Red Letter Christians – Are Jesus’ Words More Important than Paul’s?

by Jack Wellman · Print Print · Email Email

Should Christians focus on Jesus’ words alone? Are Paul’s or the rest of the apostle’s writings of secondary importance or are their writings equally important?

Red Letter Bibles

Maybe you have read some articles or heard some pastors say that they only revere Jesus’ teachings over Paul. Some even ignore all readings of the New Testament except the words and teachings of Jesus. Some Bibles have Jesus’ words in red as if the other words were of secondary or no importance. Should we value Jesus’ own words over Paul’s or even further, ignore all of the New Testament except where Jesus is speaking? What do you think? This is what many are teaching today but what does the Bible actually say about whether all of the Scriptures are considered the very words of God?

Are Paul’s Letters God-Breathed?

In 2 Peter 3:15-16 Peter told the church to “regard the patience of our Lord as salvation; just as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.” Peter clearly indicates that Paul’s letters (called epistles) are being distorted, even though they are hard to understand at times, but he also calls them “the rest of the Scriptures.” Since Peter called Paul’s letters Scripture and we also know that “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17) we must conclude that Paul’s writings are part of the sacred Scripture breathed-out by God. The words “inspired by God” are in the Greek “breathed out” or “of God’s breath.” This “breath” is the same as what is used in Genesis where God breathed into man the breath of life (Genesis 2:7). In 1st Corinthians 14:37 Paul says that these are not his teachings or beliefs but “the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord.” How clear it is that the Lord is the source of his teachings or writings and not Paul.

Some Bibles have Jesus’ words in red...

Some Bibles have Jesus’ words in red…

Who Was the Author of Scripture?

When Jesus prayed to the Father, he said that “I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You; and they have believed that You sent Me. the disciples” (John 17:8) and “when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you” (John 16:13-15). This is what Peter wrote when he stated that “we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:19-21). The Holy Spirit and sometimes the Lord Himself, both of which are God, inspired Scripture. It never came by man’s own effort or will. Peter is saying they received the Word, it was confirmed, it came from God, and the men who wrote it were moved by the Spirit. How clear is that!?

Was Paul Self-Taught?

Where did Paul receive his teachings? He answers this in writing to the Galatians “But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother’s womb and called me through His grace, to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him among the Gentiles, I did not immediately confer with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me; but I went to Arabia, and returned again to Damascus. Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter and remained with him fifteen days” (Galatians 1:15-18). Paul was taught by Jesus Christ, directly. Flesh and blood was not his source…Christ was. Neither did he learn the gospel from the other apostles. He was called to reveal the Son by God. He didn’t appoint himself but it was of the will of God. Paul was no less of an apostle than the others were and in fact, he was taught the same amount of time that the apostles were taught; three years!

The Apostles’ Scriptural Authority

The Apostle John wrote the gospel of John but he also wrote 1st, 2nd, and 3rd John however what I want to quote right now is the last thing he wrote in his own gospel, “This is the disciple [John] who testifies of these things, and wrote these things; and we know that his testimony is true. And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen” (John 21:24-25). Luke who is the author of the gospel with the same name also wrote Acts and opened this book by writing, “The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach” (Acts 1:1). The “former account” we know is the gospel of Luke. Remember that much of what is quoted in the New Testament is from the Old Testament and Jesus frequently spoke out of the Old Testament.

The Bible Minus the Red Letters of Jesus

Are Jesus’ words important? Yes, of course. Are Paul’s words less important or a non-factor? No because Peter called Paul’s letters (epistles) Scripture (2 Peter 3:15-16). John recorded what he saw; Luke wrote down an account of what happened. Would God make such a mistake to allow Paul’s writings, Peter’s letters, John’s writings, and Jude as well as the author of Hebrews into the Bible if they were not inspired by God? God can do all things and He is not the God of confusion. We cannot throw out 2/3rd’s of the New Testament just because Jesus’ red-letter-sayings were not in them. If that were the rule, then we would have to throw out much of the Old Testament. We conclude that “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17) yet some teachers, pastors and even seminary professors wrongfully say that we should only read and follow what Jesus said (identified in some Bibles with red letters) however the “all” in “all Scripture” in the Greek means…well, all! If you decided to throw out all but Jesus’ sayings, then you will be left with an incomplete, incoherent, hole-filled New Testament and Old Testament. The Bible would be a shell of its former self.

