Matters of Creed
1. Jesus taught the oneness of God (Mark 12:2930, Matthew 22:37 and Luke
10:27), as conveyed in the first commandment (Exodus 20:3).
2. Jesus declared himself a man and a prophet of God (see above), and nowhere
claimed divinity or divine sonship. Which creed are the above two points more
consistent with—the Trinitarian formula or the absolute monotheism of Islam?
Practical considerations arise. Questions like, “What was Jesus’ religion?” and “If
Jesus lived, preached, and completed his ministry faithful to the religious laws of his
time, why are those who claim to follow in his name not living by his example?” After
all, the Acts of the Apostles documents how strict the practices were among the early
followers of Christ. Peter’s avoidance of unclean animals is documented in Acts 10:14,
the emphasis upon circumcision is found in Acts 11:23, 15:1 and 15:5, the conversion of
priests and Pharisees into the faith is discussed in 6:7 and 15:5, and 21:20 emphasizes the
zeal of the thousands of believers “for the Law.” In this regard, Carmichael notes, “The
above passages are astonishing; they indicate that for a whole generation after Jesus’
death his followers were pious Jews and proud of it, had attracted into their fold members
of the professional religious classes, and did not deviate even from the burdensome
So that was the first generation of followers. Yet despite the scriptural evidence, many Christians prefer the teachings of Paul, the pope, or select clergy over the recorded
teachings of Jesus. As a result, common ground for discussion between the true followers of Jesus and the followers of whatsomebodyelsesaysaboutJesus is frequently lacking.
And although some think this to be a fairly recent disagreement, it is in fact an old
division, which Paul noted within his lifetime: “Now I say this, that each of you says, ‘I
am of Paul,’ or ‘I am of Apollos,’ or ‘I am of Cephas,’ or ‘I am of Christ’” (1 Corinthians
So Paul, Apollos (an Alexandrian Jew), Cephas (Peter), and Jesus Christ all had
their own separate and distinct group of followers, each according to his teachings and
example. History weeded out the two groups in the middle, leaving a clean separation
between those who live “of Paul” and those who are “of Christ.” Whereas Jesus Christ
proclaimed the Kingdom of God, Paul proclaimed the mysteries which became the
foundation of the church and modern Christology.
Since Paul had such formative influence upon Trinitarian doctrine, one wonders
what brought him to the mysteries of his belief. Reportedly a light from the heavens, a
voice, a convincing message (Acts 9:39). But in 2 Corinthians 11:1415, even Paul
admits that “Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no
great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness …”
So to whom was Paul speaking? An angel of light, a minister of righteousness, or Satan?
He didn’t seem to question his vision, despite the sage advice, “Beloved, do not
believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false
prophets have gone out into the world” (First Epistle of John 4:1). Regardless of who was
behind Paul’s vision, he was a changed man. And although many souls have reformed
through religious observance, this isn’t what happened with Paul, for one simple reason:
Paul didn’t observe the religion, he transformed it. James, the younger brother of Jesus and head of the new church, admonished Paul for his blasphemous teachings: “But they
have been informed about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to
forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children nor to walk
according to the customs” (Acts 21:21). He then warned Paul of the assembly meeting to
decide his punishment: “What then? The assembly must certainly meet, for they will hear
that you have come” (Acts 21:22). Therefore, he directed him to repent, purify himself of
sacrilege and thereafter “walk orderly and keep the law” (Acts 21:2324).
Unfortunately, Paul didn’t hold to repentance, and returned to his sacrilegious
A person wonders, WWJD—What Would Jesus Do? No doubt he wouldn’t
concede his revelation to the contrary opinions of Pauline theology. That being the case,
why do some people continue to consider Jesus divine?