Matthew Introduction – Part 8: Realize that Jesus (not Paul) is the author of the Christian religion

Speaker: Scott Jarrett | Feb 7, 2016
  1. (How?) should we read, study and interpret Matthew’s gospel?

There is no reading of Scripture that is not- to some degree, also an attempt at interpreting the Scripture. This becomes obvious once we realize the Bible does not provide its own commentary (or study notes). As such, the question which must be considered before endeavoring to study any of its books is, “What hermeneutical principles and presuppositions must be applied?” As it relates to the Matthew’s gospel the following are most relevant:

6.1. Realize that Jesus (not Paul) is the author of the Christian religion.

“It is not exaggerating to say that Evangelicalism is facing a crisis about the relationship of Jesus to Paul, and that many today are choosing sides.” – Scott McKnight

The controversy between Paul and Jesus has been raging since the early days of the church[1]. Scholars, pastors, and Christians (in general) have divided over who claims the rightful title as author of the Christian religion. In the West, it is Paul that wins more often than Jesus. We as Americans are far more “Pauline” in our view of Christianity than anything else. In other words, it is the teaching of Paul (not Jesus) which becomes the starting place for understanding the doctrines that make up our Faith.

6.1.1. The result of this approach (i.e. signs you may be guilty of pitting Paul against Jesus): The gospels (and teaching of Jesus) are made to conform to what we believe Paul to be saying in his epistles (e.g. Luk 10:25-28[2]) The teachings of Paul trump (or, at least, can challenge) the teaching of Jesus (i.e. your response to the teaching of Jesus is, “but Paul says…”; e.g. Mat 5:17 w/Rom 10:4) You think Jesus and Paul do not believe/teach the same things or are applicable to different audiences (e.g. Jesus was speaking to the Jews still under the OC, whereas Paul is speaking to Gentiles/Jews under the NC – e.g. Mat 5-7 was for the Jews under the OC and, therefore, is not for Christians today[3]) More of what defines or determines your beliefs as a Christian come from Paul than Jesus (e.g. your view of justification leans more heavily on Rom 3:28 than Joh 13:1-10 – tbdb).

According to the Bible, however, it is Jesus (not Paul) who is the rightful determiner, definer, and author of the Christian Faith (Heb 12:1-2).

6.2.1. As such: We need to make sure that we are starting with Jesus and conforming everyone (including Paul) to Him (e.g. again Mat 5:17 w/Rom 10:4; Mat 5:20 and Luk 10:25-28 w/Phi 3:6[4]) We must refuse Paul as a “trump” to Jesus (Paul refused such notions and condemned it – 1Co 1:10-13 w/3:1-7; 1Ti 6:3-5) We must realize that Paul is writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and therefore in complete conformity to the teaching of Jesus (Joh 16:13-14; Phi 1:21; 1Co 3:10-11; 2Co 3:5-6, 13:5-8) What defines or determines your beliefs as a Christian need to start with Jesus.[5] This must be especially true in relation to important doctrines such as: The Law (Mat 5:17-20) Justification (Joh 13:1-10 – according to Jesus, we must continue to partake of His body and blood in order to be justified. Consider how this changes the way you view Rom 3:28. Paul’s beef is w/the “works of the law” NOT the “works of faith” [1Th 1:3; 2Th 1:11] – which include cleansing at the Lord’s Table [1Ti 4:3]! Once again, Paul has no issue w/Jesus) The Gospel (Mat 4:23, 9:35, 24:14; Mar 1:15; Luk 20:1 w/Luk 3:18 = clearly what the gospel writers are referring to when they speak of Jesus – or John preaching the “gospel” is not the historical facts of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. It instead refers to what a person must do in order to be saved [repent and believe/obey – Joh 3:36])[6].


[1] For example, the 2nd-century heretic, Marcion of Sinope, believed Paul to be the rightful author of Christianity and true revealer of Christ. As such, he and his followers only accepted the teachings of Paul and those of Jesus he believed were approved by Paul (i.e. portions of Lukes’ gospel).

[2] Rather than attempting to understand Jesus’ words at face value, John MacArthur instead reads Jesus’ response through the lens of what he believes Paul to be teaching in Galatians 3. The by-product of this approach is an understanding ironically antithetical to the very thing MacArthur prides himself on- a literal interpretation of the Scripture! Commentary on verse 28 of the MacArthur Study Bible reads, “’Do and live’ is the promise of the law. But since no sinner can obey perfectly, the impossible demands of the law are meant to drive us to seek divine mercy (Gal 3:10, 22-25). This man should have responded w/ a confession of his own guilt rather than self-justification.”

[3] This particular view has been taught by several of Dispensationalism’s leading scholars such as John N. Darby, Lewis Sperry Chafer, C.I. Scofield, Dwight Pentecost and John Walvoord. This was also the belief of one of Evangelicalism most famous scholars, Rudolf Bultmann. Per an erroneous interpretation of 2Co 5:16 (“though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer” = Jesus’ earthly ministry is irrelevant to the Christian), Bultmann believed that the only words of Christ important to the apostle Paul – and therefore also the Christian Church, were those spoken after His ascension -i.e. through his apostles. In his own words, “It is most obvious that Paul does not appeal to the words of the Lord in support of his…views. When the essentially Pauline conceptions are considered, it is clear that Paul is not dependent on Jesus. Jesus’ teaching [while on earth] is—to all intents and purposes—irrelevant to Paul.” (Bultmann, Faith and Understanding).

[4] When taken from the perspective of Paul first, even passages penned by Paul (like Phi 3:6) or his associates (Luk 1:6), become an impossibility. Consider the comments of Morna Hooker, “Even if one claims to be blameless according to the Law (as Paul himself did), one is in fact guilty because sin has such a grip on men and women that it is impossible for them to worship God and obey His commands from pure motives.” (Hooker, Pieces).

[5] This is why we are called “Christians” – i.e. followers of Christ, and not “Paulinists” – i.e. followers of Paul.

[6] According to Scott McKnight and the Evangelical community, the gospel refers to nothing more than the historical facts. And it is an erroneous interpretation of Paul’s words in 1Co 15:1-4 they use to support it. Again, Paul (supposedly) trumps Jesus! The implication of viewing the gospel this way = evangelism becomes about embracing a story rather than submitting one’s life to the Lordship of Christ.