Paul Endorses Jesus Words Only As A Test of Orthodoxy
Paul says anyone whose words contradict those of Jesus in his teaching is to be rejected as a man of pride. Paul thus endorses Jesus' Words Only as a test of orthodoxy. Paul states:
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.)
The verse begins by saying if "anyone preaches differently" -- the Greek is heterodidaskalei --- and "does not assent" /agree (proserchetai) to the "sound teachings of the Master Messiah Jesus," then such a person has pride and understands nothing. In Greek, the phrase "and to godly teaching" is not distinct from Jesus's teaching previously mentioned, but is "a more especial explanation of the preceding" reference to Jesus' teaching. (Hermann Olshausen, Biblical Commentary (Sheldon: 1866) Vol. 6 at 150.)
Gary Smalley properly translates this as Paul saying that if anyone "advocates a different doctrine, and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ," then they are guilty of pride. (Smalley, Bound by Honor (2000) at 156.)
Hence, Paul makes Jesus's words the highest authority in the church, and hence the test of anyone's doctrine.
As McQuilken comments on this passage, Paul appealed to the "teaching of Jesus as having the highest authority," in obedience to Jesus's final commission which was for the apostles to teach the "nations [i.e., Gentiles] everything I have commanded." (Matt. 28:20.) (J. Robertson McQuilken, An Introduction to Biblical Ethics (1995) at 49.)
Paul's verse comports with the elevated importance that Jesus put on His own words. Our Lord said: "There is a judge for the one who ... does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day." (John 12:48, NIV).
Paul is also in accord with Jeremiah's criticism about interloping prophets who steal the Lord's Words from listeners by making rival claims to authority: "Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, saith the LORD, that steal my words every one from his neighbour." (Jeremiah 23:30, KJV.)
Paul Taught False Teachers Lead Us To Doctrine Not In Harmony With Christ
Likewise, in Colossians 2:8, Paul warns us against teaching based upon "human tradition" that is "not in harmony with Christ." (Translation of Mark Heber Miller, Nazarene Commentary (2010) at 502.) This indeed is close to the most literal translation:
8 Be watching-out that there will not be anyone taking you captive through philosophy and empty deception according-to[a] the tradition of humans, according to the elemental things[b] of the world, and not according to Christ (Col. 2:8, Disciples Literal New Testament.)
Mark Miller - as pro-Paul as you will ever find, nevertheless explains the meaning of a teaching "not in harmony with Christ" as follows:
Not in harmony with Christ: A disciple of Christ, or Friend of the Nazarene, is a learner of Jesus Christ, their master and teacher. There is a serious danger that modern disciples may spend more time on the doctrines of men rather than the teachings of Jesus. If a disciple must ask, 'Where did I learn it myself by Bible study [of Jesus' words]? Or is it something I automatically assumed because I was raised this way?' (Id., at 502.)
I added in brackets "of Jesus' words" because previously he referred to "the teachings of Jesus." Hardly should we suppose he was now shifting his point. Even if he meant to put Paul on par with Jesus, would Paul have meant this in Colossians 2:8? Or rather, was not Paul himself referring back to a source of doctrine higher than Paul's own words of his own personal thoughts? It clearly was the latter.
Likewise, Paul Decried Placing Affections Upon Apostles Over Christ
In a similar vein, Paul was upset with the Corinthians whose affection for individual apostles had taken affection off of Christ -- the foundation, creating divisions within the church. (1 Cor. 3:4-11.)
Clement, bishop of Rome pre-69 AD, quoted these passages from Paul, and commented on what Paul meant. Clement's letter was part of the first Christian canon. In First Clement 19:22, a letter to the Corinthians, Clement says Paul meant that "your partiality then led you into a...sin: forasmuch as ye placed your affections upon Apostles, men of 'eminent reputation in the church;' ...."
Hence, this is completely consistent with Paul making Jesus's words the final and highest authority, or otherwise, we risk giving partiality of affection to the messenger (apostle) over the one with the Message.
Paul Implies We Are Safe Ignoring The Words of Anyone But Jesus
If Paul's words were recorded prior to the completion or wide circulation of Matthew's Gospel, as scholars contend, what would a follower of Paul do once they have Jesus' words in Matthew before them?
They would turn from Paul, and let him decrease so Christ, and the proper attention for Him, would increase.
Thus, Paul's command in 1 Tim. 6:3-4 also implies that once Matthew's Gospel circulated, Paul's previous words -- unless a direct quote of Jesus (which Paul only provides from Luke's account of the Last Supper) were no longer necessary to teach. Paul himself says, in effect, all you need are the "true words of our Lord Jesus." If Jesus' words are the test of orthodoxy, as Paul says, then we don't need anyone else's words to consider or confuse us. Their messages can "steal" the message of the Lord, if by nothing else than by gaining affection over the words of our Lord Jesus.
Thus, the only theological discussions we should be having are in depth discussions about what did Jesus mean. When it comes to 'theology' / 'faith', we must always advance Jesus's teaching, and never advance anyone else's religious doctrine, including our own. After Matthew's Gospel came out, this principle applied just as much to Paul's doctrine.
