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John Piper

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Did Jesus Preach Paul's Gospel?

How the Gospel of Luke presents the gospel of justification by grace alone, through faith alone, on the basis of Christ's blood and righteousness alone, for the glory of God alone

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Editor's note: Now there's a provocative article title. It might sound like a heretical question, but think about. Does Paul ever strike you as having a gospel grounded more in grace than what Jesus preached? John Piper delivered the following message at the 2010 Together for the Gospel conference.

Did Jesus preach Paul's gospel?—the gospel of justification by grace alone, through faith alone, on the basis of Christ's blood and righteousness alone, for the glory of God alone.

What I am driven by in this message, and in much of my thinking since my days in graduate school in Germany, is the conviction that Jesus and Paul preached the same gospel. There is a 300-year history among critical scholars of claiming that Jesus' message and work was one thing, and what the early church made of it was another. Jesus brought the kingdom; it aborted; and the apostles substituted an institution, the church. And dozens of variations along this line.

Did Paul Get Jesus Right?

So the problem I am wrestling with is not whether evangelicalism gets Paul's gospel right, but whether Paul got Jesus' gospel right. Because I have a sense that among the reasons that some are losing a grip on the gospel today is not only the suspicion that we are forcing it into traditional doctrinal categories rather than biblical ones, but also that in our default to Pauline categories we are selling Jesus short. In other words, for some—perhaps many—there is the suspicion (or even conviction) that justification by faith alone is part of Paul's gospel, but not part of Jesus' gospel. And in feeling that way, our commitment to the doctrine is weakened, and we are thus less passionate to preach it and defend it as essential to the gospel. And we may even think that Jesus' call to sacrificial kingdom obedience is more radical and more transforming than the gospel of justification by faith alone.

I consider this message as an exegetical extension and defense of what R. C. Sproul said yesterday: "If you don't have imputation, you don't have sola fide (faith alone), and if you don't have sola fide, you don't have the gospel." My goal is to argue that Jesus preached the gospel of justification by faith alone apart from works of the law, understood as the imputation of his righteousness through faith alone.

A Word About Method

First, a word about method. One of my goals in this message is to fire you up for serious lifelong meditation on the four Gospels as they stand. I am so jealous that you not get sidetracked into peeling away the so-called layers of tradition to find the so-called historical Jesus. I want you to feel the truth and depth and wonder that awaits your lifelong labor of love in pondering the inexhaustible portraits of Jesus given us by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

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Brad Snyder

February 13, 2014  12:36pm

he was traveling about teaching by his words and by his example. There is no difference in the messages only differences in how people interpret what they read. A thorough honest study of Paul’s life reveals that he was always faithful to the Torah to the best of his abilities and circumstances, and we know the Messiah never broke a commandment for the breaking of a commandment is sin, and he could not have been our replacement on the cross if he had his own sins to answer for. So the message is the same just some of the interpreters have twisted it a little and we, looking back 2000 years with 20th century culture firmly imbedded in our minds, have a problem understanding what is said.

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Brad Snyder

February 13, 2014  12:33pm

The problem was never Paul preaching a different Gospel that Jesus, It is in the interpretation of Paul’s words. Jesus mostly spoke for the average person to understand his words and to set straight the religious leaders of the day. Paul was writing his letters from a very highly educated point of view to people who mostly were not used to a monotheistic way of life and needed encouragement and clarification on this new idea. Both Jesus and Paul taught that salvation was not something that could be won by keeping minute details of manmade laws, as the Pharisees had begun to do, but fully by faith in the sacrifice of the Messiah. They also both taught that the Commandments given by the creator to his creation for the guidance of a moral life and loving both the Creator and your fellow man had not been changed or done away with. In fact they clearly show our obedience to the Messiah’s message and our love for him by our obedience. Paul proved that he felt that way by the life he lived as

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Dennis Hilken

October 30, 2013  12:54pm

"To rightly divide law and gospel is the greatest art" ... Thank you Dr. Piper for a preciously profound reiteration of that truth. What an honor and challenge to attempt to preach every week through that lens of truth ...

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March 28, 2013  4:41pm

Everyone please read: 2 Timothy 2:15 KJV You have to rightly divide the word. Do not mingle law with grace. We(gentiles) are under grace and free from the law.

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March 15, 2013  8:24pm

Paul states in Acts that he is to preach the same message as Christ. What was Christ's message? Read the Gospels to find out.

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