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New Testament Attacks


    Key Passages:

    John 14:26; Hebrews 1:1-4

    What You Will Learn

    • Why we can trust that the New Testament is reliable.
    • How to identify false gospels based on their features

    Memory Verse:

    John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

    Spiritual Background

    In previous lessons we have talked about how we can trust the New Testament and the four Gospels in particular. Having a firm grasp on the inspiration of the Scriptures is a very important part of our faith in God. What we know about God is primarily through what He has chosen to reveal about Himself in the Bible. In Hebrews 1:1-4 we read:

    God, who had various times in various ways spoke in times past to the fathers by the profits, as in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become so much better than the angels, as He has been here it is obtained a more excellent name than they.

    The revelation of Jesus Christ in the New Testament is all that God has given to us. We need to trust that revelation or we really cannot know who Christ is and what he has done for us. As discussed previously,  Jesus promised the apostles that "the helper the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, He will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you" ( John 14:26). The events recorded in the Gospels were written down under the direction of the Holy Spirit, not merely from the fallible memories of those who experienced those things.

    This point is obvious when we consider the events surrounding the trial of Jesus before Pilate. In Matthew 27 we see details of what occurred "behind the scenes" on the day of the Crucifixion. In verse 19, we learn the Pilate's wife sent a note to him about a dream she had. Matthew had no access to Pilate's court, so the only way we can know about the snow and his contact is through the omniscient Holy Spirit revealing those things to Matthew as he wrote the inspired original autograph of his Gospel. Likewise, we often "hear" the thoughts of people when Jesus interacts with the Pharisees and others (e. g., Matthew 9:1-8). To accept these things, we must acknowledge the divine guidance of the Holy Spirit in revealing these things to the writers. Because God cannot lie (Titus 1:2) and the Holy Spirit is God, what is revealed by the Spirit is truth

    Another very important aspect of trusting the New Testament relates to how we live our lives. Beyond the Gospels, the New Testament contains many doctrinal truths that we use as a guide in our daily lives. And his epistles, Paul offers some very practical applications of doctrines as he seeks to guide the Saints in Corinth, Ephesus, Colossae, and other places. His guidance for them gives us an anchor for living a life that is pleasing to God. But what if Paul didn't write those things? Or what if Paul was just giving his opinion on those issues? Paul relates his authority as an apostle many times, so we can trust that what he tells us is authoritative and from the Lord.

    These and other claims made by many people who want to square that the New Testament or false. As we had knowledge the doctrines of the inspiration, inerrancy, sufficiency, and authority of Scripture, we set our feet firmly on the truth of God's Word. If we look to any other source, we have a foundation of sinking sand. If God has been pleased to release truth through the apostles and others nearly 2,000 years ago, we can be sure that he has providentially preserved it for us today we can trust the New Testament, and the attacks against it will continue to fail because God is faithful.

    Historical/Apologetics Background

    As people have attacked the New Testament through the millennia, there have been many different motives and tactics. Some of the earliest attacks came as false teachers tried to edit out certain portions of the Gospel. For example, in the second century Marcion insisted that his edited version of Luke and ten of Paul's epistles were the only authoritative writings, but he was announced as a heretic for that and other theological reason. Others later begin writing false gospel is an attempted to pass them off as parallel accounts of the life of Jesus.

    These false readings, or pseudepigrapha, or threats to the pure doctrine that had been recorded through the apostles of Jesus and represented a false authority. Another major influence came from the Gnostics who claim to have special knowledge about God. (The Greek word "gnosis" means "to know." Our word "agnostic" means that you don't know or can't know about something especially in reference to the things of God.) Some of these Gnostic distortions appeared in the form of letters that claimed to be from the apostles and "gospels" that filled in the gaps of the true Gospel accounts. As you can imagine, the writings that were not inspired by the Holy Spirit contain clear contradictions, inaccuracies, and some truly fanciful claims about Jesus.

    All of these false writings an attempt to overthrow the pure doctor in with "missing" knowledge or knowledge obtained in special ways were attacks on the good news of Jesus Christ. The early church had to guard against these false ideas so that these corrupt teachings did not lead the flock of God astray to another gospel or another Jesus (Galatians 1:6 to 10). As the true writings were circulated among the churches and those writings were collected, there was general agreement as to those writings that were authoritative. To our regret, the early church didn't keep list of the books they looked to their canon. We have partial lists like the Muratorian Canon list which show us that the core of the New Testament was recognized and affirmed as early as a second century A.D. Contrary to the claims of many skeptics, the Bible was not written or assembled at the Council of Nicaea and A.D. 325. Additionally, the New Testament quotes preserved in the writings of the early Church Fathers the (Ante-Nicene Fathers) showed that they viewed as authoritative scripture.

    Throughout the history of the church, there were other attempts to discredit and silence the teachings of the New Testament. During certain periods, the Roman Catholic Church, which controlled most of Europe politically and religiously, forbid the reading and translation of the Bible in the languages of the people. During the Reformation, the Bible was translated into German and English outside the false authority of Rome and there were attempts, ultimately in vain, to destroy those Bibles. Men like Luther, Wycliffe, and Tyndale faced much peril to put God's word into the hands of His people.

    Later, the attacks came from intellectual liberals who sought to overthrow the authority of scripture by discrediting the transmission of the text and turning much of the scripture into allegory rather than historical truth. Using rationalism and an anti-supernatural bias, these critics, many working from Germany, suggested the Gospels weren't really written by the apostles. Some extracted the miracles and even the existence of Jesus historical figure, let alone the Son of God. 

    Throughout all of these attacks, a faithful remnant has guarded the treasure found in the Word of God-the 66 books of the Bible. The message of the hope found in the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ remains intact. Through God's providence in protecting His revelation to us and the faithful work of many through the centuries who have fought to preserve the truth, we have an absolutely reliable copy of the writings originally inspired by the Holy Spirit. You can trust the writings we have today and the message written in them.