Apologeet.nlDid Paul invent Christianity?
I recently received a comment on one of my posts on my website. The person wasn’t really polite towards me because apparently I am completely brainwashed with complete loss of self-identity and therefore critical thinking. Not only that but I am also in a psychosis, totally trapped in a delusional system.
Don’t you just love these kinds of comments in which people seem to lose control and blame it on you?
Anyway, this fine gentleman pointed out that it was the apostle Paul who single-handedly shaped Christianity into an extravagant, wonderful and very moralistic religion. In other words, and he didn’t say this aloud, Paul kind of invented Christianity. He even just threw in the often regurgitated claim that there isn’t even evidence for the historical existence of Paul.
So, did Paul invent Christianity?
Persecutor of the Church
Paul couldn’t be the inventor of Christianity. We read that Paul actually persecuted the Christians before he himself became a Christian.
As for Saul, he made havock of the church, entering into every house, and haling men and women committed them to prison.
If he had been the inventor, he wouldn’t have been able to be a persecutor first, right? That is just common sense.
Salvation through Faith
One might reply that even though Christians were around already, they didn’t believe that Jesus’ death and resurrection brought about salvation. Some argue that this idea comes from Paul and that the first Christians simply believed that they still had to be under the law of Moses. They say that Paul did away with that idea and replaced it with salvation by grace.
But this argument doesn’t hold either. It is very clear that Christians already believed the doctrine of salvation by grace alone.
Actually, the whole idea of being saved by just keeping the law, isn’t even a pure Jewish concept.
Behold, his soul which is lifted up is not upright in him: but the just shall live by his faith.
Paul cites Habakkuk in Galatians 3:11
But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.
The Law was never intended to save anyone; the purpose of the Law was to make us ‘conscious of sin.’
Hebrews 11 tells us that all the famous people of the Old Testament were saved by faith. Yes, they worked diligently for God, but they did their work because they had faith. Their faith brought forth their willingness to obtain God’s law.
For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings.
The problem is Jesus’ time was that many within Judaism had become legalistic. God made it clear that He wanted His people to follow the law out of love. However, we see groups who elevated the rules to a point where it became a goal in itself. Jesus was constantly confronted by Jewish leaders. A clear example was the moment that Jesus healed people on the Sabbath. These leaders were furious because they considered that as work. Luckily not all Jews were like that and many understood Jesus’ message about faith and grace.
To return to Paul. We just know that salvation through faith was already to ruling concept among Christians, and Jews alike. Paul only clarified that doctrine by explaining it in detail.
What was one of Paul’s Biggest Contributions?
Paul, who was a devout Jew himself, understood that the Saviour wanted to save everyone. Not only Jews, but also the pagans. What is more, this Jewish Messiah, who came from the Jewish God, sent to the Jewish people, did not demand new believers to become Jewish.
This was a big thing in Paul’s time. Even though Jesus demonstrated this attitude time and again. And even though the Old Testament seems to show this as well. The first Christians had a hard time understanding this concept.
You need to understand that people like Peter, John, Thomas, Andrew, Nathanael, and all the others were full-blown Jews. Followers of Jesus, but Jewish nonetheless. They held the Jewish traditions; when possible they still worshipped in the temple or synagogues; and they most likely celebrated all Jewish festivals. They were all circumcised and probably knew the five books of Moses by heart.
When Christians started to obey Jesus’ command by preaching the Gospel outside Israel they encountered this dilemma of converted pagans. What to do? Did these pagans need to adopt Judaism? Did the evangelist need to proselytise the converts into Judaism? That would take a long time and would mean that the converts had to go through all sorts of teachings and even through circumcision and a special baptism called Mikveh.
Paul, was the one who carefully explained, through Scripture, that new believers did not have to become Jewish. This was an important development within first century Christianity.
The Laws of Judaism were given in a special covenant at Mount Sinai and are written in the book of Exodus. But this covenant was only a picture of a new and better covenant that God promised to give to His people, both Jew and Gentile.
Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: but this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.
Paul’s education on this topic expounded on Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:17
Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.
Paul, time and again explains that the Mosaic covenant has been fulfilled in Jesus Christ. We now have a better covenant, with a better sacrifice, administered by a better High Priest! By teaching this, Paul never strayed from God’s word.
The Council at Jerusalem
This concept was solidified in the council at Jerusalem. Here we see a huge debate about the whole issue. A little before Paul and Barnabas were sent to Jerusalem to discuss the matter with the main church leaders.
And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter. And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; and put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.
No Longer a Sect within Judaism
I believe that we should be very thankful that Christians, like Paul, tirelessly taught that salvation was meant to be for all humans. The fact that the council at Jerusalem decided, through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, that pagans didn’t have to convert to Judaism, made it possible for the Gospel to spread rapidly.
Before this event, many Jews, and pagans alike still considered this new movement to be a part of Judaism. They saw it as just another sect within Judaism. However, by not forcing pagans to become Jews, the council, in some way, basically detached Christianity from Judaism.
This made it possible for Christianity to become a world-wide religion. This has always been God’s plan in the first place!
You might wonder what would have happened if Christianity remained a sect within Judaism. I guess the results would have been quite similar to that of the other sects like the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, and Zealots, for example. I mean, we see them as important to understand certain ancient documents and happenings, but we do not think of them to be very relevant today. These groups never grew larger and basically faded out over time.
But within Christianity we see that stepping out of traditional Judaism tremendously helped the followers of Christ to obey His last documented words:
But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judæa, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.
Anyway, we can say much more about Paul and his writings but that might be an interesting topic for another video. Please, let me know what you think in the comments. Maybe you disagree on certain things? Just leave a comment. Remember! I am mostly active on my Odysee channel.
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God bless you, thank you for watching, and, Lord willing, we’ll see each other in the next video!