The Canon of Scripture


The Bibles that we have contains books that were written by men who spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. The last blog post covered this in more detail. But what about the collection of books themselves? How were they put together and how do we know that we can trust them? Well, there are far better writings out there to answer that question than what I could do here. In chapter 3 of Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology this is covered in a very readable way and can be previewed here. We call this collection of books the canon of scripture, and they are what makes up the second paragraph of the 1689 confession. Rather than listing them all here, I will just clarify that they are known as the Old and New Testaments, which can be found in the table of contents in the front of your Bible. After all the books are listed in the 1689, there is a simple phrase (and a biblical reference) recorded that will be the focus of this writing.

“All of which are given by the inspiration of God, to be the rule of faith and life.”

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16, ESV)


As mentioned before, the previous blog post on Biblical Theology contains more detail on the inspiration of scripture, and it can be read here. But I did want to quickly address the fact that “all” of these books are given by inspiration of God. There has been a movement in modern Christianity that seeks to simply take the “red letters” in the scripture as important while holding the rest with an open hand. This is misguided. Of course Jesus words are extremely important. They are some of the most precious words that we have recorded! But all of God’s word is God’s word! The God of the Old Testament is not a different God than the one we see in the New Testament. Part of Jesus mission was to live the holy, sinless life that we could not live. If Jesus did not first live for us in this way (active obedience to the Old Testament Scriptures), then his death would not save us from condemnation. He lived by the scriptures, though he himself was God. We see this clearly in his temptation before he began his ministry (Matthew 4:4). The word of God was held up by Jesus as the very thing that mankind should live by, and that brings us to the next point.


The scriptures are meant to govern us as Christians. As the 1689 says, they are to be the rule of faith and life. If we practice our faith in a way that is outside of the authority of the scriptures, then we are no longer following Jesus (who lived by the scriptures also) and we should no longer call ourselves “Christians”. God has given us his word that we would know him and worship him. It does not make sense, then, to attempt to know and worship him outside of his revealed word. If you say that you just want to follow Jesus, while at the same time rejecting the authority of the Bible, I would like you to think hypothetically for a moment. If you lived in the time of Jesus and you followed him, how do you think he would respond to you saying that you want to follow him without fully trusting the scriptures (which would have been only the Old Testament at the time)? My best guess would be that he would say this,

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:17-19, ESV)

Jesus is not contrary to the scriptures in any way. In fact, he came to earth to rescue us from our sin because WE are contrary to the scriptures! We rebelled against God, and in our natural state we cannot submit to the word of God. That is why he rescued us and gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit that we might put to death the deeds of the flesh (Romans 8:7-13). The word of God will never change to fit our preferences, but rather we must be changed by the word of God! Neglecting the precious gift of the word is to literally neglect the faith and life itself. Take up and read.


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