The Canon: Why These Sixty-Six Books - Part 4

Selected Scriptures

Tom Pennington  •  February 29, 2004
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I have an interesting book in my library that I brought to show you tonight because it is a good introduction to what we're going to be discussing. Tonight, we're going to move to speak about the canon of the New Testament. We'll see how far we get. The beautiful thing about our study on Sunday night is that it's a bit like a sausage. You know, I can talk until time's up and sort of lop it off and pick up again next week. So, we'll see how far we get, but this particular book is called the Jefferson Bible. How many of you have ever heard of the Jefferson Bible? Yeah, it's a little "Bible" that Thomas Jefferson, during a time in his life when he says, "he was overwhelmed with other business in 1803", he went through the gospels particularly, and he separated out all of those things that he felt really could be attributed to the true Jesus. Essentially, what he did was he excised all of the supernatural. Everything that in any way committed itself to God intervening in human history, he excised, and he left just the moral teachings of Christ. In fact, the subtitle is The Life and Morals of Jesus Christ.

Unfortunately, Thomas Jefferson is not the only one who has made such attacks on the Scripture. Many of you have probably read in recent years about the Jesus Seminar, a group of "scholars" who've met together to determine what in fact should be kept in the Scripture in the context of what they believe Jesus actually said. Essentially, they vote. A group of scholars vote on those things that should be included as Jesus actually said as opposed to that which, perhaps, He didn't say.

Well most people aren't quite so brash and bold as to take that approach to the New Testament, but it still remains the question. How do we know that these books that we have in our New Testament and all of their contents should be included in the canon of God's revelation? We've talked about the Old Testament, we sealed that topic once and for all. Everything in the Old Testament came out of Sinai, it came through Moses. Moses was God's authenticated revealer of truth, and Moses laid down criteria by which all subsequent prophets would be judged. And therefore, when the prophets came along, they were recognized as God's men communicating God's truth, and there was no question in anyone's mind about who they were or why they were writing. That's why in B.C. 400, the canon was closed because as Josephus and other writers said, there are no more prophets. The prophets that Moses predicted would come have ended.

So, we know about the Old Testament, but what about the New? Why is it that these 27 books are included in the New Testament revelation? That's what I want us to look at tonight.

Let me begin by just giving you a brief history of the sort of reception of the New Testament books. First of all, you need to know that in New Testament times, these books were immediately accepted as the words of God. You'll notice in 1 Timothy, and we're not going to turn to all of these because we've looked at some of them before, but let me just remind you of them. First Timothy 5:18, Paul quotes both Deuteronomy 25:4 and Luke 10:7, and he calls them Scripture. So, within essentially the lifetime, in fact within the lifetime of Luke, what he wrote is being called Scripture, it's been accepted as the very words of God, even by the apostle Paul.

In 1 Corinthians 14:37 - 38, you find that Paul says that churches must acknowledge that he and the other apostles wrote the commands of Christ. So, in his lifetime he's saying you churches that receive this letter, in this case particularly Corinth, must respond to it as the inspired words of the living God.

Second Thessalonians 2:5, you find that churches are not only to acknowledge that these are the commands of Christ, but they're bound to obey the apostles' written words and the apostles' commands as if they were from God Himself. Second Thessalonians 3:6 and 14, here's an interesting turn. Not only are they supposed to recognize them, but if they fail to recognize them, then they can actually be treated in church discipline. They can be put out of the church because they refuse to recognize Paul's teaching, particularly in this case in 2 Thessalonians 3, it's about those who refused to work. And Paul had taught them to work. They were those who were sort of anticipating the rapture if you will, and refusing to work as a result of that. And so Paul had said they need to work. And then he said if they refuse to acknowledge that, if they refuse to acknowledge my words, then don't associate with them. And he basically puts them in a process of church discipline.

First Thessalonians 2:13 says that the message that Paul was writing, the message was God's own word. Those are the claims even during New Testament times. Listen folks, don't believe the story that it wasn't until 2, 3, 400 years later that the books of the New Testament were accepted. They were accepted during the times in which they were written just as the writings of the prophets were. The question that we have to answer is why.

