Here is a letter we received from someone that we had met some time ago, when we were in another country sharing the teachings of Jesus. We had quite a number of meet-ups with this person, as well as some very long phone calls with him. He was almost going to forsake all, sell his possessions and come live and travel with us, sharing the gospel with the world, but he started to let fear get the better of him. After some time, when we returned to the U.S., he wrote the letter we have typed out below.
We want to comment on what he has written, but we thought it might be worth letting people read the letter for themselves first to see if they can pick up any continuous theme that shows up throughout the letter. Our comments and observations will be below his letter.
1).How are you doing? Good I hope. Did you get the last book I sent you? I hope so. I’m sending you an article that I feel relates fairly well to a point I was making in our discussions. It’s about the authority and reliability of the Bible. Read it and let me know what you think.
2).By the way, I’ve been thinking over the doctrine you guys have, that a person is born again by the teachings of Jesus. After reading the letters of Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians etc, I have had to conclude that your stand on that issue is a dangerous heresy. I know you will probably rank me along side the rest of the “apostate church,” but I must stand by the Bible…all of it.
3).Paul said that what he writes was received from Jesus by special revelation. (Galatians 1:12). So to reject it because what he says seems to contradict Jesus is wrong. There is a principle of hermeneutics called the law of non-contraction. I’m sure you know what that means. Therefore, what Paul said must (as well as all the biblical writers) line up with, and agree with Jesus’ own words. It’s true, Jesus said some things that are hard to understand, and it seems logical to assume that we must then go to the rest of the inspired writers for divine commentary.
4).We are not saved by obedience to Jesus’ commands; the whole Old Testament sacrificial system shows us the utter inability of man to save himself. We are saved by grace through faith. It is the blood of Christ which alone satisfied God’s fierce wrath against sin that saves us. By believing that Christ died for our sins and was raised for our justification, we receive grace, mercy and peace from God. It is then this grace which enables us to walk as He walked. This is the gospel, and I cannot support your version of the gospel any longer.
I do you count you as a brother, and I wish you well in the future. It would be nice to keep in contact if you’re ever in this country again.
Ok..did you notice anything in particular about the theme & content of his letter?
In case you are wondering what we might be getting at, we’ll spell it out for you. Here goes!(For the sake of the reader, we have numbered each paragraph in the letter above. There are 4 paragraphs we will be dealing with in our response. Also, for easier reading, we’ll say the guy’s name who wrote the letter is Dave from this point on).
In his first paragraph, Dave offers greetings and mentions a book he sent us, which we greatly appreciated. He also mentions an article which seeks to prove the reliability of the Bible and its authority. This is where we started to part ways, theologically speaking. We don’t deny the inspiration of the Old and New Testaments. That has never been an issue for us. However, we consider Jesus (and His teachings) to be the Word of God (John 1:1 & Revelation 19:13) and not the Bible. This perspective puts us at odds with about 99.99% of professing Christians and churches.
It’s extremely important for people to see why this perspective is so fundamental to our message. The simple fact is that most professing Christians view the Bible as “the word of God” and they then say that all of the words in the bible are of equal importance. This is absolutely absurd! Have you ever seen a bible with the words of Jesus in red print, which highlights this point? Anyway, let’s get back to Dave’s letter.
Now let us look at paragraph #2. Dave mentions our “doctrine” of being born-again by the teachings of Jesus. Yep…we ARE guilty as charged of believing that! (See John 6:63 & 1 Peter 1:22-23). You may have noticed that Dave did not challenge our perspective with Jesus’ own words, but rather chose several letters from the apostle Paul to disregard the clear teachings of Jesus recorded in the 4 Gospels. Couldn’t he refute our position by looking at Jesus’ own words? Why did he look at the letters of Paul instead? Hmmmmmm….This is exactly what most of the churchy doctrines are based on…not Jesus’ teachings, but the letters of Paul and the rest of the bible instead. That is why it is so important for them to say (and teach) that Jesus’ words are equal with any other words in the bible. But the simple, profound question remains: Did Jesus teach that He was just another prophet? Did Jesus teach that His words were equal to anyone else in the biblical texts? Looks like a pretty easy answer: NO.
Let’s look at paragraph #3 now. It seems rational and logical to many to look to the rest of the bible to see if other writers can add some “divine commentary” to the clear teachings of Jesus. however, what tends to happen 9 times out of 10 is that Jesus’ words are filtered through other writers of the bible, in particular the apostle Paul’s writings. In short, if Jesus’ teachings about obedience to Him is closely tied in with our salvation, most will turn to Paul’s letters to try and make sense of Jesus’ radical commands. More often than not, Paul’s letters are used to nullify Jesus’ own words/teachings. Suppose we only had the words of Jesus as recorded in the 4 gospels to determine who was following Christ and who had turned aside to convenient doctrines (such as: we are saved by grace through faith verses like Ephesians 2:8-9) and we then relegate Jesus’ clear and direct commands for His followers as secondary to our means of salvation. Is this what following Jesus looks like? The apostle Paul was a great guy, but he was a fallible human being, just like the rest of us. Most people are too steeped in churchy tradition to see the logic here, but I pray that those who are reading this can see beyond the numerous doctrines in their particular church, and begin to see that Jesus is the standard by which we judge all other teachings.
Ok…on to the last paragraph…#4. If we are saved by “grace through faith” we have to ask: faith in What? Or better yet, faith in WHOM? We believe it is through faith in Jesus (and His words) so we TRY to follow His teachings above all others to the best of our ability. We fail at meeting His perfect standard, but we trust in His grace and mercy to make up for our sinful nature. It’s simple: we ARE saved by obedience (Luke 6:46; John 14:15,21,23-24; John 15:10) so our lives are spent TRYING to follow Him. Anyone who says we should stop TRYING to obey Jesus is the real heretic.