How Did We Get The Bible ?
Last week I began talking about how we got the bible. And I’m specifically referring to the new testament. And I talked a lot about Catholic beliefs; How they think that THEY gave the bible to the world. But today I want to just stick to what the bible itself says, and what we can conclude from what it says.
Of course we know that the new testament is compilation of letters, written by inspiration of God. The four gospels, written by Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John, aren’t specifically addressed to any one congregation of Christians, but are obviously meant for ALL Christians, for the purpose of strengthening their faith. And actually, these four letters are meant for ALL PEOPLE, even those outside of the body of Christ, for the purpose of creating faith in Jesus Christ.
As we read in John 20, verses 30 & 31; “Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; But these are written, so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing, you may have life in his name.” So these letters, were written to create faith in the hearts of their readers, and listeners.
But AS I SAID, these letter were also written for the purpose of strengthening the faith of those who already believed, namely, the members of the Lord’s body. I think it would be an obvious conclusion, that these four letters, that we call the “gospel” were initially distributed among the various congregations of the Lord’s church. It wouldn’t have made any sense at all, for Mathew, and Mark, and Luke and John, to write these letters. by inspiration of God, and then to turn around and hand them over to a bunch of the Jews who still rejected Jesus as the Messiah. If they had done that, you all know perfectly well where those letters would have ended up. Probably in the valley of Hinnom to be burned!
Therefore, it should go without saying, that those gospel writers, gave their letters to congregations of the Lord’s kingdom. And then the congregation that first received one of the letters, could send it off to another congregation, and so on, and so on. And so the main point here, is that practically from the very day when these letters were written, these letters that would become a part of our bible, were in the hands of the church! They were in the hands of Christians.
And last week also, I made mention of the instructions that Paul gave to the congregation at Colossae, in Colossians 4, verse 16; “And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the congregation of the Laodiceans; And see that you also read the letter from Laodicea.” And so you can see the pattern that God is revealing to us. The pattern of these inspired writings, being circulated among the various congregations of Christ, which existed at the time. And so it would be rather silly to think that the same pattern wasn’t followed in the handling of the letters of Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John, and of ALL the inspired writers for that matter.
In that way, the very same instructions, and the very same revelations, that were given to one congregation, were given to ALL the congregations. And of course that’s also borne out in the words of Paul, when he wrote to the Corinthians, in 1 Corinthians 16, verse 1; “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also.” And that stands true for all the churches of Wyoming, and of New York, and of Europe, and of the middle east, and of the far east, and of all locations on this earth.
Now, once again, all of these inspired writings, were inspired by the Holy Spirit of God. We’re told in 2 Peter 1:20 & 21; “But know this first of all; That no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation; For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along (as they were moved) by the Holy Spirit.”
In other words, the scriptures, whether it’s the old testament scriptures or the new testament scriptures, are NOT the words or opinions of the men who wrote them. That’s what it means when the bible says; “..no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation.” The scriptures are not simply what men have THOUGHT that God was saying. No scripture is a matter of how any man may have interpreted what God was trying to say. No, the scriptures ARE the words of God, given to men, and “moving” those men, to write exactly what God wanted said.
And all of these words of God, were in the hands of the “church”, from day one, you might say. From the day they were inspired and committed to writing. And those words have never ceased to be in the hands of Christians, since the days they were given. Consider this if you would; If the inspired words of God had ever been lost to the church, to the body of baptized believers, would you say then that the words of God had “passed away” ? After all, if Christians lost possession of the words of God, then certainly no one of the world would have preserved them. And so if that had ever happened, wouldn’t you have to say that God’s words had “passed away” and ceased to be known?
What did Jesus say about His words? You know what Jesus said. Mathew wrote, that Jesus said; “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My words shall NEVER pass away!” (Mathew 24:25) Never means never, doesn’t it? When Jesus said that His words would never pass away, didn’t He mean that His words would never “pass away” and “disappear” from mankind? I mean, if only God knew about His words, then they’d be pointless as far as man is concerned anyway.
Did the words of Jesus, or the words of God, pass away from mankind for a couple of centuries, or for a few centuries, until what we call “the bible” was compiled? According to Jesus, His words were never going to pass away!
Am I misusing that verse? I don’t see why anyone would think so. If the church didn’t have the words of God, and if the world obviously didn’t preserve those words, then they would have passed away from mankind, They’d be gone! And if God wanted man to know those words ever again, they would have had to be revealed all over again. But the point is, the church was never without the inspired word of God, to guide them.
You know, God went to a lot of trouble to reveal His word, and to confirm that word. Jesus walked this earth teaching the words of God for over three years, performing miracle upon miracle, confirming that His words, were God’s words. And the apostle did the same for who knows for how many years exactly? For twenty, or thirty, or forty or more years? God invested quite a lot of time, and of people’s energy, to reveal and confirm His words, to simply allow them to be lost for centuries.