Well, I would teach 1 Tim. 6:3-4 - the principle of JWO from Paul himself! And the message from Paul himself was, once Matthew's recording of Jesus' words was in print, that Paul became an unessential source of teaching.
Any other teacher being a focus of attention, like John the Baptist realized, could take the focus off of Jesus, and such persons must recede, and be forced to recede humbly into the background....This goes most of all for Paul because way too much emphasis is given Paul over the words of Jesus.
The Cure For All The Division Within Christianity Is Paul's Message in 1 Tim. 6:3-4
If this one principle from Paul that Jesus's words are the "highest authority," and everyone, even Paul (for no human is beyond temptation to sin in having a 'high opinion' of themself), is tested against Jesus's words, we would have a transformation.
For it is Paul whose words are "not in agreement with the true words of the Lord Jesus Christ." Instead, Paul's words contradict Jesus (see below for a brief list) and are filled with an "unhealthy love of questionings and wars of words...." If we followed this one verse from Paul, we would be compelled to reject every unique doctrine Paul holds which are all at odds with Jesus, such as ....
Contradictions of Jesus By Paul
Eating Meat Sacrificed to Idols. The most notorious contradiction is that Paul plainly contradicts Jesus on eating meat sacrificed to idols -- not a big issue today but one that was big in the first century church. See JWO at 113 et seq.
Pharisees -- Are They Law-negators (As Jesus Says) Or Legalists (As Paul Says)? Jesus teaches the Pharisees were unjustified because they shallowly taught and followed the Law -- preferring the lesser commands to the greater commands (Matt.23:23). See JWOS at 147 et seq. In the same vein, Jesus reveals the Pharisees emphasized the oral law, making such tradition nullify the commands of the Law given Moses. (Matt. 15:6.) Jesus also exposed the Pharisees lopped off the Tenth Commandment to not lust after the wife of another man (adultery in the heart). The Pharisees claimed adultery could only be committed if physical relations took place. (JWOS at 165 et seq.) Jesus said lust for a (married) woman - gunaika -- was just as much adultery as the actual act. (Id.) As Jesus demonstrates in the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector, the Pharisees comforted themselves on two points -- the oral law (which Jesus said elsewhere was misplaced) and that they were not adulterers like other men -- which Jesus said was specifically based on a wrong self-examination in His admonishment that adulterous lust was as wrong as the deed. JWOS at 27 et seq.
In contradiction of Jesus, Paul taught the opposite about the Pharisees. Paul said they kept the law so rigorously that they were completely righteous in obeying it (JWOS at 32 fn 5 quoting Phil. 3:5-6). The way Paulinists interpret this is that Paul meant the Pharisees were in error due to lacking faith rather than failing to repent of sin because, as Paul portrays them, the Pharisees had no sin to repent about. They were completely righteous in complying with the Law. (Phil. 3:5-6.) Thus, Paul's portrayal, not Christ's, is the standard refrain. Based on this, we are told that faith alone justifies rather than what Jesus said in the Parable of the Pharisee & The Tax Collector -- that the repentant Tax Collector went home justified, and not the shallow and law-negating Pharisee.
The Abiding Importance of the Law. The most fundamental contradiction of all between Jesus and Paul is that Jesus teaches in the KOG that those who teach you not to follow the least command in the Law and Prophets are the least, but those who do them and teach you to follow them are the greatest. (JWOS at 126 quoting Matt. 5:19.)
But Paul repeatedly teaches against the keeping of the Law, and insists it is nullified, done away with, and in Romans 7 goes so far as to say that even Jews are loosed from it by virtue of Jesus's death severing the bonds of the husband (Yahweh) to the old Law, thereby releasing His wife (Israel) from the Law. (JWO at 71 et seq.; See also "In Romans 7, Paul Teaches The God of Sinai is Dead.")
For other verses where Paul abrogates the Law, see 2 Cor. 2:14 ("old covenant"); Gal. 5:1 ("yoke of bondage"); Rom. 10:4 ("Christ is end of the law"); 2 Cor. 3:7 ("law of death"); Gal. 5:1 ("entangles"); Col. 2:14-17 ("a shadow"); Rom. 3:27 ("law of works"); Rom. 4:15 ("works wrath"); 2 Cor. 3:9 (ministration of condemnation); Gal. 2:16 ("cannot justify"); Gal. 3:21 (cannot give life); Col. 2:14 ("wiped out" exaleipsas); Gal. 3:19, 4:8-9 ("given by angels...who are no gods [and are] weak and beggarly celestial beings/elements").
On a thorough compilation of the many contradictions by Paul of Jesus, see our webpage "The Contradictions of Jesus by Paul."
Let's Obey Paul On This Point About JWO
So when Paul tells us to reject anyone whose teachings "are not in agreement with the true words of Jesus," let's obey Paul at least in this one regard! But this means that Paul demands we reject Paul himself! For he was such a teacher of a message on key issues directly at odds with Jesus.