18 comments on “Are the sayings of Jesus of more relevance than the Letters of Paul?

  1. William • An interesting question that I have not heard before. I am not sure what you mean by equality. I believe everything included in our Protestant Bibles is equally important, equally inspired, and equally authoritative. I assume you mean equality of teaching, and I believe everything in Scripture has equality of teaching.

    That being said, when it comes to a specific teaching some passage are more important than others simply because the teaching is or is not found there. The Gospels are more important than the writings of Paul if we want details about Jesus’ day to day ministry. Paul’s writings are more important than the Gospels if we want to study how Christians began to spread the Word and organize churches. Both sets of writings are of equal importance, equal inspiration, and equal authority; just slightly different subject matter.

    I would recommend you buy a copy of this book by F.F. Bruce: “The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?” London: Inter-Varsity Press, 1970. It will help you understand how the books of the New Testament came to be included and why, and might also help with the question you have raised here.

    May the Lord be with you!

  2. Mark • Nice question! I’ve been studying the Bible for almost 40 years and wondered the same thing years ago. Here are my thoughts about it.

    God’s Word is God’s Word. Everything He said and inspired people to say and write is the Highest communication possible. Jesus spoke to people many times in the Old Testament, so the red letters could be throughout the Bible and not just in the Gospels.

    The key to Bible study that is accurate is observing, interpreting, applying and correlating God’s Word according to the way He inspired it to be written, not the way we or someone else would like Him to have written it. Students of God’s Word need to handle it carefully and correctly (2 Timothy 2:15).

    Who did Jesus talk to in the Gospels? What was His primary message to them? Don’t think about what you already believe about Jesus’ Words, look at them with fresh eyes.

    Who did Peter, James and John talk to in the Book of Acts? What was their primary message to them? Same thing – look at it with fresh eyes?

    Who did Paul talk to in the Book of Acts? What was his primary message to them? Same thing – look at it with fresh eyes?

    What happened in Acts 7 and 8? How did that change things for the Apostles?

    What happened in Acts 9 and 10? What changes there?

    What happened in Acts 11 thru 14? What changes there?

    What happened in Acts 15 and Galatians 2? What changes there? Why is the leader of church in Jerusalem not one of the original Apostles? Why doesn’t Peter have the lead role he used to have? What decisions were made in Jerusalem that day that changed the rest of the Book of Acts? What happened to the Apostles Jesus selected for His purpose after Acts 15? Where did they go? Why is everything in the second half of Acts about Paul and Gentile churches and not about Peter and Jewish churches? What happened to Peter and John in Acts 16 – 28? We know from Acts 15 and Galatians 2 that they continued to minister to the circumcision, so why didn’t God inspire Luke to include that in the second half of Acts?

    Who did Paul address in his epistles? Who did Peter, James and Jude address in their letters? Who did John address in his epistles and The Revelation? What about their messages were the same? What were the differences? What conclusions do we come arrive at after considering that for awhile?

    Everything we read in the New Testament was inspired by the Holy Spirit (2 Timothy 3:16-17). All of it’s important. We should teach from every Book and every verse. The precise correlations from Book to Book, Testament to Testament are overwhelming. No person or group of people could ever do that over a period of 1,500 years – unless they were God.

    What we need to do is study the Bible inductively and methodically and we’ll understand the truth and how to teach it accurately. Let God teach you One on one and He will. Remember, Jesus is the Master Teacher. When we study God’s Word, the Spirit of Christ sits with us and helps us learn. No one teaches the Bible the way Jesus does – He is the Word of God. Talk with Jesus before you study. Let Him know that you know He’s there and that you’re depending on His Wisdom to guide you into all Truth. God loves it when we depend on Him for everything – especially understanding His Word.

    Hope this helps!

    Mark McGee

    http://gracelifethoughts.wordpress.com/

  3. Sandra • Wow! You’ve touched on one of the most controversial topics in all of Christendom – the inspiration and authority of Scripture. I’m sure you’ll get some strong and varying opinions.

    I have coined a phrase that describes my position – I hold to a position of “original and sustained inspiration.” In other words, I believe the entire Bible was inspired by God (consistent with the verse you referred to – 2 Tim 3:16 – “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.”) and God has sustained it through the process that brought it from original writing to the Bible I hold in my hands (or read on my screen).

