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.


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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