Bringing back the gospels

We’re talking about the idea of favoring the gospels over the epistles, considering the statement: “I take Jesus way more seriously than I do Paul.” Let me speak first in favor of the proposition.

I believe that we need to preach Jesus more than we do his church. I think we need to preach Jesus more than we do doctrine. People need a Savior.Believers and non-believers need to be pointed to Jesus, urged to imitate him, follow his teachings, do the things he did.

Historically, many Christians have neglected the gospels; this has harmed the church. In a group on Facebook, some people were discussing the Nicene Creed. The creed basically says that Jesus came to earth, suffered, and died. Nothing is said about what he did nor what he taught.

As I mentioned yesterday, many in churches of Christ have wanted to begin with Acts 2. The only important things about Jesus were seen to be his death, burial, and resurrection. Life? Teachings? Minor points. Part of the “Old Testament that was nailed to the cross.” We’re New Testament Christians; that stuff doesn’t affect us. That was the teaching.

That’s wrong. Very wrong. The New Testament church focused on becoming like Jesus. It’s hard to become like him if we don’t know what he did. (which is why the “red letter” movement is equally off base; it takes away importance from the life of Jesus and the things he did)

We need to restore the gospels to their rightful place in the church. So if we’re willing to modify the above statement and say, “I take the gospels as seriously as I take Paul’s writings,” then I’m in full agreement. But if we choose to take away importance from the epistles in order to give more worth to the gospels… I’ve got a problem with that. I’ll take about that in the next few posts.

Choosing Jesus, rejecting Paul

The other day a friend included this in a Facebook post:

“I take Jesus much more seriously than I do Paul.”

That statement didn’t sit well with me.

On the one hand, well… yeah. Jesus is Lord of Lords. He should be taken much more seriously than any other human.

But it seems to me that this friend was echoing a sentiment that I hear in the church today, a need to downplay the writings of Paul and emphasize the gospels. He wasn’t really talking about Jesus and Paul as individuals, but about their teachings.

Historically, churches of Christ have often been guilty of doing just the opposite, preaching Paul and ignoring the gospels. I’ve written before about the strange doctrine that would seek to relegate the gospels to a time long past, discounting their relevance and applicability to people today. That’s an extreme form of the traditional view that argues “The New Testament begins with Acts 2.” (I’ve heard that exact statement)

Today’s view would seem to be the expected pendulum swing that happens so often as churches, as people react to one view by going to the opposite extreme.

I want to spend a little time examining the “gospels only” approach to the New Testament. I’ll include the “red letters only” view as well, which tries to take quotes from Jesus and elevate them above the rest.

Feel free to voice some opinions now or wait until we start trying to cook some of these half-baked thoughts.

How much room is there for bad news in the good news?

Question markI’ve been thinking about the gospel. The good news of Jesus. I’m wondering how much bad news is an inherent part of the good news.

There has to be some. For Jesus to be the answer, there has to be a problem that needs a solution. But what is the problem?

Is it sin? Is it personal sin or universal sin?

Is it the powers of evil? Is that the problem? Satan and his minions that have rebelled against God, deceived mankind, and sown seeds of death and destruction; is that what Jesus came to fix?

Why did Jesus have to die? Is his death part of the good news or the bad news? Some would argue that his death is the bad news and his resurrection the good. Is that it?

Why do people need to be Christians? To be saved from eternal damnation? To be part of God’s Kingdom? To find purpose and community? What’s the point?

I guess here’s what I’d like to hear your thoughts on:

  • What did Jesus accomplish with his death that couldn’t be accomplished any other way?
  • If Jesus is our Savior, what is he saving us from?
  • What do we gain by becoming a Christian that we couldn’t have otherwise?

How would you answer?

Parties and temples

The wedding feastJust wanted to share a thought from a Bible study a few weeks ago. We were reading in John chapter 2. The chapter begins with Jesus turning water into wine at a wedding feast. Later he clears the money changers out of the temple.

We noted that Jesus seemed more at home among the partygoers than he did the templegoers.

I’m afraid we today might have gone into the wedding and cleared out the revelers while leaving those in the temple at peace.

What do you think?

Illustration courtesy Sweet Publishing

Do Not Be Afraid

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A Facebook group that I’m part of, called Compadres, is having a blog tour. The general theme is The Glory of The Son and each of us will pick a story, event or teaching of Jesus that reflects His glory. Here are the posts so far:
June 3: Jeremy Schopper: Leaving the Noise Behind
June 5: Danny Holman: Jesus Challenge
June 10: Carl Jenkins: Give A Man A Fish
June 17: Jonathan Dobbs: Why Me, God?
June 19: Scott Elliott:The Beauty of the Gospel
June 24: Chris Hodges: The Glory of the Son
June 26: David Smith: then they can see my glory, which you gave me
July 1: Jeremy Hoover: Matthew and Mission
July 3: Allen Carr: The Glory in the Welcome
July 10: Daniel Burns: Not So With You
July 15: Rex Butts: A Place For Lepers
July 22: Jennifer Rundlett: A Vision of Harmony
July 24: Don Middleton: Come To The Table
July 29: Tim Archer: Do Not Be Afraid

Did you notice that last name and date on the list? (last for now… more to come) Yep, I forgot to make my contribution to the blog tour! So here it is, a couple of days late:

Do Not Be Afraid

“On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, which said: “Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.” I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone “like a son of man,” dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. His head and hair were white like wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, and out of his mouth came a sharp double-edged sword. His face was like the sun shining in all its brilliance. When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. Then he placed his right hand on me and said: “Do not be afraid. I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and Hades.” (Revelation 1:10–18)

John knew Jesus well. John formed part of the inner circle of disciples, along with Peter and James; these three participated in Jesus’ ministry in a way that no one else did. Yet now, when John sees Jesus again, he faints.

This was the glorified Christ, the Risen One in all of his glory. The description is bathed in Old Testament imagery, filled with symbolism of prophetic authority and messianic identity. But what really catches my attention are Jesus’ words:

  • Do not be afraid. As we read through the Bible, we see heavenly messengers giving these reassuring words. It’s a scary thing for an earthly being to find himself in the presence of a celestial visitor! But in Revelation, these words have a special meaning.
    Christians were being killed for their faith. John was in prison for his. One of the key phrases in this book is “do not be afraid.” More suffering was to come. More prison. More death. But Christians were to face these things with courage.
  • I am the First and the Last. Jesus wasn’t just another prophet. He was God made flesh, using terms that described God and applying them to himself.
  • I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever! Christians needed to remember that Jesus had the perfect résumé to be able to talk to others about not fearing death. His was not mere theoretical knowledge. He had been there and back.
  • And I hold the keys of death and Hades. Jesus didn’t just die; he stripped death of its power. Christians could face death with confidence; Jesus had entered the realm of the dead and emerged with the keys. He had promised that the gates of Hades would not overcome his church. How could they when he held the keys to those very gates?

The resurrection of Jesus changed history. Not just as something in the past nor something to wait for. The resurrections transforms our living today. We don’t have to fear earthly powers. We needn’t be concerned about those who can only threaten our lives. We face death with our heads held high, knowing that our Lord has forever conquered.

Do not be afraid.