Many Christians consider the four gospels to be the pinnacle of God’s revelation to man. The reasoning behind this approach is that, while the rest of the Bible speaks about Jesus Christ, the Gospels contain the words of Jesus Christ. Such reasoning, though seemingly logical, is faulty.
From the time when the promise of a Messiah was first given in Genesis, we can read about the promised Redeemer, and indeed, some of the foretelling in the Old Testament regarding his nature and his mission is truly astounding in its precision and accuracy. And the words of Jesus, recorded in the Gospels, speak even more clearly about his sacrifice on our behalf and the church that he would subsequently build.1
However, the full declaration of what his perfect work had purchased was still not completely revealed on the day when our Lord ascended into heaven. Nor was it made known a few days later, on the day of Pentecost, when the promised church began. Rather, this revelation was given years after, to a most unlikely candidate.
If you or I, by our senses reasoning, were to vote for the individual most qualified to receive and disseminate this full revelation, we’d most likely select Peter, or another of the twelve. Or perhaps you would prefer one of Jesus’ family members who believed on him. But God chose a man from among the Pharisees—the party that had done the most to obstruct our Lord in his earthly ministry—and not only a Pharisee, but one who had once reveled in his position as persecutor and defamer of those who believed on Jesus Christ. This man was Saul, whom we know as the Apostle Paul.
What beautiful heavenly irony! We can only speculate as to what God saw in the heart of this man that he might be called to such a signal honor. Yet we can read that not only did Paul believe, but, having believed, he fully dedicated himself to the service of the Lord whom he had once despised. And it was to him that God, via the Lord Jesus Christ, communicated the greatest truths ever revealed regarding our Lord, his church, and God’s ultimate purpose.
Galatians 1:8–12 (New International Version, 2011 Edition)
But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!
As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!
Am I now trying to win the approval of human beings, or of God? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a servant of Christ.
I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preached is not of human origin.
I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.2
Please note that Paul refers to this revelation as “the gospel,” in other words, “the good news.” This message was good news because it fully declared the fact that full salvation for man could be found in the completed work of Jesus Christ. And that salvation was available to all.
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
With a knowledge of how this gospel was revealed, we can fully understand why Paul elsewhere referred to it, unashamedly, as “my gospel.”
Romans 2:13, 16 (New International Version, 2011 Edition)3
For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.
This will take place on the day when God judges people’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares. [emphasis added]
Now to him that is of power to stablish you according to my gospel, and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began,
But now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith. [emphasis added]
2 Timothy 2:8 (English Standard Version)
Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel. [emphasis added]
You might be thinking, “That’s great for Paul, but what about me? Where is my revelation?” Although we know that all sons and daughters of God can and will receive revelation from Him, any revelation that purports to add to the revealed Word of God springs only from the mind of man or from evil spirits.4
I’m sure that all of us would be thrilled to have the unique relationship with our risen Lord that was committed to Paul. Perhaps we have thought, “If the Lord spoke to me that way, I’d have a much easier time believing it.” But we must remember that, however this good news is received, it can only be comprehended and lived out by faith. No experience of mine—including the experience of hearing these words directly from the mouth of Jesus Christ—can create faith. Faith is a choice.
1 Thessalonians 2:13
For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe.
Consider great men like Peter. He did not receive these words directly, yet he called them “scripture.”
2 Peter 3:15–16
And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you;
As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.
Consider Timothy. He learned these truths not from the mouth of Jesus Christ, but from the mouth of Paul. Yet because of his faithful allegiance to those words, he was designated to act as Paul’s full representative in helping others to learn and to grow in the gospel.
1 Thessalonians 3:2
And sent Timotheus, our brother, and minister of God, and our fellowlabourer in the gospel of Christ, to establish you, and to comfort you concerning your faith.5
The Scriptures of the New Testament, particularly those written by the Apostle Paul, contain everything that we need to know—indeed, everything that we must know—in order to live Christian lives that will be full of joy, grounded in confidence, and of eternal significance. You and I can be as assured of the truth of these words as Paul himself was, for truly they are living words, as real for the humble man or woman today as they were for the man who first received them. Let them become “your gospel.”
2 Timothy 2:7
Consider what I say; and the Lord give thee understanding in all things.
1 Consider, for example, Matthew 16:18; Luke 9:18–22; John 3:2–5, 14:6.
2 See also 1 Corinthians 15:1–11.
3 Please note that these verses are separated by a parenthesis which, though instructive, is not pertinent to our current study.
4 See Revelation 22:18–19.
5 See also Philippians 2:19–22.