It is clear that all of the gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John contain the direct spoken words of Jesus Christ. They experienced all the fullness of God incarnate and literally heard “the Word” with their own ears. Although the risen Lord made himself known to the Apostle Paul on the road to Damascus, he did not experience the same walk with Christ as the other apostles did. One then would expect a breakdown to occur from Christ’s teachings from those who walked physically with Christ to Paul’s account, but it does not occur. It’s because the truth was revealed to Paul and truth does not change. The following are two examples of continuity from Christ’s teachings to Paul’s account. (The first one has a really cool tie-in)
Continuity within the Eucharist
In 1 Corinthians 11:23-26 Paul is clearly well versed and informed in Jesus Christ’s actions during the last supper. In fact the scripture passage within 1 Corinthians is apparently verbatim according to Paul. In defense of continuity, one could say that Paul was transmitting exact instructions, which he received directly from the Lord, (1 Cor. 11:23) However he moves forward with an explanation of it in the following verses of 1 Corinthians 11:27-28 [ESV]: Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.
The verses of 1 Corinthians 11:27-28 seem more in line with Christ’s teaching on anger in Matthew 5:23-24 [ESV] than the Last Supper: So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Again, in defense of continuity, If one can grasp symbolism, we can then see that approaching the altar falls in line with Paul’s teaching on approaching the Lord’s Supper.
Continuity within the Resurrection
In Luke 24:46-47 Jesus teaches “Thus, it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
Paul believed fervently in the repentance and forgiveness of sins through the resurrection of Christ. He continues Jesus’ teaching, without contradiction, in 1 Corinthians 15:17-19: And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.
To continue further with Luke 24:46-47 – Paul, as we know, played a very integral role in “proclaiming His name to all nations.”
Pope John Paul II in his “Doctrine of the Resurrection according to St. Paul” writes the following statement:
Between this Pauline anthropology of the resurrection and the one that emerges from the text of the synoptic Gospels (Mt 22:30; Mk 12:25; Lk 20:35-36), there exists an essential consistency, only the text of the First Letter to the Corinthians is more developed. Paul studies in depth what Christ had proclaimed. At the same time, he penetrates the various aspects of the truth, which had been expressed concisely, and substantially in the words written in the synoptic Gospels.
Can you think of any other areas of continuity from Jesus to Paul? They require a little searching, but I am confident they are there. As you can see from the example of the Eucharist given above, they may be in tricky places.
Why is this important, and how does this apply to you? A deeper dive into the Word equates to a deeper walk with the Jesus Christ. It also provides the believer a stronger foundation to grow upon for when the storm comes, and believe me, the storm will come if it hasn’t already. Have a look at Mark 4:16-17 – it speaks of the seeds being spread upon rocky ground.
And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away. – Mark 4:16-17 [ESV]
. Pope, Paul, John II., “Doctrine of the Resurrection According to St. Paul“, (L’Osservatore Romano)., 1 February 1982, page 3