PULPIT TODAY SERMONS
Robert D. Pace
2 Timothy 3:15-17
(NOTE: This Teaching provides an overview of how Christians can know the Bible alone is God’s divinely inspired Word.)
Why do Christians accept the 39 Old Testament books and the 27 New Testament books as Holy Scripture and exclude other books, known as the Apocrypha? Many people contend that Scripture is filled with errors, and if that’s so, how can we believe 2 Timothy 3:16 that says, “All Scripture is God-breathed.” Further, which writings did Paul have in mind when he spoke of “all Scripture?” The purpose of this teaching is to determine why Christians believe this Book, and this Book alone, is inspired by God.
The word inspiration means: “a supernatural influence of the Holy Spirit upon divinely chosen men in consequence of which their writings become trustworthy and authoritative” (Carl Henry). We want to an understanding that these 66 books are precisely what God inspired and intended for Christians to use as righteous instruction.
(Transition) First, let’s determine who God ordained to communicate God’s Word to mankind.
I. God Chose the Jews to Receive and Preserve God’s Word
A. According to Scripture, the Lord placed a divine assignment upon the Jews, and the Jews alone, to receive and transcribe God’s revelation to mankind.
- Deuteronomy 4:8 says, “And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today?”
Psalm 147:19-20 says, “He has revealed his word to Jacob, his laws and decrees to Israel. (20) He has done this for no other nation; they do not know his laws. Praise the LORD.”
Romans 3:1-2 says, “What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision? (2) Much in every way! First of all, they have been entrusted with the very words of God.”
B. Not only did Israel receive God’s Word, Moses ordered the Levites to preserve the Scriptures.
Deuteronomy 17:18 says, “When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the priests, who are Levites.”
(Transition) There is an important question that must be asked that relates that relates to the divine inspiration of Scriptures.
C. Has God anointed sacred writings apart from the Holy Bible? If so, are these writings equal with the Word of God?
No, God specifically chose the Jewish people, and no other people-group, to write the Holy Scriptures.
Deuteronomy 4:7-8 says, “What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the LORD our God is near us whenever we pray to him? (8) And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today?”
According to this passage no other nation on earth has ever experienced God’s demonstrable power like Israel:
• The Red Sea’s parting.
• The miracles in the wilderness for forty years.
• The OT prophets that spoke with unerring accuracy. Their prophecies have been fulfilled to the letter.
• The preservation of the Bloodline of Christ, the Messiah. Nothing Satan did could prevent Christ’s birth as predicted by the OT Scriptures. According to OT prophecy Jesus was born through the genealogy of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and David; and born in the city of Bethlehem, with Rachel weeping for her children.
The demonstration of God’s astounding power to and through Israel testifies that the Jewish people were uniquely qualified to communicate the Scriptures to mankind. No other nation can bear witness to this consistent display of God’s power upon them.
(Transition) Let’s consider why we acknowledge the 66 books of the Bible as Holy Scripture.
II. Why Christians Acknowledge the 66 Books of the Bible as Holy Scripture
Hebrew scholars used a process called ‘canonizing the Scriptures’ to determine what writings were inspired by God. In the Greek culture of thousands of years ago the word canon was a measuring devise. Eventually it became known as a standard or rule by which people lived. When scholars say the Bible is canonized they mean each book of the Bible legitimately belongs there because it “measured-up.” Each book met the criteria and standard for being considered God’s inspired Word.
John the Baptist ended the OT dispensation and it would have been nice had he furnished a sacred list of Books that were divinely inspired. But he didn’t. The Levites, “entrusted with the oracles of God,” had that task.
Scholars have debated the issue of when the OT was canonized but according to my study it appears the Rabbis had completed the process no later than 200 BC. [Remember, there were 400 years between the Old and New Testaments.] And what books did the Rabbi’s canonize? The thirty-nine books we use today.
The Three Divisions of the Canonized Old Testament
The OT is divided into three categories: The Law, the Prophets, and the Writings.
1. The Law is also called the Pentateuch, the Torah, or the Five Books of Moses. Genesis through Deuteronomy.
2. The Prophets include the books of Joshua, Judges, 1 & 2 Samuel, 1 & 2 Kings, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the books of the major and twelve minor prophets.
3. The Writings include the books: Psalms, Proverbs, Song of Solomon, Ruth, Lamentations, Ecclesiastes, Ester, Daniel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and 1 & 2 Chronicles.
Have there been other books besides the 66 books of the Holy Bible that religionists have tried to call Scripture? Yes.
