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Years ago I heard a public discussion between a gospel preacher and a denominational preacher in which the denominational preacher claimed he could write letters like those in the New Testament. He was not claiming to be directly guided by the Holy Spirit to write divine commandments. He meant that, because of his spiritual maturity and wisdom, he could be "inspired" to write helpful spiritual lessons like poets are "inspired" to write poetry.
* Many people claim that the Bible writers never believed they were writing an infallible message from the mind of God. They just wrote good thoughts like a person today might express his own thoughts and wisdom.
* Still others claim the Bible writers had some good ideas, but they were not intended to be a pattern or Divine commands that men must follow to please God and receive eternal life.
* Other people claim that God never intended for these writings to be collected and preserved for later generations. They were simply intended to benefit the people to whom they were immediately written, not for people of other times and places, certainly not for people today.
Do they claim to be a message revealed from God Himself to man? Do they claim to be an infallible standard of religious authority for people to obey? Do they claim that people of future generations should study them to learn God's commandments?
We do not follow the laws of the Old Testament today, but we will be better able to understand the significance of the claims of the New Testament if we first understand the claims the Old Testament writers made concerning their writings.
Note what these writers claimed regarding their writings:
Exodus 24:3,4 - Moses wrote in a book "all the words of Jehovah" [cf. v1-8].
Deuteronomy 30:9,10 - Moses said God would bless the people "if you obey the voice of the Lord your God, to keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in this Book of the Law." If they disobeyed Him, however, they would be under a curse (cf. 28:58,59).
Jeremiah 30:1-2 - The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord, saying, "Thus speaks the Lord God of Israel, saying: `Write in a book for yourself all the words that I have spoken to you.'" Jeremiah claimed that God told him to write down in a book the words God spoke to him.
Expressions such as "Thus saith the Lord," or "The word of the Lord came to me," are found literally thousands of times in the Old Testament.
Folks are mistaken when they claim the Bible writers did not know they were writing revelations of God's will intended to serve as law or authority people must follow. They did know it and they said so.
[Cf. Deuteronomy 31:9-13,24-29; Exodus 17:14 & 24:12; 34:1,27,28; Deuteronomy 4:13; 5:22; 10:2,4; Exodus 32:15,16; 31:18; Deuteronomy 9:10; 29:20,21,27; Numbers 33:2; Deuteronomy 27:1-8; Jeremiah 36:2 (see chap. 36); 25:13; 51:60; Isa 30:8; Hab. 2:2; Nahum 1:1; 2 Chronicles 26:22; Joshua 24:26; 1 Samuel 10:25]
Deuteronomy 31:24-29,9-13 - The words Moses wrote were a law intended to prevent the people from departing from God. This included future generations.
Deuteronomy 17:18-20 - Future kings of Israel were to have a copy of the law that they might keep them and do them, departing neither to right nor left.
Folks are mistaken when they say the writings were intended only for the current generation to whom they were addressed, not future generations. In fact, the messages were written down for the expressed intent that they would be preserved for people in the future.
[Psalm 102:18; Exodus 17:14; Deuteronomy 28-30; Isaiah 30:8]
Joshua 1:7,8 - After Moses died, Joshua was told to use the book of the law written by Moses as his guide that he might observe all the commands written therein. When he died, Joshua in turn charged the nation of Israel to follow the commands written by Moses (23:6).
2 Chronicles 34 & 35 - A copy of the law of God given by Moses was found in the temple. Josiah used it to restore the worship and service of God.
Note 34:14-19; Read 34:29-31 - This illustrates perfectly the "restoration principle." God's written word is so designed that, by simply studying and following it, we can restore the pattern of God's service even after years of departure and apostasy.
Nehemiah 8:1-9:3 - A similar example occurred when God's people returned from Babylonian captivity. They restored their service to God by studying the written record of the laws God had revealed.
It is a serious mistake to think that God's word is not intended to serve as a pattern of guidance, or that later generations should not study and adhere to it as the guide for right and wrong. The Scriptures say that is exactly how they should be used. To reject these claims is to say they are not good books at all, but are false and misleading. Why accept them as being from God at all? If they are wrong about this, how could we know what they say is right and what is wrong?
[Nehemiah 13; Ezra 6:18; 7:10; 2 Kings 22,23; Daniel 9:2; 2 Chronicles 17:9; 2 Kings 17:37; Josh 8:30-35; 1 Kings 2:3; 2 Kings 14:6; 1 Chronicles 16:40; 2 Chronicles 23:18; 25:4; 30:5,18; 31:3,4; Ezra 3:2,4; Nehemiah 10:34ff; Daniel 9:11,13; Isaiah 34:16]
By the time Jesus and His apostles lived, the Old Testament Scriptures had been completed for hundreds of years. They had been collected, preserved, copied, and circulated. First-century Jews quoted Old Testament Scripture as a standard of authority. In short, people used the Old Testament just like we today use the whole Bible.
