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that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear” ( I Pet. 3:15)
West Side Church of Christ A Editorials Articles
By Many or By Few
Where I Stand
The New Testament (2)
Be Not Yoked The New Testament (3) Holy Spirit Baptism A Criticism of Hume

      Jesus promised His apostles that the Holy Spirit would come to their aid and bring to their remembrance all the things which He had taught them (John 14:26).  He declared that the Holy Spirit would guide the apostles into all truth (John 16:13).  Before He left this earth, Jesus promised the apostles that  the Holy Spirit would descend on them and endow them with power (Luke 24:49).  He described this endowment with power as the baptism of the Holy Ghost which would allow them to be witnesses for Him to the uttermost part of the earth (Acts 1:5).

      On the first Pentecost after the resurrection of our Lord, in fulfillment of the promise of Christ to the apostles, the Holy Spirit descended upon the Twelve, appearing as a manifestation of cloven tongues of fire, and gave each of the apostles the ability to speak in an unlearned foreign tongues or language (Acts 2:1-6, 33).

     The apostles claimed to be thus guided by the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:16ff; et. al).  This baptism of the Holy Spirit was unique to the apostles, being promised only to them (2:14; and see above) and allowing only them to pass miraculous gifts on to those upon whom they had laid their hands (Acts 8:18).  Even those who had miraculous gifts were not able to give this gift to others, thus Philip, though he had miraculous endowments, needed the apostles to bestow this miraculous power upon the Samaritans (Acts 8:14-17).

    Being thus endowed, the apostles and other first century Christians who received the gift of the Holy Ghost through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, were able to speak with divine sanction and authority and perform miracles confirming the words which they spoke (Mark 16:19,20; Heb. 2:1-4).  This miraculous guidance of the Holy Spirit extended to the words which they spoke and to the words which they wrote (I Cor. 2:12,13; II Tim. 316,17).

   The apostle Paul wrote fourteen of the twenty-seven books forming the New Testament, some from the confinement of a Roman prison cell and others while he was freely traveling in and around the Mediterranean Basin.   Luke, a physician and often a companion and co-laborer of the apostle, wrote the gospel account that bears his name and the book of Acts of Apostles, addressing them to one Theophilus.  The books of Paul and Luke alone constitute over half (54%) of the entire New Testament.  The epistles which Paul authored were sent to individuals associated with Paul and congregations throughout the Roman world.  These epistles were circulated among the churches and were intended to be immediately recognized as authoritative and inspired of God.  

      Paul wrote an epistle addressed to the “churches of Galatia,” which would have included at least the churches in Lystra, Derbe, Iconium, and Antioch in Pisidia.  In this letter Paul expresses dismay that the Christians in these cities were so quickly moving away from the original form of doctrine which he had delivered to them, into following a changed, perverted gospel (1:6-9).  He says that to change this epistle, to alter the gospel message, was to invite a curse, certifying that what he preached was in fact exactly what he had received from the Lord through revelation (1:11).  

     Furthermore, what he was now commanding them to help preserve, was precisely what the other apostles had already been teaching in other parts of the world, for he now “preached the faith which he once destroyed” (1:23).  Paul wanted all of these churches to clearly understand that they were amenable to what he wrote in this epistle.

      As an apostle of Jesus Christ, Paul was concerned about the church at Laodicea, at Colosae, about all those who had not even seen his face (Co. 2:1).  Indeed, the care of all the churches fell upon his shoulders (II Cor. 11:28).  To the church at Colosae, Paul wrote: “And when this epistle is read among you, cause that it be read also in the church of the Laodiceans; and that ye likewise read the epistle from Laodicea” (Col. 4:16).  This was not just a one time, unique arrangement.  Paul stressed that he taught the very same thing in every church everywhere (I Cor. 4:17).  In writing to the church of Christ at Thessalonica, Paul charged that “this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren” (I Thes. 5:27).  Certainly, Paul believed that what he taught, whether spoken or in writing, constituted a body of doctrine that was universally authoritative and completely binding.

     Paul wrote to the brethren at Ephesus and expected that his words would be understood (Eph. 3:3,4) and that this knowledge would be passed on and given to all (3:9).   Paul wrote to the brethren at Phillipi stating that what he had told them in some form, he was telling them again because it was safe, i.e., it was important that these things which he wrote be clearly understood (Phil. 3:1).  It was not unusual for the apostles to write letters to the churches (Acts 15:23; II Cor. 10:9-11; II Thess. 2:1; Heb 13:22).  Paul would personally authenticate his epistles by signing his own name (II Thess. 3:17).  This suggests that often someone else, an amanuensis, wrote for Paul, but that he certified it by writing his own name at the end of the epistle.  Furthermore, if these words were not obeyed, they were to be disciplined with withdrawal by the brethren (II Thess. 3:14,5).  