Now let me take you before we go there to the early church fathers. Remember that that period of time we call the early church fathers began after the death of the apostle John in the 90's A.D., he was the last apostle to die, and extends, it varies in terms of where people extend it, but we'll extend it through about 500 A.D. In that period of time, it's clear that these writings that we call the New Testament were accepted. They were affirmed as the words of God just as they were accepted even during the times of the New Testament.

For example, Clement of Rome, who wrote in 95 A.D., the parentheses will be the dates approximately in which they wrote, he acknowledged eight New Testament books. Now that doesn't mean that he only acknowledged eight, it means that we have reference in his writings, he referred to at least eight by name as being Scripture.

Ignatius, 115 A.D., noted seven books in his writings. Polycarp, who was a disciple of John in 108 A.D., acknowledged 15 books in his writings, 15 of the letters. Irenaeus in 185 notice noted 21 of our New Testament books. The Muratorian Canon, which I've referred to on a number of occasions – that basically it was a list of all those books that were thought at the time to be in the canon - included our entire New Testament except for Hebrews, James and one epistle of John, so 24 books.

Athanasius, by the time you get to the 300's, he noted all 27 of our New Testament books as the only books in the New Covenant from God. And then when you look at the councils in the 300's as well, they also affirm 27 books - the Council of Laodicea in 363, the Council of Hippo in 393 and the Council of Carthage in 397 all affirmed the 27 books of our New Testament.

So, that brings us to the question of how is it that during the lifetime of the apostles, during the lifetime of the writers of the New Testament books, their books were accepted as Scripture? Well let's answer that question. Let's look at the biblical criteria for forming the New Testament canon. Why exactly were these books accepted? Well, let's begin with a very clear denial. The canon of the New Testament was not settled by church councils, it was not settled by Rome. Roman Catholic doctrine basically makes the Scripture dependent on the church for its authority; however, and I quote a man by the name of Alan Cairns under whose ministry I set at one time, "Inspired Scripture has its authority inherent in itself direct from its divine Author."

You see, just as Moses provided evidence of those who would follow him as a conduit for divine revelation, Jesus did as well. Think about it, if God wanted to assure His people that the words they were getting were from Him, how would He do that? Well, He made it clear through Moses, He provided a clear line through which that revelation would flow, and there was no question in anyone's mind, even if they hated His message, that the prophets spoke for God.

So, how does He do that in the New Testament? Well, basically it begins with Jesus' pre-authentication of the books of our New Testament. How did He pre-authenticate them? Well He chose twelve men to be His apostles. You know what the word apostle means? Literally it means "sent one", but it's beyond that. The word apostle refers to an official representative. An apostle is the direct representative of the one who sends him and can act in that person's place in a way that is authoritative and legally binding. It wasn't just Christ that had apostles. In New Testament times, government officials could have sent ones or apostles, someone in whom they put their own authority, whom they invested with their own authority, and when that person spoke it was as if the person who sent them was speaking. That's who the apostles are, an authorized messenger or representative.

Christ chose His apostles, and He made them essentially proxies for Him. You see this, this choosing, this giving them to the church in Ephesians 2. Ephesians 2:20. Let's back up to verse 19, he talks about our being fellow citizens with the saints and God's household. And then he says this in verse 20, "having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets." You know who he's referring to there, the prophets being the Old Testament and the apostles being the new leaders of the New Testament, the chosen ones, the sent ones, the designated ones. And He gave these apostles, these official representatives, the authority to write. He authorized their writing.

Let me show you this (and I won't spend a lot of time here,) but I want to remind you of some verses that we've looked at in the past, John 14, John 14:25. This of course is on the night before our Lord's crucifixion, and He says this in verse 25 of John 14,

"These things I have spoken to you while abiding with you. But the helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you."

Now most Christians through the history of the church, I shouldn't say most, but many Christians through the history of the church, have read that verse and assumed that's a promise to them, to you and to me. It's not; it's a promise to the apostles.

I want you to see this theme continues. Notice verse, chapter 15, verse 26. Still in the same night, still talking to His disciples, to His apostles, verse 26 of John 15.

"When the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, that is the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify about Me, and you will testify also, because you have been with Me from the beginning." [So the Spirit is going to come and He's going to give further testimony to you about Me.]

