"St. Paul ... substituted another doctrine for ...the plain and profoundly revolutionary teachings of Jesus." (H.G. Wells, Outline of History 1921.)

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1My Elder’s Dismissal Of Jesus’ Words In Favor of Paul’s Words

Jesus Shatters Faith Alone & Eternal Security in Mark 9:42-47

The year was 1997. I had been a member of evangeli­cal and Presbyterian churches for a combined 24 years. For many years, I had served as a Sunday school teacher to adults and high schoolers in a 200 member church. I upheld doctrines that I thought were synonymous with following Christ: faith alone and eternal security. I thought Jesus taught the same thing in John 3:16 — if you believe “in me” you have eternal life, and John 10:27-29 — you cannot be snatched from His hand. Thus, of course, nothing Jesus said could ever contradict that doctrine.

However, all my assumptions on those doctrines were overthrown when I first looked carefully at Mark 9:42-47. Afterward, I also carefully re-examined John 3:16 and John 10:27-29, and I found a matching pattern.

First, in Mark 9, I saw Jesus is talking to the twelve in a house at Capernaum. The twelve were upset that others were preaching Jesus, and casting out demons, but might mis­lead believers in Jesus whom they were appealing to because they were not actually following Jesus and the 12. Jesus starts by discussing the result if anyone misleads one who believes in Jesus:

42 And whosoever shall cause one of these little ones that believe in me1 to stumble, it were better for him if a great millstone were hanged about his neck, and he were cast into the sea. 43 And if thy hand cause thee to stumble, cut it off: it is good for thee to enter into life maimed, rather than having thy two hands to go into hell, into the unquenchable fire. 45 And if thy foot cause thee to stumble, cut it off: it is good for thee to enter into life halt, rather than having thy two feet to be cast into hell. 47 And if thine eye cause thee to stumble, cast it out: it is good for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell; (48) where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched. (Mark 9:42-47 ASV 1901.)

Jesus thus taught “believers in me” including the “apostles” only have two choices when we sin: we can go to “heaven-maimed” or “hell-whole” by failing to strenuously cut off the sources of temptation to sin. In other words, Jesus insisted that sinning believers must have repentance followed by obedience, or else they will enter hell whole.

This was no isolated passage, I quickly discovered. Jesus says the same thing two more times. These passages are in Matthew — once in 18:6-9 and again in the Sermon on the Mount at Matthew 5:29-30. I realized that Jesus repeatedly taught this very clear message on salvation addressed to those who “believe in me.” I called it the Heaven Maimed or Hell Whole Principle. It is Jesus’ most repeated message on the salvation principle for those who are already believers.

I gradually realized there was no avoiding that Jesus said a sinning believer who is caught in a serious sin will not go to heaven absent stern steps of repentance where one’s heart turns toward obedience. Clearly, this means there is no eternal security for belief alone, contrary to what I had previ­ously assumed and taught. This also meant Jesus said salva­tion was not guaranteed for faith alone. We had a duty to repent and obey, as well. My long-held beliefs were crushed.

Next, I re-checked my reliance on eternal security in John 10:27-29. I realized Jesus said those who “follow” and “listen,” and “keep” doing so, cannot be “snatched from His hands.” I somehow previously always misread this (with coaching of those who “led” me to Christ). I thought I could not be snatched no matter what, once in Christ. I ignored for years the conditions of obeying Jesus upon which that secu­rity depended in John 10:27-29.

Afterwards, I also looked again at John 3:16, and rec­ognized that “believe in” — in Greek  “pisteusin eis” — was in the active tense — a contin­uous tense. Thus, that “believing” had to continue. And it could mean ‘trust’ and be associated with obedience. Much later, I did a thorough investigation, and found the presence of EIS with PISTEUSIN meant eternal life should result for the one who was “obeying unto” Jesus, not someone merely “believing in” Jesus. Had Jesus meant “believe in,” it would require in Greek that it read “pisteusin EN,” not “EIS.” Now Mark 9:42-47 made even more clear sense.

