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.
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.
Just 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.
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.