The Expository Files

The Apostles and the Will of Christ

Somebody once came up with a good idea that has proven useful to me. Whoever it was decided to print a series of Bibles which would use red ink to record the words of Jesus. Since that time many others have followed and now such is common. It is helpful to me when I am studying in the gospels and I am looking down a page for something I know Jesus said. Its easier to find.

But it seems that every good idea has its drawbacks. People can take a good idea and mess it up. But what could they possibly do to misuse this idea of putting the spoken words of Jesus in red?

Well, I heard one lady trying to explain her immoral behavior and her alleged "Christian faith" by saying that she only regards the "words printed in red in her Bible" to be important because "they are the ones which Jesus spoke." The studio audience seemed to think that made a lot of sense. It doesn't.

There are other areas in which this procedure has been used to minimize the importance of Biblical teaching which someone does not want to obey for one reason or another. A homosexual said. "Jesus never condemned homosexuality; that was Paul." Also, one fellow who did not like what Peter said about baptism on the day of Pentecost said that what Peter taught ("Repent and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of your sins..." ACTS 2:38) was incorrect because Peter was under the influence of the teachings of John the Baptist, whose time had passed.

These views are the result of a failure to properly understand what an apostle is. The color of the ink does not determine what is important in the Bible and what is not (who would have ever thought that someone would need to be convinced that ink color doesn't mean a whole lot!). The bottom line is this: To accept the teachings of the writings of the entire New Testament is to accept the teachings of Christ; and to reject any New Testament doctrine is to reject Christ!

"And when day came, He called His disciples to Him; and chose twelve of them, whom He also named as apostles." (LUKE 6:13). Jesus foresaw the writing of the New Testament. In fact, He planned for it and made provision for it to occur. Part of the provision for this involved the selecting from out of all His disciples twelve individuals whom He also appointed as apostles. Mark adds that Jesus "sent them out to preach." (MARK 3:14).

The verb form of the Greek word translated "apostle" is "apostolos" (apostolos). It means "to send." Jesus sent His apostles on what was essentially a teaching and preaching mission. Right away we ought to be able to see that to reject one who is sent to teach us something is to reject the one who is doing the sending.

The Old Testament uses the "to send" idea in several places. The Lord told Moses "I will send you to Pharaoh." (EXODUS 3:10). Now, exactly who did Pharaoh disobey when he refused to let Israel go? Moses? NO! He disobeyed God! The Lord asks the question of Isaiah, "Who shall I send?" to which Isaiah responds "Here am I, send me!" (ISAIAH 6:8). The Lord told Jeremiah "to all that I shall send you, you shall go." and to Ezekiel, "Son of man, I send you unto the people of Israel." (JEREMIAH 1:7; EZEKIEL 2:3). Now, if the people obeyed the words of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel they would be obeying the Lord who had sent them. But to reject the prophets was to reject God. It is absolutely no different with us rejecting those whom Jesus has selected and sent to us! In fact, it is Jesus (words printed in red for those who claim they only listen to the red ones) who said to His apostles; "He who receives you receives Me, and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me. He who receives a prophet in the name of a prophet shall receive a prophet's reward..." (Matthew 10:40,41).

"...until the day in which He was taken up, after He had by the Holy Spirit given orders to the apostles whom He had chosen..." (ACTS 1:2). No apostle was self-appointed. They were not selected by another man, men, council or church but personally selected and appointed by Jesus. Jesus chose His apostles so that they might accompany Him and then be sent out to preach the gospel. Jesus told them, "You are My witnesses because you have been with Me from the beginning." (JOHN 15:27). Only Paul is an exception to the rule, and yet even he was granted a post resurrection appearance of Jesus that He might be able to proclaim His eye witness account of the resurrection and Lordship of Christ (I CORINTHIANS 9:1; 15:4-9).

Additionally, the apostles were given inspiration so that what they taught either in speaking or in writing would indeed be what Jesus intended them to teach. God directly guided the apostles in revealing through them exactly what He chose. On the night before His crucifixion, Jesus said to His apostles, "These things I have spoken to you while abiding 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 that I have said unto you." (JOHN 14:25,26 c.f. JOHN 16:12,13).

The following day of Pentecost (seven and one half weeks later) began with the coming of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles and the fulfillment of the Lord's promise (ACTS 2:1-4).

"And for this reason we constantly thank God that when you received from us the word of God's message, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which performs its work in you who believe." (I THESSALONIANS 2:13). In light of what we have already seen, we can understand how Paul, as an apostle, could refer to the things he wrote as "the word of God." It is because that is how Jesus planned it. To reject Paul's teaching because somebody didn't use red ink is silly!

It also helps us to understand some other statements which show the importance of obeying the teachings of the entire New Testament; "Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep aloof from every brother who leads an unruly life and not according to the tradition you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to follow our example..." (II THESSALONIANS 3:6,7) and "What I am writing to you is the commandment of the Lord." (I CORINTHIANS 14:37).

Also, the apostle Peter said that the word that he had preached to them was "the living and abiding word of God." (see I PETER 1:22-25). The apostle John reminded the brethren that they, at the close of the first century, were to continue in what they had heard in the beginning years of the gospel (I JOHN 1:1-3; 2:7,24).

Early Christians highly valued the words of the apostles not because of the apostles themselves but because of the Lord who had sent them. At the end of the first century, Clement of Rome said, "The apostles received the word from Christ, and Christ from God." A short time later, Ignatius of Antioch said, "I do not, as Peter and John did, issue commandments unto you - they were apostles..." At the beginning of the second century Tertullian wrote in North Africa and said, "We Christians are forbidden to introduce anything on our own authority - our authorities are the Lord's apostles - and they introduce nothing on their own authority..."

So that is how it is. To reject anything the Bible teaches is to reject Christ Jesus Himself. You do not like something that Paul or Peter or John taught, but you still want to think of yourself as loyal to Christ? Then you're going to have to accept and obey the teachings of the apostles or be regarded by the Lord as unfaithful. Note the statement Jesus made concerning a group He sent out to teach: "The one who listens to you listens to Me, and the one who rejects you rejects Me; and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me. (LUKE 10:16). I am afraid it cannot be any plainer than that!

By Jon W. Quinn
From Expository Files 11.6; June 2004