Did Paul Preach Eternal Life? Should We? By Zane C. Hodges. Mesquite, TX: Kerugma, Inc, 2007. 32 pp. Paper, $3.95.
In the movie Quigley Down Under, Quigley (played by Tom Selleck) was a long-distance rifle marksman who moved to Australia. At one point, he was challenged to a pistol competition. He replied that he did not have much use for handguns. His antagonist surmised from this that Quigley could not hit a target with a pistol. In the pistol duel at film’s end, the antagonist and his ruffians found the assumption to be a costly mistake.
Those familiar with Zane would know that he focused on John’s Gospel for defining the message that one must believe. They would also know that he emphasized using John for introducing unbelievers to that message.
Interestingly, some have made an incorrect inference from Zane’s decided preference for John’s Gospel for defining and presenting the message of life. Some viewed the focus on John’s Gospel as an admission that Zane could not find this emphasis elsewhere in the New Testament.
What Zane does in this booklet is to show that one can hit this same target from Paul. In other words, Zane argued that the core of Paul’s message to unbelievers was that one believe Jesus as his Guarantor of everlasting life. In other words, the arsenal is not limited to John’s Gospel, but John is the one and only book designed by God for the unbeliever. The booklet shows that Paul and John, or Paul and Jesus, are in harmony. John quotes Jesus extensively telling unbelievers to believe Him as the guarantor of everlasting life to them. Paul agrees with Jesus and John, but emphasized other themes in his epistles to believers.
The Introduction (p. 9) quotes Gal 1:11–12: “But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ” (NKJV). The source of Paul’s message for unbelievers was the same One who taught the Apostle John for 3½ years. Is it really plausible to assume that Jesus Christ revealed twelve divergent messages (a distinct one for each of the eleven plus a twelfth for Paul)? Such a scenario would legitimatize (with regard to the message for unbelievers), saying: “I am of Peter,” “I am of John,” “I am of Andrew,” “I am of Paul,” etc.
Two criteria characterize the passages expounded in this booklet. The passages all were either written (in his epistles) or spoken by Paul (as quoted by Luke in Acts), and they all either quote what he actually said to unbelievers, or how Paul characterized his message to unbelievers.
Passages receiving attention include: Acts 13; Acts 16; Romans 1; Romans 5; 1 Tim 1:15–16; and Titus 3:4–7. Paul devoted much space to describing what Christ needed to do in order to grant someone everlasting life. He gave much less space to characterizing what the unbeliever must believe in order to receive everlasting life. By contrast, John’s book addressing unbelievers frequently quotes Jesus giving the content that must be believed.
One can hit the target with either John or with passages where Paul states what his message was to unbelievers. The booklet demonstrates this. The book does not examine the issue of how one would use passages in Paul that touch upon pertinent issues, but that Paul addressed to believers. Ephesians 2:8–9 is a case in point. It says, “You were saved by grace through faith. . . .” However, it does not specify the exact content of that faith. If this passage comes up in a discussion with an unbeliever, the content of faith would need to be stated. Zane has given an eloquent answer from both John and Paul: The unbeliever is to believe Jesus Christ as his Guarantor of everlasting life.
This booklet offers some excellent insight for staying on target in Paul. Both John and Paul learned the message of life from Jesus Christ. Both were faithful to that message. It is the same message in both men’s writings, although the target audience and the target audience in John’s Gospel is unique. John cited Jesus seeking for people to believe Him in regard to His irrevocable promise of life everlasting to believers.
Researcher, Message of Life Ministries
Teaching Elder, Grace Chapel of Orange County