Conclusion

Anyone that teaches that only Jesus’ words should be taught or read is teaching heresy. They are dividing the word of God but not rightly or as Paul stated “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). God has warned anyone, even in the Old Testament, not to take away or add to His Word (Deuteronomy 4:2). Read what God’s says to anyone who takes away or alters in any way the Holy Scriptures; “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book” (Revelation 22:18-19). It doesn’t say, rightly cutting up, throwing out, or doing away with. No, it must be the whole Word taken to the whole world…nothing less or nothing more.

Take a look at this related article:

How Do We Know the Bible is True?

Resource – New International Version Bible, The Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright© 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblca, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Jack September 1, 2013 at 7:07 am

Hello, Pastor Jack! Have you had a very nice holiday? I’m going back to school tomorrow, it’ll be a joy to see all my classmates again! 😀 Oh btw, I have a question for you. I couldn’t figure this out, so I have brought it to you, since you are more than mature in your faith and knowledge, the knowledge given to you by the Holy Spirit. According to Scripture, sin has a cumulative effect on the entire human race. I’m not sure if that’s true, but I think it is. So, if you were to take that into account, then that means we will also get stupider as time goes on. But, if the humans in the past were extremely clever and able to build cities with more than 500kg of clay, why didn’t they ever think of inventing computers? Or cars? Or telephones? Or video games? Or did they just deem them unnessecary to invent? Thanks, Jack H 😀

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Jack Wellman September 1, 2013 at 6:57 pm

Greetings to you Jack from across the “big pond.” I hope you enjoyed your holiday my good friend.

I don’t know about being more mature in the faith or knowledgeable because my wife think’s I’m still a kid at heart…but anyway, why didn’t humans invent video games or telephones or computers in the early days? Let me tell you if you study the ancient Egyptians you discover that this civilization was so far ahead of us in many ways than we are today. They still can’t figure how they were able to construct such intricate pyramids and so on. Their science and astronomy and calendars were far, far advanced. They knew the world was not flat for hundreds and hundreds of years before the rest of the “educated” world knew this.

I believe God scattered the entire human race just for this reason…they would have become TO advanced and did harm to themselves because note why God scattered them and the reason he gave for it:

“And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. 6 And the Lord said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them” (Gen 11:5-6).

Read that again…God knows the future and He had to scatter them because “nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them.” Maybe they would have come up with nuclear weapons…and destroyed all of mankind by now. God knows best. He knew we have a tendency to want to destroy ourselves as a result of the fall. Make sense?

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Patricia Schneider September 1, 2013 at 12:32 pm

Hello, Pastor Jack!!
WOW! Another incisive article with Scripture!
You’re truly a terrific vessel/instrument of God, Pastor, in His gift to you as a writer. And YES, all for His Glory!!!

(Curious how you’re going to reply to ‘Jack H’ above. LOL!)
Always, your Sis in Christ Jesus….Patty

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Jack Wellman September 1, 2013 at 6:47 pm

Patty…you are such a treasure my good friend. I truly thank God for you…as for answering Jack…he’s a good guy. I have grown fond of Jack….he’s my friend from Great Britain. I must think before I can answer him. I know you too are a very special friend and sister in Christ and I thank God for you and such godly women as you and Cat.

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Donald Ferren September 1, 2013 at 8:28 pm

Did not Jesus’ disciples call him Teacher? I do not believe that one part of the Bible is more important than the other, and believe that Paul’s teachings were inspired by him as a way for the common man to understand as to what Jesus was saying. Paul said that there are people that will twist God’s word and be vigilant to false teachings. Is it not the intent of Red lettering to highlight exactly what Jesus preached so that man can take from it as the spirit speaks to each individual? Are not Paul’s letters a clarification to the “average” person of the words of Jesus and to spread his word through the church? Isn’t the rest of the new testament a clarification? Since we are not to lean not unto our own understanding but by the word of God, we can’t just dismiss the rest of the Bible as add-on because God gave the writers the words. But I lean more to what Jesus said and his teachings as the Spirit guides Me. Red letters more important? No. But to hear it from his mouth, and Pray over it that I may understand his words, just as the authors did. Do you think I am off track on this?

