God Chose the Canon of Scripture, NOT the Church

2 Peter 3:15-18 – …count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. 

After an incredible life with Jesus for three years, denying Jesus publicly, getting restored to ministry by Jesus, watching the Holy Spirit fall as he preached at Pentecost, and serving and suffering for decades, Peter is well aware that his life is ending soon as he writes his second and final book of the Bible. In his final words, Peter points us to trust the Scriptures as the Word of God. This is so we do “not get carried away” but do “grow in grace and knowledge”.

The three-chapter letter of 2 Peter devotes much of the first and third chapter to establishing the perfection and trustworthiness of Scripture. The second chapter in the middle warns us about false teachers who twist the Word of God as Satan did with Adam and Eve.

Amazingly, Peter says that “Paul” writes “letters” which are sacred “Scriptures” like the Old Testament. The New Testament has 27 books, and 13 of them are written by Paul, and possibly 14 if he is the author of the book of Hebrews, which does not tell us who wrote it. These verses are a massive contributor to our understanding of something theologians call the canon. That word means measuring rod and, like a measuring tape that a woodworker uses to decide what to cut and keep, it refers to which books were kept in the Bible and which were cut out.

As a general rule, these were the criteria Christians use to evaluate books claiming to be Scripture:

  1. Is it from a prophet of God?
  2. Is it confirmed by a miracle of God?
  3. Is it in harmony with God’s character and rest of God’s Word?
  4. Does it come with the power of God’s Holy Spirit?
  5. Is it widely accepted by the people of God who have the Holy Spirit?

To be sure, when the canon was attacked or questioned, Christian leaders have convened to confirm God’s canon of Scripture. For example, in the fourth century the Damasine Council of Rome and Council of Carthage confirmed the canon of Scripture. Also, Athanasius the Bishop of Alexandria in his 367 AD Easter letter, along with other fourth century Councils like Laodicea, Hippo, and Carthage, also confirmed the canon.

Importantly, all of these confirmed the canon but did not create the canon. God the Holy Spirit revealed through Peter that Paul was writing Scripture long before any church creeds or councils. For this reason, J.I. Packer says, “The Church no more gave us the New Testament canon than Sir Isaac Newton gave us the force of gravity. God gave us gravity, by His work of creation, and similarly He gave us the New Testament canon, by inspiring the individual books that make it up.”

How is your Bible reading going? How could it improve?

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