“The necessity we feel to bring this truth to our fellow believers, I believe, is from the unction of the Holy Spirit Himself. To show that the “TRUTH” is the only thing that is infallible… To make anything else infallible is Idolatry” – Wayburn Paul Walls
There are three rudimentary questions we need to address. What are the “scriptures”? What are the “epistles”? What is the “Word of God”?
The scriptures are the writings of the Old Testament prophets. The epistles are the apostle’s letters to the church. And the Word of God is the living, breathing, spoken word of truth wherever it is uttered throughout creation. More specifically, the Word of God is the way, the truth and the life – Jesus Christ.
What many modern Pastors and Priests fail to teach their congregations when preaching from books such as 2 Peter 1:20 and 2 Timothy 2:15 is that the New Testament as we know it today did not yet exist at the time the apostles penned their words to paper. It is often said that a little common sense can go a long way. Here is common sense. The New Testament would obviously not have been compiled and published in mass until hundreds of years after the apostles had written their letters to the church. When the apostles wrote about “scripture” and “prophecy”, they were always and in every instance referring to specific passages recorded by the Old Testament prophets, and not their own epistles.
When Peter wrote his letters, he mentioned the apostles were given “a more sure word of prophecy” (2 Peter 1:19) before reminding the church that “no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation” (v.20). This passage concerning “the scripture” and the “more sure word of prophecy” was never referring to the New Testament as we know it today. It was referring to the prophecies written about Christ which are recorded in the various books of the Old Testament. This word “private” (2398; idios) in 2 Peter 1 indicates “pertaining to self”, or “one’s own” understanding. Peter is not referring to himself, nor to Paul, nor to the other apostles. He is in fact referring to the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies recorded by the Old Testament prophets. A fulfillment they had witnessed come to pass with their own eyes (2 Peter 1:16).
In Paul’s second letter to Timothy, Paul reminds Timothy that he should “study to show thyself approved unto God” (2 Timothy 2:15). But what exactly is Timothy supposed to be studying if the “New Testament” as we know it today had not yet been written? This is a very important question. We can know of course, Paul was referring to “the Old Testament”. These were the only “scriptures” available to them at that time. He also mentions “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:” (2 Timothy 3:16). Once again, Paul is not referring to his own letters to the church, or in this case, his second letter to Timothy as “all scripture”. He is referring to what they knew at that time as the “scriptures”, which in its interpretation is known to us here in the 21st century as, “the Old Testament”. These are the scriptures which prophesied about Christ fulfilling the law and the divine responsibilities of his role as the Messiah. Remember, what we know today as “the scriptures” (the New Testament), had not yet been written!
We must understand; context is of the upmost importance when trying to decipher modern church doctrine.
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Overall, there are essentially two defining characteristics of each of Paul’s epistles. The first is how he would articulate the commands of Jesus, proving with scripture how Jesus fulfillment of scriptures (often in a very poetic and laborious manner). The second characteristic being the chastisement and correction of the many false teachers rising up in the church.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:27, for instance, Paul commands them to read his epistle to the congregations.
“I charge you by the Lord, that this epistle be read unto all the holy brethren” (1 Thessalonians 5:27).
Why did Paul want this particular epistle read specifically to the congregation at Thessalonica? No question, it is because that congregation had been drifting away from the truth in very specific ways in which Paul having been led by the spirit felt needed correcting. It is the same way in all his letters.
Paul’s command to avoid false teachers is made clean in every epistle he wrote. Once again reverberating Christ’s commandment to avoid false teachers who use the name of the Lord in vain (Matthew 24:5).
“Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us.” (2 Thessalonians 3:6)
And what was this “tradition” the church received from the apostles? Reading the first few chapters in the book of Acts, we understand their devout Christian charity as the most highly regarded tradition.
“With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; 3Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:2-3)
“Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. 3For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears” (2 Timothy 4:2-3)
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For Peter however, the commandments were much more succinct on a broader level, whereas Paul often delves deep into lengthy explanations. He commanded they remember the truth and not listen to false teachers. This is a continuous theme throughout Peter’s two epistles. In addition to the central theme of all the epistles (that being, Jesus fulfilled the scriptures), the apostles issued commandments that were identical to Jesus Christ’s commandments. For instance, John’s commandment was precisely that of Jesus Christ.
“And now I beseech thee, lady, not as though I wrote a new commandment unto thee, but that which we had from the beginning, that we love one another.” (2 John 1:5; emphasis in bold mine throughout this chapter)
The apostles were not creating “new doctrine” or “new commandments”. They were following the teachings of Christ, and proving with scripture that Jesus fulfilled the scriptures! As we all know, Jesus’ greatest commandment was to love one another (Matthew 22:36-40).
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