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Paul and the Word of God


(a Bible study)
I have often assumed (as so many others have), that Paul did not have much to say about obedience to the teachings of Jesus.  Because of that, it has been easy for a heresy to grow that Paul taught a different Gospel to the one shared by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  However, I think that Paul's references to the Jesus of those Gospels is easily hidden by the fact that he assumed the people he was addressing already had some understanding of that Gospel, a gospel which Paul himself was also preaching, but with more emphasis on some of the pastoral specifics that came in those first years of the Church.

I was reading from his letter to Colossians today, and noticed repeated reference to what I consider to be the teachings of Jesus, and so I want to go through Colossians 1:25-2:23 (New International Version) and point out some of those references.
"I have become [the church's] servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the Word of God in its fullness."

The term "Word of God" can have a generic meaning in the sense of any message proclaiming something that God wants preached.  However, as we have noted from such passages as I John 1:1-12 and Revelation 19:13, The "Word of God" in its fullness is Jesus himself.  This title is God's ['secret'] name for Jesus.

So was Paul talking about presenting Jesus here?  Or was he talking about presenting some other message besides the one contained in the teachings of Jesus?  The answer becomes clearer when we read what Paul goes on to say in Colossians 1:28:
"We proclaim Him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ.

He calls his message "Him".  Does that sound like someone preaching a different gospel to the one that Jesus preached?  Paul said that he had been commissioned by God to "present to you the Word of God" and to "proclaim Him".  The Word of God and Christ himself are used interchangeably, even though that message (i.e. that Christ is the Word of God) still remains a secret (or mystery) to most of the world today.  There can be no doubt that Paul's message was Jesus (and not just an empty name either), more than anything else.

Modern-day heretics have tried to tell us that Paul was teaching us that everything Jesus said was NOT the gospel... that what Jesus taught was intended only to convince us that obedience to Jesus is a waste of time... that God just wants us to give up trying to be perfect, and to proclaim that "Jesus has done it all; lie back and relax."

Yet, according to this passage, Paul wanted us all to be "perfect (i.e. 'mature') in Christ".  Unlike the prophets of false grace, Paul understood that Jesus is the Cornerstone, and that obedience to his teachings is the line between a "wise man" and a "foolish" one.  (Matthew 7:24)  The wisdom of Christ, as revealed through his teachings, is, according to Paul, the mystery or secret which needs to be shared with people of all ages, but especially to the world today.

If we back up to Colossians 1:26, we hear Paul saying that "The Word of God in its fullness [is] the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations..." And it continues to be hidden today through false teachings against the Word of God and what he taught.

John the Revelator predicted that the role of Jesus as the Word of God would continue to be hidden from most of the world right up until his return.  He said, in Revelation 19:12-13:
"He [Jesus] has a name written on him which no one knows but he himself... and his name is the Word of God."

In Colossians 1:27, Paul tells us that this "mystery" is "Christ in you, the hope of glory." The churches have turned phrases like "Christ in you" into glib cliches, without ever really dealing with what it means in practical terms.  Jesus made certain promises to his followers which were conditional on them "abiding in him, and his words [teachings] abiding in them".  One cannot have "Christ" in them without having his "teachings" in them, and yet the heresy of the so-called Pauline gospel is to separate the two and say that people can have Jesus, and say "Lord, Lord!" without ever giving the slightest thought to obeying what he is recorded as having taught.  I would strongly maintain that Paul himself never taught such a lie.

In the second chapter of Colossians, Paul tells how he has dedicated his whole life and all his energies to seeing the early church encouraged, united, and having "complete understanding" of that same mystery, which he describes this time as "Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge." (Colossians 2:3)

Can you see how this thought keeps coming up about how the wisdom/understanding/knowledge that Christ came to reveal has been hidden by someone?  We're talking about the TEACHINGS of Jesus here, aren't we?  And isn't that exactly what has happened throughout the ages?  There is so much that we have said over the years about how the teachings of Jesus have been slandered and hidden from the world by the very people who profess to be preaching Jesus.  All the treasures of wisdom and knowledge have been replaced by an insipid counterfeit which we Jesus Christians have called "churchianity".  (More on that in a bit.)
"I tell you this so that no one might deceive you by fine-sounding arguments."