Next, I realized that Jesus’ words elsewhere repeat­edly invoked the principle of “works worthy of repentance” of which John the Baptist spoke. Jesus said the Baptist was the greatest prophet. But wasn’t he the last prophet of the ‘Old Testa­ment’? Didn’t Jesus supersede John, and now Jesus was explaining to us the faith-alone principles of God that were being set up? Jesus said that kingdom was already within us. But what about this heaven-maimed hell-whole principle which I could no longer ignore? This is Jesus speaking, not John the Baptist.

It did not take me long to figure out that Jesus was saying the same thing as the first bishop of the church at Jeru­salem, James, in his epistle about faith and works. Jesus virtu­ally quotes James’ Epistle in Revelation chapter three where Jesus says the Holy Spirit is about to depart those whose “works” are not “complete,” and are “lukewarm” followers of Jesus. See Revelation 3.

James similarly taught that a faith that has no works “cannot justify” and cannot save. He used the example of not helping the poor, the hungry and the thirsty. I soon noticed that this principle in James identically matched Jesus’ Parable of the Sheep and the Goats. Those who called Jesus Lord but who fail to feed and clothe the poor are sent to hell, but those who likewise call Jesus Lord yet also feed the poor, clothe the naked, etc., go to heaven. (Matthew 25:31-36.) This is exactly what James taught in his epistle. See James 2.

Soon I noticed this heaven-maimed hell-whole princi­ple also matched Jesus’ lesson to not bring your atonement offering to God until you appeased the hurt your sin caused to God or man. Jesus says you must do whatever work worthy of repentance toward the party you know you offended before seeking forgiveness by atonement. (Matthew 5:24.)

The heaven-maimed hell-whole principle also fit Jesus’ Parable of the Unforgiving Servant. This servant was forgiven all his debt but later did not correspondingly forgive others. The Master of that servant then revoked the prior for­giveness, and subjected him to being sent to jail and torment. (Matthew 18:21-35.)

Thus, I soon realized that the heaven-maimed hell-whole principle is not isolated. It appears everywhere in Jesus’ parables. This must be the other half of the Gospel which Jesus was bringing — what placing faith or trust in Christ or what obeying Christ truly means.

Right after writing Jesus’ Words Only in 2006, I next devoted an entire book to study Jesus’ principles on salvation. In Jesus’ Words on Salvation, I found Jesus’ principles clearly repeatedly said faith alone neither saves you nor guar­antees salvation to the sinning believer.2 I explained in that work that we must follow Jesus’ principles, despite Paul’s principles appearing often to be to the contrary.

No Pride of Discovery

There is nothing that anyone who figures this out can boast about. I wondered then, as I do now: ‘How did I miss this all these years?’ It is a shame I missed it for so long. I taught so many people faith alone and eternal security which I thought Paul authoritatively taught. I came to realize I never had any excuse for teaching faith alone and eternal security. I was going along with the crowd. I was also doing what was easy to get others to happily accept. I knew the costly / change-of-life salvation gospel would not easily win over people, and I mocked it as ‘earning’ salvation. Then I came to realize I was not listening to all Paul said. As Second Peter says in 2 Peter 3:15-17, Paul says many obscure and difficult to understand things — things that significantly qualify what Paul appears to say without qualification.

So for example, Paul clearly said four times that if a Christian commits various sins – violating moral rules from the Mosaic Law, such as covetousness, adultery, etc., this means you shall “not inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Cor. 6:9, Ephesian 5:5-7, Galatians 5:19-21, and 1 Thessalonians 4:6-8.)  

How did those who convinced me of faith alone and eternal security avoid these words from Paul? I now studied, and found that they insist that if you fail to inherit the kingdom, you are still in the kingdom, but you lost rewards there. They claim rewards are a gift. And an inheritance is a gift. Hence not inheriting the kingdom supposedly means losing a gift in heaven but you are still there.

