Why Can’t We Tell Right from Wrong? Part 3 (Jesus and Paul)

We need to consider a hermeneutical principle not often taught in our literature.

We often misunderstand God’s words because we misunderstand who he is.

I mean, how often have I been misunderstood by someone — someone who thought I’d said something hateful or insensitive? I always find myself responding that you would not have misunderstood me if only you knew me!

God feels the same way. Words only get us so far. Until we know God better, we’ll inevitably misunderstand him. And the same is true as we try to understand one another.

This is what I understand Patrick to have meant when he said on the video,

What the Bible does is tells me about Jesus; and I don’t read Jesus through Paul. I read Paul through Jesus. And I think the churches of Christ are getting this, that we no longer read all of the Bible as equal.

Obviously, Patrick did not intend to say that somehow Jesus’ words contradict and overrule the words of Paul. If you knew Patrick, you’d know that.

And yet the Internet is filled with venomous attacks on this man of God, as though we could judge him on so little — while making not the least effort to understand him. Indeed, it’s easy to see that many listened only well enough to find a way to attack. This is not love.

You see, I understood him to mean something else — a something else that I easily found in his writings in less than five minutes of searching

[R]ead the story of Jesus again and again. Get to know his voice. As Hebrews 1 says, Jesus is what God looks like, sounds like, IS like.

The Bible is a finger pointing to Jesus. I love the Bible but I love Whom it points to even more. We are, after all, the Church of Christ – not the church of those other guys.

In other words, to understand Paul, we need to know the Person for whom Paul is an emissary: God. To know God, we need to know his Son, who came to more fully reveal God to us. The Gospels most fully reveal Jesus. Those of us in the Churches of Christ should especially understand how central Jesus is to God’s revelation.

Get to know God, and then you’ll better understand the words of his apostles. And we do this best through Jesus.

This is not heresy. It’s sound hermeneutics. And it’s giving Patrick, a brother in Christ, the benefit of the doubt. And taking the time to understand the man before judging him. It’s loving one another as Jesus first loved us. It’s loving him well enough to listen for the truth in his words, not just to find a way to put him down.

There are many among us who owe him an apology.

(Mat 12:11-13 ESV) 11 He said to them, “Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? 12 Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.” 13 Then he said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And the man stretched it out, and it was restored, healthy like the other.

To God, a man is more valuable than a sheep. Therefore, if it’s permitted to relieve a sheep of its suffering on a Sabbath, it is that much more  permitted to heal a man.

You can only understand God’s laws if you first understand God. After all, there is no rule in the Torah that creates an exception for healing. Jesus found the exception, not in the words of the text, but in the heart of God.

So what is God’s heart for women? How do we find that? How do we with confidence know? Well, we consider all that God has told us through his scriptures, but we consider it in light of the heart of the God of love, who blesses first and asks us to respond in love. And we pay special attention to the Gospels, not because the Gospels are all that God says on the subject, but because the Gospels best help us understand the heart of God.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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12 Responses to Why Can’t We Tell Right from Wrong? Part 3 (Jesus and Paul)

  1. Mark says:

    In the traditional cofC, Paul was the issuer of commands and laws. Paul was ahead of Jesus and far in front of any other person whose name is in the Bible. Paul was preached on about 45-49 Sundays per year. I’m not sure why the Iove affair with Paul or if to justify some rules and extend no grace, the writings of Paul had to be taken out of context and talked about every Sunday. I believe there was a fear of preaching or discussing Jesus, even in Sunday school, so as to not have to reconcile Paul’s teaching with Jesus’s.

  2. Very helpful article, Jay. Thanks.

  3. Dwight says:

    Often I think Paul is preached because Paul addresses problems and in the coC we see problems everywhere and thus we preach the solutions or answers from Paul, but If we regard Jesus first, then most of the problems that Paul had to deal with go away. The coC has traditionally taught that it is not the problem or that the coC has no problems, but others do. They take on the position of Paul in relation to other saints in other towns, but the coC preaches to its own and not other saints in other towns, so we must take on the position of Jesus.

  4. laymond says:

    Isa 55:8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD.
    Isa 55:9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.

    “We often misunderstand God’s words because we misunderstand who he is.

    I mean, how often have I been misunderstood by someone — someone who thought I’d said something hateful or insensitive? I always find myself responding that you would not have misunderstood me if only you knew me!

    God feels the same way. ”

    Isa 55:11 So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.

    It must be a great feeling to speak for God, and compare one’s self to God, and how he feels.
    But I believe Isaiah said God’s word accomplishes what he set it out to do.

  5. Price says:

    Like this post a lot !! I believe in some assemblies God has been represented to be the Great Punisher who looks for every wrong to punish and to remove favor from those to close to the slippery slope. One can easily distinguish the attitudes of the assemblies that represent God as a loving Father full of Grace and Mercy.

  6. Price says:

    Jerry those were excellent questions. I can think of a dozen more examples but you made the point sufficiently !!

  7. Red says:

    Jay, the legalistic cofC’s I attended preached a legalistic Paul and certainly emphasized Paul more than Jesus. The irony of this to me is Paul better understood grace than any of the other apostles since he was forgiven and saved on his way to hurt Christians. Thanks for this post and series. The more I learn about Jesus the more I love Him and others around me. Women are gifted by God we have short-changed them and us by hindering their gifts.

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