And fine-sounding they have been!  A delight to the ticklish ears of the lazy, selfish masses.  The arguments against obeying Jesus have prevailed and with them has grown the deception that Paul was not teaching people to obey Jesus!
"Just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught..."

How does one "live in Christ"?  How does one become rooted in their faith?  How does one become a strong Christian?  Isn't it by truly letting him be the "Lord" (i.e. boss) of all that we do, bowing to his every wish, as Paul has suggested here?  Our strength as believers does not come from listening to a thousand sermons telling us that "Jesus did it all", but it comes from listening to what Jesus actually said, and responding in humble obedience... as Jesus himself taught.
"See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophies which depend on human traditions, and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ."

The no-works gospel is tempting; but in the end it is hollow and nothing but deception, as is the prosperity gospel, with its basic principle that happiness comes from wealth and health rather than from obedience to Christ.  Paul primarily focuses on the counterfeit here, but every word in that verse points us also to the genuine, which is the "philosophy" or "basic principles" of Christ.  Yet where are they being taught today?

In the next verse (Colossians 2:9) Paul tells us that Christ is the "head" over every power and authority.  Later he talks about people who focus on a lot of religious rules that are NOT based on the teachings of Jesus (health rules, sabbath rules, etc.) as having "lost connection with the head".  (Colossians 2:19)  He is, by saying this, calling on us to get back to the Cornerstone, or to "the stone which the builders have tossed aside".  We need to dust off those discarded teachings and restore them to their rightful place as "head" of the church.  Ironically, those same churches which show such contempt for the teachings of Jesus still teach rules about such things as tithing, water baptism, marriage ceremonies, and obedience to the same civil authorities that Paul has just said that Jesus is "head" over.

In Colossians 2:11, Paul talks about a spiritual "circumcision" which comes from the teachings of Jesus.  Having looked closely at the teachings of Jesus myself, I feel that this spiritual circumcision Paul mentions is what we often refer to as "forsaking all".  Instead of just cutting off a piece of flesh, Jesus called on his followers to attack the very root of all evil, by turning our backs on materialism and on working for money.

Then, in verse 14, Paul talks about the teachings of Jesus actually cancelling out the Old Testament law, echoing Christ himself who said that, while he had not come to "destroy" the law as such, he had come to "fulfill" it... thus rendering the Old Testament fairly useless by comparison to his own teachings.  As John wrote:  "The law came through Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ."  (John 1:17)

Colossians 2:14 says that Jesus "cancelled the written code, with its regulations... He took it away, nailing it to the cross."
These are powerful words, and ones which would enrage the same people who use them to condemn the teachings of Jesus as "regulations", if they knew that we understood them to be cancelling out the REST of the Bible instead!  It is so telling when these people who try to twist such passages from Paul as an excuse for disobeying Jesus react defensively if we apply them as they were actually written (i.e. to the rest of the Bible).  It only proves their dedication to the "written code with its regulations" rather than to Christ and all that he stood for.  The same could be said for what they do with Paul, where they treat his writings as the infallible and eternal Word of God, while ignoring all that Jesus said.  There are great truths in all of those writings, and they are certainly profitable for doctrine, etc., but they are not the Word of God in all its fullness as Jesus is.
"Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules:  Do not handle!  Do not taste!  Do not touch!"

Look at the rules that the churches DO make as replacements for the  teachings of Jesus:  "Don't smoke.  Don't drink.  Don't masturbate.  Don't use four-letter words.  Don't hang around people with bad reputations.  Don't do anything that might destroy your respectability."

Some of these rules, says Paul, may be helpful, but they don't deal with the ROOT of all evil.  They don't change the hearts of the people who try to follow them.  Lust, hatred, selfishness, etc. continue to grow.
"Such regulations indeed, have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility, and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence."

Hopefully I have covered enough in this study to encourage people to look for other clues in other writings of Paul, as to what it was that Paul was really saying about obedience to the teachings of Jesus.  Sadly, the Word of God has been hidden for so many centuries now that we fail to see him even when he is being promoted right there in the writings of Paul.  Let us lift this veil from our own eyes and from the eyes of others, so that they can come to appreciate how much of what Paul said was really in support of Jesus and not in opposition as so many have claimed.


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