• The Catholics have 46 OT books rather than 39. They include: The Rest of Esther is written as an appendage to Esther, The Song of the Three Holy Children, The History of Susanna, Bel and the Dragon is added to Daniel, Baruch, 1 & 2 Maccabees, Tobias, Judityh, Ecclesiasticus, and the Wisdom of Sirach.
• There’s also the apocryphal books of 1 & 2 Esdras, Tobit, The Epistle of Jeremy, The Prayer of Manasses, and 3 & 4 Maccabees, The Book of Enoch.
Why aren’t these apocryphal books considered Scripture?
• Because the Old Testament Jews didn’t authorize them for their Hebrew canon.
• Some scholars contend that the Apocrypha was not written until after Christ!
• No Apocryphal book was written in the Hebrew language.
• No author claims to write from divine inspiration. (2000 times the Bible employs the phrase, “Thus says the Lord.”)
• They contain numerous errors, including contradictory statements. The Maccabees has Antiochus Epiphanes dying three different deaths in three different places.
• The Apocrypha espouses doctrines that contradict the Bible.
• The Apocrypha condones lying, suicide, murder, and magical incantation.
• Finally, Jesus nor the Apostles ever once quoted from an Apocryphal book.
The New Testament Supports the Old Testament
How can we be certain that the Law, the Prophets, and the Writings belong in the Holy Bible? One way is the manner in which the NT supports the OT.
• Jesus and the Apostles quoted from the OT canon 600 times! Peter and Paul are famous for quoting OT passages in their sermons.
• Jesus used the term “the law and the Prophets” eight times in the Gospels. He said in Matthew 7:12 “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.” That takes care of a huge chunk of what the Rabbi’s recognized as Scripture! Technically speaking, from the testimony of Jesus alone only “the Writings” remained to be recognized as Scripture.
• In Luke 24:44 Jesus included the Psalms as part of Scripture. He said, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.” Now we have “the Law,” “the Prophets,” and the Psalms. But a large portion of “the Writings” hasn’t been designated by Christ or the Apostles as inspired.
• However, there are times the term “Law” is used to include the entire OT. For example, Jesus said in John 15:25, “this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: ‘They hated me without reason.’ That was quoted from Psalm 35:19 that says, “Let not those gloat over me who are my enemies without cause; let not those who hate me without reason maliciously wink the eye.” Clearly Jesus had broadened the concept of the Law extending beyond the Bible’s first five books to mean the entire OT.
• There’s another reason Christians accept the Old Testament as being divinely inspired. When Jesus referred to the “law and Prophets” He recognized it as the final authority.
Jesus repeatedly used the term “it is written.” And both Jesus and His hearers recognized OT prophets as being divinely inspired to write. When He fought Satan in the desert He resisted Satan by saying, “it is written.” The implication here is, it’s God’s voice that authoritative and final, not Satan’s. In John 10:35 He used the phrase “the Scripture cannot be broken.”
(Transition) Let’s discuss, how New Testament Scripture was compiled.
A. How Was New Testament Scripture Compiled?
2 Peter 2:21 says, “For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” Thus, the Holy Spirit inspired the Hebrew (Jewish) Prophets to receive and convey God’s Old Testament message and anointed the Apostles to write the 27 books of the New Testament.
John 14:25-26; 16:12-13
According to these two passages the Apostles were uniquely qualified to write Scripture. If that’s so, which books of the New Testament did the Apostles of Christ write?
• The Gospels of Matthew and John
• The Epistles of 1 & 2 Peter, 1, 2, & 3 John
• The Book of Revelation
However there were 19 remaining New Testament books that were not written by an original Apostle of Christ. Here is the list:
• The Gospel of Mark (a friend of Simon Peter)
• The Gospel of Luke, written by Luke, who also wrote Acts
• The books written by the Apostle Paul
• The book of Hebrews (author unknown)
• The book of James (not one of the Twelve, but the brother of Jesus)
• The book of Jude (not one of the Twelve, but the brother of Jesus)
Here is a simplified answer as to why the early Church accepted these 19 books as part of the Canon of Scripture:
Paul’s writings: Peter said in 2 Peter 3:15-16, “Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. (16) He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.” We accept Paul’s writings because Peter recognized Paul’s writings as anointed by the Holy Spirit.
Mark was Peter’s nephew, personal assistant, and had grown up witnessing Christ’s public ministry. Thus, scholars speculate that the Gospel of Mark is actually the Apostle Peter’s account of Christ’s ministry that Mark transcribed.
