To say that they were from opposite sides of the tracks would be an understatement as big as the worldwide flood they both grew up believing. Both were Jews, but one was a freeborn Roman citizen and the other was a Roman subject born into poverty.
In addition to being a Roman citizen, Paul was also able to say of himself that he was "of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee." Jesus, though, was from the tribe of Judah, and definitely not a Pharisee. In fact, during his earthly ministry, the Pharisees would be both his most vocal critics and the most consistent targets of his ire.
Paul was educated at the feet of Gamaliel; that made him a rising star in Judaism. Jesus had no formal education at all, leaving his surprised critics to say, "How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?" Jesus was put to death as a common criminal, and Paul believed with all his heart that he deserved it. In fact, he hated Christ and Christians so bitterly that he went everywhere imprisoning, persecuting and even putting them to death.
And then the most unlikely thing happened. On the road to Damascus to target more Christians, the risen Christ confronted Paul, who wisely said, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" Jesus sent him into the city, blinded from his confrontation.
And then, after letting him sweat it out for three days, Jesus spoke to a man named Ananias and said, "Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and enquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth, and hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight."
When Ananias balked at this, knowing that Paul had been a hater of Christ and killer of Christians, Jesus told him, "Go thy way: for he is a chosen vessel unto me, to bear my name before the Gentiles, and kings, and the children of Israel: For I will shew him how great things he must suffer for my name's sake."
And witness for and suffer for Christ he did. He spent the rest of his life telling the world about the risen Christ and winning people to him. He took three great missionary journeys establishing churches and under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost wrote more than half of the New Testament.
The apostles, the best friends and most devoted followers of Jesus listened to Paul explain what he was doing, approved and gave him the "right hands of fellowship." Peter, one of the Lord's inner circle, called him "our beloved brother Paul" in 2 Peter 3:15, and one verse later called the writing of Paul "Scripture," and warned that unlearned and unstable people would wrest, "twist up" those writings as they do also the other Scriptures, unto their own destruction.
Jesus and Paul had very different styles and manners of delivery. Jesus tended to go out into the wilderness, let the multitudes come to him, and speak to them in parables. Paul, though, generally barged right into the synagogues and got down to very specific arguments based on Old Testament Scriptures.
But while their styles were different, their teachings, their doctrines, were not. There was a symmetry between them that could only be divine in origin, considering all of their other vast differences.
Jesus said that he would be crucified, and he was crucified. Paul told the church at Corinth, "But we preach Christ crucified" and "For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God."
Jesus taught that he would rise from the dead. Paul taught that Jesus rose from the dead, even using an entire chapter of 58 verses to do so in 1 Corinthians 15. Jesus taught that people would be saved by believing in him (John 11:26-27, John 8:24), and Paul taught the same in Romans 10:9-10. Jesus saved a sinner hanging on a cross beside him, a man who could not be baptized or go to church or give to the poor or do any other work to earn salvation. Paul told the Ephesian church in Ephesians 2:8-9, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast."
Jesus taught people to forgive one another, going so far as to utter the immortal "seventy times seven" guidance on that matter. Paul told the Colossian church that they should be "Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye." He told the church at Ephesus, "And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you."
Jesus told his men he was coming again to receive them to himself. Paul told the church at Thessalonica, "For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord."
Jesus said that whoever believes in him "hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life." Paul said that we are "sealed unto the day of redemption." Jesus said, "For whosoever will save his life shall lose it; but whosoever shall lose his life for my sake and the gospel's, the same shall save it." Paul said, "neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God."
When you read the New Testament, never put a mental asterisk on what comes after the gospels; Paul and every other New Testament writer wrote and taught exactly what Christ wanted them to.
Bo Wagner is pastor of Cornerstone Baptist Church of Mooresboro, North Carolina, a widely traveled evangelist and the author of several books available on Amazon and at www.wordofhismouth.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.