However, they ignored two things. First, they also taught salvation was a gift we do not earn. So how can they conclude “inheriting the kingdom” as a reward can not represent salvation? More important, if they were following and listening to Jesus, they would know He said those who “inherit the king­dom” means they have “eternal life.” (Matt. 25:34,46.)  Hence, just reading Paul, I should have seen it is not faith alone that guarantees heaven. I was reading Paul in a manner that minimized his conditions on salvation that made salvation disap­pear due to sins I commit, making Paul’s gospel easier to believe and promote. I got sucked into the Pauline Gos­pel like almost all of you who are reading this. The Pauline Gospel of today is not what Paul even taught  — at least not consistently.

I Had to Reconsider My Rejection of James

Previous to these discoveries, I knew that James con­tradicted Paul in James 2:17-263 on this very same issue I was now struggling over. As Luther said, you can call me a fool if you can ever reconcile James and Paul. So I rejected James ...following Luther’s position. As Luther wrote:

Many sweat hard at reconciling James with Paul, but unsuccessfully. ‘Faith justifies [Romans 3:28] stands in flat contradiction of ‘faith that does not justify’ [James 2:24.] If anyone can harmonize these sayings, I’ll put my doctor’s cap on him and let him call me a fool.4

Previously I thought that Jesus taught faith alone con­trary to James due to the standard translation of John 3:16. So I would follow Jesus, not James, I thought. This was even though Paul told me James — the brother of Jesus — was also an “apostle.” (Gal. 1:19.)5 I concluded Jesus trumps an apostle like James. I always knew that “an apostolos is not greater than the one who sent him” (John 13:16),6  so I would follow Jesus, not James, when they contradict.

Hence, Jesus in that passage told me that His words supersede any apostle’s words to the contrary. Therefore, when I thought faith alone was true and on Jesus’ lips in John 3:16, I felt Jesus told me that His words were superior to any apostle, including James, Jesus’ own brother.

The Jesus’ Words Only Principles That Paul Taught Me First

How could I have rejected James, an Apostle of Jesus Christ according to how Paul identified James in Galatians 1:19? Because Paul said that if he himself or anyone else preached a different gospel than what was received from Christ would be cursed:

Though we, or an angel from heaven, —if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed. (Gal. 1:8-9.)

Hence, Paul taught that no one’s teachings, even James or even Paul’s own teachings (viz., “if we,”), were above Jesus’ teachings. That means Paul taught Jesus’ words as recollected by the apostles under inspiration were greater than James’ words, or Peter’s words, or even Paul’s own words. In fact, Paul put a curse on anyone who followed any apostle’s words above the words of Jesus.

In fact, Paul in this next passage likewise tells Timo­thy that any teaching by “any man” (whether Paul, James, or the twelve or others) in the church which conflicts with Jesus’ true words must be rejected as a proud man whose views must be deemed produced by envy and evil thoughts:

If any man gives different teaching, not in agree­ment with the true words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the teaching which is in agreement with true religion, He has an over-high opinion of himself; being without knowledge, having only an unhealthy love of questionings and wars of words, from which come envy, fighting, cruel words, evil thoughts... (I Tim. 6:3-4, Basic Bible in English.)

Apostle John similarly taught that when we depart from Christ’s teaching by listening to someone else’s teach­ings that go beyond Jesus’ teachings, we are no longer in Christ or the Father. Thus, we must remain in Christ’s teach­ings to continue in our relationship with Christ and the Father. Apostle John writes in 2 John 1:8-11 (Websters' Bible):

(8) Watch yourselves, that we [i.e., the twelve apos­tles] don't lose the things which we have accom­plished, but that we receive a full reward. (9) Whoever transgresses [or goes beyond] 14 and doesn’t remain in the teaching of Christ, doesn't have God. He who remains in the teaching [of Jesus Christ], the same has both the Father and the Son.

