Tony Elder

Tony Elder

Let me ask you a question. How should followers of Jesus view the Bible? Does it even matter what we think of the written word of God as long as we faithfully follow the living Word, Jesus Himself? If we love Jesus and pay attention to His example and teachings, do we really need to care about what God revealed in the book of Leviticus or through the prophet Isaiah or in that mysterious, enigmatic book of Revelation?

It’s not unusual these days for critics to mischaracterize as Pharisees those Christians who still cling to the concept that all of the Bible is uniquely inspired by God and carries His authority over our lives. And we all know Jesus often condemned the members of that legalistic, hypocritical group. However, it’s important to recognize the reason Jesus spoke so harshly about them wasn’t because of their strong adherence to the written word of God. Jesus’ condemnation of the Pharisees centered on several practices or attitudes. (1) They were putting a bunch of additional manmade regulations on the same level as God’s word and insisting that people obey those human laws just as they would obey God’s laws. (2) They emphasized certain portions of God’s word while ignoring other even more important parts of that special revelation. (3) Their motives in obeying the Scriptures didn’t stem primarily from love for God and a desire to please Him, but rather out of a selfish desire to be approved and admired by other people. They also mistakenly considered keeping the law to be their means of salvation.

Jesus didn’t tell the Pharisees that they should disregard those minor points in God’s law which they were emphasizing. He told them, “These you ought to have done, without leaving the other (justice, mercy, and faith) undone” (Matthew 23:23). When defending His actions on the Sabbath, Jesus didn’t tell the Pharisees to forget about that law or suggest that it had been superseded by newer modern-day ideas. He pointed them right back to what the Scriptures themselves taught about the Sabbath and cited examples from the written word which showed the true intent of the observance of that sacred day (see Matthew 12:1-8). Jesus followed the same principle we should practice – looking to Scripture itself to help us interpret other Scripture and to enable us to understand what it means and to what extent it applies to our lives.

When Jesus faced-off against the devil and his temptations, His main weapon He put to use was the written word of God. In each case He answered Satan’s attacks with “it is written,” showing the importance He placed on that revelation. Among the scriptural quotations He referenced was this one: “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). Jesus Himself affirmed that we need the word God has given us as our spiritual food to sustain the life we’ve received through faith in Christ.

Jesus also clearly declared that He had not come to destroy the Law and the Prophets. He stated that not even one small part of the law would pass away until all is fulfilled. He went on to condemn anyone who encouraged or taught others to break even the least of those commandments (see Matthew 5:17-20).

So it’s not a matter of following either the living Word or the written word. Jesus showed that if we truly love Him, we’ll not only seek to live by what He said and did when He was here on earth, but by what He and His Father have said throughout the whole revelation of His inspired written word.

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The Rev. Tony W. Elder is pastor of Wesley Community Fellowship Church. He can be reached at 770-483-3405 or by email at


I have been editor of the Rockdale Citizen since 1996 and editor of the Newton Citizen since it began publication in 2004. I am also currently executive editor of the Clayton News Daily, Henry Daily Herald and Jackson Progress-Argus.

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