T 1.2 Tradition in Original Christianity, Part 2, Teaching and Preaching Jesus, Discipleship

The message of the Gospel is the good news of Christ. And spread that message is what Apostles did, first and foremost.

And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus. (Act 5:42 ESV)

When they had appointed a day for him, they came to him [Paul] at his lodging in greater numbers. From morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets. (Act 28:23 ESV)

The width and breadth of all that it means to preach and teach Jesus is huge. The fact that the Apostles wrote or had written the Gospels illustrates the kind of material that was presented by them, The Gospels talk about Jesus on earth, while Acts and the Epistles talk about what his passion, death, and resurrection accomplished for us both now and in the ages to come.

The Gospel records are incredible accounts of Jesus as the fulfillment of prophecy, his birth, young life, and then his incredible ministry. He taught with such authority, and he healed with such power. He walked on water, healed the eyes of a man born blind, fed thousands miraculously, and raised the dead.

Some of what Jesus said and did we have covered in Jesus Taught the Kingdom of God, Jesus Taught Men To Love God, Jesus Taught With The Right Kind Authority- The Kind That Delivered People, Jesus Taught Miraculous Believing, Jesus and the Manifestations of the Spirit, Jesus Charged us to Live By the Word of God, How Jesus Responded To Temptation, Jesus States His Mission, Jesus Taught Men To Pray, and Jesus Taught About The End Times.

And we need to remember that Jesus did much, much more than what is in the Gospels:

Now there are also many other things that Jesus did. Were every one of them to be written, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. (Joh 21:25 ESV)

But, for the most part, the Gospels are about Jesus preaching and teaching and walking in power, delivering people all the way to his crowning achievement, his death and resurrection. On the other hand, the Book of Acts, and the epistles record the teaching and preaching of the apostles that was handed down.

There are so many powerful and wonderful accounts of Jesus being preached that we have in so many scriptures. Here is the first sermon on that fateful day of Pentecost, preaching Jesus Christ:

“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. For David says concerning him, “‘I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope. For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption. You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’ “Brothers, I may say to you with confidence about the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, “‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”’ Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” (Act 2:22-36 ESV)

This is just part of the powerful sermon that Peter delivered on the day of Pentecost. It is focusing on the powerful ministry of Jesus with mighty works, wonders, and signs as well as his resurrection, and his ascension to be with the Father. Peter says here that the promise of the Holy Spirit has been poured out and the witnesses there saw it.

This sermon is typical of the practice of the apostles and sets the stage for the tradition of teaching and preaching Jesus Christ that the apostles handed down.

And every day, in the temple and from house to house, they [the apostles] did not cease teaching and preaching that the Christ is Jesus. (Act 5:42 ESV)

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. (1Co 15:1-5 ESV)

Now, teaching and preaching Jesus Christ is certainly something that happens in the vast majority of Christian Churches. But, again, we also know from part one of this topic that it is not just about teaching the word of God, it’s about teaching the rightly divided word of God. It’s about being faithful to the apostle’s traditions which includes both what they taught and what they did.

So we have the apostle’s traditions on one side and on the other, we have Catholic tradition, Orthodox tradition, Reformed tradition, Lutheran, and so forth.  Besides the teachings of the apostles recognized in the New Testament these latter traditions incorporate theologies written by church councils and the Popes (in the case of Catholicism), church fathers, doctors of the Church like Augustine and Jerome, and reformers like John Calvin, Martin Luther, and William Tyndale as well as all the denominational disagreements among the many denominations.  This website is focused on the apostles’ doctrine as being the charge that all believers and churches are to follow.  We are in the middle of looking at that Apostles doctrine right now and will start looking at where the denominational traditions diverge from that in the not too distant future.

So, in the apostles’ tradition, following Christ’s example, when reading the books left us by the apostles and their agents, other than verifying the authenticity of the text,  there is no guesswork, no private interpretation, for example, no expounding on the thoughts and motives of the individuals involved in the accounts beyond what is in the texts. That is not to say that you can’t speculate on what someone may be thinking as long as you declare that this is your speculation and not what is being declared in the text. But I have sat in pews and listened to many times to preachers expanding on the text, saying what “must” have been going on, and what they “must” have been feeling and what they “must” have been thinking. This is all adding to the text, and remember the sworn testimony rule, no adding!
And it is teaching nothing but the truth. It is not reading Church doctrines into the verse as we saw in T 1.1 Tradition in Original Christianity, Part 1b, The Nothing But the Truth Rule.