    2 Tim 3:16 has a huge WOW factor – That God has been involved in the life of His people since creation, meeting them at their level yet transforming them into more than they were – by breathing life into them, both literally and figuratively through His creation, His interactions with them and His Word. Any doctrine of inspiration and authority that waters down the “WOW” factor of that statement cannot be consistent with all of Scripture.

    So, the bottom line is (in my humble opinion) that ALL Scripture is worthy of study. And since we know God to be integrous – He does not lie or change His mind – it is consistent from Genesis to Revelation. Now I don’t always understand that consistency (or apparent lack thereof), but I trust it. So when it seems to be inconsistent – perhaps those areas are worthy of even more study, not less.

    I also treasure the words of Jesus and can’t imagine not studying the Gospels. Also, there are topics addressed in the Gospels that aren’t addressed to the same extent in other writings. (For example, of the 68 references to “Kingdom of God” in my NIV, 51 of them are found in the Gospels. Also, the Gospels would be the place to go to study the life of Christ. Both are worthy studies.)

    To your final paragraph – are any portions more important than others. I can’t bring myself to say “yes,” but I will concede that some are more relevant today. For example studying some portions of the Old Testament have little impact on my life today. Still, they can bring a richness to my faith as I understand them better. Are the Epistles (letters) of less significance than the Gospels? I can’t imagine holding that position. Perhaps I don’t understand and someone else can explain why any church would hold to that position. My initial reaction is that I would serious consider whether or not God wanted me to align myself with a church holding to that position.

    If you want to read my position paper on the subject (even more detail than this! :-)) you can go to: http://apprehendinggrace.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/07/Inspiration-Paper.pdf

    Blessings, Steven. May God reveal Himself to you in a mighty way as you pursue Him.

    Sandy

  4. Stacey • A few verses to consider:

    “Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. 21For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” 2 Peter 1:20,21 NIV

    “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness” 2 Timothy 3:16 NIV

    “And we also thank God continually because, 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, which is at work in you who believe.” 1 Thessalonians 2:13 NIV

    “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12 NIV

  5. Stacey • Regarding what to teach and when to teach it: here are some verses to consider:

    … Proverbs 27:23 “Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds”

    .. John 12:49 “For I did not speak of my own accord, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and how to say it.”

    .. John 16:12 “”I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear.13But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.”

    …Luke 12:42″The Lord answered, “Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom the master puts in charge of his servants to give them their food allowance at the proper time?”

    …Matthew 13:52 “He said to them, “Therefore every teacher of the law who has been instructed about the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.”

    … Acts 20:27 “For I have not hesitated to proclaim to you the whole will of God.”

  6. I have an urge to want to say: On behalf of your ABF leader, I am regretful of his flippant-sounding answer to you.

    The most helpful time when I was saved as a senior in college at the Arrowhead Springs campus of Campus Crusade was going though the Gospel of John–once by Howard Hendricks and the other time by Josh McDowell.

    It’s all Scripture–I certainly agree with the other posts. But teachers as well as ABFs have different personalities. I remember one guy (who taught on the collegiate level) who went to the same church my wife and I did in Arlington,VA told me he ‘had’ to read through the book of Galations every day. And at the same church, we had an on-going permanent class of Survey of John…which were both for new and ‘older’ believers.

    The best thing I did in the 1970s was to memorize Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5,6 and 7). Jesus refers to a plethora of OT books there. And throughout His teaching (the red-letter stuff), he mentions every OT book except Ruth–and some will argue with me that he mentions Ruth as well.

    So please don’t fall into the ‘trap’ of Jesus vs. the Apostles in your thinking–it’s ALL congruent and profitable!

    In His grip of grace, your friend,
    Steve

  7. Brian • The New Testament, better known as The Writings of The Apostles is not “The Scripture”. Whenever “The Scriptures” is referenced in “The New Testament” it is referring to what you call “The Old Testament.”

    Every Apostle in The Bible would sternly rebuke you for attempting to make their writings Scriptures. Jesus made it perfectly clear what The Scriptures are.

