How was the Word of God compiled?
Men did not originate God’s Word, but spoke as moved by the Holy Spirit (2Pe. 1:21). Beyond their own understanding (1Pe. 1:10, 11), men recorded the exact words that God breathed out (2Ti. 3:16). What was written, although bearing the marks of the writers’ experiences, abilities, and personality, was in accord with the Word, “forever settled in heaven” (Psa. 119: 89). There seems to be no reason to limit the “volume of the Book” in the Lord’s first words in incarnation (Heb. 10:7) to the Old Testament. All the contents of the Bible were predetermined before their writing.
The same God who desired to communicate His Word and inspired men to write it is able to compile the sacred writings and preserve them. The way by which the Old Testament was compiled is not clear, but the Lord Jesus gives the divine imprimatur to the books recognized at that time. He said, “The Scriptures cannot be broken” (John 10:35). He defined the Scriptures that therefore must be fulfilled as the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms (Luke 24:44). Although the order of the Old Testament books recognized at that time was different from the order in our Old Testament, that three-fold division, law, prophets, Psalms, included the 39 books we recognize today. Their inherent spiritual weight, reliability, authority, life-transforming power, and internal and combined consistency marked those books as God’s Word. The Lord Jesus affirmed God’s superintendence in compiling the Old Testament. The same is true of the New Testament, although that is more easily traced historically.
Who decided the books that make up the Bible?
Some “Church councils” have served some important and beneficial ends. Constantine convened the first official council at Nice in 325, but that council was to decide its issues by the Scriptures. The council did not decide the Canon (the books recognized as the authoritative rule for Christian living – the inspired books). It was to act on what was already recognized as the Christian Scriptures. Church councils did not decide the Canon. Long before 325, post-apostolic Christian writers referred to various writings as the Scriptures; in total, they referred to the 27 New Testament books we recognize today. Those men didn’t make them canonical, but recognized that they were part of the Canon.
In the New Testament itself are instances where writers recognize other current writings as Scriptures. Paul in 1 Timothy 5:18 Paul treats Deuteronomy 25:4 and Luke 10:7 equally as Scripture. Peter places all of Paul’s epistles on a par with “the other Scriptures” (2Pe. 3:16). The Spirit by inspiration is beginning to make the NT Canon clear. Those who were born of God recognized the authority and quality of the inspired writings.
How do we know that we have God’s full revelation to us?
Hebrews 1:1-2 informs us that God’s revelation through various instruments and in varying parts has been fulfilled and finalized in the coming of His Son.
If anything further remains to be written, it must stem from His personal teachings and must have his personal authority. Before going back to heaven, the Lord previews the Spirit-inspired writing of the gospels – and Acts, their sequel (John 14:26), the epistles which amplify His teachings (16:13a), and the Revelation (16:13b). Significantly, this final book includes a curse on anyone who adds to that book (Rev. 22:18).
Although not all agree with this interpretation, Paul clearly states that the gifts of knowledge and prophecy will become outdated by the coming of “that which is perfect,” or complete (1Co. 13:9, 10). The gifts of the New Testament apostles and prophets (12:8-10a, including “discerning of spirits” and 28) were initial and were unnecessary when the writing of the Word of God had been completed.
In contrast to the existing 66 books of the Bible, recognized as canonical within the first century of their writing, the apocryphal books affixed to the Old Testament were added by the Council of Trent in 1545. Their addition was part of an attempt to combat the Protestant emphasis on the teaching of God’s Word. Other attempts to add to the Scriptures are equally distinct from the inspired volume.
Is it possible for a person to get a fresh revelation from the Lord today?
We need fresh illumination of what has already been written. The Spirit of God illuminates a submissive believer through the completed Word of God (1Co. 2:13). However, both the gift of prophecy and inspired revelations ended with the death of the apostle John (see above).
Joel’s prophecy (2:28-31) indicates that the prophetic gift will again function after the Rapture and before the Lord’s return to earth. Daniel 12:4 refers to this unsealing of knowledge as individuals search the Scriptures. These tribulation prophets, the same as all the New Testament prophets, will not reveal new truth as Old Testaments prophets did but will have authority to interpret and apply existing Scriptures to their present circumstances.
God has been fully revealed in His Son, the living Word, and in His Scriptures, the written Word. The two are inseparable.