The Validity of New Testament Canon

The Coffee — I recently finished a bag from Onyx Coffee Lab, located in Arkansas. The roast was their “Ethiopian Gebeb Beriti Natural”. The natural process, and the notes of dried fruit and cantaloupe, led to a smooth texture and rich fruit flavor. I brewed this coffee both in the auto drip and the the Chemex and it turned out well with both brewing methods. I recently purchased a subscription for Onyx coffee after this strong showing and I am excited to try more of their offerings.

The Theology —Canon, regarding the Christian faith, can be defined as “the list of writings deemed by the church to belong to the divinely given, Holy Scriptures. (Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (Second Edition) s.v. “Canon”) The scriptures included in canon are the only sufficient and infallible standard given to the church.  They are our guide in our faith, knowledge and obedience.  The scriptures, including all 27 books of the New Testament are complete.  They were given by the Lord to preserve truth and give His church certainty. (Reeves, 2017) Christ, being the head of the church, preserved the canon of scripture and kept it authentic and pure.   We see evidence of this in the actions of the early church in how they regarded the four gospels as set apart from other similar accounts early on in the life of the church, the format of the gospel accounts, as well as their ability to stand alone as historical accounts.  Therefore, Baptists can embrace their confessional heritage and feel confident in the New Testament canon as complete and authoritative. 

Christ is the head of the church.  Ephesians 5 states “Christ also is the head of the church, He Himself being Savior of the body.”  Later in this chapter Paul provides further detail providing statements relating to both to the church and the family “so He might sanctify her, having cleansed her with the washing of water with the word…that He might present Himself to the church in all her glory, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing; but that she would be holy and blameless”.  We see it clearly stated that Christ is the head of his bride, the church.  That he intends to wash and cleanse the church with his word, the sacred scriptures, thus providing evidence that he has given us all that we need in the canonized scripture.  Further, in the first chapter of his Gospel account, John states: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God…And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…”.    We see from this text that Jesus from the beginning was the Word.  With this language in mind we must believe that the words in sacred scripture are the words of God, wholly and complete.  Hebrews 4 names Jesus as our High Priest who can sympathize for us: “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses but one who can sympathize with our weaknesses but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” We get more detail on this point in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 10): “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” Christ is our High Priest; we have a High Preist who was tempted in every way yet prevailed sinless.  Therefore, he can sympathize with us and provides us a way of escape and endurance.  This way is through his sacred scripture.  He did not leave anything out of the canon.  He provided us with all that we need to overcome.   

Christ, as the head of his church, has led the actions of man to keep his sacred scriptures pure and authentic.  From early in the church’s history, the four gospel accounts were regarded as sacred and directly passed down from the apostles of Jesus.  In the church’s infancy, they were held in high enough regard that the four gospels were being distributed for the benefits of Christian communities. (Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (Second Edition) s.v. “Canon”) We see from this that the early church saw these gospel accounts as confessed and acknowledged sacred scriptures, as opposed to similar historical accounts of Jesus.  We see further evidence of this in how the four gospels were formatted and arranged.  The four gospel accounts were primarily composed as codices, like a book.  These took more time and effort and were comprised of higher quality materials.  This contrasts with the production of similar historical accounts, which while sparingly being produced as codices, were primarily produced as rolls, even on recycled rolls. (Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (Second Edition) s.v. “Canon”) Further, the four gospels were arranged as isolated pieces, or compiled with one or multiple of the other four canonized gospel accounts.  Other historical accounts were never arranged or included with any of the four canonized gospel accounts.  This clearly shows that the church utilizing these works, and those producing them, differentiated the four gospels from other historical accounts.  This adds more weight to the fact that other historical accounts of Jesus often contained errors and even heresies.  They needed one of the four canonized gospels as a source. (Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (Second Edition) s.v. “Canon”)  If there was that level of dependance on the canonized gospels, yet they were not included with the canonized gospel accounts, this should speak volumes to legitimacy of the church setting apart Matthew, Mark, Luke and John from other accounts.   

The 1689 London Baptist Confession of faith unequivocally states that the New Testament canon is complete, authentic and inherent.  That the Lord preserved his word and revealed it to us for our faith, knowledge and obedience. (Reeves, 2017) We see evidence throughout scripture that Christ, as our head, decreed the canonized scripture to be a complete and thorough work that he used to cleanse, sanctify, and protect his bride, the church.  We see evidence of this in early church history as the four canonized gospel accounts were set apart early as sacred, were produced with great effort and time to be used for the edification of the Christian communities and were never compiled with other historical accounts, that contained errors and could not stand alone as authentic historic accounts.  Given this, we should feel empowered to stand with our confession and state that the 27 books of the New Testament canon are complete, authentic, and “inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate and equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16&17) 

All Scripture from NASB Bible 

Work Cited 

Dictionary of Jesus and His Gospels. Second Edition.  Edited by Joel B. Green, Jeannine K. Brown & Nicholas Perrin. Nottingham: Inter-Varsity Press, 2017. S.v. “Canon” 

Nasb thinline Bible: New American Standard Bible. (2002). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan. 

Reeves, S., PH.D. (2017). The 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith in Modern English. Cape Coral, FL: Founders Press. 

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