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

Don Stewart :: Does Each Book of the New Testament Claim to Be the Authoritative Word of God?

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Question 4

Does Each Book of the New Testament Claim to Be the Authoritative Word of God?

While not every New Testament book claims to be the Word of God, each book in the New Testament does contain some type of authoritative claim within its pages. The evidence is as follows:

  1. The Evidence from the Four Gospels

    Each of the four gospels gives claims of divine authority. We can see this as we examine their testimony.

    • Matthew

      To begin with, Matthew records Old Testament prophecy being fulfilled in his book. For example, he says the following concerning Jesus’ conception:

      All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet: “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” (Matthew 1:22-23> NRSV)

      Later, he also stated:

      When he [Joseph] arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son. (Matthew 2:14-15 KJV)

      Still later, Matthew wrote the following:

      Then what was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled: A voice was heard in Ramah, weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children; and she refused to be consoled, because they were no more. (Matthew 2:17 HCSB)

      These passages are consistent with the idea that Matthew believed his writings carried divine authority. He cites the fulfillment of Old Testament Scripture in the life and ministry of Jesus. This certainly implies divine authority.

    • Mark

      Mark’s work is about the “good news” of Jesus. We read the following words in the opening verse of his gospel:

      The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. (Mark 1:1 KJV)

      Mark also cites the Old Testament prophets as predicting Jesus’ coming to the world. He wrote the following explanation:

      As it is written in the prophet Isaiah, “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way.” (Mark 1:2 NRSV)

      Like Matthew, Mark writes about the life of Jesus with authority. He cites the fulfillment of certain Old Testament prophecies. Again, this implies divine authority.

    • Luke

      Luke stated precisely the reason why he wrote his gospel; he wanted his readers to know the exact truth about Jesus. He wrote the following in his introduction:

      Now many have undertaken to compile an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, like the accounts passed on to us by those who were eyewitnesses and servants of the word from the beginning. So it seemed good to me as well, because I have followed all things carefully from the beginning, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know for certain the things you were taught. (Luke 1:1-4 TNIV)

      Luke wanted to give an accurate portrayal of what occurred; his aim was to tell the truth about Jesus.

    • John

      John wrote for the distinct purpose of causing people to believe in Jesus. He made the following statement as to his purpose for writing:

      Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name. (John 20:30-31 NRSV)

      This makes it clear that John had a definite purpose in mind when he wrote. He wanted to create belief in Jesus the Messiah.

      Therefore, from each of the four gospels, there is an implicit or explicit, claim to giving an accurate and authoritative portrait of Jesus.

  2. The Testimony of the Book of Acts

    The Book of Acts records what Jesus continued to do after His death, resurrection and ascension. Luke wrote:

    In my former book, Theophilus, I wrote about all that Jesus began to do and to teach until the day he was taken up to heaven, after giving instructions through the Holy Spirit to the apostles he had chosen. (Acts 1:1-2 TNIV)

    Acts also records the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. For example, on the Day of Pentecost, it records that the following took place:

    Some, however, made fun of them [the apostles] and said, “They have had too much wine.” Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice and addressed the crowd: ‘Fellow Jews and all of you who live in Jerusalem, let me explain this to you; listen carefully to what I say. These men are not drunk, as you suppose. It’s only nine in the morning! No, this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel.’ (Acts 2:13-16 TNIV)

    Acts, like the four gospels, records the divine authority given to Jesus and His apostles.

  3. The Evidence from the Letters of Paul

    In each of Paul’s letters, we find some type of authoritative claim contained in them. The evidence for this is as follows:

    • Romans

      To the Romans, Paul stated that the gospel which he preached was promised beforehand by God in the Old Testament Scripture. He wrote:

      Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 1:1-4 ESV)

      He also wrote about “his gospel,” or the gospel in which he preached:

      On the day when, according to my gospel, God, through Jesus Christ, will judge the secret thoughts of all. (Romans 2:16 NRSV)

      Paul ended his letter to the Romans by emphasizing that his calling was supernatural. He wrote of the gospel that was given to him to proclaim:

      Now to God who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but is now disclosed, and through the prophetic writings is made known to all the Gentiles, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith. (Romans 16:25-26 NRSV)

      Paul spoke of “my gospel.” The authority of Paul is clearly stated in this letter. He claimed to have a unique calling from God.

