Have you ever been fooled by someone who claimed to be Christian, only to find out later that they were part of a non-Christian cult which, because of a horrifically flawed theology, meant that they actually believed in a different Jesus? This just happened to me with a dear Christian friend, or so I thought, one whose words about Jesus seemed so Christian, whose deeds and works seemed so Christian–ah, and that was the problem. Turns out this self-proclaimed Christian was a man who, in spite of using some of the right language about grace and Christ, actually had a flawed theology focused on human works and commandment keeping, making him no more Christian than, say, that cult of self-proclaimed Christians, the Mormons. The man I’m exposing today is named Paul.
For years I, like many of my friends, thought Paul was a real Christian. Then I was jarred by reading this sentence from one of his letters: “Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.” Wait, he’s saying that humans must be diligent and do things, doing all they can, in order to stand, as if Christians could fall from grace if they didn’t do all that stuff involved with the “whole armor of God.” Can that be a Christian doctrine? That sounded suspiciously like one of the most controversial, grace-denying passages of the infamous Book of Mormon: “For we labor diligently to write, to persuade our children, and also our brethren, to believe in Christ, and to be reconciled to God; for we know that it is by grace that we are saved, after all we can do.” (2 Nephi 25:23) There it is, that jarring combination of human works with grace and salvation, as if our works played a role in determining whether we stand or fall, or receive salvation or not.
When I read Paul’s words in Ephesians 6:13 objectively for the first time, I began to see that I might be dealing with with a proto-Mormon non-Christian cultist instead of a true Christian. This was the beginning of a careful study of Paul’s writings that show, in case after case, the Paul of the Bible doesn’t believe in the Jesus of the Bible, but in a different Jesus, one who requires us to “do all,” to be diligent, and even to wear “the whole armor of God” (including strange under-armor, perhaps?).
Paul certainly used some of the right language: “By grace are ye saved,” etc. A few times, yes, he uses acceptable terminology to seem Christian. But it’s a thin veneer, a light dusting of makeup over the decomposing corpse of works whose stench fills so much of his writings. How have we been blind to this for so long?
Look at the chapter where Paul’s “having done all” statement comes from. Ephesians 6 begins with a call to obedience–obey is the second word–quoting some of the 10 commandments. Commandments, really? Then is a promise of blessings for obedience : “With good will doing service, … Knowing that whatsoever good thing any man doeth, the same shall he receive of the Lord” (vs. 7-8). Verses 11-17 then deal with more impossible demands of Paul’s flock, requiring them to put on the whole armor of God, spelled out in many details. These requirements for the believer point to impossibly high standards, such as those of verse 18: “Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints.” Horrific. Simply horrific. Paul is all works, all prayer, all perseverence, all obedience, and precious little grace in this passage. It is one of many dark passages where Paul’s real agenda of works is evident, in spite of a few nice-sounding passages about grace and Christ. But even when Paul talks about grace, a closer look shows that his agenda of works is often still there. That’s the case in his closing verse: “Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity. Amen.” Grace–not for anyone, but just to those who love the Lord in sincerity: that’s Paul’s code language for people who engage in the works of trying to follow Christ, of obeying commandments, of persevering, praying, and even wearing funny armor. Paul, I’m afraid, is pretty much a proto-Mormon.
Ten Reasons Paul is Not a Christian
- Paul teaches teaches a Gospel of works in which humans must keep commandments, obey (2 Cor. 10:5), and labor (2 Cor. 5:9; Romans 2) and in which God rewards us for our deeds, not our correct beliefs (Phil. 2:12). Paul teaches another Jesus who gives “glory, honor and peace, to every man that worketh good” (Heb. 2:10, and see the whole chapter for even more shocking statements)–in total opposition to true Christianity, where glory is only for God, and human works have no bearing on our salvation.
- Paul teaches us to “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil. 2:12), while true Christians know that God does all the work and have nothing to fear because they know that their salvation is assured.
- The other Jesus that Paul follows “commandeth all men every where to repent” (Acts 17:30), echoing the Mormon doctrine of repentance, but the Jesus of the Bible simply teaches us to believe in Him.
- Paul claims that humans are literal offspring of God, a troubling doctrine identical to that of Mormonism. (Acts 17:28-29; Romans 8:14-16; Heb. 12:9).
