Did Christians really believe that Jesus loved them before the Bible told them so?


Can someone tell me what this quote means in context? My guess is that Andy Stanley is trying to vouch for the historicity of events and teaching later compiled in the books of the New Testament.

Out of context, however—which is the way the vast majority of people will read it—it sounds as if Stanley is denigrating the authority of scripture. I’m sure he would say that old-fashioned Bible preachers like me are bound to misunderstand him. We’re part of the problem. We’ve been preaching and teaching wrong for decades, at least.

But seriously, how is this quote even true?

First, Christians in the first three centuries had the Old Testament, which they believed did tell them that Jesus loved them—even if it didn’t use his name. Indeed, the Christian movement wouldn’t have gotten off the ground to begin with if the apostles didn’t believe wholeheartedly that Christ was the fulfillment of scripture. Read Peter’s sermons in Acts: they are all about the Bible.

Second, churches had copies of at least some gospels and epistles. Third, even if they didn’t, they had apostolic teaching, which the Holy Spirit ensured would be written down and compiled in our New Testament.

If his point is that Christians didn’t have a book in their hands called “The Holy Bible,” well, that’s true, but only trivially so. Absent anyone teaching people that Jesus loved them—and what that means and why it matters—who would know it, or care?

7 thoughts on “Did Christians really believe that Jesus loved them before the Bible told them so?”

    1. Right, but as I said on Facebook, the vast majority of people who see the photo and caption also won’t have listened to the sermon. Our culture hardly needs less reason to take the Bible seriously. So thanks, Browns Bridge or Andy Stanley!

  1. Seems strange to me. The New Testemant is nothing more than the inspired writings of early Christian leaders. They were all complete by 100 AD, and were circulating among the churches. Most certainly they were considered authoritative.

    How else would a new Christian know that “Jesus loved them”, other than by the written and spoken word of the apostles, preachers and fellow believers?

    1. You’re right, Grant. Stanley is just wrong on history if he doesn’t know that all the gospels and letters were in circulation among churches well before the end of the first century. And again, unless we’re Marcionites, they had a Bible, too—the Old Testament. The gospel is incomprehensible without it. Was the OT a wholly truthful, inerrant book or wasn’t it? A lot would have been at stake in the question. In fact, that was a question Paul was dealing with in Romans 9-11: Was God telling the truth about Jews in the OT?

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