Do Christians really need anything but the four Gospels?
When the ship is sinking, get rid of all the dead weight.
This is written for my Christian friends. My non-Christian friends stopped reading at the word Christian. That’s OK. This isn’t written for them. This is for my Christian friends who, after reading this, will brand me a heretic. But I’m not. I simply ask my Christian friends to read and ponder what I’m saying and ask if it is true. What I write is true, you just won’t like the implications of it, because you’ve never heard this before and thus it will sound “unchristian” but it’s not. In fact, I appeal to you to practice unadulterated Christianity, a pure Christianity without affliction. I appeal to you to practice and preach Christianity as it was preached by Christ himself, without everyone else’s version of what he meant. If you do, it will open your heart as Christ asked you to, and further, it will open the hearts of those to whom you would like to share the message of Christ. Just as Christ opened the hearts of those who heard him speak, if you allow others to hear his words, and no others, his words will reach their hearts.
What am I suggesting? I’m suggesting that we throw out all the books of the “Bible” other than the four Gospels. Why? Well, let me ask you this, why include all those other Books? Just because we always have isn’t an answer. Just because we always have doesn’t mean we always should. Just because we always have doesn’t mean it is the way that Christ’s message should be presented today. So, why sandwich the message of Christ literally in the middle of the Bible? If someone picks up the Bible in a bookstore, do you honestly think they would ever be interested enough to read the entire Old Testament before getting to the New Testament about the birth of Christ? If for no other reason, placing the Four Gospels in the middle of the Bible violates the rule of “primacy and recency” that a person only hears and remembers the first and last things heard. So, why put the message of Christ in the middle of the Bible where few, if any, especially newcomers, will ever hear the message? At a minimum, the way message of Christ is presented in written form violates every understanding we have of the way people learn.
But more importantly, these other books do nothing to further the Gospel of Christ. A Christian believes Jesus Christ is the Son of God. A Christian believes that God sent his only Son, Jesus Christ, to earth to save mankind. Christians believe that in order to be saved, to receive eternal life, one must believe that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, died and was resurrected to save our soul. If God did this for us, it is safe to believe that anything we needed to know was taught by Jesus Christ in his teachings. In fact, Christ says “for everything I that I learned from my father I have made known to you.” John 15:15. Thus, it is safe to believe that nothing of importance was left out of Christ’ personal ministry.
So, why don’t all people believe in Jesus? What is getting in the way of the saving grace of Jesus Christ? Why don’t all people hear his words? That is the purpose of this essay, to answer those questions. The purpose is to fundamentally change the way Christ’s message is presented, so that the truth of Christ’s message is not hindered, not shaded, not hidden behind the clutter of the unnecessary.
The Life of Christ is contained in four books called “The Four Gospels” of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Those books are most often printed and presented with many other books that make up what is called “The Holy Bible.” The Holy Bible is further broken into two parts. The first “half” is called “The Old Testament” and the second “half” is called “The New Testament.” The Old Testament is that time period before Jesus Christ and the New Testament begins with the birth of Jesus as recounted in the Four Gospels. The New Testament also contains other books, twenty-three other books to be exact, written by the apostles of Christ. They do not concern the life of Christ, but rather concern themselves with how to implement the teachings of Christ.
For many, reading the Bible is a lifetime goal. It seems an insurmountable chore at times, and many Christians have not read it in its entirety but instead have only heard bits and pieces as told through study groups. But the message of Christ should not be such a chore. It should not take a lifetime to read, to hear, to understand. Why? For this simple reason, if Jesus was the Son of God, if he was sent to this earth to save our souls, everything we need to know would have been said and taught by Jesus and recorded in the Four Gospels. Those Four Gospels can easily be read in a week, if not less.
But what does this mean? What does it mean to say everything we need to know is contained in the Four Gospels, what I call “The Gospel of Christ”? It means one can and should disregard anything and everything that detracts from the Gospel of Christ. If one believes that Jesus is the Son of God, then you should disregard anything that contradicts the words of Christ or gets in the way of his message. This will be easier said than done for most Christians, because for thousands of years, the Gospel of Christ has literally been wrapped in the teachings of the Old Testament and Books of the New Testament that are not the words of Christ. Unfortunately, many of these other books which literally clothe the front and back of the Gospel of Christ either contradict or detract from the Gospel of Christ, because they drive people away from Christ not to him.
Christians ask themselves, how do we spread the Gospel of Christ? We spread it by not drowning out his Gospel. The Gospel of Christ is not being received, because it is literally hidden between the Old and New Testaments books which are not necessary to compliment the words of Jesus. Jesus was sent alone and died alone. His message should thus be presented as God intended, alone. It is suggested here that when the words of Jesus are presented alone, as they were first heard by man, and not drowned out by other voices of the Old and New Testament, that others will hear his voice and flock to him as they once did on the Sermon on the Mount. People once fled the teachings of the Pharisees to hear the words of Jesus. Why then, do we shroud the words of Jesus with the teachings of old? Why not present the words of Jesus as were spoken by him? Why do we believe his words need supporting testimony? They don’t. As intended, Jesus created a movement to grace. Strip from his words the unnecessary doctrines of the past and allow, once again, the words of Jesus to resound from the Sermon of the Mount.
It will be difficult for Christians to let loose of the Old Testament anchor, whose teachings often contradict the message of love taught by Jesus Christ and, in clouding his message, keep the saving grace of Christ from the hearts of mankind whom he was intended to save. Jesus said “I am the way.” Thus, we should present him as the way and nothing more.
Chris Lisle is a recovering attorney living in northwest Arkansas. Visit him online at The Voice.