Pause for thought
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If you are like me and browse the internet for material related to Bible study and/or faith-based subjects you will undoubtedly from time to time come across an article which says that it can “prove” that the Bible is “contradicting” itself and therefore Christianity cannot be “trusted”.

As you know, our faith is in the birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus and not the Bible itself, but it is from the Bible (although not exclusively) that we know what we do about God’s plan for humanity. So we should be aware of, and test our knowledge and credibility of the scripture on which we rely.

An example I came across this week while doing some work for a website was the well-known saying of Jesus, “…it is more blessed to give than to receive…” Acts 20:35.

The problem the writer had with Paul’s quotation of Jesus, however, is that it appears nowhere in the gospel accounts, or indeed anywhere else in scripture except in this exhortation of Paul to the elders in Ephesus to do good found in Acts 20.

So, did Paul make a mistake? Did he misquote Jesus? What logical explanation can be given as to why these words are not recorded in the gospel accounts?

Well, there is nothing which points to Paul even possessing the gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John during his ministry, nor would he need them in order to know what Jesus taught. In fact, they likely were written some years after Paul had already begun his missionary journeys, and probably after he reminded the Ephesus elders of Jesus’ statement about giving.

A little thought brings us to the conclusion that Paul did not rely upon the gospel accounts for his knowledge of Jesus. Rather, Paul received supernatural revelation directly from God. Jesus spoke directly to Paul on the road to Damascus (Acts 9; 22:8), “the Spirit of Jesus” kept him from preaching in Bithynia (Acts 16:7, ASV), and “the Lord spoke to Paul…by a vision” in Corinth (Acts 18:9).

The message that he preached came directly from God. To the churches of Galatia, he wrote: “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” (Galatians 1:11-12, emphasis mine).

As important as those gospel accounts are for we Christians in the twenty-first century, Paul did not need to consult them in order to know if Jesus ever taught, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.”

It’s also good to note that not everything that Jesus said and did was recorded by the gospel writers. At the end of his gospel, John twice points out: “…truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book…. [T]here are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (John 20:30 and 21:25)

Each of the gospel writers gives us his own independent account of what Jesus did and said. What we do know from them is that Jesus was fond of expressing the “inverted logic” of the Kingdom. He loved to tweak the established religionists of his day by telling them, “the first shall be last”, “if you want to be the greatest you need to be the least”, “to find your life you have to lose it”, “happy are those who mourn”, “love your enemies”, and on and on. So, “it is more blessed to give than to receive” is exactly the sort of thing we can imagine Jesus saying and Paul tells us Jesus said it.

The old proverb says that “the proof of the pudding is in the eating” and millions of Jesus-followers through twenty centuries have proved the truth of these words by putting them into action.

In our culture of getting and receiving let us prove once again the truth of Jesus’ words, because we can be sure that, yes! Jesus did say that!

Blessings on you and yours, Jim Black

P.S. if you’d like to read previous ruminations of mine they can be found at