“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
“The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.”
Here are the first and last verses of the Bible, the literary alpha and omega of the written Word of God. There is a lot of ground covered between these two verses: some historical, some poetic, some prophetic and some advisory. But what ties it all together is that the Scriptures reveal to us God’s plan to redeem us and save us from the fall into sin that happened in the Garden. The heart of the entire Bible is our Savior, Jesus Christ, and the blood-bought salvation that He offers to us all.
I hear people frequently questioning how the canon of Scripture was agreed upon; some argue the process was arbitrary and some argue that some writings were not included that should have been. I don’t plan on recounting that continual debate. I boil it down to this: God was certainly in charge of the councils that set the canon of Scripture through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and between Genesis 1:1 and Revelation 22:21 is everything that we need to know and understand about God and our relationship to Him through Jesus Christ.
Some ask why the Bible stops where it does, and my answer is that it is complete as is. The Bible starts with the most basic of information – that God created the universe and us – and ends with the arrival of the New Jerusalem and the beginning of God’s eternal reign among us. In between everything we need to know is revealed and the benchmark for spiritual truth is set. So in a sense, Scripture is a progressive revelation, from the general to the very precise, exactly as God wanted it to be.
But there are many people out there who try to claim the Scriptures are just the beginning and that the revelation should continue, and this is a very false notion. From the gnostics of the First Century to modern cults such as the Church of Almighty God/Eastern Lightning, many have presented their literature as the Word of God in support of their false teachings; the Quran of Islam is presented as further revelation from God despite the fact that it strays from Biblical truth. Be sure that once John wrote down the Revelation he received on the isle of Patmos near the end of the First Century the message that God wanted us to receive was complete. No further additions were needed; as they say in court, God rested His case and nothing further was necessary.
I will never try to claim that all that has been written in the last 2,000 years is of no value; quite the opposite is true. Starting at the end of the Apostolic Age and continuing into our day, many people have written many valuable things as the Spirit led them, and many Christians through the centuries have found comfort and inspiration in the writings of those who have gone before us or who still write. I have found much of great value in the writings of Christians from Ignatius of Antioch to Augustine, to Teresa of Avila, to the Reformers, through John Bunyan to Charles Spurgeon, C. S. Lewis, Walter Martin, Charles Stanley and John Piper… I could go on but I’m sure you get my point.
But should the writings of even the most inspired Christians be seen as of the same staure as Scripture? No, they should not. Scripture is Scripture and it stands complete. But all the Christian literature of the last 20 centuries should be valued by it’s truthfulness when compared to Scripture, and this is where we as believers and readers need to exercise discernment. Paul said to test everything and I take that to heart; everything I read I weigh against the truth of Scripture. Does that mean I throw out everything that is not 100% in line with the Bible? No, for if I did I would be left with only cereal boxes to read. I have found much that inspires me and encourages me in writers from many different groups, but I do stay away from the works of those who deny the divine nature of Christ or who teach “a different Jesus”.
So when you run across someone trying to tell you that the writings of their group’s founders are further revelation from God on a par with Scripture, or worse, intended to replace the teachings of Scripture, don’t be deceived. Everything we need to know about God and our salvation lies between Genesis and Revelation, and if nothing else in 2,000 years had been written, we would still have everything we need on those pages.
Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord Jesus Christ.