Paulinist Tares: How Do We Treat Them?
What Is A Paulinist?
A Paulinist is one who (1) emphasizes teachings in Paul at odds with those of Jesus, and (2) exhorts us to treat Jesus' contrary words as part of a prior defunct dispensation or covenant.
The most famous example of this is Bultmann in 1929. This famous and influential theologian relied upon Paul in 2 Cor. 5:16 as instructing us that any teachings of Jesus before His resurrection are no longer important. Bultmann argues that Paul meant in 2 Cor. 5:16 that only the lessons Jesus imparted to Paul after Jesus's resurrection have any ongoing importance. Bultmann says Jesus's earthly teachings are therefore correctly "irrelevant," and Paul was the first to explain this to us. See this webpage for our discussion of Bultmann's influential claims based upon his reading of 2 Cor. 5:16.
This has strengthened support for the popular dispensational and covenant theology claims of today. In these popular views, Jesus's words largely apply only to a defunct dispensation, i.e., the covenant of Law which supposedly died at the Cross. Only rarely and exceptionally did Jesus's teachings in the flesh allegedly have any bearing on the message that Jesus would reveal through Paul which supposedly alone applies today.
Examples of Supposedly Defunct Doctrines of Jesus
For example, Jesus emphasizes the continuity of the Law in Matt. 5:17-19 ("he who practices and teaches [the Law] shall be called the greatest in the KOG"). However, this is contradicted by Paul in numerous places, especially regarding its application to Jews in Romans 7:1 et seq. [JWO:78]. (See also our webpage discussion of Romans 7:1-6.)
Thus, many dismiss Matthew 5:17-19 on the ground it belongs to the dispensation of Law which was supposedly nullified by the dispensation of Grace which Paul brought. (Or even worse, based on Paul's presumed validity, evangelical scholars Pettingill & Torrey conclude this passage is a false addition by a judaizer. See our discussion of Pettingill & Torrey from 1997.)
Similarly, Jesus repeatedly emphasizes a "believer in me" who is "ensnared" has a necessity to repent and turn from sins -- "heaven maimed" or "hell whole" (as Jesus put it in Mark 9:42-47). However, based upon selected passages in Paul's epistles, the necessity of repentance from sin is now dismissed as a "works righteousness" of a defunct dispensation. Paul is viewed to have taught Abraham was justified soley by faith without repentance in Romans 4:3-6. This principle of grace supposedly supplants Jesus's Law-based / repentance-based doctrine of salvation. [JWOS: 484.] Paul had to rely upon a Septuagint mistranslation of Genesis 15:6 to justify a view relied upon by others to contradict our Savior's salvation message. See this link.
As a result, teachers like Charles Stanley say that once we are initially justified, we need no longer fear our subsequent sins will ever cause a loss of salvation, relying on Paul's verses interpreted to teach eternal security, e.g., Eph. 2:8-9.[JWOS:259.] Jesus's contrary doctrine of "hell whole" or "heaven maimed" (Mark 9:42-47) is left by them to a defunct dispensation where disobedience at one time mattered for salvation. In its place, Paulinists teach that sin by a Christian no longer matters for salvation because Paul supposedly teaches a new dispensation of 'grace' based upon 'faith alone,' not works.
Paulinists thus are those who teach obedience and good deeds are no longer relevant to our salvation, fully cognizant that this doctrine is at complete odds with Jesus's words in Mark 9:42-47 and numerous passages catalogued in Jesus' Words on Salvation. They acknowledge the contradiction, and dismiss Jesus' contrary doctrine as solely applicable to a prior dispensation of Law. In fact, they claim the contradiction between Jesus and Paul proves there are two dispensations and Jesus's teachings in the Gospels therefore supposedly represent a defunct set of lessons.
Paulinism, as I thus narrowly define it, is called today by the name of Dispensationalism among evangelicals and as certain versions of Covenant Theology among Reformed congregations in the Calvinist tradition. It is highly influenced by Bultmann's thesis that Paul has the more valid revelation than the 12 apostles because supposedly Paul received it after Jesus' resurrection.
Personal Encounter With A Paulinist That Started My Quest For An Answer
To give a personal example, I first confronted Paulinism long before I questioned Paul. I once quoted to an elder Jesus' verses insisting upon repentance from sin to enter heaven maimed or not at all in Mark 9:42-47. The elder at this Reformed church told me that "this principle belongs to a prior dispensation." I asked "What does this mean? Are we supposed to ignore Jesus?" The elder responded: "Paul teaches us we are under grace, not the Law. Abraham was justified without repentance, right? So in the NT dispensation, sin simply separates us from a happy relationship with God; it does not cause us to go to hell. Once in grace, always in grace."
This conversation was one of the key reasons why I wished to explore why the church ignores the words of Jesus. If true, why did our Lord say His words would never die even though heaven and earth will pass away? Matt. 24:35.