For example, let’s look at this account of Jesus with the Pharisees:

Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat, so do and observe whatever they tell you, but not the works they do. For they preach, but do not practice. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on people’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by others. For they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues and greetings in the marketplaces and being called rabbi by others. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted. “But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves. “Woe to you, blind guides, who say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it is nothing, but if anyone swears by the gold of the temple, he is bound by his oath.’ (Mat 23:1-16 ESV)

This is a powerful record that actually goes on for another 23 verses. Later, he calls the Pharisees hypocrites, blind guides, serpents and vipers. Everything in this section is strong wording.

Now I love to hear a passionate speaker as much as the next person.  There is an attention-grabbing intensity that some speakers have that just is wonderful and amazing so I never want to discourage that. But it has to be done right.  So, I want to ask you, what was Christ feeling here? What was his tone of voice? Was he yelling? One might speculate any number of things, but they would all be just speculation. But I have sat in the pew and heard preachers preach about how angry he was, and then they acted out how he “must-have” acted, and what he “must-have” been thinking. Especially, in the exchanges between Jesus and the Pharisees, I have heard preachers teach about how angry he was.
But none of that is in all these verses. I can imagine that Jesus possibly sounded angry when talking about or to the Pharisees, but I can also imagine that he was cool as a cucumber making the same presentation. Sure, it’s easy to imagine him saying “You blind fools”, “you hypocrites”, “you snakes” with venom in his voice. But, especially, when he was teaching the people I can just as easily see him talking quietly with deadly seriousness. Perhaps he had a tone of gentle advisement because he was talking to his followers eagerly listening to every word. You don’t think so? Well, I don’t know either, but that’s the point, neither do you. Who knows what he was thinking, what he was feeling, how he presented himself if it isn’t written here or somewhere else.

Now we do read that Jesus did upturn the tables, scatter coins, and drive the men from the temple in John, Chapter 2.  And in Mark, chapter 3 we read that Jesus looked around at the leaders of the synagogue in anger and we know Jesus was distressed at their stubborn hearts because all of these things are in the text.  But in Matthew chapter 23 he is not dealing with these men, rather he is teaching his people, and his feelings and thoughts at that interaction are not written about.

Some of this, I believe, comes when someone hears someone they respect preach in a powerful way, and it has a powerful impact on them so they begin replicating the sermon with all the additional thoughts and feelings ascribed. I have heard ministers go off on tangents about some mentor’s masterful presentation while presenting their material but some of the material they are presenting is not in the texts!

Remember the sworn testimony rule: nothing but the truth.  It is okay to present how you think the exchange may have gone as long as it is plainly presented that it is how you think he may have felt or thought, but that is often not the case. Again, I have heard it presented as to how it “must” have been. Or the preacher just lets loose with his private thoughts on what the scene must have looked like without identifying that this is his speculation. And in that case, it seems to me that the way the preacher expresses Jesus’ emotions sometimes reflects the culture of the crowd. If the crowd is quieter and more genteel, Jesus is presented as quieter and genteel and if the crowd is loud and more expressive then Jesus is presented as loud and more expressive.

The epistles preach and teach more than Jesus’ actions on earth. The Apostles’ teaching contained therein includes our calling to be disciples, to live a holy and righteous life. It includes how we are redeemed, justified, and made righteous. It teaches us about sanctification. For example:

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”  (Joh 8:31-32 ESV)

Disciple is the word mathetes in Greek.  It means student, pupil, disciplined one.  Disciples need to know what redemption, justification, sanctification, and righteousness mean:

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,
(Rom 3:23-24 ESV)

And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption,  (1Co 1:30 ESV)

Redemption is apolutrosis is the Greek.  It means ransom.  With his death Christ paid the ransom for our sins so that we would be freed from the control of the god of this world, Satan, and from the death requirement that is the payment for sinning.  That the wages of sin is death is no joke.

Justification is dikaiosis in the Greek.  Justification means acquittal (on the charges of sin), made righteous.  Christ died in payment for our sins so we don’t have to.

