THE GOSPELS AND SCRIPTURE
By Wayne S. Walker
Two previous articles have discussed the theory that the books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are really part of the Old Testament and that all the teachings of Jesus contained in them are merely explanations of the Old Testament law given to call the Jews back to God. This theory thus concludes that what Jesus said during his earthly ministry is not applicable to anyone under the New Testament. Who were the men who wrote these books, and what positions did they hold? When did they write and to whom were they writing? And what was their purpose — was it to write Old Testament Scripture or to write New Testament Scripture?
We know that Jesus chose certain men identified as apostles and prophets to reveal his New Testament will for mankind, including his instructions for the church. We read in Jude 17, “But you, beloved, remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ.” This, and several other passages which we shall be noticing in this article, make it plain that anything written by an apostle of Jesus Christ or someone with apostolic authority, such as a prophet, deserves our most serious attention. Hence, the subject for this article is the gospels and Scripture.
To begin, the apostles were promised guidance in remembering and testifying to what Jesus had said and done. The Holy Spirit was to bring to their remembrance what Christ had said. “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 things that I have said to you” (John 14:26). However, why would he need to do this if everything that Jesus said during his personal ministry was only explaining the Old Testament law and not applicable to the church?
The Holy Spirit was also to enable them to testify of Christ concerning things which pertained to the fact that they had been with him from the beginning. “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning” (John 15:26-27). Again, why would the apostles need to bear witness of such things if those things that Jesus had said and done during his earthly ministry applied only to the Jews under the Old Testament? These are questions that deserve to be answered.
Next, there can be no doubt that, using this guidance, Matthew and John wrote their accounts of Jesus’ life. Of course, Matthew and John were apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ (Luke 6:13-16). It is generally thought that Matthew wrote sometime before A.D. 70, perhaps in the mid to late 60s, and that John wrote his gospel very late in the first century, most likely in the early to mid 90s. The point is that both Matthew and John were written well after the events which they record — at least after the day of Pentecost when they received the promised Spirit to guide them. According to John 21:20-25, enough time had elapsed for brethren to have circulated a rumor by the time the book was written. If the teachings in these books pertained only to the Jews under the Old Testament and not to the church, why did Matthew and John write them after the establishment of the church? This is another question that needs to be answered.
Then, we must understand that Mark and Luke both were helpers of the apostles, and thus they were prophets of Christ. Mark was a companion of Peter (Acts 12:12; 1 Pet. 5:3). He was also a helper to Paul (Acts 12:25; 2 Tim. 4:11). Luke was a companion of Paul who was not only a physician but also a fellow-worker with Paul in the gospel (Col. 4:14; Phile. 24). As men who wrote at least three books inspired books in the Bible, also after the cross, Mark and Luke would have to be regarded as prophets. Yet, were they prophets of the Old Testament law or prophets of the New Testament of our Lord Jesus Christ? The answer is obvious. They were New Testament prophets of Christ.
Now, we must emphasize that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John were all written after Jesus had died on the cross and the events of Acts 2 had taken place. We find in Mark 16:19-20 that the preaching of the gospel had already begun when Mark wrote his book, and the same thing must be true of Matthew, Luke, and John. Also, according to Luke 1:1-4, the book of Luke, and we would presume Matthew, Mark, and John as well, were not written to people under Moses’ law but to believers to help explain the gospel of Christ.
Hence, we need to determine exactly what the function of apostles and prophets was. What was revealed to the apostles and prophets? Paul says in Ephesians 3:3-5 that it was the mystery of Christ, not that which was made known in previous ages. Does Paul say that God revealed to the apostles and prophets of Christ things which pertained to the Old Testament law or to the gospel of Jesus Christ? To ask that question is to answer it. The work of both the apostles and prophets forms the foundation of the church (Eph. 2:19-20). So, what the apostles and prophets of Christ, including Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, wrote had nothing to do with the Old Testament law, but was for the purpose of laying the foundation for the New Testament church and the gospel of Christ.
Finally, therefore, we conclude that when we read from the apostles and prophets of the Lord, we must be reading New Testament Scripture. When Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 3:16-18, he said that reading Moses is equated with reading the Old Testament. We know that the apostles and prophets were part of God’s plan for the church (Eph. 4:11-12). Hence, reading the apostles and prophets of Christ must be equal to reading the New Testament. When we read Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, we are reading New Testament Scripture!
If Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are to be considered as part of the Old Testament, it is odd that they were written by the apostles and prophets of our Lord Jesus Christ to Christians after the Old Testament had already been nailed to the cross. The truth is that the authorship of these four books demands that they contain New Testament teaching, precisely because they were written by apostles and prophets of Christ and addressed to Christians after the Old Testament had been done away. Sometimes denominational folks reject any teaching that they cannot find in “red letters” in the Bible.
It is interesting that we now have some brethren who are rejecting any teaching if it is found in “red letters” in the Bible! The fact is that we need to accept all the Bible as God’s word. No, we are not under the Old Testament law today, and we know that Jesus lived and died while the Old Testament law was still in effect. But we also need to remember that God speaks to us by his Son. Therefore, the books that contain a record of his life and teachings were written for us that we might learn those principles enunciated by Jesus during his personal ministry which would govern the kingdom that he promised to establish.
—Taken from Truth Magazine; March 16, 2000; Vol. XLIV, No. 6; pp. 18-19