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14.  Paul

14-1 The Conversion Of Paul / Saul || 14-2-1 Paul And His Brethren || 14-2-2 The Weakness Of Paul || 14-2-3 Paul: A Character Study || 14-3 The Preaching Of Paul || 14-4 Saul Changed To Paul || 14-5 Paul's Relationship With Jesus || 14-6 Paul And Christ  (1) || 14-6-1 Paul's Use Of The Gospels  || 14-6-2 Paul's Quotations From The Gospels: Statistics || 14-6-3-1 Paul's Quotations From The Gospels: Analysis And Implications || 14-6-3-2 Inspiration: The Human Factor || 14-6-3-3 The Enigma Of John's Gospel || 14-6-3-4 The Nature Of The Gospel Records || 14-6-3-5 Memorizing Scripture || 14-6-4 The Supremacy Of Christ || 14-7 Paul And Christ (2) || 14-7-1 Paul's Use Of The Gospels: Further Observations || 14-7-2 Paul And The Parables || 14-7-3 Paul's Use Of The Sermon On The Mount (Mt. 5 - 7) || 14-7-4 Paul's Exposition Of Gethsemane || 14-7-5 Paul And The Characters In The Gospels || 14-7-6 Paul In The Gospels || 14-7-7 Paul And John The Baptist || 14-7-8 Saul, Paul And Stephen || 14-7-9 Following Elders || 14-7-10 Connections Between The Gospels And Epistles: Observations || 14-8 Paul's Heroes || 14-8-1 Paul And Moses || 14-8-2 Paul And King Saul || 14-9   Paul and Corinth || 14-10 Paul And His Weak Brethren || 14-11 Paul's Thorn In The Flesh || 14-12 Paul's Shipwreck  || 14-13 Paul’s Self-Perception || 14-14 Paul, Philemon and Onesimus || 14-15 Chronology of Paul’s Life

14-7-10 Connections Between The Gospels And Epistles: Observations

Ecclesial Perspective

The majority of the pressures in Paul's life came from within the ecclesia. His life was based amongst the ecclesias; thus to him " all men" were the believers, not the world as a whole (Mk. 9:50 = Rom. 12:18). There is good reason to think that much of his persecution was the result of a group of Jewish infiltrators within the ecclesias, false brethren who organized a network of sabotage of Paul's work throughout the Roman world (1). And on top of these more physical problems, Paul identified his biggest pressure as " the care of all the churches" which he said 'came upon (Gk. to  throng / mob) (him) daily' (2 Cor. 11:28)- as if he woke up each morning and had these anxieties thronging his mind. As ever, Paul found comfort in all this in the Gospels. It is evident that he read many passages as applicable to ecclesial situations, whereas we would tend to apply them to the world. Consider the following examples: 

- Christ's words about winning men Paul applied to winning ecclesial members round to a more spiritual and committed way of life (Mt. 18:15 = 1 Cor. 9:19-22).

- The rich fool was not read by Paul as referring to some Hollywood millionaire; he saw that character as being in the ecclesia (Mt. 19:21 = 1 Tim. 6:17-19).

- He read the prophecy of deceivers arising in the last days as referring to deceivers arising within the ecclesia, i.e. people who were already baptized, consciously deceiving the majority of the ecclesia. He repeats this conviction at least three times (Mt. 24:4 = Eph. 5:6; Col. 2:8; 2 Thess. 2:3). All I can say is that if we are truly in the last days, this is or will be the case amongst us now- no matter how hard we (quite rightly) attempt to stop the rot.

- The parable of the boozy house-keeper doesn't apply to this world, lost as it is in a comfortable alcoholic numbness to reality. According to Paul's use of it throughout 1 Thess. 5, it's a prophecy (not just a possible warning) of the state of the eldership of the latter day ecclesia.

- The idea of not resisting evil and offering the other cheek (Mt. 5:39) we normally apply to suffering loss from the world without fighting for our rights. Yet Paul took this as referring to the need to not retaliate to the harmful things done to us by members of the ecclesia (Rom. 12:16,17; 1 Cor. 6:7;  1 Thess. 5:15). Likewise the command to forgive our debtors when we pray (Mt.  6:14) is applied by Paul to the need to forgive those who sin against us in the ecclesia (Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:13). Paul evidently expected believers to have a pretty rough ecclesial life. Perhaps we ought to warn new converts about this; for all too many have joined us with high expectations, only to become bitterly disillusioned after a few years by the behaviour within the ecclesia.

- Paul sees one application of serving mammon as acting in a hypocritical way in order to please some in the ecclesia (Mt. 6:24 = Gal. 1:10).

- Being ashamed of Christ's words doesn't just apply to not speaking up for the Truth when someone invites us to a topless bar after work. It's equally true, and the punishment for it just the same, in the context of not speaking out Christ's word in the ecclesia, to our very own brethren (Mk. 8:38 = 2 Tim. 1:8).