James and Jude were half-brothers of Jesus and Christ and recognized by the early Church as qualified to write Scripture.
Luke was Paul’s personal assistant and writer of much of his New Testament work.
And although the author of the book of Hebrews is unknown, it is the most “Jewish” book of the New Testament, and filled with Old Testament references, thus, it was persuasively Canonized by the early Church.
(Transition) Now let’s discuss the canonizing of the NT and why we accept its 27 books as God’s Word.
The New Testament Canon
The canonizing of the NT takes a different set of principles to determine its validity. Here are several principles that were considered when the NT was canonized:
• Did the content of the writing agree with the OT?
• Did the writing contradict any of Christ’s teachings?
• Did the writing contradict any doctrine of the OT, Christ, or the 12 Apostles? (For example, look at the beauty of Hebrews 1:1-4.)
• Was the writing authoritative? Was it compelling? Did it persuade people to submit to it?
• Was the author of the original 12 Apostles or had the author been granted apostolic approval?
Did the First Century and Second Century Churches accept the writing as inspired? Yes, almost immediately after John wrote his Gospel it was accepted by the early Church along with Matthew, Mark, and Luke. By 100 AD, the Church in Rome used all four Gospels, the Church in Syria was using them, the Ephesian Church had them, and a Gentile Church used each of them.
B. Why the early Believers needed a canon
1. The need for a Canon of Scripture arose quickly in response to Marcion, a Second Century heretic (140 AD) that developed his own Scriptures. Marcion rejected nearly every NT book except Luke and most of Paul’s writings. The Church was forced to fight his heresy and qualify which writings were divinely inspired. That’s why the early Believers pushed for the canonization of Scripture.
2. Secondly, early Christians needed a Canon of Scripture due to the quick spread of Christianity. Moreover, it became necessary to identify the true Scriptures so that Christians from Jerusalem to the “ends of the earth” would be studying the same texts.
3. In 303 AD Diocletian ordered the destruction of all sacred Christian books. Thus, no Born Again Christian would want to suffer and die for a non-inspired writing! The early Christians needed to know the difference.
(Transition) Now for one final point. Many people have wondered, Is the Bible Complete? What if other books of Scripture were lost or inadvertently omitted that are yet to be discovered? Is it possible that even a parchment of Scripture has been misplaced? And what about additional revelation? Has God permitted men to write Scripture since the original Apostles?
C. Is the Bible Complete?
I have provided an in-depth answer on the DVD entitled, “The Scripture, the Savior, and Salvation,” which discusses the Apocrypha and extra-Biblical writings, and Biblical Formation, but I only have time to cover this briefly. So, how can Christians know the Bible is totally complete and there aren’t other “Holy Books” that God has sanctioned? Remember, this is an important question that unbelievers have a right to ask and have answered. We don’t need to dodge it!
One of the most important facts of Christianity is found in John 4. This is where Jesus discoursed with a Samaritan woman that plied Him with questions about the Scriptures, the Savior, and Salvation—exactly what we’re discussing. She wanted to know where ground-zero of truth was. This gave Jesus the perfect opportunity to disclose it. And He did! In an unequivocal pronouncement, Jesus said: “Salvation is of the Jews” (4:22). Those five words are absolutely imperative to the Christian Faith!
Jesus said the complete plan of redemption—the giving of Scripture; man’s Savior; and the path to Heaven—would find passage through one, and only one, people: the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob known as the “Jews.” God ordained the Jewish people to show Mankind the way to God. That means when any religion claims to possess writings that are divine you have to weigh those claims against Christ’s testimony that says: “Salvation is of the Jews.” Did the Jews author the text? If not, they aren’t from God because the Lord expressly chose the Jews, and no other people-group, for this purpose.
And for those that have wondered, “Have any books of the Bible been misplaced or are some waiting to be written?” the answer is, “No.” The Apostle Jude said the Christian Faith was “once for all handed down to the saints” (Jude 3). That phrase “Once for all handed down to the saints” means the Scriptures are fixed, complete, and without the loss of one text—not even a fragment! It means God’s Word will not progressively emerge through the centuries. This is why Revelation 22:18 says: “I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book.”
I trust this teaching helps as an overview of the integrity of the Bible. You may order the DVD “The Scriptures, the Savior, and Salvation,” a studio production that churches can use as an extensively researched study tool for small groups or a Wednesday night showing. I invite you to view the following brief excerpt which previews the DVD. (You may order the DVD online from the Resources page.)