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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: Are the Right Books in the New Testament?

Don Stewart :: What Do We Learn from the New Testament Itself about the Need for a New Testament Canon?

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What Do We Learn from the New Testament Itself about the Need for a New Testament Canon?

Are the Right Books in the New Testament? – Question 2

Those who lived at the time of Jesus had the Old Testament as their divinely authoritative Scripture. However, as we look at the New Testament, we can learn a number of things about the possibility of further Scriptures that would add to God’s revelation of Himself to humanity. A number of important points need to be made.

1. From the Old Testament There Was an Expectation for More Scripture

The Old Testament canon closed with the expectation of more revelation to come. The Lord said the following things through the prophet Malachi:

“See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the LORD Almighty. (Malachi 3:1 NIV)

The Lord promised to send a messenger that would prepare the way for the Lord Himself. This messenger would be the prophet Elijah. Malachi also wrote:

See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with a curse. (Malachi 4:5-6 NIV)

The Old Testament closes with this promise of the coming of Elijah who would be the forerunner of the Messiah. Consequently, we would not expect any further Scripture to be written until the long-awaited Messiah came on the scene.

Yet, with the coming of the Messiah, we would expect additional Scripture to be composed.

2. God’s Promises Come True: the Messiah Came to the World

As always, the promises of God come true. The expectation of the coming Messiah was fulfilled in Jesus Christ. His life and ministry would eventually necessitate a New Testament to be written.

We find that the Old Testament predicted that Elijah was to come before the Messiah arrived. Elijah did come in the person of John the Baptist. Jesus made it clear that John the Baptist fulfilled the role of Elijah. Matthew writes:

His disciples asked, “Why do the teachers of religious law insist that Elijah must return before the Messiah comes?” Jesus replied, “Elijah is indeed coming first to set everything in order. But I tell you, he has already come, but he wasn’t recognized, and he was badly mistreated. And soon the Son of Man will also suffer at their hands.” Then the disciples realized he had been speaking of John the Baptist. (Matthew 17:10-13 NLT)

The moment Jesus began His public ministry, His words were regarded as divinely authoritative. We find Jesus comparing His words to those who had gone before Him. He said:

You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matthew 5:27-28 TNIV)

Matthew wrote about Jesus’ authority. He stated it this way:

When Jesus finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed by his teaching, because he taught them like one who had authority, not like their experts in the law. (Matthew 5:27-28 NET)

The words of Jesus were enough to settle any matter. When Paul wrote to the Corinthians about how to conduct the Lord’s Supper, he referred to what he had been taught by the Lord. He wrote:

For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread. (1 Corinthians 11:23 TNIV)

There is no doubt about how the church viewed the authority of the words of Jesus. Whatever He said carried God’s divine authority.

3. Jesus Gave His Chosen Apostles His Authority While He Was Here on the Earth

Jesus gave His authority to His hand-picked disciples while He was here on the earth. When Jesus first sent out the twelve disciples, He gave them absolute authority. The Bible says:

Jesus called his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits so they could cast them out and heal every kind of disease and sickness.... As you go, preach this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven is near. ‘Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. Freely you received, freely give.’ (Matthew 10:1 ,10:7-8 NET)

The authority that Jesus gave was not limited to the twelve disciples. We find that it was also given to a wider group. On another occasion, Jesus sent out seventy disciples with His authority and His miraculous power. Luke records it as follows:

After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go? Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ (Luke 10:1, Luke 10:8-9 NRSV)

They came back testifying to God’s power. Luke records the following:

The Seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in Your name.” He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a lightning flash. Look, I have given you the authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and over all the power of the enemy; nothing will ever harm you. However, don’t rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.” (Luke 10:17-20 HCSB)

Thus we find that Jesus’ authority was given to a select group of people for a special purpose.

4. Jesus Said That He Would Tell His Disciples More Things after His Death

Jesus promised His disciples that more truth would be revealed after He left the world. On the night of His betrayal, He said to them:

I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. (John 16:12 TNIV)

This set the stage for further revelation to come. His words guaranteed further additions to Scripture.

5. Jesus Made Promises Concerning the Holy Spirit

Before Jesus died, He promised His disciples that the Holy Spirit would come and teach them all truth. He said:

But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. (John 6:13-14 TNIV)

Jesus also promised that the Holy Spirit would bring back to the remembrance of these disciples all things that Jesus had taught them. John recorded Jesus saying:

But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. (John 14:26 TNIV)

The New Living Translation translates the verse in this manner:

But when the Father sends the Counselor as my representative - and by the Counselor I mean the Holy Spirit - he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I myself have told you. (John 14:26 NLT)

Jesus also said that the Holy Spirit would testify of Him:

When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me. (John 15:26 TNIV)

The Holy Spirit would take the place of Jesus on the earth. He would represent the risen Lord; He would not speak of Himself.

