Did Jesus and Paul preach the same thing?
Most of the new testament was written by Paul. And it is through Paul's writing that we clearly understand that we are saved by God's grace, through faith in Jesus Christ alone.
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.
But how come Jesus never clearly preached that message during his stay on Earth? Did Jesus and Paul preach the same thing?
If you would observe the gospels, this is was what Jesus preached:
17 From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.”
- How to live a life pleasing to God. "Do not look at a woman lustfully", etc.
Jesus' teachings were centralized on these two things. And it did not help that Jesus was not clearly vocal on salvation by faith alone. And since Jesus was teaching these things repeatedly, this might lead us to believe that salvation might be attained by faith.... and good works.
Moreover, it is "as if" Jesus never preached about his death and resurrection altogether (even though he did preach that). Answer me this, why were the disciples sad when Jesus died? They should have rejoiced at Jesus' death because that means salvation for all. This thought is further supported by Luke 24:13-21.
13 That same day two of Jesus’ followers were walking to the village of Emmaus, seven miles from Jerusalem. 14 As they walked along they were talking about everything that had happened. 15 As they talked and discussed these things, Jesus himself suddenly came and began walking with them. 16 But God kept them from recognizing him.
17 He asked them, “What are you discussing so intently as you walk along?”
They stopped short, sadness written across their faces. 18 Then one of them, Cleopas, replied, “You must be the only person in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard about all the things that have happened there the last few days.”
19 “What things?” Jesus asked.
“The things that happened to Jesus, the man from Nazareth,” they said. “He was a prophet who did powerful miracles, and he was a mighty teacher in the eyes of God and all the people. 20 But our leading priests and other religious leaders handed him over to be condemned to death, and they crucified him. 21 We had hoped he was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel. This all happened three days ago.
The verses mentioned that two of Jesus Christ's followers were discussing, and that they were saddened by the fact that Jesus Christ died. They hoped that Jesus was their Messiah who would save Israel by a political revolution. This was the common thinking, central to all believers, even apostles during that time. Nobody expected that Jesus would resurrect after three days.
Therefore, from this, we can assume that Jesus did not clearly preach Paul's gospel during his lifetime on Earth.
If you would google for "paul is a deceiver", you would see a lot of content saying that Paul is sometimes portrayed as the devil, a deceiver. And it would seem that Paul preached a different gospel from Jesus Christ.
But here is the clincher, let us look at Luke 24:22-48.
22 “Then some women from our group of his followers were at his tomb early this morning, and they came back with an amazing report. 23 They said his body was missing, and they had seen angels who told them Jesus is alive! 24 Some of our men ran out to see, and sure enough, his body was gone, just as the women had said.”
25 Then Jesus said to them, “You foolish people! You find it so hard to believe all that the prophets wrote in the Scriptures. 26 Wasn’t it clearly predicted that the Messiah would have to suffer all these things before entering his glory?” 27 Then Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
28 By this time they were nearing Emmaus and the end of their journey. Jesus acted as if he were going on, 29 but they begged him, “Stay the night with us, since it is getting late.” So he went home with them. 30 As they sat down to eat, he took the bread and blessed it. Then he broke it and gave it to them. 31 Suddenly, their eyes were opened, and they recognized him. And at that moment he disappeared!
32 They said to each other, “Didn’t our hearts burn within us as he talked with us on the road and explained the Scriptures to us?” 33 And within the hour they were on their way back to Jerusalem. There they found the eleven disciples and the others who had gathered with them, 34 who said, “The Lord has really risen! He appeared to Peter.[e]”
35 Then the two from Emmaus told their story of how Jesus had appeared to them as they were walking along the road, and how they had recognized him as he was breaking the bread. 36 And just as they were telling about it, Jesus himself was suddenly standing there among them. “Peace be with you,” he said. 37 But the whole group was startled and frightened, thinking they were seeing a ghost!
38 “Why are you frightened?” he asked. “Why are your hearts filled with doubt? 39 Look at my hands. Look at my feet. You can see that it’s really me. Touch me and make sure that I am not a ghost, because ghosts don’t have bodies, as you see that I do.” 40 As he spoke, he showed them his hands and his feet.
41 Still they stood there in disbelief, filled with joy and wonder. Then he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he ate it as they watched.
44 Then he said, “When I was with you before, I told you that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and in the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. 46 And he said, “Yes, it was written long ago that the Messiah would suffer and die and rise from the dead on the third day. 47 It was also written that this message would be proclaimed in the authority of his name to all the nations, beginning in Jerusalem: ‘There is forgiveness of sins for all who repent.’ 48 You are witnesses of all these things.
These verses mentioned that Jesus had to explain everything, how things were connected first to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus on verses 25-27, then to the apostles on verses 44-45. Jesus opened their minds, and they understood his purpose on Earth. Reading between the lines, this is where Jesus clearly preached Paul's gospel -- the Gospel.
Now, why did Jesus wait before he revealed all this? I am not sure, but perhaps:
- He is the object of his gospel -- he needs to fulfill his mission first, before he could clearly preach about it. Can you imagine Jesus preaching Ephesians 2:8-9, before he even fulfilled his resurrection?
- The disciples were not yet ready, their mindset has always been a political revolution, just like in the old testament where judges and kings have saved them from their enemies.
- His focus was on setting a standard -- how Christ followers should live their lives on Earth.
What further evidence can we add to say that Paul and Jesus' gospel are the same?
- Peter never contradicted Paul in Acts. 1 Peter chapter 1 also preached the same thing. Peter was one of the apostles, and he received the gospel directly from Jesus.
- Matthew 27:50-53
50 Then Jesus shouted out again, and he released his spirit. 51 At that moment the curtain in the sanctuary of the Temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, rocks split apart, 52 and tombs opened. The bodies of many godly men and women who had died were raised from the dead. 53 They left the cemetery after Jesus’ resurrection, went into the holy city of Jerusalem, and appeared to many people.
Why was it important to mention that the curtain in the sanctuary was torn in two when Jesus died? This was to show that because of Jesus' death, we now have direct access to God. We don't need to offer sacrifices, Jesus' death was the last sacrifice.