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Jack Wellman September 1, 2013 at 8:38 pm

Thank you Mr. Ferren. Great points. No, you are not wrong. When we take the whole Word we have the whole counsel to take to the whole world. I agree about Jesus’ words but as you wisely stated, many take Paul’s writings (and the others) and twist them and then they take text out of context to make a pretext which is usually a false one. The primary purpose of this article was to rebuke such teachers from doing this very same thing as you mentioned. I have heard many say “Well Jesus didn’t say anything about that so it must be okay or not sin” while ignoring Paul’s teachings, i.e. they say Jesus never called homosexuality sin and so we can ignore Paul’s writings on this subject but who taught Paul 3 years in the desert? Jesus. Thanks Mr. Ferren. You have made excellent points sir.

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Linda September 1, 2013 at 9:07 pm

Wow Jack, Great article, as always. I never new that but always wondered why some bibles had red lettering, I just assumed that it would be easier to find a scripture faster, where Jesus spoke. I don’t understand how anyone could skip pages. Every time I start the bible from the beginning again, its like the first time, I cant wait to get to the end to see what happens (of course I know) but each time I do, Im in awe and read through it like it was the first time!!
Thank you Jack, looking forward to your next article.
Linda

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Jack Wellman September 1, 2013 at 9:17 pm

How very kind of you Linda. Since Jesus is the Word of God (John chapter 1) and Scripture is “God-breathed”, I love the fact that all Scripture is inspired by God. I am like you. There is such excitement in the Bible. I am on a daily reading program. I have a chronological Bible (ESV) and I am going thru the Old Testament in one place, and the New Testament in another. Interestingly, they sometimes tie into each other. During my sermons, I tell the church “Today, part of my sermon is going to be perfect! (stony silence and then I say) “It is the part where I read out of the Bible!” LOL My part, not so much.

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Jack H September 3, 2013 at 3:22 pm

Hello, mein mensch in Christ, Pastor Jack! 😀 And yes, I did just randomly speak German. XD Your answer is more than satisfying for me, and I guess I understand why none of this new-fangled stuff was around back then……. God set them back 5000 years just by confusing their languages. How great is HE?! Let me tell you something, when He wants to do something, nothing can stop him, not the NSS or the BHA or multi-culturalism or dictators or maniacs or false-teachers or imaginary characters, I’M TALKING TO YOU, PETER GRIFFIN!! Sorry, got a little carried away there. ……………………………………………………… OR teachers OR politicians OR robots OR Satan!! Yes, when our Lord returns, everyone will realize that he really is Lord and for the first time in our lives, we will finally get to associate with him in person. My talk is over, hope you enjoyed it, and I wish you luck with the moral situation in America.
Thanks, Jack H 😀

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Jack Wellman September 3, 2013 at 3:27 pm

Amen Jack…our God is an awesome God. I believe the word awesome should be reserved only for the Great God. I agree that nothing will thwart the will of God from being done and even the Devil is God’s Devil and He can use evil for good. Thank you Jack for your good wishes my friend.

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Patricia Schneider September 3, 2013 at 4:58 pm

Curious, Pastor Jack…what if satan were to swallow that horrid pride of his and earnestly seek Jesus’ forgiveness? Yeah, I know. According to God’s Word, that is NOT EVER GOING TO HAPPEN.
It’s just that your reply to your friend, Jack H, about “the devil is God’s devil” and “He can use evil for good” got me wondering~. (BTW, Jack H is funny!)
Always, your Sis and friend in Christ Jesus….Patty

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Jack Wellman September 3, 2013 at 5:15 pm

Great comment Patty my friend. The cross of Calvary is a great example of evil, wicked men who were religious hypocrites who held an illegal trial at night, produced false witnesses, He was betrayed by a Devil-inspired Judas, and was murdered even though He was without sin. All this evil was Satan inspired but God’s purpose was accomplished by this greatest act of love ever for our redemption. God allowed Satan’s evil inspired plan to bring about the greatest act of saving the universe will ever know in all of history.

