In a series of posts we have considered the question, “Is there is a doctrine of preservation of the written Scriptures taught in the Bible?” Not just, “Have the Scriptures been preserved,” but “Is there is a doctrine of preservation.” The answer to this question hinges on what the Scriptures teach, but we first considered some related matters. Though some wish to frame it so, the doctrine of preservation is not just a King James Bible debate. A belief in the doctrine of preservation is not limited to KJO, KJ-Preferred, MT or TR advocates. The historical record of this belief is sporadic or intermittent, but reveals early church fathers who believed they had and referred to inspired writings. Some confessions of faith address the matter, as well as individual Christian writers. The Bible teaches by statement, implication and necessary consequence that God has undertaken to preserve the Scriptures he inspired. The history and future of the churches of Jesus Christ, as a spiritual entity, depends on the word of God.
God promised he would make his words generally available to future believers (Cf. Deuteronomy 29:29). We know the words that proceed from God because they are written and preserved (Cf. Matthew 4:4). The churches of Jesus Christ received the words of Jesus and were built upon them (Cf. Matthew 16:16-18; John 17:8; Ephesians 2:20), in turn becoming a pillar and ground of that truth, guarding and keeping the words entrusted (e.g. 1 Corinthians 15:1-4; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Timothy 6:20-21).[i]
“In practical terms this [Ephesians 2:20] means that the church is built on the New Testament Scriptures. They are the church’s foundation documents. And just as a foundation cannot be tampered with once it has been laid and the superstructure is being built upon it, so the New Testament foundation of the church is inviolable and cannot be changed by any additions, subtractions or modifications offered by teachers who claim to be apostles or prophets today. The church stands or falls by its loyal dependence on the foundation truths which God revealed to his apostles and prophets, and which are now preserved in the New Testament Scriptures.” – The Message of Ephesians, John R. W. Stott, (The Bible Speaks Today series) Downers Grove, IL: Inter Varsity Press, 1989, p. 107
2 Timothy 3:15-17 “And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. 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, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” God gave the Scriptures by inspiration. The first under consideration is the Old Testament, then “all scripture.” Timothy did not have the original documents of the Old Testament, but was reading copies of them – which Paul had no problem calling the Holy Scriptures. All scripture, the Old Testament already concluded and the New Testament still being written, stands as the source of everything we need for faith and practice. If these have not been preserved in some fashion, we have not what we need for faith and practice. If the churches are to teach all things Christ commanded during the time he would always be with them, then they must have access to these teachings. We must, and we believe we do! (Matthew 28:18-20 “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”
The truth in Jesus Christ makes us free, and it is mediated to us through the Scriptures:
“Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” (John 8:31-32)[ii] May we know the truth!
[i] “…Jesus ordained the apostles to build the foundation of the church (Ephesians 2:20). What is the foundation of the church that the apostles built? The New Testament – the record of the deeds and teachings of the apostles. The church does not need apostolic successors. The church needs the teachings of the apostles accurately recorded and preserved. And that is exactly what God has provided in His Word (Ephesians 1:13; Colossians 1:5; 2 Timothy 2:15; 4:2).” – Is apostolic succession biblical? - Got Questions?
[ii] The assertions about knowing God and truth through the Scriptures must be understood in the light of the fact that the Holy Spirit is the instructor in the truth.
[iii] Miscellaneous notes: Peter’s second epistle was written in order that we “may be mindful of the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of us the apostles of the Lord and Saviour.” These words were written and preserved to us that we may obey this commandment (2 Peter 3:2). Paul’s writings are called “scripture” in the New Testament, by Peter (2 Peter 3:15-16).