    • First Corinthians

      Paul told the Corinthians that when he came to Corinth, he spoke and taught with the power of God. He wrote the following:

      My conversation and my preaching were not with persuasive words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power. (1 Corinthians 2:4 NET)

      Paul also believed that he wrote with the mind of Jesus Christ. He contrasted the mind of the believer with the mind of the unbeliever when he wrote to the Corinthians:

      But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. For “who has known the mind of the LORD that he may instruct Him?” But we have the mind of Christ. (1 Corinthians 2:14-16 NKJV)

      Not only did Paul claim to have the mind of Christ, he asserted his apostleship to the Corinthians. He wrote:

      Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord? Are you not the result of my work in the Lord? (1 Corinthians 9:1 TNIV)

      To the Corinthians, he also wrote about the divine authority God had given him:

      If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord. (1 Corinthians 14:37 ESV)

      The New Revised Standard Version translates the verse as follows:

      Anyone who claims to be a prophet, or to have spiritual powers, must acknowledge that what I am writing to you is a command of the Lord. (1 Corinthians 14:37 NRSV)

      From these passages, it is obvious that Paul claimed to possess God’s authority in his speaking and his writing.

    • Second Corinthians

      Paul also stressed his apostleship in his second letter to the Corinthians. He began his letter with the following statement:

      Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Timothy our brother, To the church of God in Corinth, together with all the saints throughout Achaia. (2 Corinthians 1:1 TNIV)

      His authority was clearly stated at the beginning of this letter. There was no doubt that he believed his writings were divinely inspired. Paul also said that there were those who described his letters as “weighty and forceful.”

      I do not want to seem as though I am trying to terrify you with my letters, because some say, “His letters are weighty and forceful, but his physical presence is weak and his speech is of no account.” (2 Corinthians 10:10 NET)

      In addition, Paul claimed that Christ speaks through him. He also wrote the following to the Corinthians:

      Since you are demanding proof that Christ is speaking through me. He is not weak toward you but is powerful among you. (2 Corinthians 13:3 NET)

      This is another indication of Paul’s God-given authority.

    • Galatians

      Paul told the Galatians that his doctrine was received by revelation of Jesus Christ; it was not of human origin. He wrote:

      For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. (Galatians 1:12 ESV)

      The New Revised Standard Version translates the verse as follows:

      For I did not receive it from a human source, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. (Galatians 1:12 NRSV)

      Again, we see Paul claiming divine authority. His message was from a divine source, not a human one.

    • Ephesians

      To the church at Ephesus, Paul wrote of the unique calling that he received from God. He stated it as follows:

      Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. (Ephesians 3:2-3 TNIV)

      Paul again gave testimony to his special calling. God had given this man a unique ministry to fulfill.

    • Philippians

      Paul emphasized his consistent Christian lifestyle to the Philippians. He told them to imitate his own behavior. He wrote:

      Be imitators of me, brothers and sisters, and watch carefully those who are living this way, just as you have us as an example. (Philippians 3:17 NET)

      Paul reemphasized this to the Philippians. He again told them to follow his pattern of behavior. We read the following:

      Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me - put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:9 TNIV)

      In all of this, we again find Paul asserting his apostolic authority.

    • Colossians

      To the church at Colossae, Paul wrote of the stewardship, or responsibility, that he had been given by the Lord. He said:

      Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God that was given to me for you, to make the word of God fully known, the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints. (Colossians 1:24-26 ESV)

      The Colossians realized that Paul was given special authority by the Lord.

    • First Thessalonians

      Paul wrote to the Thessalonians that his words were the words that God gave him. He stated it in this way:

      And so we too constantly thank God that when you received God’s message that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human message, but as it truly is, God’s message, that is at work among you who believe. (1 Thessalonians 2:13 NET)

      Paul’s authority was such that he could command his letter to be read to them. He also wrote the following to the Thessalonians:

      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 is probably the first letter that Paul wrote to a church. Consequently, his authority as an apostle was clear from the beginning.

    • Second Thessalonians

      In his second letter to the Thessalonians, Paul stated that he wrote authoritatively about the future day of the Lord. He said:

      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. Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not arrive until the rebellion comes and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction. (2 Thessalonians 2:1-3 NET)

      Paul’s words were written with the authority of Jesus Christ. Again, he emphasized his unique calling that had been divinely given to him.

