Jesus and His Apostles: Teaching in Harmony
Have you ever gotten the impression that the teaching of the apostles is at odds with the teaching of Jesus? Sometimes it may seem that way, especially when we see Jesus emphasizing certain things that the apostles don’t, and vice versa. Though we may be confident that, in the end, their teaching is harmonious, we do get special enjoyment when we see examples of doctrinal harmony between Jesus and His apostles.
I had just such an experience recently as I was listening to Dr. Sproul preach on Matthew 23 and Jesus’ lament over the spiritual state of Jerusalem. I couldn’t help but be struck by the thought that Jesus’ brief words in Matthew 23:37-39 anticipated the Apostle Paul’s fuller teaching about Israel in Romans 9-11. Check out the verses collated below and see if you don’t hear echoes of Jesus in Paul.
1. Notice that Jesus expressed deep grief over the spiritual state of Jerusalem, even as Paul expressed profound anguish over the spiritual state of Israel.
Jesus – Matthew 23:37a
23:37a “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem … .”
Paul – Romans 9:1-3; 10:1
9:1 I am speaking the truth in Christ - I am not lying; my conscience bears me witness in the Holy Spirit - 2 that I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. 3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.
10:1 Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved.
2. Consider that, just as Jesus rebuked Jerusalem for its persecution of God’s prophets, so too the apostle disparaged Israel for its persecution of God’s prophets.
Jesus – Matthew 23:37b
23:37b “… the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!”
Paul – Romans 11:2-3
11:2 Do you not know what the Scripture says of Elijah, how he appeals to God against Israel? 3 “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars, and I alone am left, and they seek my life.”
3. In his lament, we see Jesus highlighting the countless offers of refuge He had made to Jerusalem; in his exposition, we see the apostle highlighting the unceasing offers of salvation God has made to Israel. Moreover, just as we read of Jesus’ grief over Jerusalem’s repeated stubbornness, so we read of Paul’s grief over Israel’s historic obstinacy, reaching back even to Moses.
Jesus – Matthew 23:37c
23:37c “How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!”
Paul – Romans 10:1-4, 18-21
10:1 Brothers, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. 2 For I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge. 3 For, being ignorant of the righteousness of God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. 4 For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. …
10:18 But I ask, have they not heard? Indeed they have, for
“Their voice has gone out to all the earth,
and their words to the ends of the world.”
10:19 But I ask, did Israel not understand? First Moses says,
“I will make you jealous of those who are not a nation;
with a foolish nation I will make you angry.”
10:20 Then Isaiah is so bold as to say,
“I have been found by those who did not seek me;
I have shown myself to those who did not ask for me.”
10:21 But of Israel he says, “All day long I have held out my hands to a disobedient and contrary people.”
4. Note too that Jesus announced the destruction of unrepentant Jerusalem and bemoaned the judgment of all but the remnant who would receive Him. Likewise, note how the apostle announced the judgment of unrepentant Israel and bewailed the hardening of all but the remnant who would call on Him.
Jesus – Matthew 23:38-39
23:38-39 “See, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”
Paul – Romans 10:27-29; 11:7-10, 23-27
10:27 And Isaiah cries out concerning Israel: “Though the number of the sons of Israel be as the sand of the sea, only a remnant of them will be saved, 28 for the Lord will carry out his sentence upon the earth fully and without delay.” 29 And as Isaiah predicted,
“If the Lord of hosts had not left us offspring,
we would have been like Sodom
and become like Gomorrah.” …
11:7 What then? Israel failed to obtain what it was seeking. The elect obtained it, but the rest were hardened, 8 as it is written,
“God gave them a spirit of stupor,
eyes that would not see
and ears that would not hear,
down to this very day.”
11:9 And David says,
“Let their table become a snare and a trap,
a stumbling block and a retribution for them;
10 let their eyes be darkened so that they cannot see,
and bend their backs forever.” …
11:23 And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. 24 For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree.
11:25 Lest you be wise in your own sight, I want you to understand this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written,
“The Deliverer will come from Zion,
he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”;
27 “and this will be my covenant with them
when I take away their sins.”
The Westminster Confession (chapter 1, paragraph 5) teaches that “consent of all the parts” is one of the arguments by which Holy Scripture gives abundant evidence that it is the Word of God. As we hear the words of Jesus reverberating through the words of His apostle, let us be sure to remind ourselves of this foundational truth.