they are used to bring someone to salvation.

It is no wonder that so many people are confused and unsure about their salvation. They have never come to fully understand the facts of their salvation. Instead of sticking to Paul’s clear presentation of the gospel for today, we resort to emotional pulls and unbiblical words. Paul says to believe the gospel, that Christ died for your sins, was buried, and rose again the third day; we too often say things like “ask Jesus into your heart” or “make Him Lord of your life” or other such phrasing. No wonder folks are confused as to whether they got saved or are still saved!

The fact is, you do not find the explicit terms of salvation by grace through faith ALONE outside of Paul’s epistles.

WHAT IS GOD’S PLAN FOR TODAY?

Why Paul? It is Paul because during this dispensation of Grace God has temporarily set aside Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in (Rom. 11:25). Contrary to popular belief, Israel is not the chosen nation today. After the rapture she will once again have “most favored nation status,” but not today in the dispensation of Grace. Today, God has concluded ALL men in unbelief that He might have mercy on them all. Today God is dealing with individuals for salvation, not nations.

Why Paul? Because Paul alone teaches us about the blessed hope of Christ’s return for the Body, which is His church today (1 Thess. 4:13-18). Our hope is not Israel’s hope. We do not hope for God’s kingdom on earth—our hope is heavenly. Likewise, a Jew never hoped for heaven—he hoped for God’s kingdom on earth (“Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.”—Matt. 6:10). Some have lost sight of this distinction and are blurring God’s future plans and programs for Israel and the Body of Christ.

Today it seems that some are starting to turn away from a consistent dispensational approach to the Scriptures. Once you leave the literal interpretation of the Bible, only your imagination and reason limit your doctrine. Sadly, it sometimes seems that the post-modern mindset is seeping into the ship of Church.

Why Paul? That’s a good question! Do you know the answer?