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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 Paul And Christ (2)

We saw in the previous study that Paul's mind was saturated with the Lord Jesus Christ, and that this was reflected in his familiarity with the Gospels. We saw that he alluded to them at least once every 6 verses that he wrote- and probably far more. We saw that his zeal to assimilate the mind of Christ is really our example. Paul evidently memorized passages, and was so motivated by them that his whole life decisions were planned around the implication of maybe just one passage (e.g. " It is more blessed to give than to receive" , Acts 20:35; or the idea of being a watchman seems to have fired his preaching zeal, Ez. 3:18; 18:13 cp. Acts 18:6; 20:26). Yet perhaps we have given the impression that if we go away and memorize a Gospel record, we will have achieved Paul's spirituality. Yet this isn't the case. It's not merely a matter of memorizing them as lines in a play. The principles of the words and example of the Lord Jesus really fired Paul. when one does the same analysis of the words of the Lord Jesus, we find Him alluding to Old Testament Scripture about 2 or 3 times in each sentence- and that's as far as we can discern! He appears to allude to some parts more than others- Deuteronomy, the Psalms and Isaiah. And very significantly, these are also the parts of the Old Testament which Paul seems to have had a preference for. This shows just how much Paul both consciously and unconsciously absorbed the mind of Christ.

So we have to ask, how did Paul use his knowledge of the Gospels, his 'physical' knowledge of  the history and words of the Lord Jesus, to such effect? This is the issue which we want to address in this study. 

14-7-1 Paul's Use Of The Gospels: Further Observations

But firstly, I'd like to make some more observations on the tables found in our previous study. It seems to me that we are dealing with a real phenomena here; that a man (Paul) could be so full of the words and spirit and history of the Lord Jesus. So extraordinary is this that I keep wondering if it really is valid. And yet the more I analyze it, the more truth I see in it. If Paul was indeed a man whose memory was packed with the Gospels and who constantly meditated upon them, the following fit into place:

- There are several indications that Paul expected his readers to understand that the majority of what he was saying was basically a reflection of the words of the Lord Jesus. He tells Corinth that " to the rest speak I, not the Lord" Jesus (1 Cor. 7:12). He hasn't earlier said: Now I'm going to remind you of the words of the Lord Jesus'. He takes it as understood that as usual, his reasoning has been a reflection of the words of Jesus (in the context, 1 Cor. 7:11 = Mt. 5:32; Mk. 10:9; " put asunder" is s.w. " depart" ). But now he says that he is going to go beyond Christ's words (as in 1 Cor. 7:25). This doesn't mean he wasn't inspired; it means that he is drawing their attention to the fact that he is doing something unusual for him, i.e. to give teaching which is not an allusion or repetition of that of the Lord Jesus. My point is that the implication of this is that he expected his readers to take as read that he normally was only repeating the thinking of Christ. Likewise in 2 Cor. 11:17: “That which I speak, I speak it not after the Lord” (i.e. as I normally would). Every few verses, even according to our limited analysis, he was making a noticeable allusion to the Gospels. When he says that he is speaking to the Thessalonians " by (in) the word of the Lord" Jesus (1 Thess. 4:15), this doesn't mean that what he was about to say was more inspired than anything else. What he meant was that he was specifically repeating the teaching of Christ (which he does through a series of extended allusions to Mt. 24 and 25).

- Is it going too far to think that when Paul writes about believers being sanctified and justified, in that order (1 Cor. 6:11), he reflects his absorption of how his Lord had referred to the Father as firstly sanctified and then justified in Jn. 17:11,25?

- Paul's words of Acts 23:3 were surely said in the heat of the moment: " God shall smite thee, thou whited wall!" . Yet even in hot blood, not carefully thinking through his words (for this doesn't seem the most appropriate thing to come out with!), Paul was still unconsciously referring to the Gospels (Mt. 23:27 in this case).

- There are many such unconscious allusions in Hebrews. This absolutely fits in with the evidence that Hebrews is the transcript of a breaking of bread exhortation given 'off the cuff' by Paul to the Jerusalem ecclesia (1). We can imagine him speaking to them with the emblems before him, his mind full of his Lord, and the allusions, both consciously and unconsciously, would have just come bubbling out.

