Friday, January 2, 2015

Why Are There Four Gospels?

Eze 1:5  And from the midst of it came the likeness of four living creatures. And this was their appearance: they had a human likeness, Eze 1:10  As for the likeness of their faces, each had a human face. The four had the face of a lion on the right side, the four had the face of an ox on the left side, and the four had the face of an eagle.

You might wonder what the above verses have to do with the number of Gospels we have in the Bible.  I recognize that not everyone agrees with the meaning of the four faces of these creatures and to some degree we can only speculate.  But there has to be some reason why we have four different accounts of Jesus’s incarnation and there is an obvious connection between these four creatures and the four ways the Gospels present our Lord.

Matthew presents Jesus as the King of the Jews or lion, Mark presents him as a servant or ox.  In Luke Jesus is seen as the perfect man or human and John tells us that he is the Son of God, fully divine seen in the face of the eagle.  Whether this is why God created them like this or not, we can at least see a parallel.  Along with this it is important to know the purpose of the Gospels is to relate to us who Jesus was and what he did and I would suggests that this is their main purpose more so than relating to us what Jesus said! 

I don’t want to minimize Jesus’s teachings of course since greater and more important words have not been spoken.  But it is not uncommon for many to think that Jesus’s greatest contribution was his teachings but this is an error.  The Gospel is not what Jesus said but what he did; not words but a work.  I think red-letter editions of the NT have contributed to this error since it assumes that his words are more important than the ones left in black.  But we need to remember that they are all inspired and they all serve the same purpose; to convey who Jesus was and what he did for our salvation.  His words are a proof that he is who he claimed to be.

Jesus did not come primarily to teach us how to behave.  He didn’t teach us a better way; he is the only way!  One of the more important things the Gospels relate to us is that Jesus was fully God and also fully human.  So when we read about him growing tired or hungry this is just as important as letters in red because the Apostles are showing us that he was a man; not God in a man suit but fully man.  When we read of him inviting the disciples to touch his wounds it cements the fact that he had a physical body when he arose from the dead and that we will have such a body in the Resurrection.  Time doesn’t allow us to deal with all the errors of the last 2000 years because of the confusion of who Jesus was and how it all relates to salvation and the eternal state but Paul deals with a lot of this in 1 Cor. 15. 

But the reason there are four Gospels is to reveal fully the person and work of Jesus Christ.  In particular they do this with four aspects of his person; 1. He is God 2. He is Man 3. He is has established a kingdom and 4. He came to do a work, to seek and to save that which is lost by being a servant and giving himself a ransom for many.  This is what we need to know in order to be saved.  When Paul defined the Gospel in 1 Cor. 15:1-3 he didn’t relate what Jesus said, he related what Jesus did.  In fact, he said we will be saved if we hold fast to the word he, Paul, preached to them.  Some think Jesus came to teach us how to live in order to be accepted by God but this is to use Jesus to deny Jesus.  We are saved by faith in what Jesus did, not by living according to his teachings.  Living by his teachings from the heart is evidence that we have already been converted.


We must take the record of the four Gospels seriously.  They were given not to show us how to be good but to tell us about the only One who ever was good.

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