For too long the Bible has been used wrongly. You probably know the drill. A religious leader stands in front of a congregation and preaches from verses in the Bible. The overall hope is that the congregation will believe the message, repent, and then struggle to live the way Jesus or God desires. Sometimes the verses in question are used to get someone “saved” once they accept the message. But this sort of Biblical perspective is completely counter-productive to what the scriptures were meant to do. In fact, the methods discussed above have wrestled the true power of the scriptures right out of the hands of the people. When used in this manner, the Bible, with all its awesome revelations and deep spiritual insights, has become a tool to promote religion. The only problem is that religion usually creates confused, mindless, or arrogant congregation members.
One of the great spiritual breakthroughs came in my life when I realized that the Apostle Paul has been largely misunderstood. He certainly didn’t help create the version of traditional Christianity we have today. You may have already read that the New Testament wasn’t compiled into its current form until a few centuries after Christ walked the Earth. However, what you might not know is that the Apostle Paul wouldn’t consider the New Testament writings scripture. 2 Timothy 3:14-15 makes this clear. In this letter he is exhorting Timothy on the power of the scriptures. The verse in questions reads:
“But continue thou in the things which thou has learned, and hast been assured of, knowing of who thou hast learned them; (15) And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”
I don’t know if you caught that, but the bold words indicate what Paul considered to be “scripture.” In other words, the Old Testament is the only “scripture” Paul was referring to, since that was the only written “scriptures” available when Timothy was a child. Paul certainly didn’t consider his letters to be scripture. It would have been heresy for Paul to suggest the things that he and others were writing would ever be or become Holy Scripture. But that’s not even the most significant point I want to make about Timothy 3:15. I want you to notice something much more important. Paul tells Timothy that the scriptures he knew as a child (the Old Testament) are where the wisdom is found to bring him unto salvation through faith in Christ Jesus! This is significant. Basically Paul is letting Timothy know that contained within the Old Testament writings was the revelation of Christ Jesus. Since Jesus the man didn’t walk the earth until hundreds of years after the Old Testament was completed, Paul cannot be equating Christ Jesus here with the man Jesus Christ that was crucified under Pilate! Don’t believe me? Well let’s dig deeper so that you can see it clearly. Pay attention.
Many Christians don’t consider the fact that Paul NEVER met the physical man Jesus in the flesh. Jesus was already crucified by the time Paul had his Christ experience. Think about it…the only Christ Jesus Paul ever knew was the spiritual vision he had on the road to Damascus where he saw a “bright light.” This was a mystical experience. Paul also makes it a point to tell us that No MAN taught him about the revelation of Christ. Not even an established Apostle was worthy of such a thing for Paul! Some think Paul is being arrogant when he makes it clear that no man taught him, but I think he is making it clear that the Christ experience has to come from WITHIN! To further give evidence for this, Paul went into Arabia for quite a while following his Damascus conversion. No one knows why, although most scholars suggest it was for a time of solitude to work out his Christ experience. Hmm…sounds kind of like a time of solitude for meditation and other spiritual revelations to me.
So let’s review:
- Paul never met the physical Jesus.
- Paul had a spiritual revelation of Jesus by a bright light.
- Paul then went into the desert for a time of solitude.
- Paul makes it clear that his version of the gospel was not something taught to him by men (doctrine, ideas, dogma, religion).
Now I also want you to consider the fact that Paul NEVER mentions the virgin birth in his writings. Nowhere! He is completely silent on this important matter. Why? Didn’t he know about the virgin birth?
Paul didn’t write about the virgin birth because such things didn’t concern him. The real point in this discussion is contained within this question: What Christ Jesus is Paul referring to when he mentions that the Old Testament contains the wisdom to bring Timothy unto salvation through Christ Jesus?
The Christ Jesus of which Paul refers to being revealed in the Old Testament scriptures is not a physical man, but rather the Christ WITHIN! This is why Paul’s Damascus experience is so spiritual. This is why Paul went into Arabia afterwards for further spiritual revelation, much the same way the gurus of Tibet would. He went into Arabia to look WITHIN. Even the physical man Jesus stated that the KINGDOM IS WITHIN YOU! That’s where the REAL power of the gospel message is!
So many have missed the fact that this is also where the real message of the Old Testament is too. The Pharisees and others were blinded to this truth just as many today are blinded to the real purpose of the New Testament writings. Consider what Paul said:
“But their minds were blinded: for until this day remaineth the same veil untaken away in the reading of the Old Testament; which veil is done away in Christ. But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the veil is upon their heart. (2 Corinthians 3:14-15).
What veil? What does this veil do? This veil blinds people to the real purpose and intent of ANY holy writing. Namely, that the scriptures were written to teach us about the Christ nature within each person, not to develop doctrine from!
Paul also states:
“For so much as ye are manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart. And such trust have we through Christ to God-ward: Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life.”
In other words, Paul is not concerned with religions and doctrines formed from writings in “stone” or “ink.” He is concerned with a direct spiritual experience with God that NO MAN can teach you with ideas, doctrines, or salvation messages, from any written documents, be they the New Testament or Old Testament.
Today, the traditional Christian message teaches us to look outside ourselves for salvation, but this is silly. The Kingdom of God is WITHIN you! All salvation must come from this place. Jesus the man NEVER taught us to look outside ourselves for our salvation. He wanted us to realize what he realized: the eternal nature of BEING that we truly are. This IS the Father, and this consciousness realization is the resurrection in which we realize our ONENESS with the ONE Father. This is also the body of Christ.
Doctrine doesn’t transform anyone, and the world will be a better place when people realize that there is no such thing as a correct doctrine. All doctrines are just mental ideas and concepts.
So is there any benefit to the scriptures at all? Of course! The Old and New Testament scriptures are some of the most brilliant words ever written down. And they are for correction and reproof as Paul states in Timothy 3:16. But this correction and reproof that Paul speaks of is to show us what is false in the world and what is true within ourselves.
So what does all this mean? What are the ramifications for today’s millions of Bible readers? First of all, the Bible has to be put back into its proper perspective. Instead of developing doctrines, we need to get behind the heart and soul of the spiritual intent of the Biblical stories. We need to go beyond literal and historical interpretations and find the hidden meanings contained within these highly metaphysical writings. Then we need to awaken to our true selves, the Christ nature within each of us.
Next week I will post part two of this series. I will give further evidence that Paul didn’t think the scriptures should be used like we use them today to develop doctrine. I will also give more evidence that Paul has been one of the most misunderstood persons in the history of religion.
So reader, what do you think? I’d love to hear your perspective on the purpose of the scriptures. I would also love to hear any insight you might have on Paul’s damascas experience.