    The Bible (Old and New) is “The Word of God” just as what you preach on Sunday should be “The Word of God”. But…The Word of God is not The Scriptures even-though The Scriptures are The Word of God….

    Acts 4:31, Acts 6:2, Acts 6:7, Acts 13:5, Heb 4:12, Heb 11:3, etc.

    All of Paul’s teaching had their basis in The Scriptures as evident by Acts 26, Acts 18:28, Acts 17:11 and 2 Peter 3:16 which clearly is not referring to Paul’s writings as Scripture but fits the truth that Paul taught everything from The Scriptures including The Body of Christ, Resurrection and The last Days ( and everything in between 🙂

    Our current Bible consists of these parts (in part – does not include subsets):

    The Scriptures
    The Narratives of Jesus’ Life
    The Writings of the apostles

    Thank You for giving these word a few moments of your time.

    God Bless You

  8. Mark • Insight from the Apostle Peter:

    “Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.” 2 Peter 3:15-16

    Peter compared Paul’s letters to “the other Scriptures.”

    Blessings!

  9. Stacey • Here are some more things to think about? 🙂

    What are the differences between the Father’s commandments and teachings and Jesus’ commandments and teachings? (i.e The Old & New Cov, outer sin and inner sin etc)

    Notice Jesus indicates the two commandments are not the same:
    …. John 15:10 “If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love.”(NIV)
    …10If you keep My commandments [if you continue to obey My instructions], you will abide in My love and live on in it, just as I have obeyed My Father’s commandments and live on in His love.(AMP)
    …10″If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” (NASB)

    … John 14:23 Jesus replied, “If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.

    Jesus commanded the Apostles to teach believers to obey “everything” Jesus commanded. What did Jesus command?

    … Matthew 28:20 “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” NIV
    …20Teaching them to observe everything that I have commanded you, and behold, I am with you all the days perpetually, uniformly, and on every occasion), to the [very] close and consummation of the age. Amen (so let it be). AMP
    … 20teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” NASB

    Jesus also said that the Apostles teachings will be obeyed too. So what is different between what Jesus taught and what the Apostles taught? (I.e. The Law Heb 8-10)

    … John 15:20 “Remember the words I spoke to you: ‘No servant is greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also.” NIV
    ….20Remember that I told you, A servant is not greater than his master [is not superior to him]. If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word and obeyed My teachings, they will also keep and obey yours.” AMP
    … 20″Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master ‘ If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also.” NASB

    So we have the teachings and commands of Jesus during his earthly life recorded for us in the 4 gospels and then the teachings and commands of the Apostles recorded for us in the remainder of the New Test. All of which God expects us to follow and obey.

  10. Brian • Insight into the Apostle Peter: (my last words on the subject)

    First, I want to thank Mark for the Bible reference of 2 Peter 3:15-16
    I find all of the contributors quite insightful !!!!! Thank you all

    The Writings of The Apostles are all very important, they are inspired by God, are The Word of God and are necessary for our faith in Christ. Nothing I write here diminishes or challenges their authority or importance in The Church.

    These 6 words of 2 Peter 3:15-16 “as they do other Scriptures” have been used, over the past many years, in a way which is inconsistent with The Teachings of Jesus and all of the other teachings in The Writings of The Apostles.

    Most of The Writers of The New Testament rarely claimed inspiration from God in their writing (though they were inspired, obviously), never claimed their writings were equal to The Scriptures and they all claim to write based on situational knowledge, observations, letters written to them or , as Luke writes, “I believe I have a good understanding also based on everything I read and heard from others.”

    The basis of the Apostle’s writings is The Teachings of Jesus and The Scriptures as revealed to them by The Spirit of God who takes the things of Jesus and shows it to them.

    The “same way” that Paul writes “in all of his letters” is “the way” of giving insights and present truths from the ancient Scriptures. Paul’s teachings have no authority outside of The Scriptures and The Teachings of Jesus. People were taking The Scriptures that Paul was teaching and expounding on and twisting them as well as twisting other Scriptures, that Paul was not expounding on in his letters, to their own destruction.

