A number of Christians have concerns because in their Bible study they discover that the earthly ministry of Jesus of Nazareth and that of the apostle Paul have the appearances of being very different from each other. This becomes very evident when contrasting what is said by Jesus in the gospels as compared to what Paul states in the Epistles that he authored. Let’s start by looking at a few passages that I think will illustrate these differences and at the same time result in a clarity as to why this is so.
Here are the passages that identify a difference in the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth.
“I (Jesus speaking) was sent (by the Father) only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (the Jewish people)” (Matthew 15:24).
“Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans (the Jewish people had a great dislike for the Samaritans because of their belief system), but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 10:5, 6).
What the passages above indicate is that the day-by-day ministry of Jesus of Nazareth on earth was to His people, the Jews. But Jesus did have “incidental” contact with non-Jews during that time but it was not what His primary mission was for with regard to people groups. It is also important to understand that when Jesus died on the Cross He died for everyone’s sin with no exception. “and he (Jesus) is the expiation for our sins, and not for ours only but the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2).
In view of the above, some Bible students conclude that anyone else in the Scriptures would follow in the exact footsteps that Jesus used in His ministry on earth. But now, let’s look at some significant Bible passages that relate to the apostle Paul.
“And he (Jesus) said to me (Paul), Depart; for I (Jesus) will send you far away to the Gentiles” (Acts 22:21).
“had called me (Paul) ….in order that I (Paul) might preach him (Jesus) among the Gentiles…” (Galatians 1:16).
“…that we (Paul and those with him) should go to the Gentiles…” (Galatians 2:9).
“…grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ…” (Ephesians 3:8).
These passages indicate a focus in taking the gospel of Christ to the Gentiles. This is in contradistinction to the primary mission of Jesus of Nazareth! The message Paul took was given to him by revelation directly from Christ! “For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not man’s gospel. For I did not receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:11, 12).
Keep in mind, however, that during the Old Covenant era of Moses a Gentile could also become a believer but they had to convert to the Jewish belief system (become a proselyte, which many did). They believed, just as the Jews believed, that some day a Messiah would come. It was that belief that resulted in God declaring them to be righteous!
“For by it (faith) the men of old received divine approval” (Hebrews 11:3), which was to be declared to be righteous in the sight of Father God (Hebrews 11:4 and verses following).
This is an important fact of the Scriptures and I desire that you have a clear understanding of it!