Turn to chapter 16, still the same basic flow of the period of our Lord's life, that same night. Chapter 16:12,

"I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all truth; for He'll not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come." [Anybody here had the Spirit disclose personally to you what is to come? Well this isn't a promise to us, this is a promise to the apostles. He will disclose to you what is to come.] Verse 14, "He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and He will disclose it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you." [He will bring it to mind, He will allow you to understand.]

When the apostle John writes in his book of Revelation in the 90's A.D., John needed the Spirit's help to recall some of what Christ had taught. When he wrote his gospel 50 to 60 years after the events that he witnessed, he needed the Spirit's help to recall and to direct his mind into all truth about what Christ had said. And that's the promise God gave the apostles on the night before His death. He promised them that the Spirit whom He would send would enable them to comprehend additional truth, there would be truth disclosed to them that the Spirit whom He would send would bring to their mind all the things that He had already taught them and direct them to the communication of that truth.

Let me show you this, on the same night, John 17, John 17:20. Remember the context, still before His crucifixion, Jesus now is offering His High Priestly Prayer to God. This is the true Lord's Prayer. And He prays this in verse 20.

"I do not ask on behalf of these alone [that is, the apostles], but for those also who will believe in Me through their word; that they all may be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me."

Jesus says I'm praying not merely for My apostles, but I'm going to send them. That's what apostle means, an official authorized messenger. I'm going to send them, and there are going to be people who believe in Me as a result of their word. You and I tonight are included in this prayer of Christ because we too have believed through the words of the apostles.

You see, like the Old Testament prophets, God authenticated the apostles. He pre-authenticated them, but He did it in another way as well. He also authenticated the apostles by giving them the power to work miracles. Remember how the prophets in the Old Testament, sometimes God gave them the capacity to work miracles to authenticate their message? The same thing is true with the apostles.

Let's look at a couple of verses that drive this home. Turn to Acts 2:43. "Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles." God gave His sent ones, His authorized messengers, the capacity to work miracles to authenticate the reality of their message. Acts 14:3, you see the same thing. "Therefore they spent a long time there, [this is in Iconium], therefore they spent a long time there speaking boldly with reliance upon the Lord, who was testifying to the word of His grace. [Watch this,] the Lord, … [was giving testimony] to the word of His grace, [to the message about His grace given by the apostles, how,] "… granting that signs and wonders be done by their hands."

And then finally, turn to 2 Corinthians 12:12. Let's go back to verse 11, Paul is fighting those who are fighting him in Corinth and trying to undermine his authority and he says,

I have become foolish; you yourselves compelled me. Actually I should have been commended by you, for in no respect was I inferior to the most eminent apostles, even though I am a nobody. The signs of a true apostle were performed among you. [In other words, I by the work of the Holy Spirit performed the signs of a true apostle among you] with all perseverance by signs and wonders and miracles. For in what respect were you treated as inferior to the rest of the churches, except that I myself did not become a burden to you? [In other words, I wasn't insisting that you support me.]

You get the point? The point is that just as the prophets of the Old Testament were authenticated by Moses, those who wrote the New Testament were authenticated by Jesus Christ. He pre-authenticated them, saying that the Spirit would direct them in what they wrote, and then He gave them the capacity to work miracles to affirm what they wrote.

This was the test for inspiration in the New Testament age. The teaching of an apostle was received immediately simply because he was an authorized official messenger of Jesus Christ, commissioned by Christ for this role. And because of that pre-authentication, the New Testament books were immediately recognized as inspired if they were known without question to be the work of Christ's apostles or someone designated by His apostles.

These works were placed upon the church by the apostles as having equal authority to the Old Testament Scripture. We've already seen that. They were circulated during the lifetime of the apostles, and they were received as authoritative, (listen carefully to what I'm about to say,) they were received as authoritative throughout the majority of the churches. In fact, from the beginning, the few disputed books were received by most Christians. The discussion about them eventually led to universal acceptance by the whole church that has almost been totally unquestioned since that time.

Did you hear what I said? Essentially from the beginning, most Christians received even the books that were spoken against, the Antilegomena as they're called. There were a few who didn't, and the discussion about those books eventually led to universal acceptance of those books.