    • First Timothy

      We also find claims of authority in the Book of First Timothy. The apostle Paul urged Timothy to teach the things that he had learned from Paul. He said the following:

      These are the things you must insist on and teach. Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. (1 Timothy 4:11-12 NRSV)

      Paul could tell Timothy to imitate him in his behavior and then to be an example to others. Paul could say this because of the authority that he had been given.

    • Second Timothy

      In his second letter to Timothy, Paul encouraged him to keep the sound teaching that he had learned from his writings:

      What you heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you- - guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us. (2 Timothy 1:13-14 TNIV)

      Paul’s last words to Timothy were a command to continue to preach the word. We read the following in Second Timothy:

      I solemnly charge you before God and Christ Jesus, who is going to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the message, be ready whether it is convenient or not, reprove, rebuke, exhort with complete patience and instruction. (2 Timothy 4:1-2 NET)

      This is the last letter that Paul wrote before his death. He asserts his apostolic authority until the very end of his life. Therefore, we have no doubt whatsoever that his entire ministry had the Lord’s authority behind it.

    • Titus

      Paul wrote to Titus about his right to encourage and rebuke people. He wrote the following commandment to him:

      These, then, are the things you should teach. Encourage and rebuke with all authority. Do not let anyone despise you. (Titus 2:15 TNIV)

      Titus was told to exercise his authority. Paul believed that he had the authority to tell Titus to do this.

    • Philemon

      Paul emphasized his right to command others to Philemon. He, however, appealed to Philemon on the basis of love. He wrote:

      Therefore, although in Christ I could be bold and order you to do what you ought to do, yet I appeal to you on the basis of love. I then, as Paul - an old man and now also a prisoner of Christ Jesus. (Philemon 1:9 TNIV)

      Therefore, we find that in each of Paul’s letters, he makes claims about his authority as an Apostle. It is clear that he believed his writings were to be obeyed.

  4. Other New Testament Writers

    The other New Testament writers also make authoritative claims. The evidence for them can be seen as follows.

    • Hebrews

      The writer to the Hebrews also claimed divine authority for his words. He urged his readers to do the following things:

      Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. (Hebrews 13:7 TNIV)

      He concluded by saying:

      I urge you, dear brothers and sisters, please listen carefully to what I have said in this brief letter. (Hebrews 13:22 NLT)

      Although we do not know the identity of the writer to the Hebrews, his divine authority is stressed in this letter.

    • James

      James wrote as servant, or a slave, of Jesus Christ. He began the letter by saying:

      James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad: Greetings. (James 1:1 NASB)

      The TNIV translates the verse in this manner:

      James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings. (James 1:1 TNIV)

      His words were also given with the Lord’s authority.

    • First Peter

      Peter asserted his apostleship when he wrote his first letter. He began by saying the following:

      This letter is from Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ. I am writing to God’s chosen people who are living as foreigners in the lands of Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, the province of Asia, and Bithynia. God the Father chose you long ago, and the Spirit has made you holy. As a result, you have obeyed Jesus Christ and are cleansed by his blood. May you have more and more of God’s special favor and wonderful peace. (1 Peter :1-2 NLT)

      He also wrote about the purpose of his letter:

      With the help of Silas, whom I regard as a faithful brother, I have written to you briefly, encouraging you and testifying that this is the true grace of God. Stand fast in it. (1 Peter 5:12 TNIV)

      Peter wrote with the authority of the Lord.

    • Second Peter

      In his second letter, Peter also emphasized his apostolic position. He wrote:

      Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours. (2 Peter 1:1 TNIV)

      Peter wrote of the authority of the apostles. He compared their authority with that of Jesus and the Old Testament prophets:

      This is now the second letter that I am writing to you, beloved. In both of them I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the predictions of the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior through your apostles. (2 Peter 3:1-2 ESV)

      As was true with his first letter, Peter again asserted his authority as an apostle.

    • First John

      In the letters of John the Apostle, we find that he claimed divine authority. He began his first letter as follows:

      This is what we proclaim to you: what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and our hands have touched (concerning the word of life?and the life was revealed, and we have seen and testify and announce to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us. (1 John 1:1-2 NET)

      He also wrote about the need to test the spirits. The believers were to determine which spirits came from God and which did not:

      Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to determine if they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses Jesus as the Christ who has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God, and this is the spirit of the antichrist, that you have heard is coming, and now is already in the world. (1 John 4:1-3 NET)

      John believed that he had God’s authority behind his writings.

    • Second John

      In his second letter, John wrote a command for all believers. He stated it this way:

      And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. (2 John 5 TNIV)

      Obviously, he felt he had the authority to do this.