Hence, James, even if he were a true apostle as Paul says in Galatians 1:19, cannot give us a lesson that is superior to that of Jesus. Hence, because I thought James 2:17-26 con­flicted with Jesus, for years I applied Jesus’ words as superior to James’ words. I relied upon John 3:16 to believe in faith alone.7 

As of 1997, I was still holding onto faith alone. I knew I had the greatest ally of the Reformation on my side to reject James’ view. Luther, the co-founder of Protestantism in 1517 with Carlstadt, said in 1522 that James did not have recognizable inspiration and thus should be viewed as infe­rior to Paul. Luther called James’ letter an “epistle of straw” because of the faith-alone contradiction with Paul.8 To repeat what is quoted above, Luther said he would give his doctor’s cap to anyone who could reconcile Paul’s words that ‘faith’ justifies to James 2:17-34 that says “faith alone” does not jus­tify;9 and if it could be done, Luther would allow this person to call him a “fool.”10 This conflict requires a choice. Only years later, did I realize Jesus tells us emphatically which of the two — James or Paul —to follow.

My Elder’s Response to My Question

Now in 1997, I had to find out how my Protestant church answers Mark 9:42-47. I was suspecting that by the same principle I applied to “Apostle” James as Paul called him (Galatians 1:19), I was going to have to follow Jesus, not Paul, on this issue. I would have to reject Paul’s contrary teaching even if Paul were an apostle because of Jesus’ words that “an apostolos is not greater than the one who sent him” (John 16:13). This principle applies as much against Paul as I applied it against James to dismiss him beforehand. Hence, I knew unless some explanation applied, I must treat Paul as inferior to Jesus just as I previously treated James that way when the shoe was on the other foot. If my elder saw the con­tradiction, Paul would be as equally invalid on salvation as I had once treated James as invalid on salvation.

So I went to an elder in the church and asked after ser­vice one day what he thought about Mark 9:42-47. His response was the following:

“Jesus was speaking to a different dispensation. We are under grace, and once saved always saved applies in the Gospel of Grace.”

I responded:

“Does this mean we are free to ignore what Jesus taught?”

The elder responded in essence that yes, we can ignore these teachings of Jesus. The elder explained, as many others since then have repeated to me, that Jesus sent Paul three years after Jesus’ Ascension with a different gospel than Jesus gave the twelve because Israel had rejected the first Gospel of Jesus. The gospel Jesus gave Paul was suppos­edly entirely re-designed from the gospel Jesus taught the twelve. The new gospel appeals primarily to Gentiles based upon its relaxed nature. It is relaxed so that there are no conditions except faith alone. This Paul-Gospel of Grace supposedly replaced the gospel Jesus gave the twelve. The new gospel was designed to allow Gentiles to enter without any works of repentance, good works, etc; they only needed to believe that Jesus died for their sins and resurrected, as Paul taught in 1 Cor. 15:1-4.

I did not know then this was a formalized doctrine known as Dispensationalism among Evangelicals, and Cove­nant Theology among Calvinists.

All I immediately thought at the time is how odd that we could just get rid of all the four gospels essentially, and extract out bits that might match Paul, particularly from John, and then preach that. Yet, I did not challenge the elder. I went home and studied.

What gnawed at me, and should any Christian, is that there is supposedly two different gospels in the New Testa­ment. One so displaces the other that you would supposedly do no harm to yourself if you did not read anything Jesus said in the four gospels. You just have to believe Jesus died for your sins and rose from the dead, and Paul says “you shall be saved.” (1 Cor. 15:1-10.)

I know I taught this for years. However, I never real­ized what was being marginalized in preaching: the full scope of what Jesus truly taught on salvation.

Now I began to ponder whether we should be ignor­ing Paul, and whether I was wrong previously to ignore James. But if we ignore Paul, I was asking myself whether we would be ignoring many quotations of Jesus given by revela­tion to Paul? If Paul quoted Jesus often, I thought that would be troublesome to ignore Paul. So I researched this question: ‘What is the cost to Jesus’ words if we treat Paul just like Luther told us to treat “Apostle” James, the brother of Jesus?’11 Luther told us to ignore the epistle of “Apostle” James (as Paul identified him as an apostle in Galatians 1:6) for contradicting Paul. What must we do if we discover it is the other way around: that it is Paul who contra­dicts Jesus and must be ignored?