6. Jesus Give His Handpicked Disciples His Same Authority after He Left the Earth

When Jesus appeared to His disciples on the day of His resurrection, He again gave them the same authority as Himself. John writes:

Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone his sins, they are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” (John 20:21-23 TNIV)

The New King James Version translates these verses as follows:

So Jesus said to them again, “Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” (John 20:21-23 NKJV)

In the same manner that the Father had commissioned Jesus, so Jesus gave His authority to His disciples. They were given unique authority to proclaim His Words and deeds. Consequently, they were more than mere teachers and preachers of Jesus’ message—they were authoritative channels of God’s Word.

The unique authority that Jesus had given His specially selected disciples before His resurrection was also given to them after His resurrection.

7. There Were Special Credentials Necessary for an Apostle

The Apostles were drawn from a group of men that had special credentials. They had to have been with Jesus from John’s baptism to Jesus’ ascension. This became evident when the traitor Judas was replaced. We read in the Book of Acts about the qualifications that were necessary to become one of the “Twelve.” Peter said:

Therefore it is necessary to choose one of the men who have been with us the whole time the Lord Jesus went in and out among us, beginning from John’s baptism to the time when Jesus was taken up from us. For one of these must become a witness with us of his resurrection. (Acts 1:21-22 TNIV)

They would have to be able to testify as to what they saw and heard. Some time later, John wrote the following:

We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ. (1 John 1:3 TNIV)

Only these select men had this unique authority of Jesus. There is no evidence that it was passed down to a second generation.

8. The Apostles Spoke and Acted with Jesus’ Authority

After Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension, those who had been His intimate disciples spoke with the same authority as their Lord. Everything could be subject to their authority. Peter said the following to a lame man whom he met at the entrance to the temple:

Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk. Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. (Acts 3:6-7 NET)

Their authority was even recognized by the unbelieving religious rulers. We read the following in the Book of Acts:

When they saw the courage of Peter and John and realized that they were unschooled, ordinary men, they were astonished and they took note that these men had been with Jesus. (Acts 4:13 TNIV)

The unique authority of the apostles was evident to all.

9. There Was a Body of Truth from the Beginning

From the beginning, there was a body of truth that was taught by these men. This is known as the Apostles’ doctrine, or the Apostles’ teaching. The following was said of the early church:

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. (Acts 2:42 TNIV)

God bore witness to this truth with visible signs and wonders. The writer to the Hebrews said:

How shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will. (Hebrews 2:3-4 TNIV)

It was essential that the teaching was consistent with the doctrine of Christ. We read in the Book of Revelation how prophecy, or the proclamation of God’s Word, testified of Jesus:

I bowed at his feet to worship him. But he told me, “Don’t do that! I am your coworker and a coworker of the Christians who hold on to the testimony of Jesus. Worship God, because the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy!” (Revelation 19:10 God’s Word)

It is clear that God has revealed a certain body of truth to believers. This system of teaching consistently testified to Jesus.

10. The Apostles Wrote with the Same Authority as They Spoke

Not only did the Apostles speak with authority, they also wrote with authority. We find that the writers of the New Testament wrote with the same authority in which they taught. Paul declared:

For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts. (1 Thessalonians 2:3-4)

Paul reminded the Corinthians of his authority. He wrote:

If anybody thinks he is a prophet or spiritually gifted, let him acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord’s command. (1 Corinthians 14:37 NET)

When Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, He exercised his authority as an apostle. He made this clear when he said the following. He said:

Therefore whoever rejects this rejects not human authority but God, who also gives his Holy Spirit to you. (1 Thessalonians 4:8 NRSV)

In his next letter, Paul wrote to the Thessalonians about holding on to the traditions which they had been taught:

So then, brothers and sisters, stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by our letter. (2 Thessalonians 2:15 NRSV)

The writings of the apostles carried the same authority as their preaching.

11. The Apostles Issued Commands in the Name of Christ

Paul issued commands in the name of Jesus Christ. He wrote to the Thessalonians:

And now, dear brothers and sisters, we give you this command with the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ: Stay away from any Christian who lives in idleness and doesn’t follow the tradition of hard work we gave you. (2 Thessalonians 3:6 NLT)

Paul also wrote to the Thessalonians:

Take note of those who refuse to obey what we say in this letter. Stay away from them so they will be ashamed. (2 Thessalonians 3:14 NLT)

The apostles were also needed to verify, or deny rumors. For example, a rumor arose that Jesus promised John that he would not die. John himself corrected that rumor. He recorded exactly what Jesus did say and what He did not say. We read in John’s gospel:

Because of this, the rumor spread among the brothers that this disciple would not die. But Jesus did not say that he would not die; he only said, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?” (John 21:23-24 NET)

The commands and teachings of the apostles were accepted with the same complete authority as Jesus’ words.

