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An Introduction to the Canon of Scripture

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2 Timothy 3:16–17 AV
All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.
I. Canon’s Definition
The very basic and needful place to start in this introductory area is to define our terms and the first and important term to define is exactly what do we mean by canon?
The word canon originally referred to a stick by which a measurement was made.
By extension it came to mean something that was the standard.
And it finally was applied to an authoritative list of something; for example, a list of books that were written by a particular author.
In this case, the Scriptures.
So we would define “canon” in relation to the Scripture as an authoritative list of books that were written by God.
However, if we think that canon is just a fancy way of referring to a table of contents, then we have really the heart of the study and we will never arrive at a satisfactory answer.
If canon is nothing more than a table of contents, then it is a human thing and is subject to mistakes and all the endless debates that have waged on for years.
We need to start by remembering that we are talking about the canon of Scripture; the God-breathed 66 books of the Bible
Scripture did not just drop from heaven like rain to be gathered up and organized by men.
The nature of the Scripture determines the canon of the Scripture; that is, the canon must be defines in light of what Scripture is.
Since Scripture is God-breathed and given for the purposes that revealed within its own revelation, then vitally important truths must be drawn from these two important truths.
It may seem to be pretty simplistic say this but I believe that it is important to say and that is without the act of inspiration (revelation) there would be no canon.
In this very short introductory thoughts I want to set fourth this thesis; that canon:
Scripture Alone What Is the Canon?

It is known infallibly to God by necessity and to man with a certainty directly related to God’s purpose in giving the Word to the church.

The canon exists because God had inspired SOME writings, not ALL writings.
The canon is known by man in fulfillment of God’s purposes of using inspiration to give to man a light unto their feet.
The Canon, then, has two aspects that we want to consider as we think God’s overall purpose in giving His people the Scriptures.
The first aspect is what I will call from this point on: Canon (1) one.
That is the DIVINE knowledge and understanding of the canon.
The second aspect is what I will call from the point on: Canon (2) two.
And that is the human knowledge and understanding of the Canon.
So with that further information, let’s look at further considerations.
II. Canon’s Determination
Canon is a creation of Revelation (inspiration), and Revelation is the creation of God.
When an author writes a book, a “canon” is automatically created based on the simple consideration that he or she has written at least one book.
But he or she has not written all books that have come into existence.
Therefore, a canon of a single book comes into existence at the completion of that single work.
As the author keeps writing the list of the books of the canon changes.
It must be noted at this point; that even if an author did not write down a list of the the books that they have written, the canon exists nonetheless and is know by the author infallibly.
No one else can know infallibly the canon outside of the authors intent on communicating it to others, for only the author knows what he or she has truly written.
Scripture Alone The Canon as an Artifact of Revelation

Therefore, the originator of a book (or books) has an infallible knowledge of the canon of those works, while anyone else has a mediated knowledge, dependent upon both the honesty and integrity of the author and the author’s desire to make that canon known to others.

When we apply these considerations to Scripture, we are able to see that Canon (1) one (Divine knowledge and understanding of the Canon) is the result of God’s freely chosen act of inspiration.
Once God’s Holy Spirit moved upon the very first author of the Scriptures, Canon (1) one came into existence.
Before anyone else could have possibly know what God had done (Canon (2) Two, human knowledge and understanding of the Canon), God infallibly knew the current state and content of Canon (1) One (Divine knowledge and understanding of Canon).
This is way we say that the canon is the creation of Divine Revelation.
Scripture Alone The Canon as an Artifact of Revelation

It is not itself an object of revelation, but comes into existence as a by-product of the action itself. God inspires, and the canon expresses the limitation of that action.

Note this also.
Canon (1) One exists whether or not Canon (2) Two exists.
What God has written exists infallibly in the mind of God whether or not He chooses to reveal it to anyone.
Theoretically, God could keep Canon (1) one to Himself, leaving mankind in the dark of what is and is not inspired.
Scripture Alone The Canon as an Artifact of Revelation

And even as God leads His people to gain knowledge of canon2, there can be times when the certain knowledge of canon2 lags behind the actual content of canon1. The knowledge of canon2 is dependent upon God’s purposes at any given point in time, and if His intentions include using a human process in the creation of canon2, that process may not result in a clear and widely known canon listing for some time after the giving of that revelation.

Scripture Alone The Canon as an Artifact of Revelation

Once we realize that it is Scripture, not man’s knowledge of the canon, that is inspired, and that canon1 exists perfectly in God’s mind, we can see that the clarity and knowledge of canon2 is dependent not upon human beings, councils, churches, or anything else in this world, but instead upon God’s purposes in giving us the inspired Scriptures in the first place.

Is a clear knowledge of the canon important to the function of the Church?
Scripture Alone The Canon as an Artifact of Revelation

So does it not follow that God will both providentially preserve the Scriptures and lead His people to a functional, sufficient knowledge of the canon so as to fulfill His purpose in inspiring them?

Will God not exercise as much divine power in establishing and fulfilling His purpose for the Scriptures (there function in the Church) as He did in inspiring them?
These two actions are interchangeably linked in fulfilling God’s purpose.
III. Canon’s Destination
In the providence of God, the very form of having the Church by Elders and preachers and teachers of the Word would requires it to have access to this God-breathed source of authority, the Scriptures.
The Divine power to make preserve and make known the Scriptures is equal to the Divine power in forming and building the Church itself.
What good would it do to build a ship without a rudder; and by the same token what good would it do to attempt building the Church without a inspired source to build it.
Providing clear information regarding canon (2) Two is part of the fulfillment of God’s purpose for the very structure of the Church.
Isaiah 55:9–11 AV
For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.
Scripture Alone God’s Promises regarding Scripture and the Church

It is part of the very nature of God’s Word to be unfailing, utterly trustworthy and reliable, always successful in accomplishing His purpose. Scripture, therefore, has a purpose that God will ensure it fulfills.

And the only way that we can be sure that God’s purpose will be accomplished is that God has made Canon (2) Two known to Hid Church.
Romans 15:4 AV
For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
1 Timothy 4:16 AV
Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.
Scripture Alone God’s Promises regarding Scripture and the Church

Hence, Paul explicitly teaches that the divine purpose in the writing of Scripture included the future instruction and teaching of believers in the church, resulting in their being encouraged so that they might have hope

Scripture Alone The Canon and the Church

The foundation of the certainty of our knowledge of the canon is based upon God’s purposes in giving Scripture, not upon the alleged authority of any ecclesiastical body

Scripture Alone The Canon and the Church

The canon’s certainty is found in its author and in the outworking of His purposes for Scripture itself! God’s sovereign power stands behind the revealing of canon2 over time through the work of His Spirit, which led to a nearly unanimous view of the New Testament canon.14

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