THE HOLY BIBLE
The New Covenant Position
The Holy Bible is the revelation of God to mankind in written form and is the most important source of knowledge that we have about Him. Whilst nature can reveal that God exists we cannot come to directly know God through nature, anymore than a person can come to "know" an artist through his paintings. The Bible is the permanent and enduring witness that has come down to us through the ages and will always be there for men and women to read.
The Bible informs us that "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning" (John 1:1-2, Jewish New Testament - JNT).
The "Word" (Gk. logos, Aram. memra, Heb. davar) was a term used for centuries in Israel both before and after Jesus to describe God's expression of Himself. Translated literally, John says: "In the beginning was the Ultimate Reality" And who was the ultimate reality? The Messiah, Jesus Christ, who was both with God and who is God.
Later John goes on to say: "The Word became a human being and lived with us" (v.14) or, to use more conventional terminology, "The Word became flesh." This does not mean, as New Agers maintain, that Jesus of Nazareth one day decided, or realised, that He was God. Rather, the Word who "was with God" and "was God" "gave up the glory [He] had with [the Father] before the world existed" (17:5) and "emptied Himself, in that He took the form of a slave by becoming like human beings are" (Phil.2:7, JNT). In other words, God sent "His own Son as a human being with a nature like our own.." (Rom.8:3, JNT), so that "in every respect He was tempted just as we are, the only difference being that He did not sin" (Heb.4:15, JNT). It was God, the Word, then, who decided to become man, not the other way round.
To the Greeks, logos meant both the spoken and the unspoken word -- the word still in the mind, or the reason. When they applied it to the universe, they meant the rational principle that governs all things. Jews, on the other hand, used it as a way of referring to God. John's use of this term was thus intended to be understood both ways and comprehended by both Greeks and Jews.
The Word -- the Divine Mind, Reason, Intelligence, Purpose, or Reality -- is God, and has always existed, but had a special and separate identity in the pre-existent Son. This pre-existent Son, who was a spirit, then incarnated as the baby Jesus Christ by entering a human body. As a result, The Word of God -- His intelligence, purpose, reality, etc. -- entered into our time and space as a special revelation of God. Thus Jesus could say to Philip, "Anyone who has seen Me has seen the Father" (Jn.14:9, NIV) and to a crowd, "I have not spoken on My own initiative; but the Father who sent Me has given Me a command, namely, what to say and how to say it" (Jn.12:49, JNT). Thus everything Jesus said in His mortal ministry was the Word of God the Father.
God created the universe through the Son by the power of His Word (Col.1:16; Heb.1:2; Ps.19:1). The created order is not, however, the Word, but an expression of the Word.
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is The incarnate Word. This is the highest sense of the word, logos. Jesus is The Word of God -- His whole being, His whole ultimate reality.
In a secondary though no less important sense for us human beings, everything Jesus spoke (whether recorded or not) is also the Word of God. This spoken and written Word is not The Word (in the final, ultimate, sense) but an expression of the Ultimate in speech.
By the same token, all those who are moved by God's Holy Spirit to speak, speak the Word of God in a secondary sense too. Thus the writings of the prophets and the apostles are also the Word of God.
New Covenant Christians are therefore very careful to make a distinction between The Word (Jesus Christ) and the Word (the spoken or written Word of God given though Christ or His servants).
It is not uncommon in Christian circles to hear the Bible described as the Word of God and made equal to The Word of God (Jesus Christ). The two are often confused, which can lead to idolatry. Whilst the two are inextricably and forever interrelated they are not one and the same. Salvation is through The Word (Jesus Christ) and through Him alone -- salvation is not through the Word (the Bible). Rather, the Bible is the written Word pointing us to The Word (Christ) through whom we receive our salvation.
Technically, then, it is possible to be saved without ever seeing or reading a Bible, provided there are preachers and teachers who are themselves incarnations of the spoken and written Word of God. We are apt sometimes to forget that the first Christians had no New Testament and that written Gospels and Epistles did not become available for reading until sometime later. Our present Bible canon took three centuries to arrive at its present form.
By the grace of God we have, however, received a reliable written source of God's Word, the Bible. It is the primary -- the most important -- text of all true Christians against which every other teaching or scripture must measure up to and harmonise with. We may therefore say to anyone searching after the truth that the Bible is reliable and may therefore rightly claim to be the Word of God, reliable in areas of doctrine, ethics and practice. Anything that contradicts it is therefore NOT the Word of God.
