The Precepts for Discipleship: The Word of God
Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth.
—Jesus’ prayer for his disciples, John 17:17
What would you think of someone who claimed to be a follower of some great spiritual master but was not familiar with what that master actually taught?
It goes without saying that someone identifying himself or herself as a disciple should be at least somewhat (if not thoroughly) familiar with that master’s teachings. And so it is with us. As disciples of Jesus, it’s our business to know well what Jesus taught and to come under that teaching.
So where do we go to learn what Jesus taught? Secular historians have recorded some of this information, but the only “authorized” biographies of Jesus are found in the Scriptures. While the entire Bible points us to Jesus Christ, the Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) record the actual events of Jesus’ earthly life and ministry, including his teachings. As part of the Holy Scriptures, the Gospels are inspired by God himself and are designed for our progress in the faith. As the apostle Paul wrote,
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
So, we read the Scriptures expecting by them to be thoroughly equipped to follow Jesus. But we also expect the Scriptures to “read” us, because
The word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart. (Hebrews 4:12)
We don’t need to wonder what Jesus taught. His precepts have been recorded and preserved for us in the Scriptures—particularly in the Gospels. The only question is, Are we taking the time to really learn them?
By authorized, I mean divinely inspired, recorded by an apostle of Christ (or a close associate of an apostle), and recognized as authentic by the early church.
According to Luke 24:27, Jesus himself explained this to a couple of his disciples on the road to Emmaus after his resurrection.
The historical reliability of these Gospels has been well documented. See, for example, Craig L. Blomberg, “The Historical Reliability of the New Testament,” in Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, ed. William Lane Craig (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1994), 193-231.