- Giving a cup of cold water to the little ones had nothing to do, as far as Paul was concerned, with sticking £20 in a collection for Oxfam. He took it as referring to our love for Christ's little ones, within the ecclesia (Mt. 10:42 = Heb. 6:10). And the context in the Gospels says the same. 

Unexpected Interpretations

For me, many of the above allusions revealed unexpected  interpretations. Paul read the Gospels in a rather different way to how I do- doubtless because he was far more familiar with them, in every sense. Likewise some of his Old Testament interpretations I don't think I would ever have come to. What he sees implied in the few Old Testament references to Melchizedek, or the five different interpretations he gives Psalm 2 and Psalm 110, all make sense to me when I read them in his letters. But I doubt I would ever have come across them just reading the Old Testament once a year with the Bible Companion. The Biblical activity within Paul's mind was just phenomenal. He not only read. He must have almost constantly meditated as he made his tents, and as he walked, rode and sailed those endless miles. He was spiritually minded in the extreme. And thus he attained the mind of Christ. 

I'd like to conclude with a few more examples of unexpected insights which the connections between Gospels and epistles give us to both passages in the Gospels and also his own writings:

- " Take heed to yourselves; if thy brother trespass...forgive him" (Lk. 17:3) is alluded to in Acts 20:28, where Paul says we should take heed of the likelihood of false teachers. Surely what he's saying is 'Yes, take heed to forgive your brother personal offences, take heed because you'll be tempted not to forgive him; but have the same level of watchfulness for false teaching'.

- The " times of the Gentiles" (Lk. 21:24) appears to refer to the time of Gentile opportunity to learn the Gospel, according to how Paul alludes to it in Rom. 11:25.

- Christ " shall baptize you " plural (Mt. 3:11) was deeply meditated upon by Paul, until he came to see in the fact that we plural are baptized the strong implication that therefore we should be one body, without unnecessary divisions (= 1 Cor. 12:13).

- Paul saw Mt. 5:29, 30 in a sexual context (= Col. 3:5); which fits the context of Mt. 5:28.

- We are " perfect" in the sense of Mt. 5:48 if we truly, seriously forgive each other (= Eph. 4;32; 5:1).

- The command to have salt and therefore peace with each other (Mk. 9:50) is fulfilled, Paul saw, by watching our words (= Col. 4:6).

- The connection between Rom. 14:12 and Mt. 12:36 suggests that Paul recognized that we all speak idle words which we will have to give account of at judgment. Therefore, because of our rampant tongue, we will stand in deep need of grace. So therefore, Paul says, you'd  better be soft on your brother now, in this life.

- The Lord had warned His followers to “despise not” the ‘little ones’ (Mt. 18:10). Paul picks up this phrase in 1 Tim. 6:2 in warning servants not to despise their masters who were brethren; the implication that they were to treat those wealthy but perhaps not very spiritually mature masters as ‘little ones’, with all the patience this would require.

- The things which God has prepared for those who love Him, things which the natural eye has not seen but  which are revealed unto us by the Spirit, relate to our redemption in Christ, rather than the wonders of the future political Kingdom (because Mt. 13:11; 16:17 = 1 Cor. 2:9,10). The context of 1 Cor. 2 and the allusions to Isaiah there demand the same interpretation.

- Confessing Christ before men applies to baptism, not just bucking up the courage to give someone a leaflet at work (Mt. 10:32 = Rom. 10:9,10).

- The binding of the strong man in the parable was done by the death of Christ. One of the spoils we have taken from his house is the fact we don't need to keep the Mosaic Law (Mt. 12:29 = Col. 2:15).

- The very fact Christ calls us brethren in Mt. 12:50 Paul saw as proof of Christ's humanity (= Heb. 2:11). Paul really did meditate on every word of his Lord. Thus he says he was persuaded by the Lord Jesus that all foods were clean- this is how he took the Lord's teaching in Mk. 7. Those words lived to Paul, they were as the personal persuasion of his Lord.

- Christ's transfiguration was a cameo of the change that should be apparent deep within us (Rom. 12:20 = Mt. 17:2 Gk.).

- Give yourselves to prayer and fasting with the passion and intensity required to perform a miracle (Mt. 17:21 = 1 Cor. 7:5).

- Trinitarians please note that Phil. 2 was written by Paul with his mind on the death not birth of Christ, as their false theology requires (Phil. 2:7 = Mt. 10:28; and note the connections with Is. 53).

- The principles of Mt. 18:16,17 concerning dealing with personal offences are applied by Paul to dealing with moral and doctrinal problems at Corinth (= 2 Cor. 13:1; 1 Cor. 5:4,5,9; 6:1-6).