R. Laird Harris writes this, he writes, "The Lord Jesus did not in prophecy give us a list of the twenty-seven New Testament books. He did, however, give us a list of the inspired authors. Upon them, the church of Christ is founded, and by them, the Word was written." Christ didn't give us a list of books, but He gave us a list of men who would write those books and to whom we were to listen.

Now, with that in mind, with that background in place, let's talk about the individual books. Most of the New Testament is in the canon because it was directly authored by an apostle, let me show you this. First of all, you have Matthew, that's an obvious one. You have the writings of John – his gospel, his three epistles and Revelation. And you have Peter, 1 and 2 Peter. In addition, the eleven remaining disciples recognized two other men as having equal status to their own. Do you know who those men are? The first is James - James, the half-brother of our Lord.

Look at 1 Corinthians 15:7. As Paul lays out the flow of the post-resurrection appearances, he makes an interesting statement in verse 7. "Then He appeared to James (that's His half-brother), then to all the apostles." The clear implication is that James was included among that group. You see this again in Galatians 1:19. "But I did not see any other of the apostles except James, the Lord's brother." Again, you see that while James was not technically one of the eleven, he was acknowledged to be one of the apostles by the other apostles, including Paul and the Jewish apostles in the Jerusalem church because when you get to the Jerusalem Council, he takes an active role there in leadership in the Jerusalem Council. So, although he was not technically one of the eleven, he was acknowledged to have the same status.

Also, the other eleven acknowledged Paul. They acknowledged Paul. Paul obviously consistently claimed to be an apostle. I could take you through so many verses in the text of his epistles where he calls himself an apostle of Jesus Christ. That was his consistent claim, you can see it in Romans 1:1, Romans 11:13, 1 Corinthians 1:1, 2 Corinthians 1:1, Ephesians 1:1. I mean when he begins his letters, that's how he begins them. I'm an apostle, I'm a sent one, I'm an official representative standing in the place of Jesus Christ to you. That's what he claimed to be.

We know that he met the qualifications of an apostle. He saw the risen Christ, remember on the Damascus Road? And he was personally appointed to be an apostle. You remember in Galatians 1:1, he says, "Paul, an apostle not sent from men nor through the agency of man, but through Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised Him from the dead." He says I'm not an apostle by some vote by the other apostles, a la Matthias in Acts 1. He says I was appointed by Christ directly. Same point is made in 1 Corinthians 9:1. First Corinthians 9:1, "Am I not free? Am I not an apostle? Have I not seen Jesus our Lord?" He makes it clear that his claim is to be an apostle. He saw the risen Christ and He was personally appointed to that role.

In addition, not only does he claim it for himself, but he is recognized by the other apostles to be, although not initially. If you go back to Acts 9, you can see that right after his conversion, they're not so sure. Acts 9:26, "When he came to Jerusalem, he was trying to associate with the disciples; but they were all afraid of him, not believing he was a disciple. But Barnabas took hold of him and brought him to the apostles and described to them how he had seen the Lord on the road, and that He had talked to him, and how at Damascus he had spoken out boldly in the name of Jesus. And he was with them, moving about freely in Jerusalem, speaking out boldly in the name of the Lord." There was this question mark with the disciples, and we're not sure how readily and quickly the apostles received him either, but there seems to be at least an openness to that in this text.

But when you come later to Galatians 2, Paul makes it clear that they did acknowledge him. Galatians 2:1 - 10, and we won't work through that whole passage, but basically, he comes to Jerusalem, and he is acknowledged there to be an apostle. He's acknowledged in verse 9 that this grace had been given to him and James and Cephas and John gave Barnabas and him the right hand of fellowship that they might go to the Gentiles. They acknowledged Paul was an apostle and Barnabas was his companion and that they were ministering to the Gentiles.

In addition, Paul claims not only to be an apostle, but that his writings are Scripture. I'm sorry, Peter claims that Paul's writings are Scripture. You remember in 2 Peter 3:16, Peter says there are people who distort Paul's hard to be understood paragraphs, as they do (what?) the rest of Scripture. So, we know that Paul was an apostle.

So, we can add to our list of New Testament books written by an apostle James and Romans through Philemon. When you do that, those are clearly directly written by apostles, that leaves you with five apparently non-apostolic books. They are Mark, Luke, Acts, Hebrews, and Jude. Now let's take each of those together. Why were they accepted? The others are obvious, they were written by apostles. There was no question, they were received immediately because they were written by apostles, but why these? Well, because they were written under the auspices of an apostle.

