Pauline Christianity – What is it?
Pauline Christianity refers to the teachings of Christianity as expressed in the New Testament writings of the apostle Paul. The term is generally used by those who believe Paul expressed different teachings from the Gospel of Jesus and promote the idea that Paul's Christianity is much different from the Gospel of Jesus.
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However, the Bible actually presents a unified message in the New Testament. The apostle Paul was originally Saul, a Jewish religious leader who opposed and persecuted early Christians. In Acts 9, Luke recorded that Paul was converted to Christianity through a vision of Jesus he experienced on the road between Jerusalem and Damascus, where he intended to arrest Christians. The vision left him blind for three days, during which he did not eat or drink.
A Jewish Christian named Ananias restored Paul's sight and Paul was baptized as a Christian. Paul would then go on to share the Gospel of Jesus with both Jews and Gentiles, becoming known primarily for his missionary work among Gentiles in the Roman Empire. He helped to start more than 20 churches, writing 13 letters in the New Testament in the process. He was also associated with at least Mark, Luke, Peter, James, and John, men who wrote many of the other books of the New Testament. Paul wrote and personally knew all or nearly all of the New Testament's human authors.
Despite unique areas of emphasis in Paul's writings, it is clear his message was the same as that taught by the other early followers of Jesus. He wrote in Galatians 2:9, "when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised." Paul's mission work focused on Gentiles rather than the Jews, yet the message was the same—a message of faith in Jesus Christ as God's risen Savior (Romans 10:9; John 3:16).
First Corinthians 15:3-5 affirms this Gospel message by Paul as the same one received from the apostles who were with Jesus and saw Him resurrected: "For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve." Paul's Christianity was the same as the Christianity of Jesus' early followers.
Throughout history there have been those who have rejected Paul's writings. He was even opposed during his own lifetime according to his own writings. Ebionites and other early Christians who rejected Gentiles or freedom from the Law of Moses rejected Paul's teachings or parts of them in the first century. Documents found in Alexandria from the second century and beyond confirm the existence of Gnostic writings that opposed parts of Paul's writings (as well as those of other New Testament writings). Yet Paul's writings were affirmed by the apostles and accepted by the early churches. He did not and does not present a different Gospel but ministered to a different audience than some other New Testament writers. His writings are essential, inspired works included in the Bible for our benefit today.
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