In the following pages, A and B discuss various subjects, the standpoint of B representing that of the Alphabetical Analysis.
"I am satisfied with the words of Christ"
Two Christians were standing, with open Bibles, discussing some theme (apparently of great interest), and as the subject of their discussion may possibly be of general interest, let us draw a little nearer so that we may get the benefit of their remarks. We will call them for the sake of clearness A and B.
A-I am satisfied with the words of Christ.
B-Friend, believe me, we are one in that blessed fact, for He is the truth, His words are spirit and life, He came to reveal the Father, and the heart of every believer still says, "Show us the Father and it sufficeth us". We are both satisfied with the words of Christ.
A-You interrupted me, I was going to say that I am satisfied with the words of Christ and do not need the opinions of Paul or any other man.
B-By the "words of Christ", then, I understand you to mean the four Gospels, and by the opinions of Paul I take it that you mean the epistles written by that servant of God. Let me just ask you a question. Am I right in assuming that the words of Christ with which you are satisfied are those of the four Gospels?
B - I see. You have not therefore any words of Christ written by Himself?
A-Of course not!
What words of Christ you have therefore were written by other men, and not by Himself?
A -They were written by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.
B. Pardon me if I appear too persistent, but supposing I were to take your line and say, "I do not want the opinions of
Matthew, Mark, Luke or John, I want the actual words of Christ Himself", what would you say?
A-I should say that in these four Gospels we have the words of Christ, written by these men as they were guided and inspired by the Spirit of truth. Look at this passage in John 14:26:
"But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, Whom the Father will send in My Name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you:"
Here you see my warrant for believing that, although the record may have been made by Matthew or Luke, yet the record is inspired, and in these Gospels I have the words of Christ which are enough for me.
B-I am glad that we "both agree on this next point, namely, the full inspiration of the four Gospels, but do you not see that if Matthew could be inspired to write the Gospel that bears his name, Peter, John, James, Jude and Paul could equally have been inspired to record the words of Christ spoken since His resurrection? Your reference to John 14:26 was most apt and it reminds me of another statement in chapter sixteen. Let us turn to verses 12-14:
"I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.
Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth; for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak; and He will shew you things to come.
"He shall glorify Me; for He shall receive of Mine, and shall shew.it unto you."
Now notice one or two important features of this passage.
(1) There is a contrast here with your passage of John fourteen. In John fourteen, the subject of inspiration is a question of bringing to remembrance things which Christ has said. In John sixteen the same Spirit skews them things which He hears,
which suggests that there will be further revelations than the four Gospels.
(2) This is still more clearly taught by the words, ".I have many things to say unto you, but you cannot bear them now".
(3) If we are to have "All truth" we must have this later witness, which supplements and goes beyond the teaching of the four Gospels.
These words of Christ make some further revelation, such as is contained in the epistles, a necessity. Do you not see that by limiting yourself to the four Gospels you have not all the words of Christ that you might have, and therefore cannot truly be satisfied?
A-This passage in John sixteen does certainly seem to speak of a revelation subsequent to and equally inspired with the four Gospels, and I must look into the matter afresh, lest a mistaken zeal for the supremacy of Christ should rob me of that truth which after all He Himself says "shall glorify Me".
" . My sayings: and the Word which ye hear is NOT MINE,
but the Father's which sent Me".
"All Scripture is given by inspiration. of God"
A-I have been thinking very much about John 16:12-14 and your remarks upon it, but I still feel that the words actually spoken by Christ Himself must come to the true believer with greater force than those spoken by fallible men like ourselves, even though inspired for the time.
B-I honour your desire to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ, but I think a little attention to one feature of His ministry will help you to see the subject of the inspiration of both the Gospels and the Epistles in a clearer light. If Christ spoke His own words, and taught His own doctrine, then we should possibly feel that His words were of greater weight and authority than those of Peter and of Paul in the Epistles.