Sanctification is hagiosmos in the Greek.  Sanctification means “set apart”, made holy, dedicated to God’s purposes.  Believers aren’t saints after someone has verified a miracle in their lives, believers are made saints when they accept Christ who calls us to follow in his steps:

Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes, To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together [emphasis added] with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:
(1Co 1:1-2 ESV)

Righteousness is dikaiosune in the Greek.  Righteousness means being just and fair in all your dealings.  Being redeemed we are freed from the power of sin:

Being then made free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. (Rom 6:18 MKJV)

The Apostles’ teaching goes into more detail about what righteousness looks like in everyday life. For example, a righteous life, a holy life includes living God’s concept of right living in the bedroom as well as in the whole home, at work, and everywhere else.  The Corinthian epistles list many instructions on the right things (in order to live righteously) to do about many things. Questions about marriage, marriage separation, divorce, incest, homosexuality, lawsuits, fleeing idolatry, the proper use of remembering Christ’s passion and death with bread and wine, the teachings on spiritual matters including gift ministries, the manifestations of the spirit, and giving with the right heart are just some of the topics.

And, if you think that these things are not part of the traditions handed down, look at this verse, right in 1 Corinthians:

Now I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I delivered them to you.
(1Co 11:2 ESV)

This exhortation is right smack dab in the middle of all the instructions that Paul has been giving in answer to the questions that the Corinthians wrote to him about.

And, if you think that this was just written to the believers at Corinth, carefully re-read the salutation of the letter again:

Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes, To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: (1Co 1:1-2 ESV)

This says the letter is to the church at Corinth, called saints, but also to all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. That last phrase says Paul was writing to all believers everywhere. That includes you and me.

A powerful part of the Apostles’ teaching is on the Law. Understanding the Law is important because it exposes the power of sin in our lives. A lot of Christians say that we really don’t need this in Paul’s epistles because Jesus freed us from the Law and it doesn’t apply to us anymore. Remember, Paul was sent to the Gentiles. The places where he sent letters were places filled with Gentiles who had little exposure to the Law. But he wrote extensively about the law because it is important to understand God’s plan for all of us from the beginning.

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. But the Law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh; so that the righteousness of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Rom 8:1-4 MKJV)

Here, Paul, writing to all believers everywhere explains that Christ’s sacrifice enables the righteousness of the Law to be fulfilled in us. Paul explains the grace that we have because of Christ’s sacrifice:

and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, (Rom 3:24 ESV)

For if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ. (Rom 5:17 ESV)

While we live in a church of grace we are called to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ:

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified. (Rom 8:28-30 ESV)

More than just talking about Jesus the apostles set the standard of following Jesus by becoming disciples first. The method of doing this is by renewing their minds to carry out the things our Savior called them to do. Paul takes most of the book of Romans talking about the law and the battle with sin to get to this pivotal verse for us as Christians to learn to renew our minds away from the wisdom of the world to the milk of the word all the way to the whole armor of God:

I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God. (Rom 12:1-2 KJV)

Renewing the mind is also called putting on the Lord Jesus Christ:

But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. (Rom 13:14 ESV)

Here Paul writes about putting on the whole armor of God:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end, keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, (Eph 6:10-18 ESV)

We put on the whole armor of God by renewing our minds!  And we are called to do this within the body of Christ which collectively is all the believers together acting as one unit. Look at this powerful explanation of the one body of Christ working together:

For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, in proportion to our faith; if service, in our serving; the one who teaches, in his teaching; the one who exhorts, in his exhortation; the one who contributes, in generosity; the one who leads, with zeal; the one who does acts of mercy, with cheerfulness. Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality. Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Rom 12:4-21 ESV)

We will cover more about the apostle’s doctrine in future articles, but I want to close with this.  Still, in its simplest and most powerful form what we are called to do is love with the love of God (agapeo):

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. (Rom 13:8 ESV)

This takes us back to the simple message from Christ himself about what are the greatest commandments?

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”  (Mat 22:36-40 ESV)

All of the learning about the law, grace, the battle against sin, renewing the mind,  putting on the whole armor of God, how the body of Christ works together, following the apostles’ tradition and even the law and the prophets, are part of the details we are taught in learning how to love more perfectly with the love of God.

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