Recently, while doing a simple Bible search, I discovered something in the life of Jesus that brought me to a full stop. It stunned me, and I’m still trying to process it. Here’s the background to it:

There is very little from the life of Jesus that is recorded in all four Gospels. The reason for that is because John wrote his Gospel around 30 years after the others, and knowing what Matthew, Mark, and Luke had recorded, John wasn’t trying to be repetitive. He was writing to be complementary. For that reason, there is very little in John that is present in the other three Gospels.

Here’s what the Gospels have in common: All of them record four stories and three predictions. The four stories they all mention are the baptism of Christ, the feeding of the five thousand, the triumphal entry, and the passion of Christ (crucifixion/resurrection). All four Gospels record three predictions: Jesus predicted His betrayal, Peter’s denial, and His passion.

But there is no teaching of Christ contained in all four Gospels.

With one exception.

Only one verse of teaching is to be found in all four Gospels. As I continue, see if you can guess it.

Let me introduce the verse by asking a question. If you were directing the biblical writings, and wanted to emphasis one teaching of Jesus’ by placing it in all four Gospels, which teaching would you choose?

Clearly, if there’s only one teaching of Jesus’ to be found in all four Gospels, then it must be of paramount importance to Him.

Furthermore, this teaching is present in six places in the Gospels. Matthew records it twice, Mark once, Luke twice, and John once. When you study the context of these six mentions, you realize they are pointing to four distinct events:

•On His third tour of Galilee (Mat. 10:39)

•After his visit to Caesarea Philippi (Mat. 16:25; Mark 8:35; Luke 9:24)

•On his final journey to Jerusalem (Luke 17:33)

•During his final week in Jerusalem (John 12:25)


So there are two unique characteristics about the teaching of Jesus to which we are pointing:

1. It is the only teaching of Christ mentioned in all four Gospels.

2. It is the only teaching of Christ that we know He gave on four different occasions.


Now, beyond any doubt, Jesus would have repeated His primary teachings throughout the 3.5 years of His ministry on earth. But in terms of the record we have in our hands, there is only one teaching of Jesus’ that we’re told He gave on four different occasions. It must have been His most common teaching.

Do I have your curiosity up? Want to know what the teaching was?

Find your life, you’ll lose it; lose your life, you’ll find it. John’s wording is slightly different, but it’s the same teaching: Love your life, you’ll lose; hate your life, you’ll keep it. (The references are listed above.)

Hear it! Lose your life. Hate your life. This was the foremost and most-repeated word of our Master.

When this teaching gets on your screen, you’ll start to see relevant applications everywhere. Little wonder that the context in which Jesus delivered this teaching was different in each of the four events listed above. That’s because it’s a message that relates to virtually every area of life.

If this was the most common teaching of Jesus, it leaves me with this question: To what degree is this word likewise upon my tongue?




The Gospel is in the Gospels

When did the Gospel era officially launch? Where should we draw the line between the Old and New Covenants?

The answer to this question is immensely important. There are voices in the body of Christ that place the line in the wrong place, producing teachings that are very harmful to the body of Christ. Hence, this post. I am writing to identify where this line needs to be drawn, and why this is so important.

The line is drawn usually in one of two places: Either at the beginning of John the Baptist’s ministry, or at the Day of Pentecost. The second option is the wrong answer. When some suggest that the Gospel era was not launched until the Day of Pentecost, they assign the life, ministry, and teachings of Jesus to the Old Covenant era. In so doing, the teachings of the Gospels get labelled as Old Covenant truths—truths which are not as compelling or binding upon believers as the truths in the epistles. Thus, the teachings of Christ are improperly assigned secondary weight or significance. This error is contributing to much false teaching in the body of Christ, both past and present.

There ought to be no question as to when the Gospel era began, for the Bible itself tells us clearly in two passages. First of all, Mark in his Gospel identifies “the beginning of the gospel” with the advent of John the Baptist’s ministry:

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the Prophets: “Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, who will prepare Your way before You.” (Mark 1:1-2)

The second witness is from the mouth of Jesus Himself, who drew the line between Malachi and John the Baptist:

And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. (Mat. 11:12-13)

The Gospel era was launched with the ministry of John the Baptist. Get this clearly: The Gospel is in the Gospels.

Those who place the teachings of the Gospels in the Old Testament era do so because they want to be free of some of the constraints in Christ’s teachings. Jesus, who taught in the fullness of grace (Jn. 1:14), taught things that guard the gospel from excesses. When Jesus’ teachings are brushed aside, the stage is set for teachings that appear to produce freedom, but in the end lead to permissiveness, indulgence, imbalance, and even sin.

God came from heaven, became flesh, and walked among men to communicate to us the heart of the Father. There is no higher authority in all Scripture than the words of Christ. Any theological system that assigns secondary value to the teachings of Jesus Christ is to be avoided like cancer.

John G. Lake wrote, “I consider all the Word of God the common court of the Gospel, but the words of Jesus are the supreme court of the Gospel.” To this I lend my hearty amen.

When the words of Christ are relegated to second place, it makes a way for imbalanced teachings about the grace of God. The grace of God can be presented in a way that enables believers to turn liberty into license.

And when the words of Christ are relegated to second place, it makes a way for imbalanced teachings about money and prosperity. Jesus’ teachings about money become viewed as legalistic, and His example of a simplified lifestyle is jettisoned in favor of lavish lifestyles.

The topic of this post is personal for me because of a time when the Lord visited me and rebuked me. I had been influenced by some authors in a certain stream in the body of Christ, and had adopted some ideas about the power of Pentecost that had, by default, minimized all that preceded the cross, including the teachings of Christ. I did not realize how wrong that line of thinking was until the Lord came to me in a clear way, rebuked me, and re-aligned my understanding in something not unlike a chiropractic adjustment. He rebuked me for viewing the teachings of Christ too lightly. I saw it clearly: “The Gospel is in the Gospels.”

Someone might argue, “But didn’t Paul say that Christ was ‘born under the law?’” (Gal. 4:4). True enough. We were not fully liberated from the law until the resurrection of Christ. John the Baptist and Jesus ministered in a unique window of time during which the teachings of the Gospel were introducing a new era, while the full provision of this Gospel was not released until the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2). He had to be born under the law in order to satisfy the law’s requirements. While satisfying the law, He announced a Gospel of repentance that was greater than the law.

John the Baptist was “more than a prophet” (Mat. 11:9) because his ministry wrestled the Gospel era into human history. He paved the way so that Jesus could give us the glorious teachings of the Gospel.