The Black Type in the Red-Letter Edition of the New Testament

by Garry Smalley

Of course, it is extremely disturbing to read or hear destructive criticisms toward the Holy Bible as unbelievers state disparaging comments regarding the reliability of the God-breathed writings (II Timothy 3:16; cf. II Peter 1:16-21; I Corinthians 2:12-13). But even among Christians, there are some who seek to diminish the authority of the apostles of Christ and other inspired New Testament writers. They say things to indicate that the words spoken directly by Christ (highlighted by the introduction of the Red Letter Edition of the Bible in 1899) are more authoritative and more important than words written by Paul, Peter, or John.

Christians and other Bible students must remember the words of the Lord Jesus that speak directly to this issue. This is what Jesus said to His specially chosen apostles: “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.” (John 16:12). [These words are in red!] In the Lord’s wisdom, He did not disclose the sum total of all truth that His Father would impart to the world prior to His leaving (His ascension). The Master Teacher imparts truths to His disciples only as they are able to receive them. This He had done during His personal ministry (for example the forecast of His crucifixion) with the promise that such would continue, following His departure, through the heavenly agent, the Holy Spirit. Additional revelations would be given to them as they were prepared to receive them and go deeper and deeper into divine knowledge. Heaven’s plan for the church that Jesus would build in the days ahead would need additional details in order to be established and function according to God’s eternal plan (cf. Ephesians 3:8-12). The Holy Spirit sent from God would supply what was needed when it was needed (cf. Luke 12:11-12).

Our Lord was not foolish in thinking that people would not devise schemes to discredit and reject parts of His doctrine. Men who love evil love the darkness rather than the Light; they hate the Light because it exposes their evil deeds (John 3:19-20). Adding to or taking from the doctrine of Christ is evil. The motives for altering the truth are evil. The wrath of God will fall upon one who perverts the truth (See II John 9-11; cf. II Thessalonians 1:3- 12; Revelation 22:18-19). The truths taught by the apostles of Christ cannot be rejected without rejecting Christ and His Father! This principle was taught by Jesus when He sent the seventy out to preach (Luke 10:16), again in red letters.

The apostle Paul was a man of integrity; he would not deceive people. Note carefully what he wrote by inspiration: “If anyone thinks he is a prophet or spiritual, let him recognize that the things which I write to you are the Lord’s commandment. But if anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized” (I Corinthians 14:37-38). Note carefully what he declared to the Thessalonian Christians: “For you know what commandments we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus” (I Thessalonians 4:2). After giving further instructions, he said, “So, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you” (I Thessalonians 4:8). Further, note that the apostle John powerfully emphasized this truth: “We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error” (I John 4:6). One is in error when he rejects what the apostles and inspired writers wrote in the New Testament.

These brave writers were ambassadors of Christ (II Corinthians 5:20), and as such, they were entrusted with the “utterances of God” (I Peter 4:11). These they wrote and spoke, Jesus being with them and the Holy Spirit’s words delivered to them according to the Lord’s promise (Matthew 28:20; John 14:25-26; 16:7-15). The Lord Jesus is certainly a promise keeper! And the gift of the Holy Spirit prevented them from forgetting what they had been taught or adding things from their own fallible judgments.

Friend, we cannot reject any words in the New Testament without rejecting the teaching of Christ Himself. We cannot reject the ambassadors of Christ, those specially chosen by Him for His divine purpose, without rejecting Christ! We best not tamper with God’s divine truth!

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