Op-Ed: This Is How Christians Can Have Confidence That the Bible Is Indeed the Word of God

As believers, we are to use the Bible as the ultimate authority for everything in life, and so it is imperative that we are certain that this book is truly the Word of God. To help you understand how the Bible came into being, I am offering the four-part series “How We Got the Bible.” This Bible study provides believers with the fully footnoted evidence that proves the authenticity of God’s book. Click here to read Parts 1, 2 and 3. This series was authored by the late Dr. Robert Thomas, a seminary professor of mine who gave me permission to publish and teach this work of his in my ministry. Dr. Thomas was considered an expert in this field, and as you’ll see, the work is chock-full of references from other experts. This final Part 4 presents the concluding evidence of the historical process by which the church recognized the canon of the New Testament. It’s important to understand that the church did not create the New Testament, but that it went through a process of debate, sifting historical documents and reaffirmation to finally the settled recognition of the book God has given to the world he created. God not only involves human instrumentalities in the saving of souls but in the penning and canonization of his book. This reflects the fact that God is personable and desires a personal relationship with those he created. This week, Dr. Thomas delves into the second and third periods in which the New Testament canon was recognized by the church — A.D. 170 to 303 and A.D. 303 to 397. No longer was there a question of whether there would be a New Testament canon. During these periods, the focus was on the contents — what should be included in the New Testament. That work involved separating the canonical books from the mass of other, lessor ecclesiastical literature. Three influential leaders stand out during this period: Irenaeus, Tertullian and Clement of Alexandria. Irenaeus, who represents three distinct areas of second-century Christianity, spent his early years in Asia Minor where he was a pupil of Polycarp, who had been a disciple of the Apostle John. Irenaeus moved to Rome and taught for a time and later became overseer of the church in Lyons, Gaul. He was also acquainted with the church in different areas and died in A.D. 202. In his “Against All Heresies,” Irenaeus proceeded to “adduce proofs from the Scriptures” to provide “means of combating and vanquishing those who, in whatever manner, are propagating  falsehood.” Irenaeus’ citations of “proofs from the Scriptures” include at least 21 of the 27 New Testament books. Tertullian of Carthage (c. A.D. 150-222) was a lawyer of great influence and a noted leader of the North African church. Most of his voluminous writings were done in Latin, but he also worked in Greek. He had a good bit to say about the New Testament canon and his word can be taken as representative of the church of that area. Clement of Alexandria (c. A.D. 155-215) had been in Palestine, Greece and Italy before settling in Egypt. He was a well-read scholar who had studied under many masters. His wide acquaintance with church opinion is important because he includes all 27 books except three in his New Testament. Also examined are the contributions of other notable men, including the Roman elder Hippolytus, the noted scholar Origen, his student Dionysius, and Constantine, who commissioned Eusebius to make 50 copies of the New Testament, among others. This important series will provide you with the confidence that the Bible is indeed God’s Word and should be the final arbiter of truth, faith and practice in all areas of your life. Hold it in high regard. Raise your personal beliefs, standards and policy positions to match its standards. Align yourself in all ways to the immutable truths it contains. Do not diminish its authority in an attempt to in some way justify in your mind incorrect beliefs, behavior and policies. Fully informed, and with confidence that the Bible is indeed the inspired Word of God, may it hold a special, authoritative place in your heart. Click here to read the entire Part 4. This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.

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