      He gave a further command. It reads as follows:

      If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him. Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work. (2 John 10-11 NIV)

      Again, the writer, John, had the authority to issue commands.

    • Third John

      In his third letter, John again asserted his authority. He wrote:

      I wrote something to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first among them, does not acknowledge us. Therefore, if I come, I will call attention to the deeds he is doing?the bringing of unjustified charges against us with evil words! And not being content with that, he not only refuses to welcome the brothers himself, but hinders the people who want to do so and throws them out of the church! Dear friend, do not imitate what is bad but what is good. The one who does good is of God; the one who does what is bad has not seen God. Demetrius has been testified to by all, even by the truth itself. We also testify to him, and you know that our testimony is true. (3 John 9-12 NET)

      John continued to write in an authoritative manner.

    • Jude

      Jude spoke of a body of truth that Christians believed. He called it “the faith that was once and for all entrusted to the saints.” He said:

      Beloved, although I was very eager to write to you about our common salvation, I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. (Jude 3 ESV)

      Jude wrote with the authority of the Lord.

    • Revelation

      More than any other writer of the New Testament, John, the author of the Book of Revelation, makes his authority clear—he claimed divine origin. The book begins as follows:

      The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John, who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. (Revelation 1:1-2 NASB)

      John also recorded the command the Lord gave him. He put it this way:

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

      The readers of the Book of Revelation are commanded to hear what the Holy Spirit has to say to the churches:

      Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches. To everyone who conquers, I will give permission to eat from the tree of life that is in the paradise of God. (Revelation 2:7 NRSV)

      John also claimed to be in the line of the prophets. He stated:

      But he said to me, “You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your comrades the prophets, and with those who keep the words of this book. Worship God!” (Revelation 22:9 NRSV)

      John closes his book with the following warning:

      And I solemnly declare to everyone who hears the prophetic words of this book: If anyone adds anything to what is written here, God will add to that person the plagues described in this book. And if anyone removes any of the words of this prophetic book, God will remove that person’s share in the tree of life and in the holy city that are described in this book. (Revelation 22:18-19 NLT)

      John uses the term, “prophecy,” or “prophetic word,” in the Old Testament sense; the word spoken from God. His claim to divine authority is clear.

They All Claim or Imply Divine Authority

Therefore, we find each of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament claiming some type of divine authority. The writers either explicitly or implicitly express that they are not merely writing their own thoughts or words, but are actually writing the words and thoughts of God.

The apostles considered themselves servants, or stewards of God’s Word. Paul wrote the following to the Corinthians:

Think of us in this way, as servants of Christ and stewards of God’s mysteries. (1 Corinthians 4:1 NRSV)

In another place, he wrote:

Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God. (2 Corinthians 5:20 NKJV)

The apostles did not distinguish between their spoken teaching, and their written teaching—all of it carried the authority of Christ. Therefore, the unanimous testimony of the New Testament is that it is the authoritative record of the life, ministry, and teaching of Jesus.

Summary - Question 4
Does Each Book of the New Testament Claim to Be the Authoritative Word of God?

Each of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament has some type of claim in it. Matthew claims to record fulfilled prophecy, Mark calls his work the “good news of Jesus Christ,” Luke claimed to be recording the truth about Jesus. John claimed to be an eyewitness and faithful writer of the events of the life of Christ.

The Book of Acts continues to tell the story about Jesus after His ascension. In each of Paul’s writings he asserts his authority as an apostle. Peter also claims apostolic authority in his two letters.

The writer to the Hebrews issues commands to believers. James also gives commands to believers, while Jude urges his readers to contend for the faith. The three letters of John have authoritative commands, as does the Book of Revelation which specifically claims to be divine revelation.

Consequently, each book of the New Testament has some type of truth claim connected to it. These writers believed they were recording God’s truth.

Does the New Testament Ever Quote Itself as Authoritative Scripture? ← Prior Section
What Happened after the Apostolic Era That Brought about the Need for a New Testament Canon? Next Section →
CONTENT DISCLAIMER:

The Blue Letter Bible ministry and the BLB Institute hold to the historical, conservative Christian faith, which includes a firm belief in the inerrancy of Scripture. Since the text and audio content provided by BLB represent a range of evangelical traditions, all of the ideas and principles conveyed in the resource materials are not necessarily affirmed, in total, by this ministry.

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