The Church and the Bible – L.O. Sanderson

L.O. Sanderson

Recently a radio speaker argued that what many people overlooked was that the Bible did not produce the church, but rather the church produced the Bible. Maybe we have been overlooking this doctrine of man too much. The idea of course is not a new one. It has been written and spoken by Catholic leaders for many years. Really, the doctrine is vital to the continuance of the institution which they foster. If the Bible produced the church, then the church and its members would have to submit to the Bible and its teaching rather than to the church. If the church produced the Bible, then the same church which produced the teaching could alter or revoke its work. Some religious organizations, therefore, which elect to legislate their own regulations, prefer to believe that the church produced the Bible.

The idea that the church produced the Bible, or even the New Testament, in the sense of originating it, which is the only sense in which the idea would be of much value, is not only false and a sect-sponsored doctrine, but it is also a gross misrepresentation of and reflection on the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, as well as the divinity of the Scriptures. If the church existed before the Word, then the church might have, though not necessarily, produced it; but before the church was, the Word existed. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1). But the church was not in existence then. Anything, therefore, that came before, could not be produced by something later.

The church was foreshadowed in the Old Testament, and it was only “at hand” in the days of John and Christ. John was not even in the kingdom (Matt. 11:11). The church was still in the future when Peter confessed that Jesus was the Christ (Matt. 16:18). The kingdom, or church, had not yet appeared when Christ ascended (Acts 1:6). It was, however, in existence at the time of Acts 2:47, for God added to it; and the church at Jerusalem was scattered abroad, according to Acts 8:1. Now, if the church did not exist at the time of Acts 1:6, and did exist at the time of Acts 2:47, then some time in between, the church had its beginning.

According to divine prophecy, Jerusalem was to be the place of beginning, and the Law was to go forth from that city (Isa. 2:2,3; Luke 24:46-49). The Holy Spirit was to come at the time (Acts 1:8) and a special power was to come also (Mark 9:1). All of this was to happen during the lifetime of some who were standing there (Matt. 16:28). In view of these facts, with consideration also that it must needs be between Acts 1:6 and 2:47, there is but one place and time that it could begin—on the first Pentecost after the resurrection of Christ, a record of which we find in Acts 2. That was Jerusalem. The disciples were waiting there until the power came. The Spirit came. The power came. There the Gospel plan of salvation was first preached, right after that the Lord added to the church (verse 47). The church at Jerusalem became the first church—the only church that had the right to be referred to as the first church.

The church at Jerusalem did not produce the Word. The Word produced the church. That was natural, even in the midst of the supernatural events. The seed, the Word of God, was sown and the seed brought forth fruit. After that, God set them in the church (1 Cor. 12:28). Peter, standing up with the eleven and guided by the Holy Spirit, preached the Gospel to all gathered there (Acts 2:14-36), and that as a fulfillment of the Old Testament Scriptures, which had long since been in existence. Those who obeyed the Word (Acts 2:37-39) were added to the church (verse 47). Peter did not produce those words—the Holy Spirit gave utterance to them. The Spirit brought to his remembrance what he had already heard the Lord say. Peter could not be faithful and teach otherwise (Matt. 28:20), and the words of Jesus had been spoken long before the church began. Even Christ, the head of the church, did not speak his own words, but the Will of the Father (John 14:24-26). Peter did not produce his sermon; he reproduced the Will of the Father which came to him through Jesus Christ and the Old Testament Scriptures, and he was kept from error by the Holy Spirit. So the Word confirmed by Peter became the means of establishing the first church, the church at Jerusalem, and every congregation established and every Christian made thereafter was made in exactly the same manner. Some planted, some watered, but God gave the increase (1 Cor. 3:6,7).

The Old Testament, which foretold the establishment of the kingdom of Christ, was a thing of the past when the church began. The church could not have had a part in producing those Scriptures. Every word spoken by Christ had already been uttered when the church was born. The church did not produce the words of Christ. Peter was guided by the Holy Spirit, the administrator of the New Testament, in all that he said and wrote. Paul conferred not with flesh and blood, nor with the other apostles concerning his teaching or writing (Gal. 1:16,17). His message was delivered directly to him (1 Cor. 15:3). And certainly, the church had no part in the production of the words of these men. Luke wrote what “Jesus began both to do and teach” (Acts 1:1), which was done and taught before the church began. John wrote concerning the things which Jesus did in the presence of his disciples, many of which things were not written (John 20:30). Mark wrote the “beginning of the gospel” (Mark 1:1), not the beginning of the church. Thus in no sense did the church produce anything about the divine Will of God.

Yes, individual members of the body of Christ were the instruments Yes, individual members of the body of Christ were the instruments of God by which the Word was made known. God has always used men through whom to speak to people. Moses was the mouthpiece of God in giving the Law. God’s Word produced the Jewish religion in that way. The nation of the Jews did not produce the Law. The Father in heaven sent his Son to the earth to establish Christianity, but the church did not produce the Son nor the Word of God which he came to speak. A secretary writes a letter for her employer, but she does not produce or originate the content of that letter any more than some other typist who might copy it. The agent at the depot writes a train order, but that does not mean that he produces it. It has a source of origin, the dispatcher. The Lord used men to prepare his Will, but it did not originate with those men. If the church produced the Word, the Holy Spirit was useless. If the church could have produced the Word, it seems peculiar that so few men were given the special divine power necessary to the writing of the New Testament. It just goes right back to sowing the seed, and that produces the results.

But if you could prove that the church did produce the New Testament, it would be of no help to Catholics. Their church began a long time after the New Testament appeared. The Jews would have to be credited with the work, and not the Romans. And even in the copies of the originals and the translations from them, the Catholic Church would be left out;the Greeks and others would be credited with that work. And, besides, the church of the New Testament, whether it produced the Word or the Word produced the church, claims the reigning Christ as its head, and not some human being in Rome.

The seed, the Word of God, is sown—the church results. The church must continue to obey that Word. It dare not add to or take away. Certainly it cannot write a new Bible.

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Author: Editor

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