12. The Apostles Had the Same Authority as the Old Testament Prophets

Those who held the office of apostle claimed the same authority as the Old Testament prophets. Peter wrote:

Keep in mind what the holy prophets said, and the command of our Master and Savior that was passed on by your apostles. (2 Peter 3:2 MsgB)

This was quite a claim. These New Testament apostles were considered to be on an equal level as the great Old Testament prophets such as Isaiah and Jeremiah. In fact, to lie to the apostles was the same as lying to the Holy Spirit. Since the Holy Spirit is God, then lying to the apostles is the same as lying to God. We discover this in the episode of Ananias and Sapphira; two believers who lied to the apostles. The Bible says:

He [Ananias] brought part of the money to the apostles, but he claimed it was the full amount. His wife had agreed to this deception. Then Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart? You lied to the Holy Spirit, and you kept some of the money for yourself. The property was yours to sell or not sell, as you wished. And after selling it, the money was yours to give away. How could you do a thing like this? You weren’t lying to us but to God.” (Acts 5:2-4 NLT)

Clearly, they carried Jesus’ authority. Lying to them was the same as lying to God.

13. Paul Said It Was the Holy Spirit Who Revealed Truth to Him

Paul said the Holy Spirit revealed certain truth to him. He wrote the following to the Corinthians:

But as Scripture says: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined the things that God has prepared for those who love him.” God has revealed those things to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches everything, especially the deep things of God. After all, who knows everything about a person except that person’s own spirit? In the same way, no one has known everything about God except God’s Spirit. (1 Corinthians 2:9-11 God’s Word)

Paul then went on to say that his teaching originated from the Holy Spirit:

And we speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual. (1 Corinthians 2:13 NRSV)

Consequently, the commands that Paul gave to the church were not his own, but rather the Lord’s. Thus, they were expected to be obeyed.

The apostles, therefore, had the authority to speak, as well as to write down, God’s own words. These words had the same authority as Old Testament Scripture.

14. The Words and Writings of the Apostles Were Received with the Same Authority as Jesus’ Words

The spoken words, as well as the writings of the Apostles, were received by the church as having ultimate authority. The writings of the apostles were received with the same unique authority as their spoken ministry. Paul wrote:

We also constantly give thanks to God for this, that when you received the word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word but as what it really is, God’s word, which is also at work in you believers. (1 Thessalonians 2:13 NRSV)

The authority of the apostolic writings was recognized by the church. They realized the special authority that God had given to these men.

15. The Writings of the Apostles Were Read Out Loud like Old Testament Scripture

One line of evidence that shows the writings of the apostles were considered authoritative is that they were publicly read out loud to the congregations.

The Old Testament Scripture Was Read Out Loud

In the Old Testament, it was the custom to read the sacred writings out loud. We find that Moses read the words of the Lord to the people. The Bible says:

And he [Moses] took the Book of the Covenant and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, “We are willing to do and obey all that the Lord has spoken.” (Exodus 24:7 NET)

We are also told that Joshua read God’s Word to the people. In the Book of Joshua, the following incident is recorded:

Afterward, Joshua read all the words of the law-- the blessings and the curses-- just as it is written in the Book of the Law. (Joshua 8:34 NIV)

Ezra read the Scripture to the people. We are told that he not only read the Scripture, he also explained the meaning to the people. Scripture says:

They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it clear and giving the meaning so that the people could understand what was being read. (Nehemiah 8:8 NIV)

The New Living Translation translates the verse in this manner:

They read from the Book of the Law of God and clearly explained the meaning of what was being read, helping the people understand each passage. (Nehemiah 8:8 NLT)

Reading the Scripture out loud to the believers would have reminded the Jewish people how they learned the Old Testament. The Holy Scripture was read out loud when the people gathered together. After it was read out loud, it was then explained to them.

The New Testament Letters Were Commanded to Be Read to Everyone in Worship Services

This same practice was carried over in New Testament times. The Apostles commanded that the New Testament letters were to be read out loud. Paul wrote:

I call on you solemnly in the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers and sisters. (1 Thessalonians 5:27 NET)

This was necessary at the early stages of the church because few, if any, individuals would possess even a small portion of Scripture. Consequently, to learn what Jesus and the apostles taught, the people had to listen to the Scripture being read out loud.

