Canon of Scripture

Positonal Statements

The word canon comes from the Hebrew language which means measuring rod. The term refers to the Holy Scriptures, which are called the sacred canon. Canon refers to testing something by a set rule. It is the term commonly used to describe the books of the Bible which are regarded as the pure Word of God. This term is used because the books of the Bible were tested, or measured, before being accepted as God's Word and because the books are themselves the rule by which truth is tested.
The Lord Jesus Christ promised that the Holy Spirit would guide the Christians "into all truth" (John 16:7-15). The epistle of 1 John also promises that the Holy Spirit will guide the believers in the truth. It is the Holy Spirit who taught the sincere Christians to accept the New Testament Scripture and to reject everything that was erroneous. Our confidence in this matter is not in men, but in God who has given us these promises.
Old Testament Canon
The collecting and recognition of the books of the Old Testament took considerable time. Some believe the process was finished by the time of Ezra, in the 5th century B.C. Gradually all of the 39 books were collected and recognized as Holy Scripture by God's saints. The Reverences by the ancient historian Josephus (A.D. 95), indicate that the Hebrew scriptures then contained the same 39 books as our Old Testament today. Most significant is the statement of the Lord Jesus (Luke 11;51) ...when He accused the scribes of being guilty of slaying all the prophets God had sent Israel from the time of Abel to the time of Zacharias. Abel's death is recorded in Genesis, the first book of the Old Testament, and Zacharias' death is recorded in 2 Chronicles 24:20-21, which is the last book in the order of the Hebrew Bible. (The books of the Hebrew bible are in a different order than in our English bible but they include the same 39 books of the Old Testament). The Lord Jesus was saying that the Jews' guilt was recorded from the beginning to the end of the Old Testament Hebrew scriptures.
New Testament Canon
There is no exact record in early church history regarding how the New Testament canon was formed. The Lord Jesus Christ promised that the Holy Spirit would guide into all truth, and we know that is exactly what He did - though we do not know all of the details of how this transpired. True believers had the witness of the Spirit to guide them in knowing which books were Holy Scripture and which were not. Gradually all of the 27 New Testament books were collected and recognized by God's saints.
In A.D. 367 Athanasius, a well-known defender of the faith, published a list of Old and New Testament books which he said were "handed down and believed to be divine." This list contained all of the 27 books which are in our New Testament today. By the 4th century, the canon of Scripture was settled. All of the Reformation confessions of faith upheld the 66 books of the Bible as divine Scripture. This included the Reformed Confession of 1534, the Helvetic Confession of 1536, the Belgic Confession of 1561, and the Westminster Confession of 1643.
The Baptist Philadelphia Confession of Faith, 1742, says the 66 books of the Bible were "inspired by God, and, by his singular care and providence, kept pure in all ages, are therefore authentic; so as in all controversies of religion the church is finally to appeal unto them."
The Twenty-Five Articles of faith formulated by John Wesley in 1784 made this comment as to the authenticity of the Bible canon: "In the name of the Holy Scriptures, we do understand those canonical books of the Old and New Testament, of whose authority was never any doubt in the church." This statement was followed by a listing of the 66 books of the Bible. To question the authority of any biblical book is to deny the testimony of the Bible itself and cast aside 19 centuries of holy faith.
The Claim of Inspiration
Thousands of times in Scripture we find the claim that God is the author. Phrases such as "thus saith the Lord" and "the word of God" permeate the Bible. these phrases are used 1787 times in the Old Testament exclusive of the Psalms. Consider the following examples:
"And the Lord said unto Moses, Write thou these words: for after the tenor of these words I have made a covenant with thee and with Israel" (Exodus 34:27).
"The spirit of the Lord spake by me, and His word was in my tongue" (2 Samuel 23:2).
"Hear, O heavens, and give ear, O earth, for the Lord hath spoken" (Isaiah 1:2).
"Whatsoever I command thee thou shalt speak...Behold, I have put my words in thy mouth" (Jeremiah 1:7, 9).
"Thou shalt speak my words unto them" (Ezekiel 2:7).
"All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet" (Matthew 1:22; 2:15).
David himself said by the Holy Ghost" (Mark 12:36).
"He spake by the mouth of His holy prophets, which have been since the world began" (Luke 1:70).
"Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began" (Acts 3:21).
If the Bible is not the Word of God, it is the greatest lie that has ever been perpetrated upon humanity.
Randall Runions, Pastor