Red Letter Christianity

02 Aug

I am not a red-letter Christian.

As many of you know some Bibles print the words of Jesus in red, while leaving all other words printed in black. Some Christians, as they look at the entirety of the Bible, value what Jesus said more than anything else written in Scripture. They even formulate a view of Scripture that believes the words in red are more important than the words in black. Red letter Christianity is that view of Scripture that elevates the words in red ink over the words printed in black ink in some English Bibles.

I recently preached a message that touched upon the danger of having this view. And here are some of my concerns about red-letter Christianity and why I reject the view.

1. When one adopts a red-letter view, we undermine what Jesus actually taught about all of God’s word. When Jesus appeared to some disciples on the road to Emmaus, he actually showed them how the Old Testament instructs and teaches us about Jesus (Luke 24:27). Every book, rightly understood, instructs us about Jesus, not just the Gospels.

2. When we elevate the importance of the red-letter words above the black-letter words, we undermine the truth that God himself is the principle author of every book of Scripture. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 reveals to us that every word in the Bible comes from God himself. And God does not waste his breathe. Every word he uttered through the writers of Scripture are to be cherished as words from our loving heavenly Father.

3. If we neglect the black-letter words of Scripture, we will not rightly understand the red-letter words. Imagine, if you took away every book in the Bible except the Gospels. Could you really understand what Jesus did? I admit that I could not.  I could not understand why God the Son needed to come in the first place. Additionally, I could not understand all that Jesus accomplished through his life, death, and resurrection without the rest of the New Testament.

4. One tendency that I see in red-letter Christians is a reduction of Christianity to WWJD (What would Jesus do?). Jesus is reduced to the example of how we should treat others. We should learn much from the example of Jesus, but one big problem with this reduction is that we do not treat others like Jesus did. We fail every day. What was more important to the writers of Scripture than WWJD is WJD, (What Jesus Did!).

We should follow Jesus’ example in most things, but there are certain things that he did, that we cannot do. Jesus’ death on the cross actually saves sinners. Peter’s death on a cross (tradition says he was crucified on a cross) did not save anyone. Here is my point: If I only have the gospels, I would be without so much of what God says that brings me great joy and so much of how God tells me to live in light of Jesus’ death on the cross. 

“It’s all about a relationship with Jesus, not _______.” Pastors hear this all the time. Well, yes, kinda of. Life is found by being in communon with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. And all the details of that life are revealed to us in Scripture. This is why God ordains local churches. This why God ordains structure to the local church. This why God gives leaders to the local church. This is why he gifts everyone in the church to serve others. Every single thing in Scripture is breathed out by God so that we can treat every person according to God’s perfect standard.

For these reasons, I guess you could call me a black-letter Christian (because I purposely did not buy a Bible with Jesus’ words in red).

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Posted by on August 2, 2011 in Uncategorized


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