The Bible is authoritative. It is the rule of faith and conduct of every Christian. We are to accept whatever it teaches and practice whatever it commands us. If a teaching or practice is presented which contradicts the Bible, then we reject the teaching and follow the Bible. The Bible is the Christian's Constitution, his Manual of Conduct, and his primary source of Written Truth. But more than that, the Bible claims to have universal authority over men and women everywhere, whether they are Christian or not. It recognises that men and women have the power of "contrary choice" -- they can accept it or reject it. Though the Bible makes unique claims, it does not employ force to make men either accept or conform to its teachings. It does present men with its sanctions, however -- everlasting life and everlasting death. Because it is God's Law Book we ignore it at our peril, for the laws it describes are in force on the spiritual plane, and the penalties or rewards it offers affect us in eternity.
The Bible is the Second Front -- the Reserve Front in the battle lines of life. If a man is too unspiritual and dulled of conscience to respond to the Holy Spirit directly (as is usually the case), he is given a second chance through the written Word. Once confronted with it, it is up to him to choose. If he rejects it finally, then he rejects The Word who gave it. It is a book of life and death.
Inerrant and Infallible?
The claim is often made that the Bible is inerrant and infallible. New Covenant Christians believe that The Word of God is inerrant and infallible because He is God. We also believe that the original Word of God is inerrant and infallible in its entirety. We would not, however, extend the same authority to every translation of the Bible. We therefore believe the Bible to be verbally (word for word) inerrant and infallible if it is translated correctly from the original manuscripts.
There are, however, no original manuscripts, as these were long destroyed as they wore out and were replaced by new copies. But with so many manuscripts available, we can be 98% certain of the accuracy of the New Testaments we have. Having removed "trivial" variations (like the insertion or omission of the article with proper names, etc.) then we have a text which is 99.99% accurate. We may confidently say that the Bible text is reliable.
Greater problems exist in translation and unfortunately there are many modern translations, which are widely used, which are based on only a minority of Bible manuscripts (1%) which recent research suggests are the "throw-aways" of faulty copies or deliberate alterations made by heretical Christian sects like the Gnostics. As this has led to a serious corruption of our popular Bibles, leading to many heretical ideas and forms, the New Covenant Church has gone especially out of its way to correct two faulty modern translations (the NIV and JNT) and to improve the KJV (Authorised King James Version) by comparing them carefully against the majority (99%) manuscripts.
An Open Canon
Whilst New Covenant Christians acknowledge the final authority of the Bible it does not go so far as to say that it is God's only written word, as this not only does violence to the meaning of Logos but does not square with the historical process which shows that the Bible collection of books, though individually trustworthy, was somewhat fluid in the early days of the Church. That the (Protestant) Bible has taken on the form it has to become the dominant canon world-wide is the providence of God we do not deny though we would deny that the Bible itself anywhere says that a "Bible" would come into existence that is God's sole written Word to mankind. The arguments used to defend such a position are, at best weak, and at worst, a perversion of what the Bible books actually say.
That the Bible canon might, in some way, be open, rests uncomfortably with most Christians not because they are necessarily opposed to the idea of God saying more but because of a legitimate fear of false, heretical documents finding their way in to confound, confuse and mislead the faithful. The first three centuries of the Church were nightmare enough as numerous false gospels, epistles and apocalypses were sifted and discarded. And in our day many groups (like the Mormons) maintain an "open canon" by admitting texts that do not harmonise with the Bible. Therefore the fear is well justified.
As one minister in the USA once remarked to me: we are not opposed to more scripture in principle; the problem is getting all Christians everywhere to agree. Because such agreement is clearly impossible, New Covenant Christians -- in order not to divide the Body further -- have elected to restrict themselves to the Bible as primary canon. We so possess a secondary canon consisting of many ancient works such as the epistles of the sub-apostolic fathers (Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp) and our own revelations, much as many modern Christians recognise their own prophecies and revelations as a sub-Biblical Word of God (1 Cor.14:26). We have therefore decided to let time be the arbitrator of our own revelations much as time sifted out the false apocryphal New Testament writings from the true.
