A note from Pastor Tedd: Last month we addressed why the 39 books of the Old Testament. This month let’s look at why the 27 books of the New Testament.
** CLICK HERE TO READ PART 1 **
How do we know that these 66 books, and no others, comprise the inspired Word of God? … In this article, I would like to offer a simple answer that I hope will be helpful – because it gets to the heart of the whole matter.
We believe in the 39 books of the Old Testament, because the Lord Jesus Christ affirmed the Old Testament. And we believe in the 27 books of the New Testament, because the Lord Jesus Christ authorized His apostles to write the New Testament.
The doctrine of canonicity ultimately comes back to the lordship of Jesus Christ. If we believe in Him and submit to His authority, then we will simultaneously believe in and submit to His Word. Because He affirmed the Old Testament canon, we also affirm it. Because He authorized His apostles to write the New Testament, we likewise embrace it as well.
The New Testament Canon
Our Lord not only affirmed the Jewish canon of the Old Testament, He also promised that He would give additional revelation to His church through His authorized representatives namely, the apostles.
Jesus made this point explicit in John 14–16. On the night before his death, Jesus said to His disciples:
John 14:25–26 – “These things I have spoken to you while abiding with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.” That last line is especially significant for the doctrine of canonicity. Jesus promised the apostles that the Holy Spirit would help them remember all the things that He had said to them. That is an amazing promise, the fulfillment of which is found in the four gospel accounts—where the things that our Lord did and said are perfectly recorded for us.
Two chapters later, in the same context, the Lord promised the apostles that He would give them additional revelation through the Holy Spirit:
John 16:12–15 – “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak of His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine; therefore I said that He takes of Mine and will disclose it to you.”
Where is that additional revelation found? It is found in the New Testament epistles, wherein the Spirit of Christ guided the apostles to provide the church with inspired truth.
The New Testament, then, was pre-authenticated by Christ Himself, as He authorized the apostles to be His witnesses in the world (Matt. 28:18, 19; Acts 1:8). We embrace and submit to the New Testament writings because they were penned by Christ’s authorized representatives, being inspired by the Holy Spirit in the same way as the Old Testament prophets (cf. 2 Pet. 3:19–21).
With that in mind we could go book-by-book through the New Testament, and we will find that it meets this criteria.
- The Gospels of Matthew & John were both written by apostles. The Gospel of Mark is a record of the memoirs of the Apostle Peter, written by Mark under Peter’s apostolic authority.
- The Gospel of Luke (and the book of Acts) were both the product of a careful investigation and eyewitness testimony (Luke 1:2), research that would have included apostolic sources. Moreover, as the companion of the Apostle Paul, Luke wrote under Paul’s apostolic oversight.
- The Pauline Epistles (Romans–Philemon) were all written by the Apostle Paul.
- The authorship of Hebrews is unknown, but many in church history believed it to have been also written by Paul. If not penned by Paul himself, it was clearly written by someone closely associated with Paul’s ministry – and therefore, by extension, under his apostolic authority.
- The General Epistles (the letters of James, Peter, and John) were written by apostles. Peter also acknowledged Paul’s writings as being Scripture in 2 Peter 3:15–16.
- The epistle of Jude was written by the half-brother of Jesus (Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3) who operated under the apostolic oversight of his brother James (cf. Jude 1).
- Finally, the book of Revelation was written by the Apostle John.
Every book of the New Testament was written under apostolic authority – either by an apostle or someone closely linked to their apostolic ministry. Thus, we submit to these books because they come from Christ’s authorized represent-atives. In submitting to them, we are submitting to the Lord Himself.
The reason the canon is closed is because there are no longer any apostles in the church today, and have not been since the end of the first century, when the foundation age of the church ended (cf. Eph. 2:20).
So … why these 66 books?
Because God inspired them! They are His divine revelation. And Christ confirmed that fact. He affirmed the Old Testament canon, and He authorized the New Testament canon (cf. Heb. 1:1–2).
The authority of the Lord Jesus Himself, then, is the basis for our confidence in the fact that the Bible we hold in our hands is indeed “All Scripture.”