    Jesus was given authority, had authority, has authority and all authority starts and ends with Him. He told us what The Scriptures are. Apostles can heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, tell us that the Kingdom of God is nigh, teach, preach, lay foundation, write letters etc. but they can’t add to The Scriptures.

    2 Tim 3:15-16 – All Scriptures is given by inspiration, God-Breathed, but all inspired, God-Breathed, writings are not Scriptures.

    Hold on to The Faith once delivered to us…and abide in The Apostles doctrines, break bread, pray and fellowship.

    With pure love and all humility from your brother and fellow laborer in Christ
    Brian

    Thank you for the privilege of my sharing and your sharing with me.

  11. Stacey Aldred • The Apostle John clearly was writing scripture dictated by God

    … Revelation 1:11 “saying, ” Write in a book what you see, and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.”
    … Revelation 1:19 “Therefore write the things which you have seen, and the things which are, and the things which will take place after these things.”
    …Revelation 2:1″”To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this:
    .
    … on and on he is instructed to write
    .
    …Revelation 19:9 “Then he said to me, ” Write, ‘ Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb ‘” And he said to me, ” These are true words of God.”
    …Revelation 21:5 “And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new ” And He said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.”

  12. Stacey • Brian,

    I’m curious how you view the “history” books of the Bible. Do you think the authors of those books thought at the time they were writing history or Scripture?

    For example the books of: 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, 1 Kings, 2 Kings, 1 Chronicles, 2 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Luke, Acts etc. all the historical books whereby the writer may have been motivated to write an historical documentation and it ends up being Scripture and canoised as the inspired Word of God. Luke 1:1-4 + Acts 1;1 for example.

    These are very different than say Jeremiah’s writtings whereby God told him to write
    …Jeremiah 30:2 “Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, ‘ Write all the words which I have spoken to you in a book.”
    .
    Yet both carry the same authority they are both Scripture both the Word of God.

    Blessings,
    Stacey

  13. Marco Wittenberg • Dear Steven,

    A word from The Netherlands… 😉
    You touch the subject of hermeneutics, or so to say ‘is there a canon within the canon?’
    Over the past centuries theologians have discussed this topic hugely. Of importance is to teach ALL the scriptures, e.g. OT, NT, letters and Gospels. Historical context and literary context is important to understand what you are reading. To put it in other words: what did Luke meant when he wrote sayings of Jesus?
    I would recommend you to read for starters books by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart, ‘How to read the Bible for all its worth’

    Blessings,

    Marco

  14. Rev. Jeffrey Marsh • Paul, himself, referred to Jesus as Lord. Therefore, the words of Jesus hold authority over Paul’s words. Saying that, I agree that all scripture from Genesis 1:1 to the last word of the Book of Revelation is inspired of God.Church leaders, pastors, teachers, etc…are supposed to be teaching the entire Bible not just the writings of Paul or selected passages from the Old Testament. I find it amazing that many of the “TV preachers” stay in the Old Testament. The fact is Jesus’s teachings are pretty radical. His teachings includes love, sacrifice, give away all you have, love your enemies, etc… In John’s Gospel, we find these words of Jesus, “…no one comes to the Father but through Me”

  15. Michael Gonzalez • Getting back to the original question, we must remember that “scripture”, as in Old and New Testament, records the words of God which are the words of Jesus as they are one. The red letters are the words of Jesus as inspired writers by the Holy Spirit put to pen. We cannot assume that everyword in red letters are literal words of Christ but rather words along with ideas and parables as the writers were moved to write. If the red letters were the actual literal words of Jesus there would not be a big enough book to record it in acient times. Let’s remember that “scripture” records that Jesus’ teachings sometimes lasted all day. I look at it this way. If you went to an all day class, say a 10hour single day seminar and then had to come back and relay that (teach it) to your family or the rest of the “company” you would most likely do this in a 2 or 3 hour time frame expounding on the highlights and key points of importance. You would condence it so that it would be presented in a manageable way. Scripture, I believe, is written to inform, teach and inspire and to change our hearts to God (supernaturally). If every literal word that Jesus spoke was recorded then it would be nothing more than what the teachers of law used to do. Recite OT scripture which in and of itself lacks substance as that type of so called teaching is not teaching at all. That’s why Jesus’ teachings were recorded as radical and with authority because His way of teaching touches your heart and causes change.