What attitude did Jesus and His apostles show toward this use of the Old Testament? Remember, Jesus and His apostles never hesitated to disagree with the Jews if they were spiritually wrong on any point. Did they object to how the Jews viewed the Old Testament? Did they say that God never intended the Scriptures to be written and circulated as authority and law? Did the say the Scriptures were not intended for future generations, as some today are saying about our use of the Bible?
By understanding how Jesus and faithful first-century men viewed and treated Old Testament Scripture, we can understand how we today should view and treat the completed Scriptures as we have them today.
Matthew 15:1-6 - Jesus quoted Old Testament Scripture as being what God said (v4), the command of God (v3), the Word of God (v6).
Matthew 22:23-33 - When Sadducees confronted Jesus about the resurrection, He said they were in error because they did not know the Scriptures. Then He cited a Scripture written by Moses to answer them. [Mark 12:24,27]
John 10:35 - "The Scripture cannot be broken."
During Jesus' lifetime, the Old Testament laws were in effect just like the New Testament laws are in effect for us today. He viewed them as the word and command of God. We will see that is the same attitude we should take toward the New Testament.
[Luke 16:29-31; 4:17ff; 24:27,44-46; John 5:39,45-47; 1:45; Matthew 26:54,56; Luke 3:4; 7:27; 18:31; 21:22; 22:37; John 2:22; 7:38; 13:18; 17:12; 19:24,28,36,37; 20:9; Matthew 2:5; 11:10; 26:24,31; Mark 1:2; 9:1-14; Matthew 5:17; John 12:14,16; 15:25]
Matthew 4:4,7,10 - When Jesus was tempted, He quoted Scripture as the unanswerable standard of right and wrong.
Luke 10:25-28 - When questioned about God's commands, Jesus urged men to go to the Scriptures for the answer.
Even though the Old Testament was written many generations before His day, Jesus never disagreed with the Jews that it was a pattern revealing God's will. He used it as authority and expected others to do the same. Some people today criticize us for using Scripture this way, but it is exactly the way Jesus used it.
[Matthew 21:42-45; 15:7-9; 22:41-45; 24:15; 21:13; 13:13-15; Luke 4:16-21; Mark 7:6; 12:10; John 6:44,45; 8:17ff; Luke 2:23; Matthew 8:1ff]
2 Peter 1:20,21 - The Scriptures came by the will of God, not the will of man.
1 Corinthians 10:1-11 - The Old Testament contains examples for our learning and admonition.
New Testament writers realized that Old Testament laws are not binding today, but that is because God Himself removed that law and replaced it with the New Testament. But they still recognized that the Old Testament was the very word of God, and that as long as it was in effect, Jews of all generations had to obey it. Even today it reveals useful principles and examples.
[Acts 17:11; 2 Timothy 3:14-17; Romans 11:2,4; 15:4; 3:9-18; 1 Corinthians 9:9,10; 1 Timothy 5:18; Hebrews 1:5-14; Romans 9:17; 12:19; James 2:8ff; 1 Corinthians 1:19,31; 3:19,20; 2 Corinthians 4:13; 8:15; 9:9; 1 Peter 1:16; Romans 4:3,23,24; James 2:23ff; Romans 15:25,26]
Acts 17:2,3 - Paul reasoned from the Scriptures to prove Jesus was the Christ.
Acts 2:24-36 - Peter said prophecies from David were fulfilled in the resurrection of Jesus.
In making such arguments, these inspired men recognized the Old Testament as authority and proof for their positions. This is exactly what people say we today should not do.
[Romans 1:1-4; 2 Peter 2:6-8; Acts 18:24,28; Galatians 3:10,13,22-25; 4:21-31; 1 Cor. 15:1-4]
Acts 2:14ff - The coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost fulfilled Old Testament prophecy.
Acts 15:13-21 - Old Testament prophecy provided evidence that Gentiles could be saved according to the gospel.
Both Jesus and His apostles recognized that behind the Old Testament Scriptures stood the authority and infallibility of God Himself. If the Scriptures said it, it must be true because that means God said it. The Scriptures were a pattern for future generations. When you know what the Scriptures say, you know what God Himself says.
This serves as a pattern for us (1 Peter 2:21f; 1 Corinthians 11:1; Philippians 3:17; 4:9; etc.). We should have the same attitude toward the completed Scriptures that they had toward the Old Testament Scriptures.
[Acts 1:16,20; 8:32,35; Romans 10:11,13; Galatians 3:8; Acts 7:42; 13:29,33; Romans 11:2-4; Hebrews 8:8-13; 2 Peter 1:19-21; Romans 1:17; 9:13,33; 11:8,26; 14:11; Hebrews 10:7]
If we remember how these writers viewed the Old Testament writings, it will help us as we consider what the New Testament says about itself,. Knowing what authority they claimed the Old Testament possessed, they would have been very evil men if they falsely claimed or only pretended to have that kind of authority.