Paul Never Quotes A Revelation to Himself of A Teaching of Jesus

Fortunately, I realized quickly there is no conse­quence on Jesus’ teachings if we entirely ignore Paul. For Paul teaches many doctrines in all his epistles. However, he does so without ever quoting Jesus giving him the specific message that Paul was teaching.

First, Paul does not give any teachings in his epistles that quote Jesus from the Gospels to support a teaching of Paul. In fact, Paul’s only verifiable quote from Jesus in the Gospels is the Communion Liturgy — Jesus’ words at the Last Supper. Paul repeats these words, and offers no explana­tion given to Paul by revelation from Jesus about their mean­ing. Hence, by dismissing Paul, we lose no quotes of Jesus uniquely from Paul regarding any of Jesus’ words that also appear in the Gospels.12 

And only once in Paul’s epistles does Paul quote the Jesus of Paul’s revelations. This quote too was not apparently to support a teaching. Also, it was an extremely odd revela­tion, to say the least. This is when Paul’s Jesus refuses to release Paul from a torment of an “Angel of Satan” so that Paul learns humility.13 The Jesus of the Damascus Wilder­ness tells Paul that “my grace is sufficient for thee.” (2 Cor. 12:7.) In other words, Paul’s Jesus says ‘I have already shown you enough favor’ (grace). These words expressed a refusal to show Paul any more grace. There is no teaching in these words that Paul then expounds upon.

So there is no doctrine which Paul teaches that he sup­ports by quoting a revelation given to him directly by Jesus.

This means if we ignore Paul’s epistles, we are not ignoring any quotes from Jesus on doctrine directly given to Paul.

Conclusion

Was my elder justified in so easily disregarding Jesus’ teachings at odds with Paul’s teachings? Must we follow Paul’s teachings when they contradict Jesus when Paul does not even cite a revelation from Jesus in support? Where did this notion come from that there are two different gospels in the New Testament? And how can Paul’s gospel supposedly sup­plant Jesus’ gospel? In time, I learned of the doctrine of dis­pensationalism and its twin, Covenant Theology. These views teach that first supposedly was the Gospel to the circumcision. This allegedly reflects the entire scope of Jesus’ teachings heard by the twelve. However, this gospel was supposedly withdrawn by God when it was allegedly rejected by the Jews. (This is untrue, proven by Acts 21 where James tells Paul many myriads — tens of thousands — of Jews had come to follow Christ.) Then there was supposedly a second gospel which replaced the first, but this time extended to both Jews and Gentiles. This was the Gospel of Grace from Paul. But the question remained: “How and when did evangelical Christianity come up with the notion to follow solely the gos­pel of Paul, despite even being aware that it contradicted Jesus? Despite Jesus’ last words before Ascending being: “teach the nations everything I commanded you?”

Hence began the quest to determine whether Jesus is supposed to be our “sole teacher”  — our source for doctrine —in the New Testament? Or whether Paul supplanted Jesus’ teachings. The question I found is who do we follow — Jesus or Paul?

1.   The Greek is “pisteusin eis” — the same language as in John 3:16 that is translated as “believe in.” Thus, while the ASV has this “believe on,” we change this here to conform to most others that render this as “believe in” such as the NIV, the King James, Websters, etc. While later we shall see John 3:16 uses this expression clearly to mean “obey unto,” I am here explaining my start on this path assumed that all the translations were correct rendering the verb pisteuo as “believe.”

2.   See Jesus’ Words on Salvation (2008).

3.   James 2:17-26 ASV: “17 Even so faith, if it have not works, is dead in itself. 18 Yea, a man will say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: show me thy faith apart from thy works, and I by my works will show thee my faith. 19 Thou believest that God is one; thou doest well: the demons also believe, and shudder. 20 But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith apart from works is barren? 21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works, in that he offered up Isaac his son upon the altar? 22 Thou seest that faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect; 23 and the scripture was fulfilled which saith, And Abra­ham believed God, and it was reckoned unto him for righteousness; and he was called the friend of God. 24 Ye see that by works a man is justified, and not only by faith. 25 And in like manner was not also Rahab the harlot justified by works, in that she received the messen­gers, and sent them out another way? 26 For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, even so faith apart from works is dead.”

