Part 9 of 17 – 


Did Paul follow “Jesus of Nazareth” 

or the Resurrected Christ?

Here again we will look at another common cause of the misinterpretation of Scripture. We will compare the earthly ministry and message of “Jesus of Nazareth to Israel, with the gospel message of “the mystery (musterion, secret)” that the ascended Christ from heaven revealed to the Apostle Paul, for the Gentiles under “the dispensation of the grace of God (Eph 3:1-3).

In the four synoptic Gospels we see Jesus of Nazareth, who was humanly “born of woman,” physically born of Mary’s physical body, “made under the Law” (Gal 4:4), in His earthy ministry. Jesus of Nazareth became incarnated and came to His own, Israel. But Israel did not receive Him. Thus, Peter scolded them at Pentecost saying, “Ye men of Israel” (Acts 3:12)… 14But ye (Israel) denied the Holy One and the Just, and desired a murderer to be granted unto you; 15 And killed the Prince of life, whom God hath raised from the dead; whereof we are witnesses. Acts 3:14-15

In point of fact, Jesus of Nazareth continued “the Law,” often referring His hearers to “Moses” as indication of His support of The Law. Jesus often supported the law saying “What does Moses command?” (Matt 8:4, 19:7 et al). Jesus was emphatic with regard to the law. Matthew 5:18 For verily I (Jesus) say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

In answer to the rich young man who sought eternal life, Jesus’ words in Matthew 16:19-22 list several work requirements. This is in direct contrast with Paul’s words relative to being “saved by grace, through faith, through faith, not of works” (Eph 2:8-9). Paul says the unearned favor of grace issues in eternal life. Romans 5:21b (AMP) … [so] grace (His unearned and undeserved favor) might reign also through righteousness (right standing with God) which issues in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Clearly, salvation is “by grace through faith”; and so Paul goes on to say believers are to practice their daily walk in the very same way that they initially received Christ. Colossians 2:6 As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him:

In contrast to Jesus of Nazareth’s message to Israel, today we live under the message and gospel that the risen and ascended Lord gave to Paul, concerning the pure grace of God that offers believers salvation apart from works of the Law. Romans 6:14 ye are not under the law, but under grace. Romans 11:6a And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace…

How are we to reconcile Paul’s and Jesus’ messages?

Unless you know the difference between the earthly or terrestrial ministry of Jesus of Nazareth and that of the heavenly or celestial ministry of the resurrected and ascended Christ, you can never understand the uniqueness of God’s “last gospel” that was given to Paul several years after the cross, for the gentile “body of Christ.”

Jesus’ terrestrial (earthly) ministry was unto the Jews concerning the physical and literal earthly Kingdom of God to come to earth. Matthew 6:10 Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.

Even after Jesus’ cross and resurrection, while still on earth and ministering to Israel, He expounded upon this Kingdom that was to come to earth unto Israel. Acts 1:3 To (the disciples) whom also he (Jesus) shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them (the Jewish disciples) forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God:

Today, during the dispensation of the grace of God, Jesus as the King of Israel is in exile with His Kingdom held in abeyance (Rom 11:25). Today, Christ has but one active ministry, His celestial ministry from heaven to “the church which is His body,” whose members alone are His “ambassadors” on earth as pilgrims.

We may reconcile Jesus of Nazareth’s and Paul’s differing messages by considering and carefully noting just what Jesus of Nazareth said to whom, concerning whom, and at what time?

  • Jesus of Nazareth came to whom? - “He came to His own, but His own received Him not.” (John 1:11)  Matthew 15:24 (Jesus) answered and said, I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
  • Jesus came preaching what - "the kingdom of heaven"; and to be applicable at when? - saying it is "at hand." Matthew 4:17 Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of (from) heaven is at hand.
  • What explicit instructions did Jesus of Nazareth give to His Jewish Disciples? Matthew 10:5-6 These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans (the half-breeds) enter ye not: 6 But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

Now consider another contrast. It is between that which Jesus preached and that which Paul preached regarding the matter of forgiveness.

  • Jesus preached “conditional forgiveness,” requiring one to forgive others first, in order to gain God’s forgiveness. Matthew 6:15 But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.

                  The “if” here speaks of the condition of a “work” of forgiveness that is required before one is to have their sins forgiven by God the Father.

  • Now note Paul’s words to the believers at Ephesus, under “the dispensation of the grace of God.” He commends them to forgive one another on quite a different basis than Jesus of Nazareth had preached. Ephesians 4:32 …be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath (already) forgiven you. God forgave us first, while we were sinners. Romans 5:8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

                  Paul says, under grace, we forgive because we have already been forgiven freely – “by grace through faith, apart from works of the law.

Surely, the forgoing demonstrates a marked difference; one is of living under “the law,” yet in effect during Jesus of Nazareth’s time on earth, while the other as the mark of the pure grace dispensation that Paul preached to "the body of Christ" under “the dispensation of the grace of God.”

Having seen the above, we now may better understand Paul’s statement here. 2 Corinthians 5:16 though we have known Christ after the flesh (in His earthly incarnation and ministry), yet now henceforth know we him no more. How can Paul say we are not to cherish that which pertains to Jesus of Nazareth’s ministry on earth? It is because the full purpose of the cross was first revealed to Paul and preached by Him. It is by the cross that the Jesus of Nazareth, has become the “last Adam…the life-giving spirit” (1Cor 15:45). Now being in His spirit-form as the risen and ascended Lord, Christ is enabled to come in His spirit-form to indwell the human spirit of each and every believer (1John 4:13, 1Cor 6:17). Thus, Paul says we ought not to know Him as Jesus of Nazareth, the one who came to Israel, but rather, we now know Him now as the risen “Spirit of life” (Rom 8:2) who indwells us, as our new “life” (Col 3:4a, Gal 2:20).

This explains why Paul never once in his fourteen epistles refer to anything Jesus of Nazareth said or did during His earthly ministry. Paul only experientially “knew” or “was intimate with” the Lord Jesus in one way – Christ crucified, raised as the “Spirit of life,” as the life-giving fruit of the cross who indwells believers. Colossians 1:27 To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory:

Thus, the cross is not only the only basis of our being forgiven our sins, but also the cross is the only basis of our being enabled by receiving the resurrected and overcoming Christ as He now is, in the form of the “life-giving spirit” (1Cor 15:45). Thus, Paul writes these words. 1Corinthians 2:2 For I (Paul) am determined not to know any thing among you, save (except) Jesus Christ, and him crucified.