A-But did He not speak as one having authority, and not as the Scribes? What do you mean by "speaking His own words"?
B-Do not let us misunderstand one another, let us rather "open the book".
A -I suppose you are going to turn to the Epistles?
B-No, we will turn once again to the Gospel according to John. First let us notice John 14:24:
Here is a distinct statement which should be enough for any who are "satisfied with the words of Christ". Look again, this time at 12:49,50:
"For I have not spoken of Myself; but the Father which sent Me, He gave Me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak . . . whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto Me, so I speak".
This is added testimony to the same effect. One more verse will suffice us here, viz. John 7:16:
"Jesus answered them and said, My doctrine is not Mine, but His that sent Me".
It is clear from these words of our Lord that what He taught and spoke was what He had Himself been taught (8:28) and commanded to speak.
A-Do I understand by this that you deny the Deity of Christ?
B-By no means. That the Word "was God" this same Gospel declares, and that I believe with all my heart. But the Lord humbled Himself and took upon Him the form of a servant. As the "sent one" He did not speak His own message, but the words of Him that sent Him.
A-Well, accepting this, I do not see your intention. If every utterance of the Lord's was actually the Word of God, that seems all the more reason why I should abide by them.
B -Abide by them by all means, but do not forget that the point is that the authority for Christ's teaching is the Father that sent Him. Now let us look at the Epistles. Turn to 1 Thessalonians 2:13:
"For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the Word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the Word of God".
You see by this statement that Paul, Silas and Timothy, acting in their capacity as "sent ones", claimed the self-same authority for their words as did Christ Himself. In 1 Peter 1:25 we read:
"The word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you".In 2 Peter 1:20,21 Peter speaks of the inspiration of Scripture, and in 2 Peter 3:16 he links Paul's Epistles with "the other Scriptures". In 1 Peter 1:11 Peter, speaking of the Old Testament prophets, says that they spake by "The Spirit of Christ". Paul in Romans fifteen, after having spoken in verse eight of the Lord's earthly ministry, goes on to say of himself, "That I should be the minister of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles" (verse 16). In 2 Timothy 1:8 Paul says to Timothy, "Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner". Does it not therefore appear to you that the following facts emerge clearly from these quotations?
(1) The words of Christ and His apostles are not to be considered as their own, but as the words of Him that sent them.
(2) The testimony of the Epistles is still considered to be the testimony of Christ, this time as the risen One, and speaking through those who had been chosen and "sent" by Him.
(3) In each case the authority for the message is that of the "sender"; in the Gospels Christ is the sent One, in the Epistles the apostles are the sent ones, (the very word apostle (from
apostello) means a sent one), and Christ still speaks to us, even though in Person He is now at the right hand of God.
A-This is certainly a most important aspect of the subject and one that has never struck me before. It would appear from what you have pointed out that whether it be the words of Christ recorded in the Gospels, or the words of those sent by Him recorded in the Epistles, we are to see that both go back to God Himself, the "Sender", for their authority. This, coupled with the words of John 15:26, "When the Comforter is come, whom I WILL SEND unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of Truth", and John 16:13,14 "He shall glorify Me: for He shall receive of Mine, and shall shew it unto you", certainly makes me feel the need to reconsider my attitude to the Epistles.
B-Dear friend, if you just regard both Gospels and Epistles as being of equal authority and of equal inspiration, you will have the key to much blessing and light. Remember 2 Timothy 3:16.
A -What is that?
B--Well, you search and see for yourself, and ponder it ;well till we meet next time.
The right division of the Word of truth
A -I am afraid I am not clear as to the real results of our conversation on the equal authority and inspiration of both the Gospels and Epistles.
B-What is your particular trouble?
A-Well, seeing that I had agreed that the Epistles were of equal authority with the Gospels, I felt that I must obey them all, and
practice them all, but this I find to be impossible.
