As we study the Bible, as we teach the lost, and as we present lessons to build up the saints of God, should we focus on Jesus and what He said, or should we focus on what Paul and other inspired men wrote? There certainly is no contradiction between what Jesus personally taught (Matthew through John) and what is recorded from Acts through Revelation. But should we spend more time studying and teaching from one particular area of the last twenty-seven books of the Bible?
In the books of Matthew to John, we see Jesus’ courage when He cleansed the temple (John 2:13- 16), we see His compassion in dealing with the grieving (Luke 7:11-13), we see His power in controlling a storm (Mark 4:37-39), we see His unfailing devotion to His followers (John 13:1), we see Him weeping over a lost city (Luke 19:44), we see Him submitting to the Father in all things (John 8:29), and we see Him speaking the truth in every setting (John 8:45,46).
Jesus predicted that He would be betrayed to the Jewish leaders, that the Gentiles would kill Him, and on the third day He would rise again (Mark 10:32- 34). He also told His close followers that at some point following His resurrection, He would return to His Father Who sent Him (John 14:28,29; 16:5). Every single one of those predictions came to pass.
What else did Jesus say about Himself? He declared that He was the promised Messiah (John 4:25,26) and the Son of God (Mark 14:62). He said that He came to seek and save the lost (Luke 19:10). He revealed that He came so people might have abundant life (John 10:10). He claimed that He is the only way to the Father (John 14:6). Jesus also said that His words are spirit and life (John 6:63). The lost world needs to hear all of these great truths about Jesus and His message!
What about those of us who already are in the Christ? Do we still need to hear about Jesus? God wants Christians to have the mind “which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5), and He wants us to “follow His steps” (1 Peter 2:21). If you and I are going to do that successfully – if we are going to imitate God’s Son, then we must learn how He thought, how He acted, how He spoke, and how He treated others, right? In order to obtain such knowledge, we have to study. In particular, that means we will need to spend a lot of time in the earthly life of Jesus, examining the message that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John wrote about Him.
The final twenty-three New Testament books (Acts to Revelation) likewise play an important role in our education and teaching. Jesus has all authority in all religious matters (Matthew 28:18). It is also true that He delegated authority to His apostles (Matthew 18:18; 28:20). What about the last apostle whom the Lord chose, Paul? What about the messages which he penned to Christians? Did those have divine authority behind them? Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, “If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 14:37). Paul wrote the message of the Lord by the Lord’s authority, meaning that it was just as true and relevant as anything that Jesus personally said. Remember, what Paul preached “came through the revelation of Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:12).
Paul was not preaching Paul, and neither should we. Read about how he preached Jesus as the Christ (Acts 17:1-3). Hear Paul’s admission: “For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your bondservants for Jesus’ sake” (2 Corinthians 4:5). Jesus is Lord; Paul was His servant. Jesus is the Savior; Paul was merely the Savior’s ambassador (2 Corinthians 5:20), yet ambassadors do speak with their sender’s authority.
Do you want grace? Paul taught it over and over (Romans 3:23,24). Do you want love? Paul taught it repeatedly (1 Corinthians 13:4-7). Do you want mercy? Paul taught it extensively (Titus 3:5). Do you want the cross? Paul was committed to declaring it to all people (1 Corinthians 1:18; 2:1,2).
The Spirit also guided Paul to instruct Christians about how to walk as children of light, deal with the unfruitful works of darkness, and treat their spouse (Ephesians 5:8,11,22-33). Do we just throw out such instructions because they are not found in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John? Surely not. It is called “CHRISTianity” and we are CHRISTians. In my life and in my presentation of God’s word, if I fail to declare the Christ, honor Him, and exalt Him, then I have done just that: I have failed. However, we do not have to choose between what Jesus said and what Paul taught: they go hand in hand.
— Roger D. Campbell