Have you ever tried to find the parallels from the teachings of Jesus Christ to Paul’s teachings? Is there continuity between the two? Do they agree? Odd questions, right? Unless you really think hard on them, and actually do a search for the parallel teachings between the two, you’ll never quite know. So let’s do that, let’s dig in and search (not a Google or Bing search!, but an open up your bible search!).
The resurrection, justification in Christ, and the Eucharist (the Lord’s Supper) are three key areas of continuity between the teachings of Jesus in the Gospels, and the teachings of Paul in his letters. All of these have their birth within the Gospels, which then stem forward into Paul’s writings.
Before the actual historic event of the resurrection occurred, Jesus taught about the resurrection to His disciples; some examples are found in Matt. 16:21, Matt. 17:22, Mark 8:31, and Mark 9:31. This was continued on by Paul within his epistles, but most evident within 1 Cor. 15:1-7 where he spoke directly to the church on his original message proclaiming the resurrection, in which they were saved. Of course, Paul was proclaiming the message, where Jesus Christ fulfilled His own message.
Jesus spoke in Luke 24:44, “… everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled. This verse is echoed in Paul’s teaching where he writes, “That Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures.” (1 Cor. 15:3 [ESV] – Paul even follows up with a wonderful apology on the resurrection body to correct any confusion that may have occurred in regards to his original preaching on the resurrection, something that Jesus also had to contend with as well (John 20:24-29).
Justification in Christ
Jesus’ sacrificial death on the cross is the basis for justification and therefore, faith is the means of appropriating the benefits of his death. Christ taught this very message during his time spent with the disciples. A few examples are:
- John 3:36 – whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.
- John 5:22 – The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father.
- John 8:24 I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.
This continuity of justification in Christ is found throughout Paul’s many epistles,.
- Romans 3:23-24 For all have sinned and fall short of the Glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith.
- Romans 6:23 – For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Holy Communion is something of great significance in which we as believers in Christ faithfully participate. It seems to me that any claim of discontinuity would easily break down on the topic in regards to Jesus and the last supper. Nevertheless, there are numerous scholarly arguments on both sides of the issue. The passage of 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 corresponds with the traditions in the synoptic Gospels. N.H. Taylor of the University of Pretoria states the following:
It has been noted that the Pauline version is closer to the Lukan account than to that preserved in Mark and Matthew (Jeremias 1966; Chilton 1994). However much of the traditions may elude historical reconstruction, there is no reason to doubt that theologically and cultically significant words and acts of the historical Jesus lie behind the texts. The significance Paul and the evangelists attribute to the events undoubtedly reflects their respective Christologies and soteriologies. Furthermore, Paul may perceive in this tradition the “mystical body” and “extended corporeity of Christ,” but he nevertheless reflects the tradition of the words and deeds of the historical Jesus (Schweitzer 1955, 270).
To conclude, Paul’s teaching is an echo rather than a mirror of Christ’s teaching. In other words, his teachings are the accurate and true teachings of Christ through the theology of Paul acting on the council of the Holy Spirit further down the timeline.
. Robert H. Gundry, A Survey of the New Testament, fifth ed. (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2012), 435.
. Taylor, Nicholas H. 2003. “Paul and the historical Jesus quest.” Neotestamentica 37, no. 1: 101-122. ATLA Religion Database with ATLASerials, EBSCOhost, 105.
. Taylor, Nicholas H., “Paul and the historical Jesus quest.”, 117