    As to the importance of red letters over others I just don’t see it. I see our Bible as the word of God period. Wether recorded as spoken by God, inspired by God or spoken by Jesus it is all God’s Word. The writings by the NT apostels and by Luke are an extension of God’s personally spoken word. Much like the miracles of the Old Testament such as Moses striking the rock. Moses didn’t produce water out of the rock by striking it. He followed God’s instruction to physically strike the rock. God produced the water out of the rock. Likewise inspired scripture for me is simular in that the inspired New Testament writer is the one writing but he is not the one producing the words. He is a vehicle used by God for our benefit. Just like Moses was used by God for the benefit of the people.

    I agree with Brian that the NT writers would rebuke us for thinking them more than what they were in thier own eyes. Rebuke or not does no mitigate the truth, that is, thier writings are the Word of God. I would have to say that I am more in agreement with Mark. To the issue of what is “scripture” I would say a discussion on that subject would be much to do about a secondary point that is pointless to discuss. The primary point is that our Protestant Bible is the Word of God, it that simple. To get into a discussion of what is scripture would be a distraction and an unproductive and unfruitul discussion that should be avoided so at to concentrate on the primary point.
    Blessing to all.
    Thank you
    MG

  16. Michael Vermilyea • Steven, I hope my reply helps you. The Bible states many times that Jesus and God are one and the same (John 10:30, there is a lot about this throughout the book of John). This being the case, there really is no difference between what God has inspired men to write (new or old testament) or what He has said via Jesus. All these things were written by men under the inspiration of God. One of the amazing things about the Bible is that even though there are over 40 men who have contributed to the Bible, there is a consistency throughout and no contradictions. In fact, this is one of the arguments for showing the Bible is the true Word of God. The reason I mention this is that it kind of makes your question unnecessary. Since there is no contradictions, there is need to figure out if Jesus’ or John’s sayings are more important as they support each other. For a deeper discussion of the reliability of the Bible, I have found the following books very helpful to me when I first became a Christian.. “Evidence That Demands A Verdict, Answers to Tough Questions, A Ready Defense” all by Josh McDowell. Pastors should be preaching from the entire Bible. Although all scripture is equal in authority, some scripture may get taught more often than others due to how relevant it is for the church, interest, or pastor preference.

  17. Dave Douglas • Wow. Lots of good wisdom found on this page. I couldn’t add to anything said, nor would I wish to countermand much, since most people here seem to have a good handle on the authority and inspiration of the bible in it’s entirety. Believe it or not, our pastor’s daughter, who likes to blog on ministry, actually posted a bit back that the “red” words were more important than the others, after all they were Jesus’ words. I really wanted to dance on a desk over that one….but, alas, I no longer am on staff there and it would just look like sour grapes. But, I wondered just how many people think of the bible in those terms?? What Would Jesus Do took over the Christian church a few years back, perhaps we should also ask, What Would Paul Say? Or Peter? or….well, you get the idea. The inspiration of the Holy Spirit unites the entire book – it’s all from God.

  18. Steven Lee Douglas • I have been waiting to comment. I am encouraged to add further comment after reading about the daughter of the Pastor at Dave’s church.

    All scripture is “God breathed”. All scripture is “inspired”. OK, but.

    I sense, although this may not be intentional, that when you are speaking about the sayings of Jesus, the letters of Paul, writings of John and Mark, “Jesus” is just another name.

    You probably already know where I am going with this. Jesus was not inspired as the others were. Jesus inspired everyone else. If you want to suggest, which I dont think you will, that the sayings of Jesus were not His words but rather an interpretation by a man then I may buy the idea that His writings carry no more importance than the rest.

    I still feel that the sayings of Jesus are Scriptural and the rest are commentaries on His sayings.

    ————-
    One last thought that there are no “contradictions” in the Bible. Of course there are not. Lets not forget that the Bible was put together by the Council of Nicea who chose what should be in it and not in it. To create contradition would have created suspicion in the Truth of God’s Word. There was good reason why they decided the way they did what would remain and what would not.

    Thank you again for all of your comments. I do hope they continue.

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