- " Do ye not know that the saints shall judge the world"   (1 Cor. 6:2) is referring back to Mt. 19:28, which promises all those who have followed Christ that they will sit on thrones of judgment. That this promise was not just to the disciples is evident from Lk. 22:30; 1:33 cp. Rev. 3:21. It's as if Paul is saying: 'Now come on, you ought to know this, it's in the Gospels'. He expected other believers to share his familiarity with the words of Christ. There's another example in Rom. 6:16: " Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are...whether of sin...or of obedience?" . This is alluding to Mt. 6:24 concerning not serving two masters. Paul is surely saying: 'Come on, this is Matthew 6, you can't serve two masters! That principle ought to be firmly lodged in your heart!'. Another example is 1 Cor. 10:16 = Mt. 26:26; hence Paul reasons: " The cup of it not the communion of the blood of Christ?" - i.e. 'Isn't it? I mean, this is familiar to us from the Gospels isn't it'.

- The letters to Corinth must have been very difficult to write. Paul was walking an absolute minefield. Therefore he  says that his attitude to Corinth was that he wanted to know nothing among them, saving Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2); he wanted to keep his mind fixed upon the Lord Jesus and the intensity of His passion, rather than get sidetracked by personality issues and ecclesial politics. And his letters reveal this. They contain many unconscious allusions to the suffering and death of Christ. Paul refers to Christ as " Lord" throughout all his letters about once every 26 verses on average. And yet in Corinthians he does so once every 10 verses on average. The Lordship and suffering of Jesus were therefore very much in Paul's mind as he wrote. His Christ and cross-centred perspective is a real example to us, living as we do at a time when the body of Christ increasingly distracts us from the central object of our devotion: the Son of God who died for us, and was raised again for our justification.

- Paul's references to the Gospels suggests that he had carefully meditated upon the passages to which he consciously alludes. The fact and way in which he alludes rather than quotes verbatim reflects the fact he had thought through and absorbed the teaching of the passages rather than learning them parrot fashion. For example, in Mt. 19:18,19 the Lord Jesus combines two quotations from the Law: Ex. 20:12-16 followed by Lev. 19:18. Paul, in a different context, to prove a different point, combines those same two passages, although separating them by a brief comment (Rom. 13:9). This surely indicates that he had meditated upon how his Lord was using the Law, and mastered it so that he could use it himself.

- The manner in which Paul alludes to the Gospels also indicates that this was the result of the Spirit using Paul's human memory and absorption of the Gospels, rather than him just being used as a Fax machine by the Spirit. Thus if you analyze the data in our previous study, it is evident that there are groups of allusions to the Gospels in Paul's letters. Thus there may be several allusions in one chapter, none in the next, and then another group in the next chapter. This is the sort of pattern one would expect from a human memory. Sometimes 1 verse in the Gospels is alluded to by Paul in different ways in different letters. Thus Mt. 5:16 (" let your light shine before men" ) is applied by him to within the ecclesia (2 Cor. 9:11,13) and to among the world (1 Cor. 14:25). This has the ring of truth about it. I often take the same verse to mean different things, or I change my view concerning it's application. This doesn't mean Paul wasn't inspired; it just indicates that his personal interpretation of the Gospels was used by God.

