Over the years, various cultists, liberals, and cafeteria Christianoids have found that the reality of the apostles' doctrines makes them less popular with the world than their fantasies about Jesus' teachings do. The clear and plain apostolic analysis of the human dilemma doesn't dovetail with the world's self-diagnosis and "felt needs," and he who cleaves closely thereto invites the frown of the world rather than its smile. Yet "Jesus" remains popular, to a degree, and if certain of His words are radically isolated and massaged pretty ruggedly, one can fit in with pockets of the world while clinging to some sort of Jesusy veneer.
So these folks invent rationales to jettison the latter (apostolic reality) in favor of the mirage of the former. It is but one variety of inventing a "canon within the Canon." There have always been others as well, from Marcion on. They all have the same effect: the purveyor can avoid repenting where he badly needs to repent, and gets to keep that shiny religious sheen.
Candidly, I have more respect for the person who tries to trash the whole lot. It's a doomed project, of course; but it has a tincture of integrity that the more overtly religious varieties necessarily lack.
But I digress.
Whatever they might put on the T-shirt, they won't find any refuge in Jesus. It was, after all, Jesus' idea to separate and select twelve men, and name them "apostles" and to send them out to preach (Mark 3:14). If He wanted to do the only teaching, forever, and all of it, then this was a mistake. Which, seriously — think about that for a second.
So Jesus deliberately selected these men, and deliberately marked them as teachers in their own right. These men then became recipients of direct revelation (Matthew 10:19-20; 16:17). This was by Jesus' own design and revelation, in accord with His Father's own design and revelation.
What is more, the Spirit would bear witness so effectively that the apostles would also bear witness. As His was infallible, it is reasonable to infer that theirs would be infallible (John 15:26-27). Perhaps even a more sweeping promise is made in John 16:12-15 —
I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. 14 He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15 All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.Jesus still had many things to tell the apostles, and He would. How? By the ministry of the Holy Spirit. This suggests a specific body of truth which was yet to be revealed, and which would yet be revealed, after His glorification and by the Holy Spirit.
What's more, "all truth," Jesus promises, certifying in advance that what they say will be what He gave them to say. Not all truth about physics and medicine, but all truth in keeping with the "many things" He had yet to reveal. All of this would be Jesus Christ's revelation to the apostles by the Holy Spirit. So you really could make the legitimate argument that the apostles' words should also equally be red-letter, in that they are the words of Christ conveyed by the Holy Spirit.
"What?!" some might explode. "Dude! I call illegitimate conclusion. Going 'way too far!"
Really? The apostles would not seem to think it was. Hear Paul: "If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord" (1 Corinthians 14:37). The apostle, in so many words, equates his writings with a command of Jesus Christ. His writings, Paul says, are (not merely "contain") the command (not merely general notions) of Jesus.
Then there is Ephesians 2:20, which states that the church is built on the foundation laid by the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself personally being the cornerstone. They had the one-time-only, one-generation-only task of laying the foundation. All subsequent generations build on that foundation. But this was the Lord's own design, as He had said earlier.
This is borne out as well in 2 Peter 3:1-3. The apostle writes in verse 2 of "the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles." It is Jesus' command, and it is communicated through the apostles. It is, if I may be emphatic, 100% Jesus' command, but the ones speaking that command were in fact the apostles. Thus says Jesus' primus inter pares, the apostle Peter.
It would take us afield to spend too much time, but various heretics who find Paul uncongenial to their doctrine (which in itself is telling) try to pare him off from the apostles. Peter will have none of it, as he goes on to write of the need to
count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, 16 as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures (2 Peter 3:15-16)Here Peter equates Paul's writings not only as being on a par with his own, but on a par with "the other Scriptures." He could not possibly extend a higher imprimatur to Paul's epistles than this. It fits — not the negative reconstructions of divide-and-conquer Johann-come-latelys, but — the whole portrait of the whole New Testament.
In conclusion, I might come full circle and affirm that Christians should focus on the words and teachings of Jesus Christ.
But then I would hasten to say that those words and teachings are found from Matthew to Revelation.