The Pauline Revolution
H. Richard Niebuhr (1894-1962) is oft quoted as saying:
“The great Christian revolutions came not by the discovery of something that was not known before. They happen when someone takes radically something that was always there.”
The fact is that Christ’s “revelation of the mystery [secret plan of God]” to the Apostle Paul has always been there, but it is only when people start taking it seriously can we expect a great Christian revolution that reveals this great truth afresh.
Paul’s epistles have always been in our Bibles (despite not a few folks along the way desiring to take them out).
The uniqueness of Paul’s ‘contributions’ to scripture in his thirteen epistles to the Gentile members of “the body of Christ” have always been noticed by a remnant of scholars, teachers, and laymen alike.
Paul’s epistles are responsible for the great theological disputes between ‘grace and works.’
“For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.” – Ephesians 2:8-9
It was Paul’s ministry focus that has caused countless debates about whether the church should preach ‘the kingdom’ or ‘the cross.’ Paul wrote;
“For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 1:18)
“God forbid that I should glory, save [except] in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” (Galatians 6:14)
It was the apostle Paul that Christ sent to “fulfil [Gk. pleroo, complete] the word of God [ the Scripture]” and emphasized the importance of “all scripture,” “reading,” and studying for each person to “rightly divide the word of truth.”
“Whereof I [Paul] am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil [complete] the word of God;” (Colossians 1:25 (KJV)
“Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15 (KJV)
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:” (2 Timothy 3:16 (KJV)
The “mystery of Christ” is not a new teaching. John Nelson Darby separated prophecy that relates to Israel from Paul’s ‘mystery gospel.’ C. I. Scofield found the doctrine for the church as the one “body of Christ” in Paul’s epistles alone. Martin Luther called Paul’s epistles ‘the masterpiece of the new testament and the purest gospel.’
Paul’s ministry is not simply a different interpretation or new perspective on Christ. Paul’s message was the Lord Jesus Christ’s further revelation about himself. Paul’s epistles are Christ’s instructions to the church of this day’s age of the pure grace of God.
“But I [Paul] certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by [from] the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (Gal 1:11-12)
When speaking about “the mystery [Greek, musterion, secret plan of God]” revealed by Christ to Paul, a common response is “why have I never heard this before?”
If Paul’s “my gospel” and “the mystery of Christ” sounds new to you, then most likely you have not been engaged in the nearly two thousand-year old doctrinal conversation going on about what has always been there in the scripture.
Or, it could be you have never heard it taken this radically before. Look out, Christian revolutions happen that way in the hearts of men.
- As Adapted from Justin Johnson