I recently finished reading an excellent book entitled Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books by Dr. Michael J. Kruger. The book deserves a full review which I unfortunately do not have time for, but let’s just say I highly recommend it. I learned so much. For example:
God’s books are authoritative prior to anyone using them or recognizing them. Surely, the existence of canon and the recognition of canon are two distinguishable phenomena. Why, then, should the term canon be restricted to only the latter? This distinction is critical because it reminds us that neither the church’s use of these books (functional definition) nor the church’s final reception of these books (exclusive definition) is what makes them canonical. They are canonical by virtue of what they are, namely, God’s books (Kruger, Canon Revisited, loc. 1070).
I have never heard this explained so clearly and yet still in such depth. There are hundreds of detailed footnotes in each chapter, many of which were interesting to read also. So if you have every wondered whether not the Christian church has the right books in the New Testament, go get yourself a copy! I have never met Dr. Kruger and get nothing from promoting his book. I just want to recommend this excellent work on a very important topic. Quit wasting your time reading this blog and go read Canon Revisited.
I really loved the clear imagery of this quote from a book I started to read over the weekend:
God’s word is like a magnet: it draws and attracts God’s children, while repelling those who are not His. It is in this sense that God’s word supplies a crucial, polarizing test among those who claim to be the followers of God (Michael Beasley, The Fallible Prophets of New Calvinism, loc. 481).
Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name. (Psalm 86:11).
This past Sunday, a friend at church described her recent discovery of a teaching in Proverbs that contradicted both her own beliefs and what the world regularly teaches. There were three aspects of this brief conversation that really stood out to me:
- Her joy and amazement in learning something new from the Bible after studying it for years. She even happily remarked that Proverbs is one of her favorite books, but that she had missed this teaching for so many years.
- Her willingness to throw aside her old beliefs and happily grab on to God’s teaching.
- Her openness in sharing this event.
Now, this was not a major shift like moving from a false gospel to the true, live saving gospel. This was merely a little nugget she had discovered in a single verse of Proverbs. It would have been so easy for her to simply keep quiet, think this was not a major discovery worth sharing, or perhaps be too embarrassed to admit she had held some wrong ideas in the past.
But her willingness to share her joy in this new discovery was a great encouragement to me. To hear her passion about God’s word provided motivation for me to continue to study Scripture. There are so many similar nuggets just waiting for me to find! To see how easily she cast away falsehood to grab onto God’s truth was inspiring. And it was a neon sign reminding me why God’s saints should join together in worship, study and fellowship each Lord’s day.
And being made perfect, he [Jesus] became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him (Hebrews 5:9)
How we approach the Bible often drastically impacts how we read many verses, including the one above from Hebrews chapter 5. Is this verse giving us a prescription about how we must behave in order for Jesus to be the source of our salvation? Or, is the verse describing the behavior that is seen in those for whom Jesus is the source of their eternal salvation? To put it simply:
- Does Jesus save me because I obey, or
- Do I obey because Jesus has saved me.
I believe how we answer this often comes back to our view on the central character of the Bible. Do we believe the Bible is about God and how he is accomplishing his glorification. Or is the Bible primarily about us? In the words of Toby Keith:
I wanna talk about me
Wanna talk about I
Wanna talk about number one
Oh my me my
What I think, what I like, what I know, what I want, what I see
The Bible certainly paints us as the high point of his creation. In thinking about that fact, we can easily miss that little ol’ fact that even if I am the high point of creation, I am still just a creation. Not the Creator. Big difference. In fact, an infinite and eternal difference.
So, looking back again to Hebrews 5:9 through the correct interpretive lens that puts God front and center, we can see that answer 2 must be correct. Particularly when taken in context with the whole book of Hebrews. Jesus does not save us “after all we can do.” Rather, we do all we can because Jesus has saved us.
Last week in adult Bible study we were studying Holy Scripture itself. Our leader, Greg, started us at Hebrews 4:12 which says the word of God is “living and active…discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” I wish I had recorded during class all the verses he covered that further discussed the issue of Scripture being alive. One example I do remember was:
And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed” (Galatians 3:8).
I was struck, yet again, by the powerful words used by the Bible to describe itself as God’s living word. Here in Galatians we see the quote of Genesis 12:3 in which it is the LORD (Yahweh) speaking the promise to Abram. Clearly in Genesis it was God speaking to Abram verbally. But, when we read it recorded in Galatians 3:8, it is Scripture that is speaking. It is these Scriptures that were breathed out by God.
God spoke out loud to Abram many thousands of years ago. Those very words recorded in Scripture also continue to speak today through the working of the Holy Spirit. The words of the Bible continue to foresee future events, preach the gospel, discern our thoughts, and plumb the depths of our hearts. The words of God really are living and active. I am so glad I have that sure foundation to lead me to know and better understand the LORD my God!
You made him for a little while lower than the angels; you have crowned him with glory and honor, putting everything in subjection under his feet.” Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him (Hebrews 2:7-8).
On December 17th, 2007, the Native American Lakotah tribe declared independence from the USA, even going as far as to travel to Washington, DC and deliver their message of independence to the U.S. State Department. The Lakotah claimed that areas covering thousands of square miles in the current states of North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming and Montana encompass lands that are rightfully theirs. Now claiming independence from the ruling government is not the same as truly being independent. Just because they claim to be free from the US and maybe even believe it, it does not make it true. Almost six years after their declaration, all that land still appears to be subject to the US government.
Likewise, most people today do not claim to be subjects of Christ the King, but that does not make it true. They may even openly reject Jesus’ claim to be their sovereign king. That still does not make it true. And, as the writer to the Hebrews notes, when we look around it often seems that most of this world is not subject to the rule of Christ.
This is one of those many places where our senses, our intellect and our feelings can lead us to believe one thing, while God’s word clearly says something else. The world does not seem to be subject to Christ, but the Bible clearly says it is.Either I am wrong or the Bible is wrong. If I decide that the Bible is wrong, I need to stop, go back to the beginning, and start my investigation all over again because I have come to the wrong conclusion. We, as fallen humanity, are not the final authority. It is God and His holy word the Bible which must be our final authority.
Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury. Now in the place where he was crucified there was a garden; and in the garden a new sepulchre, wherein was never man yet laid. There laid they Jesus, And rolled a great stone to the door of the sepulchre, and departed (The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth, Thomas Jefferson).
The end. Really, that’s it. Jesus died and then they put him in the tomb and went home. Roll credits. There is nothing else to see here. You can all go home now. That is the end of the story of Jesus of Nazareth as believed by Thomas Jefferson. An ending which comes far too soon.
The image shown here is taken from the very bottom of the last page of Jefferson’s work (you can see the whole book as restored by the Smithsonian). Thomas Jefferson created his own version of the Gospels by cutting, reordering and pasting together the parts that he liked and throwing out all the others. The result was a Jesus who did not perform miracles and was not resurrected from the dead. A Jesus who cannot save you from your sins. How utterly sad and pointless if the story of Jesus ended with a corpse. As the Apostle Paul said:
And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain (1 Corinthians 15:14).
Thomas Jefferson’s faith was in vain. Now, we are not always as bold as Thomas Jefferson in creating a God, a Jesus, and a Bible to our own liking. However, if we do not view all of the Bible as being God-breathed, the result is still the same: a God, a Jesus, and a Bible shaped to fit to our own liking. No amount of faith placed in something false, no matter how incredibly sincere, will save us from our sins. We need a real savior. We need the real Jesus of Nazareth as revealed on all the pages of the real Bible, not the Jesus imagined by Thomas Jefferson.