4.   Quoted in Jason Van Vliet, Ed., Living Waters from Ancient Springs: Essays in Honor of Cornelis Van Dam (Wipf and Stock Publish­ers, 2011) at 103. Quoted also in W. G. Kummel, The New Testament: The History of the Investigation of its Problems (Nashville/New York: Abingdon, 1972) at 26.

5.   Galatians 1:19 ASV: “But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord’s brother.” James, the author of the epistle, refers to himself as the Lord’s brother. It is recognized that this epistle was writ­ten by James who was the Lord’s brother, serving as the first bishop of the church at Jerusalem. Thus, Paul put this James on at least an equal level to the twelve.

6.   Young’s Literal. It is notable that the noun “apostolos” in John 13:16 is improperly translated as “he that is sent” (King James / ASV / ESV) — a verb construction for what is simply a noun. The only correct ver­sions using “apostle” are Young’s Literal, the Aramaic Gospel, the Jubilee Bible, and the Douay-Rheims. This is why I like checking important passages against what the Young’s Literal says.

7.   We will learn together here that John 3:16 does not say what we are told that it says. In Greek, it clearly says that “whoever obeys unto Him (the son) should have everlasting life.” This is repeated by John the Baptist only twenty verses later in John 3:36, but even more emphatically.

8.   Eric Laws & Sophie Laws, Epistle of James (A&C Black, 2001) at 1.

9.   James wrote: “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.” (James 2:24 ESV.) Paul says “a person is justified by faith without the deeds of the Law.” (Romans 3:28 KJV.)

Interestingly, Paul never actually says that “faith alone” justifies, but instead is made to say that by Luther in a deliberate alteration of Romans 3:28 in 1522. Luther added “alone” when it was not present. Luther’s opponents raised this objection, and he responded condemn­ing them despite admitting his translation had no word ‘alone’ to sup­port it. Luther replied to an ally on how to respond: “Please do not give these asses any other answer to their useless braying about that word ‘sola’ [i.e., only] than simply ‘Luther will have it so, and he says that he is a doctor above all the papal doctors.’...It is...not only right but also necessary to say it as plainly and forcefully as possible: ‘Faith alone saves without works!’ See, “Sendbrief von Dolmetschen” in Dr. Martin Luther's Werke (Weimar: Hermann Boehlaus Nachfolger, 1909) Band 30, Teil II, at 632-646 translated by Gary Mann, Ph.D. (available online at Christian Classics Ethereal Library http://www.ccel.org/ccel/luther/translating.ii.html (accessed 3/12/2017).

10.    See Footnote 4 on page 6.

11.   “But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord's brother.” (Gal. 1:19 KJV.)

Jerome, the famous translator of the Vulgate Bible, claimed James, the brother of Jesus, was one of the twelve apostles who was called James the son of Alphaeus. “Jerome...proposed that James, son of Alphaeus, was to be identified with ‘James, the brother of the Lord” (Gal.1:19)...The view of Jerome...became widely accepted in the Roman Catholic Church.....Geike (1884) states that Hausrath, Del­itzsch, and Schenkel think James the brother of Jesus was the son of Clophas-Alphaeus.” (See “James, Son of Alphaeus,” Wikipedia (accessed 3/11/2017).)

However, Jerome is likely in error that James, the author of the epistle bearing that name, was an apostle. Rather, James was the brother of Jesus, but likely not an apostle, yet whom the twelve appointed as bishop of Jerusalem, as Eusebius records.

12.   Some claim a second quote of Jesus from the gospels appears in 1 Tim. 5:18. Paul cites “Scripture” that says a “worker is worthy of his wage.” This paraphrases Deuteronomy which says substantively the same thing. Paul does not say he is quoting Jesus. Because Jesus was para­phrasing Deuteronomy too, there is not enough support to prove Paul was doing anything more than what Jesus was doing.

13.   Typically, this is minimized to “messenger of Satan” so you do not as readily see the actual words are highly problematic to Paul’s validity.