Is it really true that we should do everything Jesus said? I've provoked criticism of my teaching at times when I've said that the answer to that question is, "no." There is a new movement of those who call themselves “red letter Christians”, who say: “I’m living by the red letters in the New Testament.” That refers to the Bibles that have the words of Jesus written in red. “I’m doing what Jesus said.” Well, the truth is, we need to consider how to rightly divide the Word. Jesus Christ said a lot of things at times, when He was not speaking to us. Remember that Jesus lived under the Old Covenant. The New Covenant didn't become effective until His own death.
I’m not minimizing the words of Jesus, His words are very important. In fact, His words are so important that we need to properly understand them. And we do that by examining to whom He was speaking, when He was speaking, and what He was saying.
I'll say it again a second time for emphasis: Jesus ministered under the Old Covenant, so he said a lot of things to those people, that once He had died on the cross and been raised from the dead, what He told them became obsolete in terms of your life. "Now," you might say: “wait a minute, you've gone too far! You are saying we don’t have to do everything Jesus said!" Well, do you really believe you should do everything Jesus said?
What about in Matthew 5 when Jesus said that if you look upon a person with lust in your heart, you should pluck your eye out? Any man reading this, if you really believe you should do everything Jesus said, you better get busy and start digging at your sockets right now. What about when Jesus said, “if you are tempted to steal, chop your hand off”? What about when he told the rich young ruler, to sell everything that he had and give it to the poor?
Somebody will protest, "Don't be ridiculous! Of course, He didn't mean that we take that literally!" My response would be, "Okay, then we are in agreement that we aren't to do everything Jesus said. It's just a question now of what words he spoke apply to us and which don't."
Those who say you should do everything that Jesus said, conveniently pick and choose the things they want to do, while ignoring and explaining other things away. How about when Jesus washed his disciples’ feet, and said: “as I have done this to you, so you should do this to each other”. Have you washed other Christians’ feet? If we are going to stand doggedly and determinedly on a certain point like this, then let’s practice it, let’s be consistent about it.
For instance, take the words of Jesus in what is commonly known as "the Lord's prayer." He said to pray, saying "Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors." He goes on to say a few verses later that you won't be forgiven by God unless you forgive others. Now, wait a minute. Was He talking to you at that moment? He was not. That was spoken before the cross -- before the New Covenant began.
Every passage that deals with forgiveness after the cross teaches that we forgive others, but not so that we will get forgiveness. We forgive others because we have been forgiven and it's now our nature to forgive. For instance, Ephesians 4:32 say, "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you." Under the Old Covenant, people forgave or else. Now, under the New Covenant, we forgive because we have been forgiven.
It is a misunderstanding to suggest that we should do everything that Jesus said. What we should do is understand what Jesus said and what it meant, when it was said, and take his words seriously enough to rightly divide the word of truth and to apply his words in the way they were intended to be applied. If you believe that you should do everything that Jesus said, you are going to experience a lot of self condemnation in your life because I know you are not going to do everything he said, like plucking out your eye, selling all you have and giving it to the poor, or washing other Christian’s feet. So let’s rightly divide the Word and take the words of Jesus seriously enough that we examine them in light of the New Covenant.