The Jesus of the Gospels

Time Posted on February 12, 2012 User Andy

Alex's prior blog post on the importance of memorizing from the gospels rang especially true for me. It always seems easier to memorize from the epistles because they contain pithy summaries of the Christian faith; or from the Old Testament because it is rich in poetry and powerful, unambiguous statements from the LORD and his prophets.

The narrative, parabolic content of the gospels often seems less worthwhile memorizing because one has to commit an entire story to memory. Why memorize an entire story that appears to only make a single point? Why memorize the parables when we can memorize Paul's digested conclusion in an epistle?

I'm currently reading the 2nd volume in N.T. Wright's series, Jesus and the Victory of God. I highly recommend this series. Those of you who have followed the public debate between John Piper and N.T. Wright might harbor some reservations about Wright's theology. I, for one, have been both impressed by the civil tone of their debate and distressed at my inability to fully grasp their differences.

While you might not agree with every point that N.T. Wright makes, I can assure you that your understanding of Jesus will be tremendously advanced by following his carefully constructed arguments. Even the introductory sections on how we have arrived at our current thinking about Jesus is illuminating and worth grappling with. I had never realized how influential the Jesus Seminar really was, or how much the theologians in their ivory towers shape our theology.

How does this relate to the value of memorizing the gospels? I would contend that to fully appreciate the nuances of Wright's argument for understanding Jesus in a distinctly Jewish context, it is critical, or at least exceptionally helpful, to have some portion of the gospels memorized. When I came to the section in his book on the Sermon on the Mount, my understanding was greatly increased by having the complete sermon in my head. Memorizing the Sermon on the Mount inevitably requires starting with the structure of the sermon. As I memorized Matthew 5-7, I began to wonder why it began with the Beatitudes? Why does it end with the parable about the 'house on the rock"? What should we make of the selection of the six antitheses early in the sermon?

Reading his commentary on the other parts of the gospels made me regret not spending more time memorizing and reflecting on the gospels.

Over the past 50 years there has been so much disagreement as to who Jesus was and what his aims and beliefs were, that many of us have retreated to the epistles for our understanding of theology. Reading Wright has renewed my appreciation for the incredible continuity between the Old Testament, the gospels, and the epistles.

If the thought of reading four 700 page books is daunting, you might want to start with Simply Jesus, Wright's latest book which distills his many years of thinking about Jesus into 250 pages. I haven't yet read it, but intend to.

John Piper has written a great response to one aspect of N.T Wright's thinking: justification. The book, The Future of Justification: A Response to N.T. Wright is also available for free PDF download. If you would like to understand what the brouhaha is about, I would recommend reading both books. Whichever side you find yourself agreeing with more, you will probably learn a lot from both of them.

The purpose of this post is to reinforce the value of bible memorization coupled with deep bible study and broad reading. Those who know me will attest to my love of good-spirited debate as a means to get closer to the truth but, in this case, my primary point is that memorizing the Bible facilitates our understanding of theology and, ultimately, its application to our lives.

Have any of you read Jesus and the Victory of God or Simply Jesus? I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments.


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Tag books, gospels, wright, piper, memorizing

28 responses to The Jesus of the Gospels

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Seth Walley

You are so right. Reading and memorizing the epistles is good, but nowhere do we get such a vivid portrayal of the gospel as in the gospels. Our Church is going through John right now, and it has been very helpful to gain a fresh appreciation and understanding of the power of the Gospels. I am currently considering memorizing John after the I finish the epistles I am currently working on.

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נתן

I know for me memorizing the gospels is very easy compared to memorizing other parts of scripture. I love these books the first chapters that I memorized were from Matthew 5-7. My big problem is that I don't really memorize enough prophecy I think it is like at 5% or something of my total verses.

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SavedByGrace

Thanks for the post, Andy. Alex's post caught my attention, but this post made sure I remembered it. I'll be sure to start reading and memorizing more from the Gospels. Thank you!

