The world is full of people who don’t understand the Bible. Millions of people wander aimlessly in their spiritual journey thanks to various misunderstandings of the Word of God, whether it is through trusting a false teacher’s words as truth, taking verses and sections of the Bible out of context, or simply a lack of study on their own part.
Luke 6:39 – “Can the blind lead the blind? Will they not both fall into the ditch?”
We must therefore commit ourselves to a thorough study of the Word of God if we hope to fully understand God’s will and obey it.
2 Timothy 2:15-16 - “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness.”
This lesson’s misconception: In the Bible, only the words of Jesus matter
A misconception that I've heard a lot here lately is the notion of, “If it isn’t printed in red ink, then it doesn’t matter.” Basically, the idea behind this misconception is that if Jesus didn’t say it, then it’s not important.
This is an extremely problematic approach to the Bible! Just imagine if we took everything out of the Bible that wasn’t spoken directly by Jesus while He was here on Earth. There wouldn’t be much of the Bible left at all!
A quick clarification before continuing: The point of this lesson is not to downplay the teachings of Jesus. That is not my intention at all! In fact, throughout this lesson, I hope to use the words of Christ Himself (primarily) to dispel the aforementioned misconception!
Obviously, the words that Jesus spoke are the very cornerstone of our faith and should be revered as sacred. However, as we are told in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 - “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 complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.”
We must realize that the Bible, in its entirety, is the Word of God. To take anything away from God’s Word would diminish the entire message!
When Misconceptions Attack: Why are misconceptions problematic?
What’s the big deal? Why should we even address misconceptions such as this?
For one thing, how can we expect to make informed decisions based on misinformation?
When a misconception manifests itself, more misconceptions are likely to follow. Galatians 5:9 - “A little leaven leavens the whole lump”
For example: The most recent use of the misguided “If Jesus didn’t say it, then it doesn’t matter” argument I have heard is in the gay marriage debate. Supporters of gay marriage state that since Jesus never directly forbade gay marriage, then it should be acceptable.
By this logic, anything that Jesus never directly acknowledged and discouraged or forbade must be alright! Jesus never directly mentioned drug abuse, so that must be acceptable among Christians. Jesus never directly mentioned human trafficking, so that must be tolerable as well.
Obviously this is not the case in any of those situations. Just because Jesus didn’t directly mention one thing or another does not automatically make it OK. Once again, to fully discern the will of God, we must view the Bible as a whole.
(For the record, while it’s true that Jesus did not make any reference to gay marriage directly, in response to a question concerning marriage and divorce He did say, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,” [Matthew 19:4] which is consistent with the message throughout the Bible that marriage is between a man and a woman… But that’s a whole other lesson on its own!)
One cannot discredit the Old Testament prophets without discrediting Jesus Himself
If you were to take out all of the scriptures in the Bible in which Jesus is not directly speaking, the Old Testament would basically no longer exist. This would be like ripping the first half (actually, probably more than that) out of a novel and expecting someone to make sense of the whole thing! Someone studying the scriptures without the Old Testament in place would miss out on a lot of information and back-story! Jesus regularly made reference to important Old Testament figures and events. Additionally, Jesus also frequently made reference to the Law and the scriptures. How would anyone hoping to gain understanding of what Jesus was saying have any chance of actually doing so without the Old Testament?
Another issue in removing the Old Testament would be removing a portion of the credibility of Christ’s divinity. Some scholars say that there are around 400 Old Testament prophecies fulfilled by Jesus and His actions. Much (if not all) of what Jesus did while He was on Earth was to fulfill the prophecies made about Him. In fact, one of the reasons that we can be so sure of Jesus’ status as the Christ are the prophecies made about Him in the Old Testament. These prophecies are part of the proof that validates our faith!
Basically, if this misconception was true, the Old Testament would be useless. But something that people regularly forget is that Jesus didn’t come to destroy the Old Law, but to fulfill it!
Matthew 5:17 – “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.”