     Paul told the young gospel preacher Timothy that what he wrote to him was to be used as an authoritative guide for conduct in the Lord’s church (I Tim. 3:14,15).  Further demonstrating that the scripture that we have in our New Testament is what first century Christians accepted as inspired and authoritative is the fact that in his letter to Timothy (I Tim. 5:18) Paul quotes from the gospel accounts of Luke (10:7) and/or Matthew (10:10) and describes them as “scripture.”  So by the time Paul wrote to Timothy the second time near the end of his life, between 65 and 67 A.D., the gospel accounts of Matthew and Luke were accepted as scripture and authoritative as far away as Asia minor.  Paul expected that what he had taught Timothy was to be faithfully taught to other teachers who could in turn teach the same things to others (II Tim. 2:2).  It was ever so important that the teaching remain pure and uncorrupted in transmission.   So important was this written body of doctrine that Paul taught Timothy to study, rightly dividing, handle aright, the word of God to show himself approved before God (II Tim. 2:15).  Paul made it abundantly clear that all scripture is inspired of God (II Tim. 3:16,17).  

     Paul requested that Timothy bring him the “books and parchments” (II Tim. 4:13).  What these were is not known.  There are many suggestions: classical writings, the Hebrew scriptures, the Septuagint, his own writings, the writings of other inspired men.  Could it be they were a collection of his own writings, and perhaps possibly the writings of other inspired authors, which he wanted to prepare for inclusion in the canon of the New Testament before his impending death (II Tim. 4:6-8)?  Certainly this would fit with Paul’s charging of Timothy to remain true to sound doctrine (4:1-8).

     Paul wrote to Philemon about one Onesimus and, as usual, signed the letter with his own hand (19,21).  This epistle covers very important doctrinal issues enveloped in a letter addressing matters of personal concern.  

In the book of Hebrews Paul writes that we are under a new covenant.  The first covenant was codified in written form.  Why should we not expect the second to be written?  James, the half brother of our Lord, wrote an epistle that was addressed to Hebrew Christians the world over (James 1:1).  James describes how that we are to look into the perfect law of liberty, the word, and be not forgetful hearers but doers of the work and only then shall we be blessed (James 1:21-26).  It would be nearly impossible to do this if the law was not written down so that it could be studied.

      Likewise, Peter wrote to Christian Jews who were dispersed across the Roman world.  Peter, one of the twelve apostles who lived with Jesus for three years and knew Him like few others could, nevertheless describes the writings of Paul, who was a much later convert to Christ, as Scripture, on par with the Old Testament.  

And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you;  As also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction (II Peter 3:15,16 -  emphasis ELP).

Obviously, then, by the mid 60's, Paul’s epistles were already understood to be authoritative and binding and already being circulated throughout the brotherhood enough to be understood by the  Jewish Christians scattered throughout the Roman empire who read Peter’s letter.

     The New Testament makes it extremely clear: these first century writings of the apostles of Christ were both inspired and authoritative.  As noted above, Jesus had already told His apostles that they would be guided into all truth (John 14:26; John 16:13).  Furthermore, Jesus told them after His resurrection that, being baptized in the Holy Spirit, they would be empowered to become His witnesses in all the earth (Acts 1:8).  Within a little over a month, the Holy Spirit descended upon them and equipped them for the task of being ambassadors for Christ to the world (Acts 2: 1-4; II Cor. 5:20).

     The apostle Paul described how that the very words they spoke were inspired of God:

For what man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God. Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.  Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual (I Cor. 2:11-13).

      The New Testament scriptures were given by the inspiration of God and are profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness (II Tim. 3:16,17).  They were delivered from heaven and recorded by sincere men  and compiled with the intention that they should be the only standard by which Christians live their lives.  It was, indeed, accepted by Christians in the first century as the inerrant, word-revelation of God to man.  It was copied and distributed throughout the world with an earnestness and  zeal unseen in any human religious movement because it was believed that it came from God.  And it does.–CA


The New Testament  (part 2) Christian Apologist
Copyright Eric L. Padgett  11-05-2012