July August September 2010
VOLUME 11, ISSUE 3
D E P A R T M E N T S
Ask the PASTOR
Was Paul's gospel actually Christ's gospel?
Q: Can we be certain that the gospel Paul claims to have received "through a revelation of Jesus Christ" was actually "Christ's gospel" and not something Paul interpreted through his own biases?
A: In Acts 26 Paul, a prisoner, stood before King Agrippa and told his story:
"At midday, O King, I saw on the way a light from heaven, brighter than the sun, shining all around me and those who were journeying with me. And when we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in the Hebrew dialect, 'Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me? It is hard for you to kick against the goads.' And I said, ‘Who art Thou, Lord?' And the Lord said, ‘I am Jesus whom you are persecuting' "(Acts 26:13-15).
What evidence is there to believe that the risen Jesus actually communicated this message to Paul? If this account really happened as described, there can be no division between the teachings of Paul and Jesus. Consider the following clear facts from this account:
It was a supernatural event with witnesses. All the people with Paul, then Saul, were knocked to the ground. There was intense light—Saul was blinded. There was an audible voice. There was intelligent communication between Saul and Jesus—a statement, a question, and an extended answer.
It was an unexpected revelation. The stricken Saul had understood Jesus to be a false teacher. The revelation of this event, therefore, was not the result of his own wishful thinking but was diametrically opposed to his current understanding.
This event was accompanied with several other revelations including the vision to Ananias recorded in Acts 9. God told him: 1) the name of the street where he was to go, 2) the name of the home owner, 3) the identity of "a man from Tarsus named Saul," 4) the information that "he is praying." Moreover, Ananias was told that 5) Paul was a chosen instrument of Jesus, 6) that he was to bear Jesus' name before the Gentiles, kings and sons of Israel, and 7) Jesus would show him how much he was to suffer. Finally, God confirmed these revelations with another miracle: 8) healing Saul's blindness.
Saul-now-Paul's experience had the markers of the voice of God. Throughout Scripture God's calls to people were frequently marked by His repetition of their names. For example:
But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven, and said, "Abraham, Abraham!" And he said, "Here I am" (Gen. 22:11).
God called to him from the midst of the bush, and said, "Moses, Moses!" And he said, "Here I am" (Ex. 3:4).
Then the LORD came and stood and called as at other times, "Samuel! Samuel!" And Samuel said, "Speak, for Thy servant is listening" (1 Sam. 3:10).
We see this same pattern recorded in the gospels:
But the Lord answered and said to her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things" (Lk. 10:41).
"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling" (Mat. 23:37).
So, when Jesus spoke to Saul saying, "Saul, Saul" as recorded in both Acts 9 and 26, the call had the markers of Jesus. And here is the "gospel of Jesus" that was dictated to Paul:
"But arise, and stand on your feet; for this purpose I have appeared to you, to appoint you a minister and a witness not only to the things which you have seen, but also to the things in which I will appear to you; delivering you from the Jewish people and from the Gentiles, to whom I am sending you, to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, in order that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me" (Act 26:16-18).
Here, in broad strokes, Jesus outlines His gospel—a divine revelation that is designed to:
Jesus' gospel effects these blessings among those who have been sanctified by faith in Christ—not by any work or offering, but by faith in Jesus alone.
Without question the gospel Paul proclaimed is none other than Christ's gospel received by a revelation from Jesus Himself. Case closed. †
Copyright 2010 Life Assurance Ministries, Inc., Glendale, Arizona, USA. All rights reserved. Revised September 27, 2010. Contact email: email@example.com
Dale and Carolyn Ratzlaff have authored five books concerning Adventism: Sabbath in Christ—a volume that explains new covenant Sabbath rest, Cultic Doctrine of Seventh-day Adventism—explores the unique doctrine of a pre-advent judgment that decides eternal destinies, Truth About Adventist "Truth"—a little book that's perfect to give to Christians that need to understand Adventism, Truth Led Me Out—in which Dale Ratzlaff tells his own story of following Jesus, no matter the cost, and My Cup Overflows—Carolyn's autobiography. Each of these books is available at www.LifeAssuranceMinistries.com or by phoning 800-355-7073.
Dale Ratzlaff, the founder of Life Assurance Ministries and Proclamation! magazine