Paul Maybe Was Not A Paulinist!
Would Paul agree with my elder I quoted above that Jesus' words on salvation are supplanted legitimately by Paul dispensing a superior dispensation of Grace?
I imagine that if Paul himself could today see Jesus' words he would find some way to re-explain himself so as not to be interpreted to contradict Jesus.
First, Paul endorsed that Jesus' words have a priority over anyone else's words, and that anyone who contradicts Jesus is a man full of pride. (See our webpage explaining Paul endorses JWO in I Tim. 6:3-4.)
Furthermore, I document in my book Jesus' Words on Salvation that Paul often talks like Jesus about salvation as contingent on repentance and obedience. (JWOS:469-81.) But, like Second Peter says, many "twist" Paul's "difficult to understand" words and make many fall from "their steadfastness in Christ." These false teachers relied upon such twistings to have Paul justify "not obeying the holy commandments." (See my discussion on Second Peter at this link.)
Thus, these ones twisting Paul's words to contradict Christ deliberately to encourage disobedience to Christ's teachings are those who sow a seed for the enemy of Christ: Satan. For unabashed examples, see JWOS: 209 and 212. (Be aware, Second Peter admits the fault is partly Paul's as his words are "difficult to understand.")[Note: For an updated webpage of Paulinism examples, see our page on Paulinism quotes.]
I pray Paul was not deliberately contradicting Christ. No one should ever construe me as saying otherwise. I assume Paul's good faith. Even if Paul is the "Benjamite Wolf" prophesied in Genesis 49 (as I contend) does not mean Paul with evil intent tried to fulfill that prophecy. He simply could have been a dupe of the blinding light figure in Paul's vision, if not Christ. (On who else might have been the Blinding Light, see this link.) This means Paul would have taken certain actions which fulfill that prophecy in a good faith (but mistaken) belief he was serving God.
Who then are the agents of the enemy of Christ? Paulinists as I have narrowly defined them until they repent, and make Jesus their Sole Teacher once again! (Matt. 23:8-11.) Paulinists are those who twist Paul's words to come out at odds with our Lord and Savior's words as a means of discouraging obedience to Jesus' teachings. They are the ones who are clearly in the wrong.
Paulinists can see the contradiction (and they admit it!), but in defiance of Jesus Christ, they choose an opposite message to follow. Paulinists adopt a specious dispensationalism to reconcile Paul and Jesus. But their doctrine is a house of cards, because it is dependent on viewing Paul as (a) 100% inspired and (b) his words on a superior plane over Jesus's words recorded by the twelve. It is these two baseless assumptions which have led to the modern phenomenon of a significant portion of the evangelical and Reformed branches of the Protestant church deliberately marginalizing Jesus's teachings.
What Duty Do Those Who Guard Jesus' Words Over Paul's Words Have Toward Paulinists?
How do we handle those people sown by the evil one (Satan) vying for mastery in doctrine over Christ?
Jesus told us the answer in the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares. See http://biblia.com/books/nkjv/Mt13.24-30.
This parable teaches you leave them for judgment day to be separated out from your fellowship with believers. The best commentary always taught this parable is a lesson by Jesus to tolerate heretics; you do not try to dissassociate from them. (Chrysostum, 300's; Castellio, Menno, Luther.)
Jesus only taught us to leave the one whose home we gave a greeting of "Shalom" and resided in as part of ministry who later proved unworthy of our greeting. Jesus said as you depart your "Shalom" will come back to you, implying you should not give the honorful greeting of "Shalom" to that person further.
This passage begins with Jesus advising in ministry to seek out a worthy person as you enter a new town, and stay in that one place to do ministry, and then Jesus said:
And as ye enter into the house, salute it.
13 And if the house be worthy, let your peace [Shalom] come upon it: but if it be not worthy, let your peace [Shalom] return to you.
14 And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words, as ye go forth out of that house or that city, shake off the dust of your feet. (Matt. 10:12-14, ASV.)
One of Jesus' twelve apostles, John, comparably said that if someone does not remain in the teaching of Jesus Christ (like avowed Dispensationalists who expressly eschew following Jesus' words), then do not invite them into your home and give them no greeting / your "Shalom" (Peace). Apostle John wrote:
9 Whosoever goeth onward and abideth not in the teaching of Christ, hath not God: he that abideth in the teaching, the same hath both the Father and the Son.
10 If any one cometh unto you, and bringeth not this teaching, receive him not into your house, and give him no greeting:
11 for he that giveth him greeting partaketh in his evil works. (2 John 1:9-11, ASV.)