The Pragmatic Test
One of the evidences for the validity of the Christian faith is the fact that it does what it claims to do. Any religion that makes large scale claims and fails to live up to those claims must be considered unsatisfactory.
God Himself in Scripture employed the pragmatic method, so that men would know they were not deceived or that they were falling for something that was untrue or illicit or fraudulent. Jesus Himself willingly turned to the pragmatic to establish before men the fact that He was what He claimed to be. He said He was the Son of God. And when this statement was questioned, Jesus replied to His critics: "..even though you do not believe Me, believe in the miracles, that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father" (Jn.10:38, NIV). The miracles performed by Jesus were outward confirming signs, pragmatic evidence, that He was indeed the Redeemer.
Everywhere, Scripture invites men to come to Jesus Christ with the promise that when they do they shall have evidences so convincing that they will be satisfied. These evidences consist in two things. The first is the assurance wrought in their hearts that they have been made right with God. The second is the new birth, or regeneration, by which they actually become new creations in Christ Jesus. There is the changed life that proves to the person whose life is changed, and to those outside who see the transformed life, that what the Bible promises it delivers. The modern revelations of the New Covenant, speaking in the shadow of the Bible, promise the same things, with the proof of their veracity in changed lives, fulfilled prophecies, and an abiding Spirit of Peace.
For two thousand years the Church of God has manifested before the eyes of an unbelieving world that Jesus Christ does make a difference. Because of Him, thousands of people have lived noble lives. Tens of thousands of people have willingly suffered martyrdom by burning, by torture, and by the sword. Children and grandchildren have followed the faith of their fathers and continued their witness.
Jesus says in the Bible: "Come unto Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest" (Matt.11:28, NIV). This has proved to be true in millions of lives, and is true today. There is no Christian who is unable to testify that God answers prayer. There is today, as there has been through the ages, the witness of broken bodies that have been healed, and scarred and dirty souls that have been cleansed.
Doubters may spurn this sort of witness and discount the testimony of these millions of people who have found Jesus to be the answer to life's great needs. The Christian answer to every sceptic and critic is this: Try it. You will be convinced, once you have entered into a relationship with Jesus Christ, for it will show you pragmatically that He is no disappointment to those who venture forth in faith. And it is, and has been, the Bible, which makes, and which has made, His offer of a new, free life, known to countless numbers of souls.
The New Covenant Testimony
In New Covenant theology, there are five Words or Logions:
For all New Covenant Christians, the Bible is the Word of God, even if the light is brighter in certain places (like the teachings of Jesus which lead to salvation) than in others (like the lists of military heroes of King David which do not), some being "meaty" and some being "milky" (1 Cor.3:2; Heb.5:12-13; 1 Pet.2:2). Though an ancient text, its principles are timeless.
(1) The Word of God incarnate, Jesus Christ (High Priest of the New Covenant -- Heb 3:1);
(2) The Covenant (either Old or New) Law itself (Dt.33:9; Ps.119; Isa.1:10; Mic.4:2);
(3) The Word of God written in the heart (the New Covenant Law -- Jer.31:33; Heb.8:8; Lk.22:20; 1 Cor.11:25; 2 Cor.3:6; Heb.9:15; 12:24);
(4) The Word of God spoken through the Holy Spirit by apostles, prophets, preachers, etc. (Acts 4:29,31; 13:46; 2 Cor.2:17; Phil.1:14); and
(5) The Word of God written in Scripture -- the Holy Bible (primary), the New Covenant's Sub-canonical Scriptures (secondary), and all inspired writings (tertiary).
Perhaps, now, is the time for you to become acquainted with it and make some really life-changing decisions.
We suggest you obtain a modern translation like the New International Version (NIV) and compare it with the New Covenant Interlinear Bible which shows corrections where translations are faulty or minority manuscripts have been used. We recommend you start by reading the Gospel of John and then work your way through the rest of the New Testament. If you would like to study your Bible systematically, we recommend you obtain the New Covenant's Foundational Studies of the Bible available as a book or as a 23-part series of booklets. q
"Hold out the Word of Life" (Phil.2:16)
The Westcott & Hort Conspiracy: The True Story of Our Modern Bible Translations
This page was created on 13 April 1998
Updated on 13 April 1998
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