- The idea of the materialistic steward of the house smiting the fellowservant (Mt. 24:49) is referred to by Paul (in the Greek text) in 1 Cor. 8:12, concerning wounding the conscience of weak brethren. Paul's vision of the latter day ecclesia was therefore that materialistic elders would act with no thought as to their effect on the consciences of the flock, and thereby many would stumble.

- Paul saw the breaking of bread prefigured in Christ's feeding of the 4000 (Mt. 15:36 = 1 Cor. 11:24).

- At the breaking of bread, it's as if Christ is sprinkling us with His blood, it's as if we are Israel assembled together, re-entering the covenant each time we break bread. No wonder we are asked to assemble ourselves together (as far as possible) to remember Christ (Mt. 26:28 = Heb. 9:20). We have elsewhere made the point that Hebrews is full of appropriate material for a breaking of bread exhortation, which we believe it to have originally been. 

God's Confirmation

One final point. There can be no doubt that Paul struggled with all his might to take on the mind of Christ, to let Christ live within him. God seems to have shown His recognition of the extent to which Paul achieved this by over-ruling Paul's life so that it had so many  parallels with the life of Christ (2), parallels which Paul could never have engineered himself. He did the same with Paul and John the Baptist and with Paul and Peter. And the way in which God has recorded Paul's life in Acts is done in such a way as to show the similarities between him and Christ; thus the Spirit records that men " laid hands on" Paul (Acts 21:27), just as it does concerning the Lord Jesus (Mt. 26:50). Note too that the record of Paul's shipwreck is described in language which clearly reflects the LXX description of Jonah's sea voyage (e.g. Acts 27:18 = Jonah 1:5); to suggest that like Jonah, Paul was also fellowshipping the cross. My point is quite simply this: Paul made a supreme effort to fellowship the Lord Jesus, to absorb the spirit of Christ deeply into his own mind. God confirmed him in his efforts, by working in his life to give him circumstances which recalled the experiences of Christ, and which thereby encouraged him to do this even more successfully. And our God will do just the same for us, in our efforts to absorb our Lord, to eat that Passover lamb completely. What we now do, as this bread and wine become part of us, is to physically symbolize our commitment to making this effort, and therefore looking forward to God's help. For I am convinced that this is the thing God would most wish us to do: to vow, to really strive, to assimilate the spirit of His beloved Son.


Paul wasn't unique in this. Peter, James and John (the other New Testament authors) show a similar saturation with the Lord's words and work and person. Take a few examples from James(3):

(JESUS) Matt 7.7,11: Ask, and it shall be given to you; seek, and you shall find; knock, and it shall be opened to you. 8 " For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it shall be opened. 9 " Or what man is there among you, when his son shall ask him for a loaf, will give him a stone? 10 " Or if he shall ask for a fish, he will not give him a snake, will he? 11 " If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more shall your Father who is in heaven give what is good to those who ask Him!

(JAMES) Jas 1.5,17: " But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all men generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him...Every good thing bestowed and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights"

(JESUS) Matt 21.21: " And Jesus answered and said to them, " Truly I say to you, if you have faith, and do not doubt, you shall not only do what was done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, 'Be taken up and cast into the sea,' it shall happen. 22 " And all things you ask in prayer, believing, you shall receive."

(JAMES) Jas 1.6: " But let him ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For let not that man expect that he will receive anything from the Lord

(JESUS) Matt 7.21f: " Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. 22 " Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' 23 " And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.'

(JAMES) Jas 1.22-23: " But prove yourselves doers of the word, and not merely hearers who delude themselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his natural face in a mirror;

(JESUS) Matt 7.1: " Do not judge lest you be judged. 2 " For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you.

(JAMES) Jas 4.12: " There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy; but who are you who judge your neighbor?

(JESUS) Matt 5.34-37: " But I say to you, make no oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is the footstool of His feet, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 " Nor shall you make an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 " But let your statement be, 'Yes, yes' or 'No, no'; and anything beyond these is of evil.

(JAMES) Jas 5.12: " But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath; but let your yes be yes, and your no, no; so that you may not fall under judgment.


(1) See H.A. Whittaker, 'The Jewish Plot', in Studies In The Acts Of The Apostles  and D.H. 'The Jewish Satan' in In Search Of Satan.

(2) These are listed in a number of commentaries on Paul. The most extensive list I know is in H.A.Whittaker, Studies In The Acts Of The Apostles (Cannock: Biblia, 1996).

(3) Parallels taken from Bruce Chilton and Craig Evans, eds, Studying the Historical Jesus: Evaluations of the State of Current Research (Leiden: Brill: 1994), p. 177. I'd observe though that James is more vague in his allusions; Paul is very precise and tends to be more verbatim- as we'd expect of a Rabbinically trained mind.