If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize that the things which I write to you are the Lord’s commandment.
– 1 Corinthians 14:37 (Paul writing)
As we’ve seen, the apostles were representing Jesus. Their teaching consisted of what He had taught them. They had no teaching of their own – they were just passing on His. In the New Testament, the apostles give us Jesus’ teaching in two different forms. Gospels on the one hand, and Acts and Epistles on the other.
In the four gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – the apostles give us Jesus’ teaching in His own words. More specifically, the apostles give us Jesus’ words in a narrative context. That is, we are told what was going on around Jesus when He spoke instead of just being given a list of Jesus’ sayings. Thus the four gospels give us the teaching of Jesus in mini-biographical form.
The other way that the apostles give us Jesus’ teaching is through the book of Acts and the 22 epistles. The various epistles were written for various reasons and so they do not follow a consistent pattern as if they were one set of teaching lessons. Instead, teaching is found in parts of the letters – most of the time as reminders of something the apostles had previously taught the congregation or as explanations of something the congregation had not fully understood. In the epistles, the apostles seldom quote Jesus. Instead, they paraphrase Him – His teaching in their words.
Compare, for example, these two passages:
“…do not resist an evil person; but whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. If anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, let him have your coat also. Whoever forces you to go one mile, go with him two.”
– Matthew 5:39-41 (Jesus speaking)
Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,
– 1 Corinthians 13:4-5 (Paul writing)
They are teaching the same thing. The apostles expect us to understand that what they say in their own words (in the epistles) is the same teaching Jesus gave in His words (in the gospels).
(Remember that prayer is more about listening than talking. Use the words below to start yourself, but then allow time to reflect more on the Scripture above before you say the “Amen.” During that time of quiet reflection, let God shape your thoughts and wait for a sense of peace to come. That’s your signal to say “Amen” and go forth to the day.)
Lord Jesus, help me be spiritual enough to recognize the truth in whatever form I find it…(this is where you remain quiet to let Him work in your thoughts)… Amen.
(All scriptures, unless otherwise noted, are taken from the NASB.)