The word "greeting" here in Hebrew would likely be "Shalom." John is only saying do not invite the one who no longer abides in the teachings of Christ into your home, and do not give your honorific "Shalom" (Peace) greeting to them. But John does not say never to speak to such a person, or never to socialize with them outside your home. They are your mission field, and require love and service to bring them back to Christ -- fully -- and not to be left crippled because they have consciously abandoned Christ's teachings for select ones of Paul.
Hence, neither John nor Jesus tell us to never talk with those who no longer abide in the teachings of Christ. While John and Jesus both indicate socializing in one another's home is no longer to be done and not to give them a greeting which would imply approval of them, Jesus clearly tells us in the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares to not expel heretics from your company.
While Paulinists of today may want to expel from a church assembly those who follow Jesus as the Sole Teacher -- as they regard it as heretical to treat Paul's words as inferior to Christ's words, your duty is not to treat them likewise by expelling them from your personal socializing and fellowship. Follow the Master who told you tolerance is the appropriate response.
What if they abuse you by constantly preaching Paul at you, and keep insisting he is an apostle of Jesus' Christ, aware that you have disproven this assertion but they ignore the evidence? And you are begging them to teach something from Christ Himself? (My experience keeping records of sermons over 5 years shows a 13-1 ratio in favor of preaching Paul over Christ's words in Paulinist churches.) Then you need to confront them in teaching sessions with the truth in love. Then if they try to refuse to let you attend their assembly (if you otherwise wish to participate) for your adherence to the Savior, it is their persecution of you. Not your decision. Then leave. An assembly is a voluntary association. If others do not want you present, Jesus never says to force yourself upon others. I would apply the 'shake the dust off your shoes' principle to all there, and move on.
How To Handle One-on-One Such Differences over Jesus' Level of Authority
Thus, in one-on-one conversation, I don't begin by trying to tell good Christians to dump Paul. No, I tell them what Jesus taught. You can go to heaven maimed or hell whole. (Mark 9:42-47.) If they then start telling me Paul said this or that, I respond -- in stages -- with the following message:
'I stick with Jesus first and foremost. You have to prove to me Paul is an apostle and a prophet whose teachings legitimately can supercede those of Christ before I vary from Jesus's teachings. But if you admit Paul says the same thing as Christ, then we don't need Paul anyway to tell us the same thing, do we? Then the only reason for you to hold onto Paul is if you know he contradicts Christ. Then the reason you do so must be because you want to supplant our Lord with a different teacher with a different doctrine. I will never be tempted to reject my Lord's words by such a treacherous betrayal of our Master. Jesus prohibited this when He demanded that He is the sole teacher. Let's obey Christ and not be muddled in confusion by a different voice than Christ's and whose words are difficult to understand.
When I thus challenge good Christians about what gives Paul any true authority, most have no idea what proves Paul is an apostle of Jesus Christ. (Nothing other than self-serving statements by Paul.) Nor do they have any idea what proves him a prophet. (Absolutely nothing).
Often they make themselves look foolish -- even to themselves. One elder told me Paul was one of the 12 apostles until I reminded him Matthias, not Paul, replaced Judas in Acts 1 by the Holy Spirit's direction. The elder had that 'deer in the headlights' look, he was so shocked.
So Paulinists end up stumped. If they love Paul more than Jesus, they end up frustrated as nothing from the Lord Jesus substantiates their beliefs! They are stunned to learn in none of the 3 vision accounts between Jesus and Paul (as Luke recounts them) does Jesus appoint Paul an apostle. The blinding light figure (whom Paul assumed was Jesus) appoints Paul as a WITNESS -- not as an APOSTLE. A "martus" (witness) not an "apostolos" (messenger) in Greek. See Acts chs. 9, 22 & 26. When the Paulinist is confronted by such facts which they cannot answer, they end up muttering hateful invectives -- a form of persecution which our Lord told us to patiently and lovingly endure.
But be of good cheer, because if you have "kept guard of [Jesus'] words,' He promises those doing so "should have Eternal Life." (Jn 8:52.)
The Purpose of Jesus's Command in the Parable of the Wheat & The Tares
Why did Jesus give us this instruction to leave the tares alone in the Parable of the Wheat and the Tares? Because He also told us to love our enemies. Any enemy of Christ deserves what? Our love. What about those sown by the enemy? They likewise are owed love, for the same reason. Even if we do not personally invite such a one into our house or greet them with "Shalom," it does not mean we do not love them. It does not mean we do not talk to them at all. We merely show them no special honor or friendship.
Yet, if such initial tares prove to love Jesus Christ more than Paul, they are not a true enemy at all, but are brave brothers and sisters in Christ whom we would naturally love due to a family connection. More and more each day I find such Christians who are fellowshipping in Paulinist churches but whom when the Master Jesus calls them, they respond properly to preserve His status as Sole Teacher and Divine Lord. They refuse to dishonor Jesus by dismissing His words to a prior dispensation.