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Thank you for the post, Andy! I agree about memorizing from the Epistles...I do memorize more from there. I've been reading in Mark lately and I always enjoy reading fom the Gospels. Thank you for the encouragement and as SBG said, I'll be sure the start memorizing more from the gospels!

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Matthew Sinclair

I am also reading Mark and have enjoyed it. The Gospels are so full of hope and things that can strengthen and comfort us.

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Dakota Lynch

For those of you looking to memorize more Scripture from the Gospels, consider joining me in memorizing Luke's version of the Christmas story. Chances are you've heard it so many times throughout your life that it will actually come quite easily to you.

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Dakota - I have most of it memorized already! But I'd love to do that!

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Dakota Lynch

By the way, in case any of you have ever wondered about my profile picture, it's a photo of me reading the Bible to my family on the highest point in our great state of Missouri. It was a special moment for me, reading the Book of all books on the top of our highest mountain!

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GlorifyGod<3

Wow Dakota! What a neat memory to go along with that picture! Yes, thank you Andy! I am trying to memorize verses from the epistles. I think that it is really neat to be able to have fellow believers on memverse.

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Alex Watt

Thanks for sharing the book titles, Andy. Currently I'm working through "What Jesus Demands from the World" by John Piper; great book thus far! I haven't read any of N. T. Wright's books yet, but I hope to do so before long; it sounds like they would be well-worth reading....

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RyanV

We were blessed to hear N.T. Wright lecture recently, and the titles you listed are on my reading list too. Thanks for sharing the post. (Oops...apparently I'm signed in under my son's account. This is Amy, Ryan's Mom.)

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Wretched Man

@Alex & @Ryan,

I'm not sure where either of you or your families stand on theological doctrines, or if you are aware of the recent controversies surrounding NT Wright and his writings/lectures on the fundamental doctrine of Justification; but I thought I would at least direct you both to John Piper's book, "The Future of Justification: A Response to N. T. Wright."

I'm not sure what your beliefs are about Justification, but it might be good to know, if you weren't aware already, that NT Wright has posited some rather alarming views on the doctrine, and John Piper wrote a very helpful response to these concerns.

Just thought I'd pass the information along. Hope it helps to shed some light.

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Alex Watt

Wretched Man - Thank you for pointing that out. I am somewhat aware of the issues, but need to look into it more. I appreciate that so many Desiring God resources are free, including a PDF version of the book you mentioned (at http://www.desiringgod.org/media/pdf/books_bfj/books_bfj.pdf).

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Wretched Man

@Alex: You beat me to the punch. I was just going to edit my previous post to include a link to the PDF file of the book on the same website.

I'm glad you're aware of some of the issues. In addition, I discovered further concerns that other respected men have voiced as well regarding other doctrines and NT Wright's controversial views. Since Bishop Wright makes his beliefs public, in both written and oral form, I take the MacArthur stance that making public critical responses to others' public statements should not be construed as sidestepping Matthew 18's confrontation guidelines nor engaging in gossip.

With that said, NT Wright has some YouTube videos in which he expresses his controversial beliefs on the doctrines of Hell and the Authority of Scripture.

Again, I'm not sure where all Memversers stand on theological doctrines, but it never hurts to hear/see all sides of an issue and then weigh them against Scripture and Its sufficiencies.

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Andy

Thanks for sharing the link to Piper's response, Alex. I didn't realize it was available free. I've updated the blog post above to include links to that book.

I want to reiterate that I only picked N.T Wright's book to illustrate the value of memorizing because it happened to be the book I'm reading at the moment. I will also say that the vast majority of his writing isn't tremendously controversial. Some of the reviewers of John Piper's book on Amazon do a good job of highlighting some of the distinctions between imputed/imparted righteousness.

In the end, the Berean approach of carefully weighing all arguments against the Bible is the one I would advocate.