- Paul denies or fails to endorse core doctrines of the Trinity. Nowhere does he speak of the one substance of God and Christ or other key metaphysical elements of the Trinity, nor does he acknowledge and endorse any of the official creeds that define true Christian theology. Instead he teaches that Christ and God are separate Beings, always speaking of them as if they are two beings, with Christ at the right hand of God. The Jesus of Paul has a physical anthropomorphic image–he claimed to have seen him, after all–with a body, a face (2 Cor. 4:6), hands, feet, etc. Paul’s other Jesus is not the same incorporeal Being as the Father, but is a distinct anthropomorphic being that can be seen, and indeed is said to be “the express image of [God’s] person” who “sat down” (yes, with the bogus body that Paul’s false Jesus has, one can actually sit!) on the “right hand” of God (Heb. 1: 1-4).
- Paul teaches that man can become like God (Phil. 3:21; 2 Cor. 3:18) by obtaining a glorious, powerful, tangible body like God’s. Horrific!
- In Paul’s false Gospel of Fear, Christians can fall from grace. Thus, men should be worried (see the “fear and trembling” problem above) because they can fall from grace if they quit obeying. (1 Cor. 10:12-13; Heb. 3:12-14; Heb. 4: 11). The solution, in addition to all that fear and trembling and human works, is keeping Paul’s impossible commandments to “Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord: Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God” (Heb. 12:14-15). Christians, of course, know that God’s grace can never fail, and that’s all we need. In contrast, Paul urges believers to endure in running to the end of the race and to “strive for the mastery” (I Cor. 9:24-25) rather than merely receiving grace. In Paul’s warped theology, humans must endure to the end, for God’s full goodness is only for those who “continue in goodness” (Romans 11:22) and remain “stedfast until the end” (Heb. 3:13-14). Frankly, he seems even more extreme and works-oriented than the Mormons!
- Paul claims to have had visions, and in his First Vision, claims to have seen Christ. He also claims to have seen angels (and he even peered into heaven where he, like the Mormons, claims that there are multiple kingdoms or heavens!). Christians, of course, will recognize the occult and Satanic origins of such claims. Regarding the ridiculous claim of seeing Christ, Paul compounds his error by suggesting that his followers can also see God if they achieve the impossible goal of holiness. (Hebrews 12:14) Christians know that no man can see God. Further, Paul gives several contradicting versions of his First Vision with confusion in some of the details, but real Christians know that words from God will always be perfect and never cause confusion or uncertainty. In case after case, one can see common roots to Paul’s heresies and Mormonism.
- Paul attempted to add new revelations and new scripture. It is troubling enough that he had the gall to claim to have had visions and seen Christ, but to then go and pretend to be writing scripture–well, it’s just too much to stomach. As Moses explained in Deut. 4:2-4, no man can add or subtract to scripture. How are so many people being fooled by this stuff? Think, people!
- Paul speaks positively of the strange Mormon-like ritual of vicarious baptism for the dead (1 Corinthians 15:29)–a perfect example of relying on dead works instead of grace alone.
Christians can be so gullible. We may like to be nice and accepting of others, so if a friend claims to be Christian and sincerely believes in Christ, we may be tempted to believe them. But just because someone claims to believe in Christ, strives to follow and worship Christ, prays and worships in the name of Christ, and even writes a few best-selling epistles about Christ, doesn’t make that person a Christian. One’s status as a Christian is not determined by what’s in one’s heart or even by a lifetime of seemingly Christian service, worship, faith, and prayer. Rather, it is determined by application of strict theological standards applied by true Christians as they carry out their responsibility of determining who is part of the exclusive circle of Christianity. These standards are based on the norms of Historic Christianity, meaning the standard and accurate form of Christianity that was developed in a portion of northern Europe beginning in the sixteenth century and in modern times perfected by and entrusted to select evangelical circles in the United States. To disagree with even one of their pure and standard doctrines is, of course, to believe in a different Jesus. And those standards, when applied to Paul, clearly and objectively require us to see past his alleged Christianity and condemn him as a cultist, as no more Christian than any other proto-Mormon or modern Mormon could be for his Jesus is, of course, a different Jesus.
Adios, Paul. You fooled me for a while, but now you’ve been exposed.