Did Jesus Teach "Christian Doctrine"?
Last week we outlined a false doctrine concerning divorce and remarriage. One of its main contentions is that Jesus did not teach “Christian doctrine” but only intended to properly clarify Mosaic law which had been obscured by centuries of rabbinical traditions. Here are some quotes from an audio presentation of this false view:
“Jesus was not teaching Christians.”
“Jesus was not giving information about Christianity.”
“Jesus was a Jew teaching Jews how to be Jews.”
The speaker clearly demarcates the mission of Jesus as to Jews only and cites Mt 15:24: “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” From this he asserts that there is no Christian teaching in the gospels, and he advances this sweeping conclusion for one primary purpose: to nullify Jesus’ teaching on divorce and remarriage (Mt 5:31-32, Mt 19:4-9, Mk 10:1-10 and Lk 16:18). As the speaker noted, “Jesus was not telling us who can remarry after a divorce.”
This article further explores the assertion that Jesus never gave new covenant teaching while on the earth. (The speaker agrees that Jesus prophesied a future kingdom, and he holds that the rest of the new testament is law for Christians only. The Gentiles are under a universal moral law that has been in place since the beginning of time. But he contends that Jesus introduced no new covenant teaching.)
False doctrines contain varying levels of truth and error. Such schemes are hardly ever completely false (although Mormonism comes close). So when our speaker says “Jesus was a Jew teaching Jews how to be Jews,” such is partially true. But to then conclude that Jesus never said anything applicable to the new covenant is an unwarranted extrapolation.
Jesus said, “I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness. And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him – the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day” (Jn 12:46-48). The same world that Jesus illuminates is the world He came to save, and “whoever,” “anyone” and “he who” are universal terms not restricted to Jews. Jesus does not say that Christians will be judged by words yet to be spoken by His apostles but “he who … does not receive My words” will be judged by those very words in the last day.
Further, does Jesus speak only to Jews when He gives instructions on resolving sin in Mt 18:15-17? He directs the offended party to approach the sinner privately, then before two or three witnesses. If repentance is not forthcoming the matter should be told “to the church.” As our speaker likes to say, “What church? The church won’t exist for a few years yet. There aren’t any Christians present to whom He is speaking.” True, yet Jesus prospectively addresses a situation in the church to come.
Paul exhorted the Ephesian elders to “remember the words of the Lord Jesus, that He said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’” (Ac 20:35). Why should Christians be reminded of what Jesus said if He did not address Christians? Paul addressed married believers in Corinth: “Now to the married I command, yet not I but the Lord: A wife is not to depart from her husband …” (1 Cor 7:10). When did the Lord address married Christians? In Mt 19:6 and by implication Mt 5:32 and Lk 16:18.
There is a larger principle operative here that is overlooked by men such as our false teacher. Why is it that when inspired NT writers want to make a point they often quote from the Law of Moses? We could cite scores of references, but here are only those from 2 Corinthians (which has relatively few): 6:2 (Is 49:8); 6:16 (Ezk 37:26-27); 6:17 (Is 52:11); 6:18 (2 Sam 7:14); 8:15 (Ex 16:18); 9:9 (Ps 112:9). Why would the new testament, a global spiritual covenant, cite a law that was given only to Jews – and was defunct when the NT writer cited it? For the same reason that Jesus can speak to Jews to correct their misunderstandings of Mosaic law and at the same time direct Christians who will be living under a law to come. If the latter is inconsistent and couldn’t be done, so it must be true of the former. But we have examples of both in the NT: Jesus and the Old Law address issues relevant to Christians under the new covenant.
As noted last week, Jesus is the ultimate prophet, priest and king. He is God’s final spokesman, and He has spoken to all directly and through His ambassadors, the apostles (Heb 2:3-4).