I often hear Christians boast that they listen more to the words of Jesus than they do the words of Paul. It isn’t that they necessarily deny Paul was an inspired apostle or that his epistles are Scripture, but they consider the gospel accounts to be first-class Scripture and the epistles to be second-class Scripture. “After all,” they reason, “shouldn’t we put more stock in what Jesus said than what Paul said?”
On the surface, I admit, this sounds like logical reasoning. However, this ignores several important facts. Let’s ask a few questions to reveal the flaws in elevating one New Testament book over another:
1. What books did Jesus write?
The gospel accounts were not written by Jesus; they were written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. If it were not for the apostles and first-century disciples, we would have no record of Jesus’ words. These men – just like Paul – wrote by inspiration and recorded the words of Christ for our benefit. When you read the words in red, you are trusting that these men were actually inspired by the Holy Spirit and that the Holy Spirit brought to their remembrance the things Jesus said (John 14:26).
There is no other way to be a Christian than to believe the writers of the New Testament were “carried along by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21), believe in Jesus “through their word” (John 17:20), and devote yourself to their teaching (Acts 2:42). You cannot believe Jesus’ words and toss the words of the apostles because the words of Jesus came through the pens of the apostles.
2. Was Matthew more inspired than Paul?
If the book of Matthew (or any of the other gospel accounts) is the work of a man being carried along by the Holy Spirit, and Paul’s epistles are the work of another man being carried along by the same Holy Spirit, why would we give more credit to one than the other? Peter confirmed Paul’s writings were in deed “Scripture” (2 Peter 3:15-16), meaning every word in Paul’s letters was “breathed out by God” (2 Timothy 3:16).
There is no such thing as greater and lesser books of the New Testament. Although each writer left his unique mark on the New Testament, each book was the work of God – NOT man. Therefore, when you read the words in red – you are not reading the words of Matthew – you are reading the words of Christ. And when you read the various epistles – you are not reading the words of Paul – you are reading the words of Christ.
3. What behavior are you trying to justify?
Often, it seems, when people try to dismiss or diminish Paul’s epistles, it is because they don’t like something he said. But again, the same God who gave us the words of Jesus, also gave us the words of Paul. The argument that Jesus said nothing against homosexuality, so He must not have a problem with it, is a bogus argument. The Spirit of Christ dwelt in Paul, so when Paul wrote about homosexuality (Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-10), Jesus was condemning homosexuality through Paul.
Many Christians also want to diminish Paul’s writings to diminish the importance of the church. Since Paul – not Jesus – talked about things like the organization of the church (elders, deacons, etc.), they reason that it must not be too important. Again, this is nonsense. Jesus gave us the blueprint for His church through His apostles (including Paul).
Stop Dismissing Paul
We all say, “Paul said…” or “Paul wrote…” and that is correct. But please remember that Paul was being carried along by the Spirit as he wrote those things; just as Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were. I hope that this encourages us to devote ourselves more wholly to ALL of the apostles’ teachings, that we might better know Christ and His will for us!
I love you and God loves you,