A-They do not speak alike. For instance, just one or two features at random-there are so many that I am bewildered. The Sermon on the Mount says, "The meek shall inherit the earth", yet Ephesians 1:3 tells. me that I am blessed in "heavenly places". Mark 16:17 says that "these signs shall follow" the preaching of the gospel, yet I find Paul saddened because Epaphroditus was sick; why did he not heal him as he did others? Then this made me say, "Why have we not all the miraculous gifts which the church at Corinth had?"
Then I find during the period of the Acts of the Apostles that there were two baptisms, one in water and one in spirit, whereas in Ephesians 4:5 I find that "there is one baptism". Which one is it? and why only one? Then I used to believe that the church was the Bride, Peter speaks of the redeemed as being a holy nation and a royal priesthood, while Paul in Ephesians and Colossians says the church is the Body.
Then again I used to believe that we ought to keep the Sabbath day, yet I find in Colossians 2:16, "Let no man judge you with regard to the sabbath day", and in Galatians 4:10,11, "Ye observe days, I am afraid for you". Matthew 19:16-20 (the very words of Christ Himself mark you) teaches that eternal life may be had by keeping the ten commandments, yet Galatians 3:21 teaches that life cannot come by works, but only by faith.
B--What is the solution, do you think? Shall we conclude that the four Gospels are truth and the Epistles untrue?
A-No, for we have seen that john 16:12-14 looks forward to the Epistles (see p. 47), and that the Epistles are inspired
equally with the Gospels (see p. 50).
B-The solution then must be found in some other feature. Let us look once more at John 16:12-14. It is evident that in the Epistles we must expect something deeper and more advanced than we find in the Gospels, for the Lord said, "I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now". It is also evident that whatever the difference may be, it will not take away, but rather add to, the glory of Christ, for concerning that added revelation the Lord said of the Spirit,
"He shall glorify Me".
A-But what puzzles me is, how can both Gospels and Epistles be true when they say such opposite things?
B-The answer is fairly simple. It is a matter of recognizing different dispensations.
A-What do you mean by dispensations?
B-Let us find our answer in John, turn to chapter 1:17,18:
"For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. No man hath seen God at any time; the only
bogotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him".
In these verses two dispensations are referred to, the one of
law, the other of grace. The one revealing God as Law giver and
King, the other as Father. You yourself have already recognized the difference between these two dispensations, for being
a Christian you do not feel called upon to put into practice all
that Moses taught under the law, even though you believe the
law to be as fully inspired as the Gospels and Epistles. The
same principle obtains between the various parts of the New
It is a fruitful cause of much error and confusion to fail to
see that the dispensational dealings of God with Israel during the time of the Lord's earthly ministry differ from His dealings with both Israel and the Gentile heaven.
A-Do you mean to say that Christ came to Israel, and did not come to set up his Church?
B-We must not leave our real subjects for details, but I will just say that in Matthew 15:24 the words of Christ Himself will answer you:
"I am NOT sent BUT unto the lost sheep of the house of
Let us settle one thing at a time. There are evidently different dispensational dealings revealed in the Scriptures, and when once these differences are duly observed difficulties vanish and truth becomes clear. I leave you with another verse taken from 2 Timothy. This time it is 2 Timothy 2:15:
"Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that
needeth not to be ashamed, RIGHTLY DIVIDING THE WORD of TRUTH".
Some examples of "Rightly dividing the Word of truth"
A-I should be glad if you would give me a little indication of the results of "rightly dividing the Word of truth", for I rather fear it simply means cutting the Bible to pieces with no advantage when it is done.
B-Let me draw your attention to some instances of a wrong division before looking at the other side.
The translators of the A.V. attempted to divide the subject matter, and gave notes at the heading of the chapters. Over Isaiah nineteen they say, "God's heavy judgment upon Jerusalem", but over chapter thirty, they say, "God's mercies towards His Church". Or again, over Isaiah fifty-nine they write, "The sins of the Jews", but over sixty, "The glory of the Church". When it is a case of judgment the literal meaning is retained, but when it is a case of blessing "the Church" is intruded. We will not waste time tabulating error however; let us seek the "Word of truth".