If, on the other hand, you encounter someone who excessively loves Paul to the point they are willing to dump Jesus's teachings on repentance, the Law and true faith into a prior defunct dispensation (e.g., certain followers of Covenant Theology / Dispensationalism), then they are sown by the enemy of Jesus Christ.
But then our command from the Sole Teacher and Divine Lord says to love our enemies and do good to them who persecute us. And by obeying Jesus, you will become more like your Master. In the end, He surrendered His life in obedience as an act of love even to those who then hated Him. You too might one day have to surrender things you hold dear to help those who actually are the enemies of Christ yet who sincerely believe they are friends of Christ.
Thus, we must show love and patience to all Paulinists. We can only pray that they will do likewise toward us in obedience to Jesus if they view Sole Teacher-Christians as flawed. In this way, UNITY based on love will grow from among worshippers. Presumably Jesus also intended on our maintaining unity of spirit despite disagreements because whoever is the true tare would learn from the true wheat what is True. So let's keep fellowshipping and worshipping together (which can be done at lunch, at a park, etc., and not necessarily at a church building) -- Paulinist and Sole Teacher followers -- each with an open mind, prepared to hear whatever good and noble lessons each can share, and praying with and loving one another.
Blessings to all
Doug (Feb 15 2011).
P.S. Some have responded disgruntled that I don't lead a church to protect strict followers of Jesus from such persecution. Jesus anticipated this. He gave this answer:
18 “If the world hates you, [a]you know that it has hated Me before it hatedyou.19 If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, because of this the world hates you.20 Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. (John 15:18-20 NASB)
Follow Jesus' logic: Anyone who keeps Jesus' words would follow those who teach Jesus' words. They will not be your opponents. Who are your opponents? Those who do not keep Jesus' words. Jesus says they will not listen to your teaching Jesus' words. Jesus says: what do you expect if you teach 'my words'? Better treatment? The safety of a big church where you can talk freely and not be attacked for your views? If so, you likely are not following Jesus. Jesus' words grate against such establishments where there are leaders instead of everyone being equal brothers and sisters, etc. Jesus then says what to expect when you teach His words: "if they persecute you, it is because they persecuted me first." This means the persecutors of Jesus will often be those who believe they are 'Christians' but are part of institutions that ignore Jesus' teachings, even declare they belong to a by-gone dispensation.
EMAIL QUESTION ON HOW MUCH TO MAKE THE ISSUE ABOUT PAUL
June 4, 2014
Was Paul added to the scriptures to be a stumbling block for those that want religion, but don't really want to do God's will? Is it there for those who want cheap grace but aren't willing to repent and comform to God's commandments?
I also know a number of 'Christians' that say they are 'saved by grace through faith', but still feel a need to keep God's commandments and repent when they fail. I suspect they are the ones that read Paul through the lens of Jesus Words instead of vice versa. And perhaps that is what I need to teach people to do, for I doubt that I will ever be able to get them to remove Paul from their Bibles. Would that be a good way to approach this?
Thanks for your input.
Yes. If you read my book Jesus’ Words on Salvation (JWOS), I try to keep the issue of Paul at bay, teach what Jesus teaches, until I get to John 3:16. Then after proving that verse in Greek reads “all who obey unto the son should have eternal life” I then say how do we deal with the competing issue of Paul. I prove that Paul has 2 doctrines – grace alone / eternal security, and a precarious salvation doctrine like Christ's. What do we do? Accept Jesus’ doctrine and what matches in Paul, not what differs.
Same thing applies to your question. Our job is to lead people to salvation, not disprove Paul necessarily except when absolutely necessary to do so (which unfortunately is necessary at many points).
Take a look online to my chapter 26 from JWOS – it is in 9 pages that link to each other. Here is part 1 http://www.jesuswordsonly.com/books/jesuswordssalvation/161-chapter-26-1jwos.html
Here are the parts addressing Paul head on…. First to prove Paul shares a precarious salvation view in many verses http://www.jesuswordsonly.com/books/jesuswordssalvation/166-chapter-26-6jwo-paul.html but admitting Paul’s second faith alone view which is based upon a Septuagint mistranslation of Gen 15:6 http://www.jesuswordsonly.com/books/jesuswordssalvation/169-chapter-26-7jwo-genesis-156.html
And finally I address 'what are we to do if it comes down to a conflict between Jesus and Paul on the faith alone Paul' http://www.jesuswordsonly.com/books/jesuswordssalvation/170-chapter-26-8jwos-paul-v-jesus.html
This last section has a lot of my JWO proofs but clearly just to get people to listen to Jesus unfiltered to match faith alone / Paul.
Perhaps try using the JWOS book with them…It is clearly a detailed effort to refute faith alone….and only as necessary to the argument over John 3:16 do we delve into Paul.
Blessings, and thanks for asking,