We learn something else from this. It assumes the believers could understand what they were hearing. Scripture was understandable to all.

We also find that the apostolic writings were used in public worship. The Apostle Paul commanded that the books were to be read to the believers. He gave Timothy the following commandment:

Command and teach these things. Don’t let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching. (1 Timothy 4:11-13 TNIV)

The Apostle John wrote something similar. We read the following in the opening verses in the Book of Revelation:

Blessed is the one who reads the words of this prophecy aloud, and blessed are those who hear and obey the things written in it, because the time is near. (Revelation 1:3 NET)

Since the New Testament Scriptures were to be read out loud to various congregations, it was necessary to realize exactly which of these writings were divinely given.

16. The Letters Were to Be Exchanged with Other Churches

Not only were the letters to be read to every believer in the church where the letter was sent, we find that the various letters were to be exchanged between the churches. Paul gave this command when he wrote to the church at Colosse. He said:

And after you have read this letter, have it read to the church of Laodicea. In turn, read the letter from Laodicea as well. (Colossians 4:16 NET)

This way, every believer, in every church, was to read them or hear them read.

17. The Book of Revelation Was Sent Out to More than One Church

In the Book of Revelation, there is the command to send that which was written to more than one congregation. In the first chapter of the Book of Revelation, we read the following:

I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day when I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, saying: “Write in a book what you see and send it to the seven churches—to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia, and Laodicea.” (Revelation 1:10-11 NET)

The truth that was given to the various churches was authoritative for all believers—unless otherwise stated.

18. Some Letters Were Sent to All Believers (Universal Letters)

While some of the letters were written to specific congregations for a specific purpose, other letters were addressed to all those who believed in Jesus. These are known as the universal letters. For example, James wrote to the twelve tribes:

This letter is from James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is written to Jewish Christians scattered among the nations. Greetings! (James 1:1 NLT)

James’ letter was not directed at any specific church. Neither was it written to address any immediate problem that had risen.

In the same manner, Peter wrote the following to all the exiles:

From Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ, to those temporarily residing abroad (in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia) who are chosen according to the foreknowledge of God the Father by being set apart by the Spirit for obedience and for sprinkling with Jesus Christ’s blood. May grace and peace be yours in full measure! (1 Peter 1:1-2 NET)

Peter’s letter was addressed to all the exiles. Consequently, it was not written to any one individual, any specific church, or to deal with any specific issue.

The universal letters: Hebrews, James, First and Second Peter, and Jude, would all fit into this category of letters that were specifically written to a wider audience.

19. Ephesians Was Possibly a Circular Letter

The Book of Ephesians, rather than being addressed to just one church, was possibly a circular letter. For one thing, the earliest manuscripts of this letter lack the words, “in Ephesus.” In addition, in a second century list of Paul’s letters from the heretic Marcion, Ephesians is called the “Letter to the Laodiceans.” This is further testimony that it was originally circulated to a number of churches. However, this is not certain. There are a number of scholars who believe that the letter was originally addressed to the church in Ephesus and to it alone.

20. The Believers Were Warned Against Forgeries from Those Claiming to Be Apostles

In his introduction, Luke mentioned that a number of writings were in circulation when he wrote his gospel. He said:

Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us. (Luke 1:1 TNIV)

Since the writings of the Apostles were authoritative for all believers, some took it upon themselves to forge their writings.

The New Testament writers warned the churches against forgeries. Paul wrote the following to the Thessalonians:

Now regarding the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered so as to be with him, we ask you, brothers and sisters, that you not be easily shaken from your composure or be disturbed by any kind of spirit or message or letter allegedly from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord is already here. (2 Thessalonians 2:1-2 NET)

It seems that false letters were already circulating at an early date. To combat this, every letter of Paul had his unique mark to guarantee its authenticity. He wrote:

I, Paul, write this greeting in my own hand, which is the distinguishing mark in all my letters. This is how I write. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. (2 Thessalonians 3:17-18 TNIV)

The Message puts it this way:

I, Paul, bid you good-bye in my own handwriting. I do this in all my letters, so examine my signature as proof that the letter is genuine. The incredible grace of our Master, Jesus Christ, be with all of you! (2 Thessalonians 3:17-18 MsgB)

Also a well-known messenger carried each letter. This also helped guarantee the letters that were read were authentic.

