From time to time, I encounter writers who caution that not all of Jesus’ teachings apply to Christians today. These writers’ rationale is that Jesus (Yeshua) was a Jew speaking to a Jewish audience, and he delivered his teachings before the birth of the Christian church.
For example, I recently encountered a blog post that asked whether “we are bound by Jesus’ teachings,” and their answer was, “Yes and no.” The author stated that Jesus didn’t preach in any churches to any Christians. He was “teaching old covenant Jewish people” during a transition period, as opposed to Paul, who taught Christians after humanity’s “arrival to the promised land.” Christian readers, the author says, need to be careful about which of Jesus’ teachings actually apply today.
Here is my problem with this line of thinking. While it is of course true that Jesus was a Jew speaking to other Jews before the Gospel could be fully preached, it is also true that the four Gospels in which we find Christ’s teachings were written by Christians in order to teach other Christians.
To put a finer point on it, I do not think we need to sift through Jesus’ teachings to separate the ones that are relevant for Christians from those that applied specifically to pre-Gospel Jews. The authors of the Gospels already did that sifting for us. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John wrote books about Jesus to be used by the church. It was these writers’ Spirit-led editorial vision that selected the teachings of Christ they believed to be most important and applicable, translated those teachings into Greek, and delivered them to the churches, which in turn diligently preserved these Scriptures to the present day.
To summarize, I have no hesitation in recommending for your use every single recorded teaching of Jesus. Those teachings were compiled by Christians (including Luke, a Gentile) to be used by Christians.
That being said, it remains true that Jesus taught through riddles and parables. He made facially paradoxical statements to encourage deeper thought. He frequently employed hyperbole (exaggeration) to enhance his points. Christ’s teachings are challenging enough as is; we need not add another layer of difficulty by asking whether a particular teaching is for Jews or Christians. They’re all for Christians. It is by his grace and Spirit that I am honored to follow them.
An attorney born in Nashville, Bren Hughes writes about spiritual growth, worship, biblical interpretation, and putting scripture into practice. His writing resonates most with people in spiritual transition who love Jesus, are open to experiencing the Spirit, and who rely on the authority of Scripture. A former campus minister, DJ, rock singer/guitarist, Wal-Mart department manager, and state Supreme Court judicial clerk, Bren (M.A., M.Div., J.D.) currently works as an attorney for the federal government’s judicial department in eastern Kentucky. He recently chronicled his spiritual journey in his book Heaven’s Muscle, which doubles as a biblical theology of the Holy Spirit (see HeavensMuscle.com).In his spare time, he blogs, writes articles for academic law journals, and records music with his talented wife. The Hugheses have three young sons, plus backyard chickens. Bren invites you to his blog at BrenHughes.com. Follow him @brenhughes.