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Wretched Man

Well said, Andy. Taking a Berean approach to all arguments and suppositions, even from those in whom we most trust, is the best tactic. Which is why, of course, Bible study and memorization are so vital in the life of every believer.

Unfortunately, especially in this era where many men are proclaiming that they have discovered a "new perspective" on Scripture, particularly regarding Jesus and the Gospel, we need to beware of those who, they themselves, do not entirely use the Berean approach to biblical doctrines and apologetics.

When we don't institute the Berean approach, our default mode is to "lean on our own understanding," become "wise in our own eyes," and somehow come up with something new. Scripture must ALWAYS be our all-sufficient authority! I don't direct this solely at NT Wright. I direct it at anyone, even if it were my beloved James White, Voddie Baucham, John MacArthur (just to name a few heavyweights in apologetics), who would ever veer from the Berean approach.

Plain and simple: Scripture interprets Scripture. There can be no contradictions, errors, or insufficiencies. Those things lie in us and our miniscule understanding of God and His sovereignty--never in the Word.

If anyone questions the integrity of the Word, I question them alone, not God's Word. We are inferior; It is supreme.

(On a side note: If anyone wants to read one of the greatest treatments of the doctrine of Justification, you must in your lifetime read John Owen's "The Doctrine of Justification by Faith." And, actually, you can't go wrong reading anything from John Owen, especially his work on Sin & Temptation.)

Be a Berean!

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Dakota Lynch

Those are some great thoughts, Wretched Man! I haven't read anything by the men you mentioned, but your comment was certainly an encouragement to me. Thanks!

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Wretched Man

Thanks, Dakota!

I'd encourage you, based on your liberty to peruse internet sites, to go to: 1) Sermon Audio if you want to get a taste of the preaching of Voddie Baucham; 2) Grace To You if you want to hear & see John MacArthur at his finest (and for over 40 years of materials!!); and 3) YouTube for many of James White's debates and commentaries.

And these just scratch the surface!

If you really want to "rock your world," especially as it pertains to the preaching of the Gospel, you can go to either Sermon Audio or I'll Be Honest.com or Heart Cry Ministries and seek out Paul Washer.

But I warn you: you will never be the same once you listen to Paul Washer.

Whether you receive him in a positive or negative way, he will evoke a response.

Praise God for men who will die for the integrity of His Word! And praise God for His Word! It is an amazing grace!

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Erika

You can't go wrong reading anything from Scripture.

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@Erika - I saw that you memorized the 8th Chapter of Romans on "Living the Journey!" Great job!

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Wretched Man

@Erika: Amen! Scripture rules them all!

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BibleBeeJunior14 (~*Lady Ariana*~)

How many verses should I have on my account? Just wondering what the average is. :)

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BibleBeeJunior14 (~*Lady Ariana*~)

Yay! Psalm 23 memorized...only a few more thousand verses to go. :) Haha

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BibleBeeJunior14 (~*Lady Ariana*~)

Ok, ya'll NASB people, I have entered Matthew 1 for our version. FYI, I used Bible Gateway and just copied and pasted then cut out the footnotes. It didn't take long. :)

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Dakota Lynch

BBJunior,

Try to add only as many verses as you can currently handle. There's no right or wrong number; just do your best consistently as soon you'll be one of our top memorizers!

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נתן

Yes, My biggest mistake signing up was adding 800 verses when I signed up even though I knew them it was still a huge burden for me.

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BibleBeeJunior14 (~*Lady Ariana*~)

@Dakota - Thanks! :) I hope maybe one day I'll be! :) I'm 186 on the Leaderboard as of 2:18 pm on the 20th. :)

@God's Bondslave - wow - that's a lot. Are you a Senior in BB?

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this is not good I was entering a verse psalm 9:4 and it did not have it in NASB so I had to type it in to enter it and when i pressed enter I accidentally hit the letter k and I did not know it Intel I looked at it and it is in the verse when you look it up and I do not know what to do



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