21. The Authority of the Apostles and Prophets Was Carefully Examined

The authority of the apostles was also examined. Paul made it clear that he had the proper credentials of an apostle. He said:

Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not my work in the Lord? If I am not an apostle to others, at least I am to you; for you are the seal of my apostleship in the Lord. This is my defense to those who would examine me. (1 Corinthians 9:1-3 NRSV)

This is an important point to note. Those who claimed apostolic authority, such as Paul, were examined by the believers to see if this be true. Jesus commended the churches for examining those who claimed to be apostles. He said:

To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven golden lampstands: “I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance. I know that you cannot tolerate evildoers; you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them to be false.” (Revelation 2:1-2 NRSV)

When prophets would claim to speak in the name of the Lord, it was necessary to discern whether or not their words were true. Consequently, Paul wrote about a spiritual gift which had the ability to distinguish between the spirits. He said the following gift was given to the church:

And to another discernment of spirits. (1 Corinthians 12:10 NET)

Paul said the prophets must testify to Christ through the Holy Spirit. He also wrote to the Corinthians:

Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit. (1 Corinthians 12:3 NRSV)

John gave a specific test for one claiming to be a prophet; they must recognize Christ has come in the flesh:

This is the way to find out if they have the Spirit of God: If a prophet acknowledges that Jesus Christ became a human being, that person has the Spirit of God. (1 John 4:2 NLT)

Therefore, the evidence is that the early church did not blindly follow anyone who claimed to be an apostle or a prophet.

There is also the fact that each of Paul’s letters seemed to have contained his unique signature. It seems that he had a unique handwriting style which could not easily have been forged. This, of course, would have been a temporary criterion. Once copies of his letters were made, they were made without his unique signature. No original document with his handwriting has survived. Furthermore, no one today would be able to recognize his signature even if a document was found.

22. The New Testament Speaks of the Completed Old Testament

Finally, we have the teaching of the New Testament about the existence of the Old Testament, or Old Covenant, Scriptures that were read by the Jews. We read about this in Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians. He said:

But their minds were hardened. Indeed, to this very day, when they hear the reading of the old covenant, that same veil is still there, since only in Christ is it set aside. (2 Corinthians 3:14 NRSV)

If there was a written Old Testament that was already in existence, then certainly there would have been the expectation for a written New Testament. Since the words of Jesus carried God’s divine authority, it would have been necessary for these words to be recorded for future generations.

The writer to the Hebrews contrasted the former revelation, found in the Old Testament, with the revelation found in Jesus Christ:

God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. (Hebrews 1:1-3 NKJV)

The Message reads as follows:

Going through a long line of prophets, God has been addressing our ancestors in different ways for centuries. Recently he spoke to us directly through his Son. By his Son, God created the world in the beginning, and it will all belong to the Son at the end. This Son perfectly mirrors God, and is stamped with God’s nature. He holds everything together by what he says?powerful words! After he finished the sacrifice for sins, the Son took his honored place high in the heavens right alongside God. (Hebrews 1:1-3 MsgB)

The writer to the Hebrews says that Jesus Christ is God’s final revelation to humanity; not merely that the final revelation came through Him. This is another indication of a need for a written New Testament, for God has said all that He needs to say.

These Factors Set the Stage for a New Testament Canon

Consequently, we learn a number of things from the New Testament that set the stage for adding to the existing Old Testament Scripture. All of these factors began to create the need for a New Testament canon.

Summary – Question 2
What Do We Learn from the New Testament Itself about the Need for a New Testament Canon?

From the New Testament itself, we find there were a number of things that began to create the need for a New Testament canon of Scripture. First, the Old Testament ends with the expectation of more divine revelation—the Word of God to humanity was not complete.

We also discover that the teachings of Jesus were authoritative the moment He gave them. Before He left the world, Jesus promised that He would send His disciples another teacher—the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God would perfectly remind them of all the things that Jesus said and did.

Through the teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit, the disciples were to be given the same authority as Jesus. After Jesus died and rose from the dead, His apostles spoke with this same authority as their Lord.

At first, their teachings about Jesus were delivered orally. There was a body of truth from the beginning known as the Apostles’ doctrine or Apostles’ teaching.

Eventually, they put these teachings of Jesus into writing. Their writings were received with the same authority as their words. These writings were then read out loud and circulated among the churches. However, problems soon appeared. As the true message of Jesus went out to believers, a number of forgeries also appeared.

Steps were then taken to insure that only the genuine writings were read and circulated among the churches. We also find the New Testament writers speaking of a completed Old Testament. This would have set the stage for a “New” Testament.

All of these factors created the need for additional Scripture; a New Testament canon which would have divine authority like the Old Testament canon.

What Were the Various Sources of Authority for the First Christians? ← Prior Section
Does the New Testament Ever Quote Itself as Authoritative Scripture? Next Section →
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