You may have heard the claim recently from a prominent Christian leader that the early church did not really use the Bible. The idea proposed was that the early church’s success and growth was entirely dependent on the apostles’ witness to the resurrection. Based on this idea, some would argue that christianity made its greatest strides during the 282 years before the Bible even existed.
But is this true?
When I read the New Testament I see the exact opposite testimony. The early church was using the Bible and using the Old Testament. Over and over again we read the accounts of Jesus, Peter, Paul, and Stephen using Scripture.
The most telling event to this end is found in Luke 24. Jesus is walking with two skeptical disciples on the road to Emmaus. Now if anyone didn’t need the Bible and could have just given witness to the resurrection, it was the resurrected Lord giving witness to himself. But that’s not what Jesus does. We read in that passage that Jesus, beginning with Moses and the Prophets, explained to them all the things in Scripture concerning himself. He walks passage by passage through the Bible and shows how it all points to him.
And this is the pattern we see all throughout the New Testament. The early disciples make an appeal to Scripture and help their listeners to understand what is being talked of in the Old Testament is ultimately fulfilled through Christ. Think of Peter on the day of Pentecost. Again if there is anyone who didn’t need the Bible, it is Peter being completely full of the Holy Spirit. But what do we see in Peter, we see Peter going out and preaching a sermon from the Book of Joel. Who is even preaching sermons from the Book of Joel? Peter is grounding his sermon in the Scriptures in order to give witness to Jesus.
Many people will shy away from the Bible saying it is hard to believe. What I would say to you is let the Bible do its work. Let the Holy Spirit of God who wrote the Bible and empowers the words do his work. Let his word speak to the souls you are trying to reach. Let Jesus do his work through his word. That is the pattern you see all throughout Scripture and that is the pattern we should still follow today.
Dr. Jason Dees is the pastor of Christ Covenant Buckhead and guest instructor at the Kanakuk Institute.