We have already seen that all Scripture is inspired, but that all Scripture does not speak (1) to the same people, (2) at the same time, and (3) with the same message. All Scripture is FOR us, but all Scripture is not ABOUT us. To discover that part of Scripture which is Fox us, ABOUT us, and To us we must "rightly divide the Word of truth". The people addressed in the Bible are divided into three companies, "The Jews, the Gentiles, and the Church of God" (1
Cor. 10:32). Whenever you open
your Bible therefore, seek at once to discover which of these three classes is addressed.
A-How can I do this? It seems that I should have to conduct a very careful inquiry involving much time and ability. Cannot I take the Bible at its face value to mean just what it says?
B-If only you would, you difficulties would vanish. I would say to you, "Read the envelope before you read the letter".
A-Explain your meaning.
B-Well, look at the envelope of Isaiah's .prophecy (chapter 1, verse 1) and tell me whether it is addressed to Jew, Gentile or Church.
A-(Turns to the passage) It says that it is concerning "Judah and Jerusalem".
B-Well, that answers the question for you there easily enough. Accept it as "meaning just what it says". Now look at the "envelope" of James's epistle.
A-(Turning to the epistle) It is addressed to "The twelve tribes which are scattered abroad".
B-Again you have your answer, and you will find that somewhere in every book of the Bible, there will be these identifying marks, enabling you to "rightly divide" the Word as belonging either to Jew, Gentile or Church of God.
A-Is there any other important way in which the Word should be "rightly divided"?
B-Yes. Time periods enter in very largely. For example, Matthew 10:5,6 says:
"Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not; but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel".
If this passage is not to be divided at all, as some would affirm, there never should have been a single Gentile saved, or even evangelized. Further, if we do not rightly divide the Word, we shall have Christ contradicting Himself, saying in chapter ten "Go NOT", and in twenty-eight "Go YE".
Again, we must keep distinct the various callings that are indicated in the Word. The Kingdom must not be confounded with the Church. The Kingdom is yet to come, for the prayer is "Thy Kingdom come", and it relates to the earth as under the power and pattern of heaven, "Thy will be done on earth
as it is in heaven". The Church is an elect company called out from the world during the present time. Christ is never called the "King" of the Church. Then again, the various "gospels" need carefully dividing.
A-Surely you do not mean me to understand that there is more than one gospel?
B-No, I do not, not in the sense that you mean. There is but one gospel and one way of salvation, nevertheless, there are "gospels" in the Scriptures that are not all alike. For example, "The gospel of the Kingdom" is defined for us in Mark 1:15:
"The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe the gospel".
The twelve apostles went out and preached this gospel (Matt. 10), yet Peter reveals that he did not know at the time that the Lord Jesus was to die and rise again (16:21-23). Surely the "gospel of the grace of God" could not be preached without Christ's death and resurrection being either expressed or acknowledged! In Revelation 14:6 we have the "everlasting
gospel". Read its terms for yourself. There is no reference to redemption or to Christ, just "Fear God the
Creator". This again is no gospel for the present time.
Then again we read in some Scriptures of a "mystery", which had been hidden by God, and revealed at a definite period (see Eph. 3 and Col. 1). We must be careful not to read into earlier Scriptures therefore the truth revealed in later ones. This applies to the epistles of Paul as a whole. While all his epistles are necessary for the Church, we shall find upon examination that his ministry needs rightly dividing, and that not only is it as a whole distinct and independent, but that within itself it divides into two distinct sections. But I think you have had enough for the time being. Just open your Bible and make a few tests. Consider (1) the envelope, (2) whether Jew, Gentile or Church, (3) whether past, present or future, and (4) whether the dispensation be Law, Grace, Kingdom, Church or Millennial.