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Part 1 – Why I Believe the Apostles’ Teaching

May 31, 2008

I don’t know how often you’ve heard something like the following: “Jesus didn’t even teach about something like homosexuality, so who are we to say if it’s right or wrong?” This is not a discussion of the homosexual issue, but this was where I most commonly heard this sort of reasoning used in a college classroom. The statement implies that it doesn’t really matter whether or not the apostles may have written on this issue – if Jesus didn’t explicitly say it, then we don’t have the right to confidently say what God views as right or wrong.

I understand that it’s easy to see those red words of Jesus on the page and think, “these really are the words of God.” This hermeneutic does not overstate the authority of Jesus’s words, but instead neglects the fact that the other words of Scripture contain the same authority since they all have the same Author. If the red words mark the words of God, then really everything from Genesis to Revelation should be marked in red! There are numerous verses I could cite to show God’s involvement in Scripture. Here is one passage that is rarely quoted but is beautifully specific in its explanation of how God was intimately involved in the development of Scripture:

“We have something more sure, the prophetic word, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.”
– 2 Peter 1:19-21 (italics mine)

I love that expression “carried along by the Holy Spirit.” The beauty of Scripture is not that it has a hodgepodge of uneducated authors who stuck their own opinion onto paper and claimed it as the word God. Instead, Scripture has one Divine Author who used a number of human authors throughout history to write the story of redemption and the Redeemer. I believe that this reason is sufficient in itself to explain the authority of the apostles’ teaching. Since the Holy Spirit moved and guided them to write, we can trust their words as being the words of God. However, in case anyone regards this as being too simple a defense I also wanted to give the other big reason that I believe the teaching of the apostles.

Does it really make any sense that someone would regard Jesus’ teaching as being authoritative but at the same time ignore the writings of the apostles – those whom He lived and ministered with, taught how to interpret Scripture, and gave them authority to continue His mission on earth?
If anyone would be trustworthy to explain all that Jesus taught beyond what is written in the Gospel accounts, it would be men like Peter, John, and Paul (who obviously was not a part of Jesus’ pre-resurrection ministry, but was as directly impacted and influenced by Jesus as anyone else in Scripture). Luke 24 talks about how the resurrected Christ personally opened the disciples’ minds to be able to understand how to interpret and preach Scripture:

v. 32 – They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”

v. 44-48 – Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.

When studying history most people view the original source documents as valuable information when trying to understand what a man was really like. If studying Washington, any writing by his closest generals would be priceless. But with Christ, we have made ourselves the authoritative interpreter of what He was really like and what He really meant. The problem stems from understanding history in an evolutionary fashion, which assumes that we’re smarter and better now than we were 2,000 years ago, and we are therefore more qualified to explain what Jesus meant and taught than His disciples. Such historical arrogance is not only misinformed, but also dangerous.

Let’s also think about this logically- someone says that they believe the words of Jesus but not the words of apostles. Who do they think wrote down the words that are attributed to Jesus? There is no such thing as believing only in the words of Jesus. It’s actually believing selectively in the writings of the apostles.

We may have computers, airplanes, air conditioning, and other cool inventions, but as for me, I will trust the words of the apostles in a heartbeat over my own naturally biased method of interpretation that is as far removed from the context in which Jesus taught and lived as can be. When it comes to understanding what Jesus preached and believed beyond the direct quotes of Him in the four gospels, I’ll take the inspired words of those he was closest to without thinking twice.
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