Let's take them one at a time, first of all Mark. Mark wrote under the auspices of Peter. Papius, quoted by Eusebius, one of the early church fathers, writes this,

"The elder John used to say (so he actually heard John say) Mark, having become Peter's interpreter, wrote accurately all that he remembered, though he did not record in order that which was either said or done by Christ, for he neither heard the Lord nor followed Him, but subsequently as I said attached himself to Peter, who used to frame his teaching to meet the immediate wants of his hearers, and not as making a connected narrative of the Lord's discourses." [In other words, Peter was a bit scattered in his presentation. He sort of talked about different aspects of the Lord's life as he came to them.] "So Mark (still a quote here), so Mark committed no error as he wrote down some particulars just as he recalled them to mind for he took heed to one thing - to omit none of the facts that he heard and to state nothing falsely in his narrative of them."

So why was Mark's gospel accepted? Because an apostle wrote it? No, but because Mark was designated by Peter to write it. He wrote under the authority of the apostle Peter.

This is not uncommon. Remember in the New Testament, it's not uncommon at all for there to be an amanuensis. But when we think of an amanuensis, we think of somebody who's just taking dictation. But in the New Testament times, they were really more than that, they were like personal secretaries. They were sometimes given the responsibility even to do research on behalf of the apostle, etc. And Mark was that to Peter.

R. Laird Harris writes, "We are led to conclude that the amanuensis was not a mere stenographer, but a trusted helper who could act as research assistant, as private secretary, and as companion in the faith." That's what Mark was to Peter, and he wrote the gospel that bears his name.

What about Luke and Acts? Well, they were embraced because of his close association with Paul. Irenaeus writes that Paul was "always attached to and inseparable from, or excuse me, that Luke was "always attached to and inseparable from Paul", and was "with him performed the work of an evangelist and was entrusted to hand down to us a gospel." So, in the second century A.D., you have them acknowledging that Luke was designated by Paul to gather and research what he'd presented. And under Paul's authority, he wrote his gospel.

Tertullian called the gospel of Luke "Paul's gospel written by Luke." Origen writes that Luke "composed for Gentile converts the gospel commended by Paul." You can see that early on in the history of the church, it was clear that these books were accepted not because they were written by an apostle, but because they were directed by an apostle. They were the result of a command of the apostle.

But the best evidence for Luke doesn't come from the early church fathers. The best evidence for Luke comes from the pen of Paul himself. You remember? He called the writings of Luke, particularly the gospel of Luke, Scripture in 1 Timothy 5:17-18. I've already reminded you of that, but let's just turn there because this is important. First Timothy 5:17,

The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at teaching and preaching. [This is basically designating that some elders are to be paid for their ministry, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. Why? Verse 18, here's his argument.] For the Scripture, [there's our word, that technical term for the inspired revelation of God, "graphe",] For the Scripture says, "YOU SHALL NOT MUZZLE THE OX WHILE HE IS THRESHING." and "The laborer is worthy of his wages."

One of those quotes as I said before from Deuteronomy, the other from Luke, Luke's gospel. And Paul the apostle, recognized by the other eleven as an apostle, says that what Luke wrote in the gospel that bears his name is Scripture. And so, it's obvious that we should accept it, and that's why it was accepted.

So, Mark, Luke, and Acts are all accepted because of their association with an apostle. What about Jude? Well Jude was accepted because of his association with James and the fact that he was a believing half-brother of Christ. Jude and James are both half-brothers of Christ. You'll notice in Jude 1, Jude 1 - and that's the only address you need for Jude - says, "Jude, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James." Jude was in the family of Christ. He was not immediately believing, and I don't have time to take you back through that process, but you know that he was not immediately believing, he rejected Christ. But after the resurrection, both James and Jude came to faith in their half-brother as the Messiah, as the Son of God. And Jude, his epistle is accepted because his brother James was accepted as an apostle.

