Why Not Use The Apocrypha?

Burning Question:  Why is it that we have the specific 66 books of the Old and New Testaments, but ignore the Apocrypha and other “gospels” and “epistles”?

For those who come from a Catholic background, there is often greater familiarity with the Apocrypha than for those from a Protestant background.  What exactly is the Apocrypha?  In a simple explanation, it is a collection of books written by men but without the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  Some of the books contain doctrinal and historical inconsistencies and others are outright heretical in their content.  Though the Roman Catholic church includes the Apocrypha as part of Scripture, the Protestant church does not.

In the Catholic church, some of the more aberrant theological positions that are found nowhere in the Old or New Testaments (prayers for the dead, justification by faith plus works, etc.) are supported by the Apocrypha.  However, the books of the Apocrypha should not be considered as part of inspired Scripture.  According to notable theologian Wayne Grudem in his book Systematic Theology (p. 59), this is so for the following reasons:

1)  The books of the Apocrypha do not claim for themselves the same kind of authority as the Old Testament writings;

2)  The books of the Apocrypha were not believed to be God’s Word by the Jewish people from whom they originated;

3)  The books of the Apocrypha were not considered to be God’s Word by Jesus or the New Testament authors;

4)  The books of the Apocrypha contain teachings  that are inconsistent with the rest of Scripture.

In addition to the Apocrypha, we sometimes hear of other books claiming to be considered God’s Word.  Sometimes these are presented as the “lost” books of the Bible or the “other” books of Scripture.  We must keep in mind that the canon of Scripture is closed.  We can have complete confidence that the 39 books which comprise the Old Testament and the 27 books which comprise the New Testament are the only books rightly considered to be “God’s Word”.

Interestingly, the Bible supports itself internally as God’s Word.  In 2 Timothy 3:16, the Greek word “graphe” is translated for us as “Scripture”.  Each time this Greek word is used in the New Testament (over 50 times), it refers to the Old Testament writings.  So Paul is saying in this verse that the Old Testament is God-breathed, or inspired by God, and this inspiration did not include the writings of the Apocrypha.  Obviously, we can also see this passage as supportive of the New Testament, as well.

Concerning the New Testament, 2 Peter 3:15-16 affirms the inspiration of the New Testament as Peter equates Paul’s letters with God’s Word.  1 Timothy 5:18 also affirms the inspiration of the New Testament books as Paul affirms Jesus’ words with Scripture.  The Old Testament prophets often recorded or spoke “the word of the Lord”.  Again, in each of these instances, the writings of the Apocrypha were not included but only that which we consider to be the 66 books of Scripture.

Do not be led astray when new voices today claim new inspiration on level with Scripture.  Whether a counter-Christian cult group that embraces “another” book of authority outside of the Bible, a popular preacher claiming a “new” word from God, or a New York Times bestseller that puts outside writings on level with Scripture, remember that we only have one Word of God.  Thankfully, well translated and presented in 66 books written by over 40 human authors across a span of approximately 1500 years, inspired by the One, True God with the overarching theme of salvation through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ alone.

So what are you waiting for . . . go read it today!

Advertisements

Voices and Hands

MercyMe

MercyMe (Photo credit: susieq3c)

Burning Question:  Why is the church so quiet and no acknowledging of God’s Word with “Amens” and raising of hands?”

As a collection of individuals who have their faith in and surrender to Christ as their common bond, every local church has its own personality.  Usually, this personality is experienced pretty quickly by those who visit.  Some churches are very warm and hospitable while others are  . . . ahem, a bit cooler, for example!  Wrapped up in a church’s personality is also what could be called a “style of worship”.  Not so much style as it relates to music selection, but rather how a church expresses worship to God.

You may have worshipped with churches that were very expressive in worship and engaged in an almost ongoing conversation with the speaker or pastor throughout the message.  I remember my first experience with this in a small church where I served on staff years ago.  One man in particular, who had such a genuine passion for Christ, was not at all shy about voicing his approval when the pastor made a strong statement worthy of consideration.  You have to be careful here, though, because pastors have a tendency to speak longer when there are a lot of affirmations from those listening . . . kind of like “sic ’em” to a bulldog, if you know what I mean!

Actually, there is some biblical evidence of this kind of thing in the Bible.  Nehemiah 8:6 speaks of how the people lifted their hands and proclaimed “Amen, Amen!” in response to Ezra’s reading of God’s Word.  And this was a little over 400 years before the New Testament church was implemented.

So why not more affirmations and hands raised in church today?  It may have a lot to do with the personality and  worship style of that church family.  It may have something to do with the individuals actually in the worship service and whether they are close to or far from God, whether they are engaged or distracted, whether or not they are still captivated by the incredible-ness (yes, incredible-ness!) of the Gospel and the mere fact that God has adopted them as His own.

Probably any pastor or speaker would say that it is a real encouragement to hear and see people engaged as they hear God’s Word proclaimed, but it is not an absolute necessity.  We have to remember that God is not impressed with any outward expression of our worship.  He always has and still today looks at the heart.  What matters most is that the heart is engaged authentically as one worships God and responds to the proclaiming of His Word.