God 1, Satan 0.

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Patricia Schneider September 3, 2013 at 5:40 pm

Thank you, Pastor Jack!! Love it when you get this “Dense City” brain of mine back on track again! Hee-Hee!

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Jack Wellman September 3, 2013 at 5:48 pm

My friend, you are not dense. The only unintelligent question is the one never asked. This shows me that you have a hunger and thirst to know more about God and for which I wish I had more believers like you in the church that I am under-shepherd to the Great Shepherd.

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Patricia Schneider September 3, 2013 at 5:58 pm

Your words, Pastor Jack, always touch my heart deeply. Made up my mind this moment to STOP calling myself, “Dense City!” OK? And thanks bunches for what you said about having “more believers, etc.!” (You do realize, Pastor, it was you & this site, “What Christians Want To Know” that not only brought me to reading God’s Word daily, but “born-again?”)
Can’t believe the PEACE & JOY I have within me, Pastor!!!
Oodles of God’s wonderful blessings upon you and your family!

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Jack Wellman September 3, 2013 at 6:16 pm

We are the ones more blessed Patty in a sense that you have such humility that displays the fruits of the Holy Spirit unmatched by the vast majority of believers that I know of (Gal 5).

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Patricia Schneider September 4, 2013 at 3:46 pm

Oh, Pastor Jack…what a blessed, kind thing to say! Thank you! I want everything I say and do to be for our Father God’s glory, always!!
Have re-read the Book of Galatians. Appreciated being reminded of 2:15-16, that we are “justified by faith.”
ALL PRAISE, HONOR AND GLORY BE UNTO OUR FATHER GOD, HIS SON, JESUS, HIS HOLY SPIRIT!!! AMEN!!!

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Stefan Stackhouse October 9, 2013 at 10:07 am

Yes, of course ALL scripture is inspired, and we should not ignore the most of it excepting Christ’s own words. However, Jesus DID say “You call me Teacher and Lord, and that is correct, for that is what I am.” Because He is my Teacher and Lord, I believe I must always BEGIN with his own words and personal example, as recorded in the gospels. Then we can consider the rest of the new testament in light of what is taught in the gospels, and finally we can consider the old testament in light of the new. In all of scripture, we must look for what it says about Christ, because it is ultimately all about Him from start to finish.

That is why when Paul says that “all scripture is inspired and profitable for instruction”, we must understand that he really does mean ALL, and that is why pick-and-choose proof-texting is so very wrong. We must understand the totality of what scripture teaches in order to be faithful to the scriptures. Most of all, what all the scriptures teach is that Christ is Lord and Savior of the world – and that He is our Teacher.

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Randy Drake October 21, 2013 at 8:59 pm

I’ve commented several times on your article about Mormonism (which apparently is thought provoking since it has gone on for months) but just recently started perusing some of your other articles. I appreciate your insight and abillity to help others understand. I really appreciate that you take the time to answer questions and concerns from everyone. It must be time consuming. Thank you!

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Patricia Gantt September 19, 2016 at 2:44 am

Jack thank you so much for this article!

I had never heard the term “red letter christians” before until I read what the Berean Bible Society said here just yesterday:

Rebellion Against Pauline Authority
Reposted By Pastor Cornelius R. Stam [On Sunday, 9/18] In Two Minutes With the Bible
https://www.bereanbiblesociety.org/rebellion-against-pauline-authority/

As well as the author of so many incisive articles in eBible and Got Questions.
What are Red-Letter Christians?
https://ebible.com/questions/1415-what-are-red-letter-christians/

[ I confess I never heard of this apostate movement before – it seems to be related to liberation and post-modern theology. Cultic liberals — The Third Way New World Order “religion.”]

Thank you again my dearest brother Jack.
Warrior on!

Love, Sis

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Jack Wellman September 19, 2016 at 9:17 am

You are so kind my friend. However we both know that all glory is to God and Him alone. Thank you nonetheless.

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