That leaves only one New Testament book and that's Hebrews. Hebrews was apparently accepted because of its close association with Paul. There are some who believe Paul wrote it. I'm not so sure that Paul wrote it, but I do believe, and I think I'm convinced of the fact that it was written under his auspices. Listen to what Origen said, he wrote of the book of Hebrews, "who wrote the epistle in truth God knows." In other words, I don't know for sure who wrote the epistle of Hebrews. But he wrote in that same, (and that's by the way what's often quoted regarding Hebrews, people will quote that out of context. Listen to what he said in the context.) He said, "Not without reason have the ancients handed it down as Paul's." In other words, here is Origen saying that the ancients have handed the book of Hebrews down to us as having some relationship to Paul. We don't know who wrote it, but it was somehow passed down to us from Paul.

Clement argues that "the epistle to the Hebrews is Paul's." But he argued that Paul wrote it to the Hebrews in the Hebrew dialect and that Luke translated it into Greek for the Gentiles. I mean, think about it. You're going to write a letter to the Hebrews, you want them to be able to read it. How does it come that we Gentiles get to benefit from it? Well, it was probably, the idea was at least in Clement's mind, it was translated into Greek for the Gentiles by Luke. So again, it appears that the book of Hebrews comes to us and was received into the canon early on, and eventually acknowledged to be canonical because of its association in some way with Paul.

Personally, and I can't prove this to you, this is not chapter and verse, this is a guess, personally I have this suspicion that Apollos wrote the book of Hebrews because of the space that's given him in the book of Acts, and he was a close associate of Paul and Ananias and Sapphira, and so I think under the authority of Paul the book was written and was circulated, but that's a guess.

The bottom line, let me wrap all this up for you, the reason the New Testament was accepted when it was written, and it wasn't some church council down the road that decided that, oh yeah, let's throw pebbles in, my pebble says yeah that should be in the canon, and your pebble says no it shouldn't be. Instead, it was the fact that the apostles wrote them or those whom they designated wrote them. It's just like Moses, who authenticated the prophets in the same way Jesus authenticated those who would write the New Testament, and the books we have received came either from them or from those they designated. That's why when you get to the early first, early second century, ok, we're just a generation away from the death of the apostles, the death of John.

Listen to what Justin Martyr writes. He provides us, and this is an interesting thing by the way, I won't read you the whole thing, but he provides us with the earliest record of a worship service in a church. But listen to how he describes it. "On the day called Sunday, all who live in cities or in the country gather together to one place, and the memoirs of the apostles or the writings of the prophets are read as long as time permits. Then when the reader has ceased, the president (that's an interesting title for the pastor), the president verbally instructs and exhorts to the imitation of these good things." Do you get what he said? He said what is read, what is read as the inspired writings of God are two things – the prophets, there's the Old Testament, and the memoirs of the apostles. The New Testament consists of the memoirs of the apostles, and that's why they were accepted, and that's why they were received.

William Barclay wrote that "the New Testament books became canonical because no one could stop them from doing so." That's exactly right because they came from the official authenticated messengers of Christ. Oscar Coleman wrote this, "The books which were to form the future canon forced themselves on the church by their intrinsic, apostolic authority as they still do because the Kyrios, that is the Lord Christ, speaks in them."

If you understand what apostle means, you understand why we have these books in our New Testament, because the word means an official representative authorized to stand in the place of the one who sent with legally binding authority. And so, when you and I read the pages of the New Testament written by the apostles, our consciences, our hearts, our doctrines are all legally bound to obey because it's not just the apostles speaking. They simply stand in the place of Jesus Christ. He hand-picked them, and He told them to write. And we receive it as the inspired Word of God.

Let's pray together.

Father, thank you for Your wonderful Word. Thank you for the confidence we can have in it. Lord, we're so grateful that you chose twelve men, one of whom betrayed by Your own sovereign purpose, but eleven of whom stayed true. And then Lord, You confirmed through them James and Paul. And Lord, this group of men have handed down to us by their influence Your Word.

Lord, we thank you for the New Testament. We thank you for these words that reflect the life and ministry of our Lord and then interpret it and then finally look to the future, what You will accomplish. Lord, we're so grateful that You have not left us as orphans in the world, that You've given us Your Word and You've given us Your Spirit.

Lord, help us to treasure Your Word, help us to hold it dear above everything else. And Lord, I pray that you would help us to obey it.

We pray these things in Jesus' name. Amen.