Shouldn’t you read Paul in light of Jesus, instead of reading Jesus in light of Paul?”

October 9, 2012 — Leave a comment

I started out my Spiritual journey as a Catholic because that is what my parents were. I came to find out that they were only tepid Catholic as they really didn’t go to church themselves very often but more often just dropped us off and then went home.  Upon entering high school I went about twenty years moving between an inactive Christian and an agnostic verging on atheist. Then as a result of getting married I joined a Protestant congregation.  When I was going to a Catholic grade school I remember hearing a lot of things about Jesus and not much about the letters of St. Paul or any of the other “epistles”. But when I joined the Lutheran church Paul strangely seemed to be front and center on their theology.

Martin Luther’s epiphany was based on Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians about being saved by grace and not works so I guess I should not have been surprised to see Paul not Jesus to be the center of that congregation’s beliefs. It was not until I started seriously studying the words of Jesus that I came to fully realize that Jesus must be the total focus.

When I started out blogging here more than four years ago I promptly got a comment from someone rather high up in the Lutheran church. He chastised me saying all the words in the Bible are from God so none are more important than any others. This statement amazed me because it said that Jesus’ words were no more important than any others in the Bible. Of course I have come, after years of serious study, to totally renounce that man-made belief.

When I came across the words below in a book entitled “A New Kind of Christianity: Ten Questions That Are Transforming the Faith” by Brian McLaren who is a Protestant clergy and author, they verified what I already knew:

Like a lot of Protestants, for many years I “knew” what the gospel was. I “knew” that the gospel was the message of “justification by grace through faith,” distorted or forgotten by those pesky Catholics, but rediscovered by our hero Martin Luther through a reading of our even greater hero Paul, especially his magnum opus, the Letter to the Romans. If Catholics were called “Roman Catholics” because of their headquarters in Rome, we could have been called “Romans Protestants,” because Paul’s Roman letter served as our theological headquarters……

He then asked me how I would define the gospel, and I answered as any good Romans Protestant would, quoting Romans. He followed up with this simple but annoying rhetorical question: “You’re quoting Paul. Shouldn’t you let Jesus define the gospel?” When I gave him a quizzical look, he asked, “What was the gospel according to Jesus?” A little humiliated, I mumbled something akin to “You tell me,” and he replied, “For Jesus, the gospel was very clear: The kingdom of God is at hand. That’s the gospel according to Jesus. Right?” I again mumbled something, maybe “I guess so.” Seeing my lack of conviction, he added, “Shouldn’t you read Paul in light of Jesus, instead of reading Jesus in light of Paul?”

Today I firmly believe that to be a follower of Jesus Christ we most put our almost total focus on his words. At best we should use the other authors as reinforcement of Jesus not a replacement for him as I see in many congregations today.

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