The Gospels Are Not Enough

I have heard it from theologically liberal theologians. I have heard it from supposedly conservative pastors (usually those with no theological training). I have heard it from lost people and immature believers: “We don’t follow Paul or Moses, we follow Jesus. All we need is the Gospels.”

Such a viewpoint stands in contrast to that of the Apostle Paul, who taught,

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (ESV, 2 Tim. 3:16-17, emphasis added)

According to Paul, all Scripture is inspired, and all Scripture is profitable. We are to teach it all, use it all for correcting and training. We need all Scripture to be “complete” and “equipped.”

Conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists are identified partly by their firm belief in verbal and plenary inspiration. We believe that all Scripture is evenly inspired. The words Jesus spoke are just as (but no more) inspired than Paul’s writings or the prophets or the Torah. puts it this way: “That means the inspiration extends to the very words themselves (verbal)—not just concepts or ideas—and that the inspiration extends to all parts of Scripture and all subject matters of Scripture (plenary).”

In 1 Corinthians 10:12-13, Paul scolds the Corinthians for thinking they should follow Paul alone, Jesus alone, Apollos alone, or Cephas (Peter) alone:

What I mean is that each one of you says, “I follow Paul,” or “I follow Apollos,” or “I follow Cephas,” or “I follow Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?

Not only are Jesus, Peter, Apollos and Paul on the same team, they all taught the truth. Peter authored I and II Peter, Apollos perhaps wrote Hebrews (my view), and Paul wrote Romans through Philemon.

Here is the kicker: if the men above — and others like them — were not doctrinally dependable, then how can we depend upon the gospels to be accurate? Although Matthew is not listed here, the other three Gospels are closely connected to the men listed above! It is well documented among the church fathers that Mark got most of his information from Peter.

Luke and Mark travelled with Paul and were very closely associated with him. In 2 Timothy 4:11, Paul writes, “Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you, for he is very useful to me for ministry.”

In that same book, it seems that Paul was perhaps helping Luke with the Gospel according to Luke, which is why Paul was so desperate for “the parchments” in 2 Timothy 4:13, “When you come, bring the cloak that I left with Carpus at Troas, also the books, and above all the parchments.

The same John who wrote 1 John, 2 John, 3 John, and Revelation wrote the Gospel of John. If we cannot trust what John wrote in 1 John, for example, how can we rely on him to have accurately recorded the words of Jesus in the Gospel according to John?

The above authors quoted or alluded to the Old Testament frequently — and they quote it as true, as inspired, and as relevant. They use the Old Testament as evidence that their teachings have Old Testament validity.

Since the Old Testament predicts the Person and Work of the Savior, and since the Savior appointed apostles to be the foundation of the church (Eph. 2:20), and since Jesus told the apostles that the Holy Spirit would bring Jesus’ teachings to their minds (John 14:25-26), we can see that the Bible is a unit. We cannot dissect it into relevant and fluffy portions. Jesus connects us to the Old Testament, and He paves the way for the New.

Jesus followed the Torah. In John 8:46, He asks, “Which one of you convicts me of sin?” Had He violated the Torah, there would have been accusations, but the only thing they could accuse Him about was violating man-made customs.

Jesus quotes a host of Old Testament Scriptures as the Word of God, as true, and as binding.

So, if you follow Christ, you also need to study the Scriptures that He studied. Although as non-Jews, many of the individual laws do not directly apply to us, there is something to be gained and applied from every portion of Scripture. And we must also respect the writings of the apostles He commissioned to lay the church’s foundation.

Since the Holy Spirit worked through men to author Scripture, and since the Holy Spirit makes no mistakes, Paul’s statement that all Scripture is inspired and that all Scripture is profitable makes good sense.

When my time is up, I hope I can say what the Apostle Paul said: “I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). We need the whole deal because we follow God. We also specifically follow God the Son incarnate (Jesus), and we follow the apostles and their associates. We follow the Word.

Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 1:13 “Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” Let’s do it.

Ed Vasicek Bio

Ed Vasicek was raised as a Roman Catholic in Cicero, Illinois. During his senior year in high school (1974), Cicero Bible Church reached out to him, and he received Jesus Christ as his Savior by faith alone. Ed earned his BA at Moody Bible Institute. He has served as pastor of Highland Park Church since 1983. Ed and his wife, Marylu, have two adult children. Ed has written many weekly columns for the opinion page of the Kokomo Tribune, published articles in Pulpit Helps magazine, and posted many papers at his church website. Ed has also published the The Midrash Key and The Amazing Doctrines of Paul As Midrash: The Jewish Roots and Old Testament Sources for Paul’s Teachings.

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Bert Perry's picture

...that we even need to debate this or remind people of it.  As you note, if Jesus quoted the rest of Scripture, it's important to Him, so by their own logic, they ought to heed it.

But that noted, I've rarely met a "Gospels only" person who was consistently willing to heed the "red letters" of Scripture, either.  So it's not really a theological position, but is rather a convenient dodge when someone notes the words of Paul or Moses.  And it's our shame, as those who at least theoretically hold to the whole of Scripture, that we aren't more able to point them to portions of the Gospels that say about the same thing.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Paul Henebury's picture

Good points here Ed.  For my part I think the disenfranchising of the OT by Christians is a huge problem 

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

TylerR's picture


Gushee is a "Christian ethicist" who recently decided to argue against Biblical Christianity and claim the Bible allowed Christians to engage in unrepentance homosexual behavior. He was essentially following Matthew Vines' book. I watched a lecture he gave on this issue. He depreciated the OT laws against homosexuality, and said something like:

We shouldn't focus on the OT laws which were for a different place and time. Instead, we focus our attention on the heart of what Jesus taught, which was to love our neighbor as ourselves.

The amazing irony, of course, is that Gushee quoted Jesus who was quoting Leviticus, which . . . (wait for it) . . .  is the OT book which condemns all sexual deviance - including homosexuality. Perhaps Gushee wasn't aware Jesus was quoting from the OT? This is all in addition to the ridiculous idea that you can somehow disconnect Jesus from the Tanakh; that "the Gospels are enough" and that we just need to be "red letter Christians." What madness is this!?

For many Christians, the OT is a closed book because they don't understand it, because their Pastors don't understand it.

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Ed Vasicek's picture

it is not just about the Old Testament, it is also about saying that the epistles don't matter either.  It is as though they were written by spiritual bureaucrats who, instead of clarifying the Gospel and Christianity distorted and clouded it.


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