My good friend and WND colleague Joe Kovacs has followed up his wildly popular and fun book, “Shocked by the Bible,” with a sequel – “Shocked by the Bible 2,” of course – that is much more challenging, raising tough questions for most Christians.
One of the things I love about Kovacs’ new book is his use of red letters for all of the words spoken by Jesus – whether they are in the New Testament or Old.
“What?” you ask. “Words of Jesus in the Old Testament? Jesus didn’t speak in the Hebrew Scriptures.”
Well, as Kovacs accurately points out, if you believe the Bible, Jesus is and was and always will be the Word of God. He is the Creator of all things (John 1). Thus, whenever God has spoken to man, it was, in fact, Jesus who was doing the speaking – whether it was to Adam, Abraham, Moses, Joshua, Samuel, David, Solomon or Elijah. In addition, the Greek Scriptures make it clear that the Father and Son are one – always have been, always will be.
Therefore, why the distinction in so many red-letter edition Bibles between the words of Jesus and God? Are they not one in the same? Was Jesus not the Creator of the all things, as the Gospel of John tells us?
The problem, of course, is that most followers of Jesus don’t consider the clear implications of what the Bible tells us – that Jesus is eternal, that He and the Father are one, that He is the maker of all things and, literally, the Word of God – the one who spoke all things into existence.
In fact, I suspect most Christians have been taught to believe, whether they realize it or not, that God the Father was, without putting too fine a point on it, the God of the Old Testament, while Jesus came to Earth with a whole new plan of salvation, rather than one that was revealed as early as Genesis 3:15, a passage often referred to as the proto-evangelium, or “first gospel.”
Who was presenting it to Adam and Eve and Satan? The Creator of all things – Jesus – the one and only personality of God who speaks and appears directly to mankind, the Word.
This can be challenging for many believers, because tradition has trumped the literal Word of God. It’s not what they have been taught. More Christians have accepted an ancient heresy, taught by Origen and others, that the God of the Old Testament had a different plan, an unforgiving plan of redemption that offered only a rigid law that was impossible to obey. It was not until Jesus came in the first century, they suggest, that God’s rules were relaxed.
Thus, most Christians today believe the law, the commandments, the Torah, the rules of God no longer apply to them. They think they have been done away with. But is that what Jesus taught?
And that brings me to the seven words Jesus spoke that are ignored, overlooked, glossed over, evaded.
You can read them for yourself in the Gospel of John – John 14:15: “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”
What were Jesus’ commandments? Weren’t they the same commandments He gave to Moses? Isn’t God the same yesterday, today and forever – unchanging and unerring? (Hebrews 13:8)
Did Jesus give us new commandments? Scripture cites only one “new commandment” that Jesus gave – “love one another as I have loved you.”
Yet, is that really a new commandment or one that is more clearly stated in the Greek Scriptures? After all, didn’t the law of Moses instruct us to love even the “stranger”? (Leviticus 19:34)
The Apostle John, too, talked of writing “no new commandment,” but restating an old one that sounds a lot like “love one another as I have loved you.”
In 1 John 2:3-9, he writes: “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked. Brethren, I write no new commandment unto you, but an old commandment which ye had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which ye have heard from the beginning. Again, a new commandment I write unto you, which thing is true in him and in you: because the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth. He that saith he is in the light, and hateth his brother, is in darkness even until now.” (Emphasis added.)
This is certainly strong evidence that the Apostle John had not discarded the law. A sober, fresh and clear-minded reading of the book of Acts and other New Testament writings will bring you to the same conclusion – especially if you start with this premise: There is no contradiction in Holy Scripture – not between the New Testament and the Old. It’s Holy Writ. It’s all God’s Word.
We cheapen the Word of God when we accept there is a contradiction. We discard all we know and believe about the character and nature of God when we suggest His perfect standards were ever too high.
After all, weren’t some figures in the Bible called “perfect in their ways,” meaning they followed the law to the best of their ability and when they fell short repented of their sin as God had instructed, including Noah (Genesis 6:9), David (1 Kings: 15:3), Asa (1 Kings:15:14), Job (Job 1:1), Zechariah and Elisabeth (Luke 1:5-6)? Wasn’t there a “perfect” standard for all the prophets?
Doesn’t Scripture also tell us the law of God is “perfect”? (Psalm 19:7)
Doesn’t Scripture – Hebrew and Greek – command us to be “perfect”? (Genesis 17:1, Deuteronomy 13:18, 1 Kings 8:61, Matthew 5:48)
Can’t the Lord perfect our ways – and, isn’t that what He seeks for us? (2 Samuel: 22:33, 2 Chronicles 19:9, Luke 6:40)
So, the last question is this: Did Jesus really come to lower the bar to entry in His Kingdom? Or, did He actually come to restate that “perfection” is open to all who earnestly seek it through His atoning sacrifice, resurrection and offer of grace through repentance and the power of the Holy Spirit?
Don’t get me wrong. I am not presenting myself as “perfect” in any way, shape or form. I am merely sojourning through this earthly plane searching for the truth in the only place we can find it – the Holy Scriptures. The Apostle Paul instructed us to be like the Bereans who tested everything he preached to them by comparing it to what they would find in the Bible – which, at that time, consisted only of the Tanach, or Old Testament.
We’re not to accept the traditions of men, Jesus warned us countless times in the gospels. We’re supposed to believe the Word of God under the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Spirit.
It’s in that spirit that I urge you to pray about this message. And I look forward to reading your thoughts and comments.