It’s true that we are no longer under the Law of Moses recorded in the Old Testament. We are not subject to the type of worship described therein, nor the harsh laws that dictated society during that time. However, there is still much that can be learned from the Old Testament scriptures. It’s sometimes difficult to understand the Old Testament in the context of the Bible as a whole, but it remains relevant even to this day.
Jesus makes an interesting statement pertaining to this issue in John 5:46-47 - For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?”
According to Jesus Himself we must believe in the Old Testament if we hope to believe in Him!
One cannot discredit the Apostles without discrediting Jesus Himself
Many people that state that Jesus’ words are the only ones in the Bible that matter are seeking to discredit the work and teachings of the Apostles. Some of them might even go as far as to argue that the Apostles over-complicated Christianity, stating that the message of Jesus was simple and liberating, while the teachings of the Apostles like Peter and Paul were very restrictive and maybe even contradictory to what Jesus had taught them!
What these people forget is that Jesus Himself (once again, in red ink even) chose the Apostles personally to be His disciples while he was on Earth.
John 20:21-22 – “So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit...”
If anybody could claim expertise in the teachings of Christ, it would have to be the very people that walked with Him in the flesh, those who were exposed to the majority of His teachings while He was on Earth! Who could be more qualified to write the Gospels?
The Apostles not only witnessed the miracles of Jesus and heard His teachings, but they were also chosen to continue Christ’s work after His death, resurrection, and ascension.
Matthew 16:18-19 - And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.”
Detractors of the Apostles might say, “Well, how can we trust the teachings of the Apostles after Jesus left if they were fallible humans just like us?” Jesus promised the Apostles that another would come in His place after He left.
John 14:15-18 - “If you love Me, keep My commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever— the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you. I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you.
This “Helper” was the Holy Spirit and Jesus said that He would guide them in His place and give them utterance and remembrance. Additionally, Jesus predicted that the Holy Spirit would play a major role in the foundation of the church.
Acts 1:8 – “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
Then look what happened the Day of Pentecost...
Acts 2:4 – “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.”
To ignore the teachings of the Apostles is to question the very authority of Jesus. If the words in red that Jesus spoke concerning His Apostles are to be trusted, then the Apostles themselves are to be trusted as well.
A Dilemma of Logic: Who wrote the words in the red ink?
Another problem with this misconception is the logic of the entire situation! Ignoring the portions of the New Testament that do not include Jesus directly is to ignore the Apostles and their work. But remember, these were the very men who were appointed by Jesus to continue His work. And a large portion of that work was the writing of the Gospels.
That’s right; the Apostles were the scribes of the New Testament, including the recording of the very words that Jesus spoke. Claiming that the Apostles were incorrect in their teachings would also be claiming that they were incorrect in their recording of Jesus’ message!
Fortunately, this is not the case at all. Jesus Himself guaranteed that the Helper, the Holy Spirit would ensure that the Apostles recorded Jesus’ words correctly.
John 14:25-27 - “These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you. Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.
Once again, we cannot question the teachings of the Apostles without questioning the authority of Jesus.
Jesus and God are ONE
A final problem with this misguided viewpoint is that Jesus Himself stated that He and the Father are ONE!
John 10:25-30 - Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me. But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father’s hand. I and My Father are one.”
And this was not the only instance in which Jesus states that He and God are one and the same…
John 14:9b-11a – “ He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me…”
John 1:1-3, 14 - “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made… And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”
Based on passages such as these, we can conclude that God the Father and God the Son are one and the same. Therefore the words of both God and Jesus must be of equal importance.
Whether we choose to believe it or not, the God of the Old Testament is the same as the Son of God who walked on the Earth 2000 years ago. Likewise the God of the Old Testament and the Son of God are the same as Holy Spirit that inspired and guided the Apostles through the New Testament scriptures.
We studied some interesting topics in addressing this particular misconception. In summation, if we removed any portion of the Bible at all, we would have great difficulty in seeing the full, clear picture of God’s plan. May we always seek to study God’s Word in its entirety without adding anything to or taking anything away from it.