You can be assured, we all can be assured, that the inspired letters, which make up what we call “the bible” have been in the hands of the church of Christ, and in the hands of individual Christians, since God revealed them to mankind, thru Jesus and thru His Holy Spirit.
And this is according to the very word of God, revealed in scripture. Listen to what Paul wrote in Ephesians 3, verses 8 thru 11; “To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone (you see, the scriptures aren’t just for Christians, they’re for everyone, so that everyone can become a Christian, if they so desire) ..to bring to light for everyone, what is the plan of the mystery, hidden for ages in God, who created all things, so that through the assembly (thru the church) the manifold wisdom of God, might now be made known, to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places, according to the eternal purpose, that He accomplished, in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
The church, is the vehicle, thru which the “manifold wisdom of God” should be made know, to everyone! “To bring to light for everyone” the scripture says. And that is obviously why God gave His inspired writings to the members of the “church”, His called out assembly of the saved.
Now, we don’t know exactly how many years went by, between time that the new covenant gospel was first preached, and when the first of the inspired letters was written, and presented to the rest of the entire body of Christians. Obviously that first letter couldn’t have been presented to all Christians at the same time. It had to be presented to one congregation first, before it was sent off to another congregation.
But of course the first preaching of the new covenant gospel, was preached by Peter, in Jerusalem, on the day of Pentecost, in approximately 33 AD, following the death, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus. But when did that first inspired letter arrive on the scene? Well, we don’t know exactly. Some say maybe sometime in the 40’s, or maybe not until the 50’s. Maybe 40 AD, maybe 50 AD, somewhere in that time frame. If it wasn’t until the 50’s, which is very likely, then that’s at least seventeen years after the establishment of the “church”.
How did this “newly born” body of believers know how to conduct themselves, before the written word was given? How did they know how to properly worship God, under the new covenant? Well, we know that it was through the inspired words of the apostles, that the rest of the Christians were instructed as to how to live, and how to worship, and how to do everything that God desired them to do.
We’re told in Acts 2, verse 42; “Now they were steadfastly continuing in the teaching of the apostles, and in the fellowship, in the breaking of the bread, and in the prayers.” The apostles taught the rest of the Christians (the “church”) exactly what Jesus Himself had taught them, and what the Holy Spirit was continuing to teach them. They (the apostles) taught the “church” what the Spirit of God taught them.
Jesus Himself had of course began to teach the apostles, and actually everyone who ever was there to listen to Him. For example with the “sermon on the mount” as we call it. Jesus taught everyone who would come and listen. But mainly Jesus taught the apostle, who were with Him almost constantly.
And the Jesus told them, in John 14:2-3; “In my Father’s house are many dwellings. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to Myself, that where I am you may be also.” Jesus was going back to heaven, back to the Father, to be presented with His kingdom, which of course is the “church” or the “assembly of the saved” that He had promised to “build”, in Mathew 16:18.
Jesus was going to “build” so to speak, a spiritual “house”; Not anything physical, but a “spiritual house”. 1 Peter 2, verses 4 & 5 puts it this way; “As you come to Him, the living stone, rejected by men but chosen and precious in God’s sight, you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”
And let me also read verses 6 thru 8; “Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture; Behold, I lay in Zion a chief corner stone, elect and precious; And he that believeth on Him shall not be put to shame.” And the old testament scripture that contains that verse, is Isaiah 28:16, where it is written; “Therefore, thus saith the Lord GOD: “Behold, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation; The one who believes will never be shaken.”
And now back to 1 Peter.. “To you who believe then, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe.. “The stone the builders rejected, has become the cornerstone,” And that’s a direct quote from Psalm 118, verse 22.
And now 1 Peter 2, verse 8; “A stone of stumbling and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word; And to this they were appointed.” The unbelieving, have been appointed, and destined, to stumble through disobedience. God did not “appoint” or “predestine” certain individuals to stumble; But rather, God has appointed, that the unbelieving, would “stumble” through disobedience. Remember, that in scripture, disobedience, IS unbelief. Hebrews 3:18-19, and John 3:36, both specifically make that point.
So then Isaiah prophesied that Jesus would be “a tested stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation”. The Psalmist called Jesus “the cornerstone”. And Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 3:11; “For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” Jesus Christ is the foundation, and the very cornerstone, of the spiritual house which He built.
One last passage before we quit for today; And this passage is interesting, because it includes the apostles and the prophets as being a part of that foundation. The passage is from Ephesians 2:19 & 20. And here’s what it says; “Now therefore, you are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; Having been built upon the foundation, of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone.”