God’s Word – Not Your Local “Pick ‘n Mix”
“Jesus never taught that [insert your favourite sin] was wrong.”
During your Christian life how many times have you heard the above assertion or some such other similar claim? The implication being that to be a Christian you only need to follow the teachings specifically said by Jesus. This type of affirmation usually goes hand-in-hand with the view that the Bible is just a normal book written by normal men.
The person who clings to this position can therefore pretty much continue to lead the life he led before he was a Christian being able to soothe any pricks of his conscience by claiming either that Jesus did not directly teach it, or by claiming ignorance as to what Jesus actually said in the first place.
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits.” -Matthew 7:15
In my opinion, the shoe that Matthew is providing here fits perfectly on the foot of people who adopt the position mentioned above. The fruit of this view is a total lack of holiness and for all practical purposes the dethroning of Jesus as King in one’s life. It leads to the “salt” losing its “saltiness”.
“But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.” -Matthew 5:13
Unteacheable and Uncorrectable
If you tried to show somebody who adopts this position its error from Scripture, you wouldn’t get anywhere because the position totally destroys all scriptural authority. If, say a pastor, were to confront a Christian about a certain sin and point to one of Paul’s epistles as condemning it they would simply shrug their shoulders and say “yes but Jesus didn’t condemn it.” If the pastor is really lucky, they may even tag on the end “and Jesus said thou shalt not judge”. I wonder if they would “judge” you for “judging” something like a murder as sin? As my dad always says, “once someone has destroyed scriptural authority, you might as well talk about golf.”
What’s so convincing about the position outlined above is that it’s almost true, as the best lies always are. I wholeheartedly agree that as Christians we should be following the teachings of Christ. Where I disagree, is that this means we only follow what was specifically said by Jesus.
What about, if Jesus specifically said that he gave certain people the authority to articulate his message? What would we do then? If we are to take Jesus’ utterances as authoritative, then surely we would have to accept that the people he gave the right to spread his teachings, must be obeyed as if Jesus himself were speaking.
“The one who listens to you listens to Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me; and he who rejects Me rejects the One who sent Me.” -Luke 10:16
Take It Or Leave It Suggestions Or Divine Decree
Did the apostles believe that their writings were just the “take it or leave it” suggestions of fallible men or the divinely inspired Word of God?
“When you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God.” -1 Thessalonians 2:13
The apostles themselves clearly believed that their words were authoritative for the church and indeed the very words of God himself. In 1 John 4:4 – 6 the apostle John says that whoever listens to the apostles knows God. He goes on to say that whoever doesn’t listen to the apostles does not know God, and has a spirit of error.
In 2 Peter 3:2 the apostle Peter says that the apostles speak the commandment of the Lord and Saviour and in 1 Corinthians 14:37 Paul says that what he is writing is the Lord’s command.
In 1 Corinthians 2:13 Paul declares that the apostles teach what the Holy Spirit teaches. Paul also affirms in Romans 2:16 that God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to his (Paul’s) message. Furthermore, in Ephesians 2:20 Paul says that God’s household is built on the foundations of the apostles and prophets, with Jesus Christ being the cornerstone.
To be part of God’s household then, your faith must be founded on the apostles and the prophets teachings, as well as the teachings of Jesus. It’s also worth mentioning at this point that Peter, one of Jesus closest confidants from the beginning, called the writings of Paul Scripture in 2 Peter 3:16.
“All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” -2 Timothy 3:16-17
Scripture – Profitable For Teaching, For Reproof, For Correction, and For Training In Righteousness
I think the key point here for those who want to say that Jesus never condemned a certain sin so it’s okay, is that the apostles, who clearly believed that Jesus had taught them everything they wrote, believed that all Scripture was profitable for correction and for instruction (2 Timothy 3:16).
In my book, for “correction” to occur some sort of judgement has to be made about what is and what is not sin. In people’s minds this rubs up against the “thou shalt not judge” mentality that sounds so enticing to all us sinners. The key thing to remember here is that it is not the Christian who is judging, but Jesus Christ our Lord and King who has judged what is and what is not sin and it is the apostles in the books of Scripture who have written these judgements down.
Many of the adherents of the “Jesus’ words only” brigade have a particular disdain for Paul and his epistles. The obvious reason for this being that God chose Paul as the apostle to the Gentiles and therefore as the apostle who would spell out in detail to us Gentiles God’s list of do’s and don’ts.
This position believes that if it can just delegitimise Paul it can pretty much allow Christians to act however they want and still call themselves Christian.
In the end, it is up to every Christian to decide who to trust.
Are you going to trust the words of one of the Jesus-only crowd, claiming to know more about Jesus’ teachings 2000 years after the fact than Jesus disciples at the time?
Or, are you going to believe all of the apostles, personally chosen by Jesus, and their direct disciples? Faithful Christians who were actually there, eyewitnesses to the events that happened and who heard personally the teachings of Jesus or His disciples.The same who were finally martyred attesting to what they had been taught.
I know which group I believe is most trustworthy!