Did Jesus Preach Paul’s Gospel?

As I was thinking recently about faith and justification a commenter made an assertion about a conflict between Jesus’ and Paul’s gospel. I was reminded John Piper’s excellent talk from T4G 2010 where he answers the question: Did Jesus preach Paul’s gospel? The text Piper spoke on was from Luke 18:9-14 about the Pharisee and the Tax Collector.

He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: “Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” (ESV)

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tagged as in Church Issues,Gospel,Sermons,theology

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Terry Rayburn September 9, 2010 at 1:15 pm

While it’s true that Jesus and Paul shared the same basic *soteriological* concept of “justification by faith”, I would make three related points:

1. The content of the actual good news (gospel) preached necessarily had to be different, since the post-cross gospel includes such things as the crucifixion itself, the death of Jesus for our sins, and His resurrection.

2. Piper says, in his #4, “All moral transformation that pleases God is the fruit, not the root, of justification.” (at approx. the 45 min point).

If Justification is a forensic legal transactional declaration by God (and it is), then it is not the fruit-producer in the whole of salvation.

The fruit-producer is the Holy Spirit, made one with our new spirit . In other words, it’s the result of the new birth and the indwelling of God, not the result of Justification (our being declared righteous).

I’ve encountered that notion from Piper before, and it makes me question whether he really understands “justification by faith”.

3. Jesus lived under the Old Covenant, even while announcing the good news of the Kingdom of God, and Himself as the Messiah and King.

Although even under the Old Covenant one could only be saved by grace, to look to the teachings of Jesus for an explanation of the New Covenant Gospel is a mistake.

It leads to a confusion of works and grace, such as in MacArthur’s famous proclamation along the lines of “give all that you are for all that He is” as the Gospel.

Or the confusion between discipleship (“deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow Me”) and salvation.

The Gospel is not a call for giving or doing anything. It is a call for believing in Someone and in the good news of what He has done. This will, of course, result in a changed life to one degree or another.

Paul declared that the gospel today includes at least the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus as an accomplished fact. Jesus Himself could not have preached that (although he alluded to it in very limited circles).

2 Mark September 10, 2010 at 2:20 pm


1. I don’t see how it follows how the gospel preached in pre- vs. post-cross had to necessarily be different. We might have a fuller understand afterward, however, Jesus and all the prophets, etc. before Him were pointing forward to the same gospel.

2. And Piper went on to quote Wilberforce from A Practical View of Christianity

the mistaken conception entertained of the fundamental principles of Christianity. They consider not that Christianity is scheme “for justifying the ungodly” [Romans 4:5], by Christ’s dying for them “when yet sinners” [Romans 5:6–8], a scheme “for reconciling us to God—when enemies” [Romans 5:10]; and for making the fruits of holiness the effects, not the cause, of our being justified and reconciled. (79)

I understand what you’re saying about the forensic aspect of justification, but I think you’re arguing semantics on some level. It seems Piper is answering the charge of those who confuse sanctification with justification. He goes on to say –

This error is common right now in our day. People, in order to create greater moral seriousness (especially with the radical commands of Jesus) are making morality part of the ground of justification. This backfires, because it destroys the joyful confidence which alone can bear the fruit of Christ-exalting love. It takes away the one and only ground and source of the very transformation they long for.

Piper seems to be answering those who claim to be justified by God because of their morality.

3. It seems Piper is agreeing with part of what you say in this point. Especially when you say, “The Gospel is not a call for giving or doing anything. It is a call for believing in Someone and in the good news of what He has done. This will, of course, result in a changed life to one degree or another.

Again, I don’t see such a clear divide in what Paul preached vs. what Jesus preached. Even Paul wrote in 1 Cor. 15:3-4 [3] For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, [4] that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, (esv)

Paul preached the “death, burial and resurrection of Jesus” according to Scriptures. You seem to be speaking chronologically which does not necessitate the logical conclusion that the gospel Paul and Jesus preached had different content.

3 Sunday School Teacher September 14, 2010 at 6:05 pm

One thing I like about John Piper is that he is not afraid to ask difficult questions and then give a well-thought-out answer.

4 Alan McDougall April 6, 2012 at 2:38 am

Jesus Christ and his apostles were preaching the gospel before his death on the cross. The present day gospel is that Jesus Christ has died in our place to save us. But, it was not the gospel preached by the Lord Jesus Christ for eternal life. So, what is the true gospel?

Grace is a free gift from God. Gifts are not given to a disobedient stray, but to those who are liked. Eternal life is given as a reward. Rewards are not given to those who have done nothing, but to those who have achieved something. “Matt 7:21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father, which is in heaven.” God gives rewards according to what we do.

What is your reponse to the above?



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