- Paul alludes to some parts of the Gospels more than to others. The record of John the Baptist, the sermon on the mount, the parables and the record of Christ in Gethsemane are all referred to far more than average. This surely would not be the case if  the connections between Paul's writings and the Gospels were only the result of the Spirit irresistibly carrying Paul along. We have suggested (2) that Paul's enthusiasm for the record of John the Baptist was because he had probably first heard the Gospel from John; i.e. there was a reason personal to Paul as to why he alludes to much to that particular part of the Gospels. And so with his sustained allusions to Gethsemane, far more than we would expect statistically. Presumably the picture of the Lord Jesus struggling against His own nature, driven to the brink of eternal failure, was an image which echoed in Paul's mind. Likewise the parables were intended to be memorized and meditated upon; Paul did just this, and that's why he alludes to them more than average. This sort of pattern is just what we too experience; there are parts of Scripture which stick in our minds, often for personal reasons. And so it was with Paul. Mt. 11:25 was a verse which was perhaps very much in his mind as he wrote to Corinth; it is alluded to in 1 Cor. 1:19; 2:8; 14:20- and nowhere else. Likewise I suggest that the words of Jesus at the judgment, inviting the faithful into the Kingdom (Mt. 25:34), likewise rung in Paul's mind: Acts 20:32; Gal. 3:29; 4:7; Eph. 1:11; Col. 1:12; 3:24; Tit. 3:7. Other examples are Lk. 1:47 = 1 Tim. 1:1; 2:3; Tit. 1:3; Lk. 18:7 (" elect" ) = Rom. 8:33; Col. 3:12; 2 Tim. 2:10; Tit. 1:1; Lk. 13:32 (" perfected" ) was in his mind as he wrote to the Hebrews (2:10; 5:9; 7:28); and Mk. 10:30 = Acts 14:22; 2 Thess. 1:4,5; 2 Tim. 3:11,12; and consider how Christ's frequent use of the word " watch" is matched by Paul's usage. This is typical of human memory; one verse or phrase sticks in our mind very intensely for a certain period. The same is true with any piece of information or phrase which is sticking in our mind. On a much lower level, I go through phases of saying  " I guess..." rather than " I suppose that...." after I've been in the company of Americans.

- The fact we copy the language patterns of those we are with was true for Paul. The Gospels were so much in his heart that he can hardly speak or write without some reference, consciously or unconsciously, to the Lord Jesus. Thus in 1 Cor. 13:2 I sense that Paul as he is writing (on a human level) was looking round for a superlative to express just how useless we are without love. And the superlative expression he picks is unconsciously taken out of the Gospels (Mt. 17:20): " Though I have all faith so that I could remove mountains and have not charity, I am nothing" .

- It is significant that Paul in Acts and the earlier letters seems to allude more heavily to the records of Christ's sufferings and resurrection than he did later (1). His trend is towards alluding to the parables more. This again is an indication that Paul's writing was in the first instance an outpouring of his own absorption of the Lord Jesus, albeit confirmed by the Spirit.

- Paul's description of  Christ 'ascending up far above all heavens' (Eph. 4:10) seems to be rooted in his vivid re-living and imagining of the scene in Lk. 24:51, where the record says that Christ was " parted from them, and carried up" . This would be typical of human use of the Gospels.

- Likewise one phrase of Paul's, in Acts 13:46, combines allusions to two verses in Matthew (21:41; 22:8). Those verses are close to each other. As Paul thought about 21:41, he would have gone on to 22:8, and then brought them both together in his allusion- ultimately controlled by the Spirit, of course.

- A nice insight into the intensity with which Paul meditated is provided by his comment on Mt. 27:11-14, where we read that Jesus before Pilate said just one word in Greek; translated " Thou sayest" . It is stressed there that Jesus said nothing else, so that Pilate marvelled at His silent self-control. Yet Paul speaks with pride of how the Lord Jesus " before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession" (1 Tim. 6:13). You'd expect him to be alluding to some major speech of Jesus. But it seems, reading his spirit, Paul's saying: 'Lord Jesus, your self control, your strength of purpose, was great. I salute you, I hold you up to Timothy as the supreme example. Just one word. What a witness!'.  

- The influence of the Gospel records upon Paul is evident by his allusions to Christ's teachings in ways which do not rely upon mere verbal similarity of allusion. Thus when he tells the Corinthians that he had delayed coming to them because he wanted to spare them, in allowing them time for repentance and spiritual growth (2 Cor. 1:23), he surely has in mind the implications (rather than any specific verbal statement from the Lord Jesus) that the Lord's return likewise will be delayed for the sake of our repentance and spiritual maturing.

An analysis of Paul's allusions to the Gospels reveals that there were some parts to which he alluded far more than others. I want now to consider how he uses these sections.


(1) Consider the intensity of allusion to the records of Christ's death and resurrection in Acts 13:27-38:

Acts        Gospels

13:27       Lk. 24:27

13:28       Mt. 27:72; Mk. 15:13

13:29       Mt. 27:59

13:30       Mt. 28:6

13:38       Lk. 24:47

Thus Paul's early recorded preaching was basically a commentary on the Gospel records of Christ's death and resurrection (as was Peter's).