1 Corinthians 14:37 - Paul claimed his writings are the commandments of the Lord.
Ephesians 3:3-5 - Paul received his message from the Holy Spirit, then wrote it so others might understand. Therefore, what he wrote was not his own human ideas. [cf. Galatians 1:11,12]
1 Thessalonians 4:8 - The message was originated by God, not by the men who penned it (v2). So, those who reject it are rejecting, not the men, but God.
2 Timothy 3:16,17 - All Scripture is inspired by God: not just the Old Testament, but all of it. It is profitable for teaching, reproof, instruction in righteousness and to provide us to all good works. In short, Scripture is what we claim it to be: a revelation of God's will to teach us how to live our lives. But is the New Testament "Scripture"?
1 Timothy 5:18 - The same writer quotes two passages that he calls "Scripture." One is from the Old Testament, and the other is from Luke 10:7. So, the New Testament is "Scripture" just like the Old Testament, and both are cited as authority that proves what we ought to practice.
2 Peter 3:15,16 - Peter referred to Paul's epistles as "Scripture," right along with other Scripture. We can appreciate the significance of this only when we understand what Peter and other inspired men mean by "Scripture." This same apostle, in 1:19-21, said Scriptures come from God, not man.
[2 Thessalonians 2:13-15; 3:14; Revelation 1:11,19,9; 22:18,19; chap. 2,3; 14:13; 19:9; 21:5; Acts 15:22-29; 16:4,5; 1 Peter 5:12; 1 John 2:7-17,21,26; 2 John 5]
1 Corinthians 14:37 - They are the commands of the Lord.
2 Timothy 3:16,17 - They teach and instruct us and provide us to all good works.
John 20:30,31 - They provide evidence on which to base our faith so we can have eternal life through Jesus. Clearly we must believe what they say to be saved.
1 John 1:1-4 - They were written so we might have fellowship with Jesus and the Father.
[Luke 1:1-4; Acts 1:1ff; John 21:24,25; 19:35; 1 Timothy 4:11; 2 Thessalonians 3:6; 1 Timothy 6:13ff; 1 John 2:1-6; 5:13; 1 Corinthians 4:14; Jude 3; 2 Corinthians 2:3,4,9; 7:12; 13:10; Philippians 3:1; Galatians 1:20; 2 Thessalonians 3:17; 1 Corinthians 4:6]
Apostles knew their letters would be circulated among churches and wanted it to be so.
2 Peter 3:15,16 - Peter and his readers were familiar with Paul's epistles. Even though those epistles had not been addressed to him personally, yet he respected them as "Scripture" and expected other Christians to understand and respect them too.
Colossians 4:16 - Paul said the letter he wrote to the church at Colosse should be read also to the church in Laodicea.
Revelation 1:4,11 - The Revelation was addressed to seven different churches.
2 Peter 1:1 - Many epistles were addressed to Christians in general, not to any specific Christian, let alone a local congregation. [Jude 1; Galatians 1:2; James 1:1; 1 Peter 1:1,2]
2 Peter 1:12-15 - Peter wrote to remind people of the truths they had been taught, so they would have these things in writing and could be reminded of them after his death. [Cf. 3:1,2; Romans 15:15; Hebrews 12:25-28; 13:20]
So the New Testament was not intended just for the use of a very limited group of people. The writers knew their writings would be used as authority by many people in many places for many years, even after their death.
This is what they would expect knowing that their writings would be classed as "Scripture." They knew how the Old Testament Scriptures were circulated and respected, so they would know the same would be done with their "Scriptures."
Contrary to what some people believe, Bible writers in both the Old and New Testaments knew they were writing by the direct guidance of God, so that what they wrote constituted a revelation of the mind of God, an authoritative standard of divine authority. Further, God intended for these writings to serve as religious authority for all people, including future generations.
Jesus and His apostles quoted the Scriptures they had as authority to settle issues of religious right and wrong, and their example shows us how we ought to treat the Scriptures we have today.
The claims the Bible writers made leave us no room for a middle ground position. We must either accept them as the Divine authority they claim to be, or we must reject them entirely as a fake and a fraud. There can be no middle ground. Folks who claim to accept the Bible as a good book, but do not respect its authority to guide their lives and determine their conduct, in reality simply do not believe what the Bible itself says and they certainly do not follow the example of Jesus Christ.
What is your view of Scripture? Do you believe it to be God's inspired word? Do you study and obey it as the standard for your life?
Copyright 1991,1999,2008, David E. Pratte; www.gospelway.com
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Scripture quotations are generally from the New King James Version (NKJV), copyright 1982, 1988 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. used by permission. All rights reserved.