Bible vs. Holy Spirit
NCW 17, March 1995
Q. 1 Timothy 3:16 says that every part of the Bible is of equal value. Shouldn't this be an incentive for us to study every part of it?
There is no doubt that the whole of the Bible should be studied, no matter how great the task, not because every part is of equal value, but because every part sheds light on the whole. We often receive complaints that some parts of the Bible are "boring" or detatched from our present reality. However, if we are to understand the seams of gold in the scriptures we need to know the cultural setting and the way in which people thought if misunderstandings on the meanings of important passages of scripture are to be avoided.
The assumptions of the ancients were different from our own. The West has been raised on several generations of sceptical thought and the result is that the majority, whilst still believing that there is a "God", view Him in very different terms from the ancients. If, for example, we were to write a 20th century Book of Job, our modern three friends would be offering very different arguments to those of Eliphaz and friends -- one would probably be an antheist, one an agnostic, and one an occultist. Today people who believe in God question His justice -- anciently that was out of the question.
About half the New Testament is addressed to pagans who had no belief in the true God and thus lays a very different emphasis to that of the Old Testament. Though the Israelites of the Old Testament seemed to spend more time worshipping idols than Yahweh this action was a direct result of rebellion from revealed truth and not based on ignorance. The Hebrews knew that God existed and that He was righteous, the pagans did not.
New Scriptures are needed for new situations. Today the majority of people in the West who profess a belief in God reject God as Creator and have substituted evolution as the mechanism of Creation, reducing God from being omnipotent to one who is apparently helpless before the forces of chance. Therefore many evangelical groups, to their credit, begin their witnessing by revealing the Creator-God before explaining the incarnation and atonement. In many parts of the world raised on two or more generations of atheistic communism, or on the belief that nature is God and therefore created itself, or that universe and all life in it is a product of blind chance, this kind of education is essential. In Bible days it was not usually required, although indeed some cultures had theories not unlike our own (in a crude or rudimentary state).
Now the Scripture you cite does not actually speak of the Bible but the Old Testament. Timothy was half Greek and half Jewish. Before his conversion to Christianity he was taught the Old Testament "from infancy" (1 Tim.3:15) by both his mother and grandmother, which scriptures, Paul says, "are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus" (ibid., NIV). The New Testament did not exist in AD 62-63 (the time this letter is believed to have been written). We must therefore come to the inevitable conclusion that we are able to become wise, even to being saved, through the Old Testament ("holy Scriptures" - v.15) through faith in Christ. In other words, the testimony given by the apostles and evanglists that Jesus Christ rose from the dead, placed in the Old Testament setting, was sufficient to bring people to salvation because their teacher, and scriptural interpreter, was the Holy Spirit (2 Tim.1:14).
Most 20th century Christians go to alot of trouble defining a fixed canon of scripture in order, as they suppose, to guard the truth. The motive is honourable but unscriptural. History has taught us that a fixed canon does not protect a person from error but only the presence of the Holy Spirit guaranteed by living the commandments and therefore a godly life.
The fact of the matter is that the Old Testament, together with various non-canonical letters (and later, Gospels) were regarded as Holy Scripture. Only later were these letters and gospels "canonised".
And so it is with God's apostolic church. Men of God, inspired by the Holy Spirit as were the prophets and apostles of old, write down God's Word as it is revealed to them, and in the process of time they are tested and added to the canon of Scripture. That process has never stopped. The Protestant (and Catholic/Orthodox) dogma that God has spoken all His scripture is simply "unscriptural".
Today God is causing His prophets and apostles to write prophecies, revelations and pastoral counsel. These documents are used by the New Covenant Church of God much as Paul's letters and the early Gospels were used by the first Christian congregations. They are not canonical, just as the New Testament writings were not in the first century AD. But that doesn't mean that one day they won't be.
This page was created on 2 May 1998
Last updated on 2 May 1998
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