Mitch,…Basically, if we doubt for very good reasons, the doctrinal understandings and the doctrinal statements made around the time of the Council of Nicea and subsequent councils in history, what gives us the confidence to trust what we now have as the “canon” of scripture which they defined?…
I have wanted to write back to you sooner, but I needed time to research the many different issues you have raised. It is good to research and seek out the truth, which is a challenging process that takes a lot of time. The Lord will lead you to the truth in his good time. You are in my prayers, that the Lord would grant you wisdom and eyes to see.
Let’s start with the foundation of the scriptures, because if we cannot agree upon what is God’s word then it is impossible rightfully divide it.
Here is a link to some studies on the Canon of the Old and New Testament. I do not agree with the doctrine of the man who did these studies, but he does a pretty good job of laying out the history of how we got the bible that we have today. The role of the counsels is over emphasized. The apostles knew exactly what was scripture before any of the counsels ever took place. Here are a few examples of how we can know this.
Peter refers to Paul’s writings as Scripture:
2Pe 3:16 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.
This second part of the verse below, “the laborer is worth of his reward”, is a quote from the book of Luke calling it scripture.
1Ti 5:18 For the scripture saith, Thou shalt not muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn. And, The labourer is worthy of his reward (G3408).
Luk 10:7 And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give: for the labourer is worthy of his hire (G3408). Go not from house to house.
There are a number of examples of the Apostles quoting one another in their writings.
Here is an example in 2 Peter 2:12.
2Pe 2:12 But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption;
Jud 1:10 But these speak evil of those things which they know not: but what they know naturally, as brute beasts, in those things they corrupt themselves.
God caused the counsels to agree upon the 66 books of the bible, which is merely a public acknowledgment of what was already known among the followers of Christ.
God’s plan all along has been to give us his words so we can learn his truth through the sum of the Word. This is why the apostle Paul gives us the following admonition.
1Co 4:6 And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another.
Here is another way of saying, not going above what is written. There is nothing written in the New Testament that was not written in the Old. The New is just used to help us see what was hidden behind the letters of the Old Testament for all of these years.
Act 26:22 Having therefore obtained help of God, I continue unto this day, witnessing both to small and great, saying none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come
Luk 24:44 And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.
Luk 24:45 Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures
How can we not go above what is written if we do not know what is considered scripture? In giving this admonition to the Corinthians Paul is making it clear that there is agreed upon scripture at that time.
When you read the books that some people think should be considered scripture, there is a characteristic of those books that makes is clear they do not belong in the scriptures. We first need to establish that it is the SUM of God’s word that reveals the truth. This always involved at least 2 scriptures and prohibits one scripture from explaining itself.
(Psa 119:160 CLV) The sum of Your word is truth, And all of Your righteous ordinances are eonian.”
Mat 18:16 But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.
(2Pe 1:20 CLV) knowing this first, that no prophecy of scripture at all is becoming its own explanation.”
These other supposed book of the bible to not fit into the sum of God’s words and lack a second witness.
You also mentioned that God is continually revealing his truth more as time progresses. Yes, it is true that we understand his words more deeply as time passes and we build upon the understanding of those that have come before us. However, God’s word does not change.
The New Testament apostles are the equivalent of the Old Testament prophets. People in the Old Testament knew when a prophet was among them because God confirmed their authority through predictions of the future and signs and wonders. Christ, and his apostles all performed miracles to confirm their authority to deliver God’s words.
It was known in all of Israel that after Malachi there were no more prophets until John the Baptist came to make the way for Christ. The Jews today do not acknowledge that Christ was the messiah, but they certainly understood that there was a lack of prophets after Malachi.
There are no more prophets like the Apostles to come because all of the Old Testament has been fulfilled and explained to us. The Book of Revelation is the conclusion of the written words of God.
Rev 22:18 For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book:
Rev 22:19 And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.
The Old testament is all building up to the coming of the Messiah, and once Christ came the prophecies were fulfilled. Now we are following in Christ’s footsteps and being perfected as he was perfected.
1Jn 4:17 Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.
Col 1:25 Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God
We are fulfilling the word of God by doing what Christ did in this life. We are learning obedience just like he did.
Heb 5:8 Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered
So C____, the purpose of our life now in this age is to learn obedience and fulfill the scriptures just as Christ did.
Regarding the Third Heavens, there is a great study Mike Vinson did on this topic. The first heaven is the uncalled world, the second heaven is the orthodox church, and the third heaven is the revelation of the truth to God’s elect in this life now.
God has caused a temptation to keep adding books to the scriptures, and gives Soloman these words of wisdom that we may overcome that temptation.
Ecc 12:12 And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh.
Ecc 12:13 Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man.
There is so much more that could have been written, but the 66 books we have today are sufficient to reveal God’s truth to us.
Joh 21:25 And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.
I think we need to stop at this point and see if we can agree upon what is scripture, before we spend any more time discerning what is says.
I look forward to hearing from you,