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To see them, you need light; but when you have it
from its abundant source,
you see beauty with it, and mercy
as the rainbow betokens.

It seems good to teach at this time, in four areas, some simple facts; as matters are often found which are clear attacks on the integrity or practice or principles of the Christian Church. This, incidentally, is DEFINED by the Bible in terms of standing on and by the words of Christ (Matthew 7:21ff.), walking on the NARROW way which leads to life, of course, and not on the BROAD WAY which leads to destruction; and hence living by EVERY WORD which proceeds out of the mouth of God. Strict ? Not really, merely realistic. It is the same with cars: the dealer exercises here and there to sustain the vehicle in fine order and safety, to the novice might seem excessive; but to the driver seem a delight - in driving! It is also relevant that this is how CHRIST met the challenge of the devil. So let us re-write that, in our normal format: "Man shall not live by bread alone but by EVERY WORD which proceeds out of the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4).

At times in this modern era, one might all but be excused for thinking that the 'Church', so far from being the body of Christ, His servant, were His master or director or indulged spoilt brat. Do not misunderstand: it is not of the Church, biblically defined, that one would dare so to speak; but of that large and often wealthy and imposing body, so populous and popular, which oversees what it will believe out of the Bible, and nowadays with even more zeal, what existentially it will elect to do (being so authentic as all this, one has it seems, to be careful about doing things, in case they do not measure up to the intimations of the 'sacred self' - see A Spiritual Potpourri  Ch. 17).

So pure are so many now, that merely to OBEY is for the children, if indeed that! One must be so invited, so imbibe of the zeals and reels and move with the mob or the multititude, that there is a certain zest to the quest, an excitement, or a willingness which one feels, a liberation from merely objective conformity to commands (heaven forbid! some might most esoterically declare). In this species of spirituality, only the quest is real, and the attainment is comparatively unimportant.

Thus on such a basis as this, Christ might have felt that really, the concept, as Paul was to be inspired to put it, of being "obedient to death, even the death of the cross" (Phil. 2) would be problematic. IS obedience, they might ask, not a function of the fear of God, and not loving
enough ? Then it might be urged, that it was the spirit of the thing which counted, and that really, whether one actually was moved to elect to go to the cross, it was so personal a matter that it could be be predicted whether one would or would not. And so on ... This is the pathogenics of the perfect! How like the days of Isaiah, in that excellent trailer, that wonderful educator, that terrible warning, when Israel, before the destruction of the North and the utter humiliation of the South at the hands of Assyria and Babylon respectively, had this said:

  • "Hear you deaf,

And look, you blind, that you may see.
Who is blind but My servant,
Or deaf as My messenger whom I send ?
Who is blind as he who is perfect,
And blind as the LORD's servant ?" (Isaiah 42:18-19).


If there is a way to divert, to 'convert' into yet more advanced disobedience, then it seems it must be found. Israel of old may smile at the Gentile folly; and be found merely a member of this body, yes, even when evil kings like Ahab, like Ahaz, in the North and South respectively, indulged their utmost religious whims.

But pathology, let us leave it to the pathologists, and simply return to the point. If one is LORD, then His is to command. If one is servant, then in sickness and in sadness, in strength or in gladness, his is to obey. It is not blind obedience, for love is the light and truth is the brilliance, understanding like a jewel reflects the depths; but obedience is the place. Is the Master so rough that the concept of doing what He says is to be confounded with some rash brat of a dictator, speaking pompous things ?

If, as is the case on the other hand, He is gentle and meek, lowly in spirit and brings rest to the soul (Matthew 11:28ff.), has grace and compassion, has created man and knows to perfection the place of enterprise and daring, of dash and splash as distinct from crash, it is simply the path of faith to believe, receive and do; and in doing, as God gives the Holy Spirit to those who obey Him (Acts 5:31), to understand, and in understanding to marvel at His depth and wisdom, His gratuitous kindness and grace, His leaving of SO MUCH to finding out and discovery, and yet never so much that one founders or is confounded.

But let us revert to our little exercise, and find out something about some areas of infelicitous and at times pollutant misconception, and refresh the air in these, our modern times of such heady sophistication and ready ... regrettably, slander on the spirituality of the people of God, on aspects of their history, on features of their ancient path to the modern day. We have in mind, four related topics, treated mostly elsewhere, but conveniently here subjected to brief review.


At times,  for hundreds of years, some of these things have been pushed, and we need to be alert to the facts.  Since revisiting such heresies can be counter-productive, their errors long exposed, it is often good practice to research such things very carefully, and then clarify any points of concern with the pastor. After all, why belch out the smoke of industry into the world, when proper safeguards, like high chimneys can reduce the results so well. In the church of Jesus Christ, such good areas await development together, that this is a counsel for advance!

Again, bodies like those in Revelation 3:23 may lose their credentials and become mere shadows of the substantial Christian Church. These have often been long exposed, and except in cases like that of Rome, which is urgently seeking to make a comeback, we do not need too much to prolong the agony of their departure from the faith.

The matters for today, which we would like to see now truly and finally laid to rest, are largely in this category.

They are these

1.  Biblical Canon - the attestation of the books of the Bible.
2.  Sunday as the rest day in the Christian Church.
3.  Christmas as the common celebration day for the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ.
4.  Eastertime as commemorative of the death and resurrection of Christ.

We shall start with the last and proceed to the first. It will be different. But we shall haves this advantage, that we know in advance where we are going.

Things that appeared: the time for Easter, for Christmas, for the day of rest and the Canon, in the Christian Church as it developed to that period of ease of travel, even help in it from Rome, and increased communication to the 4th century. Let us then consider these things.

4. EASTER time

This was simply derived from the date of the Jewish Passover. It moved about but was finally given a useful universalised time: one for all. There is nothing in it but commemoration of Christ our Passover (I Corinthians 5:7), as Paul calls Him, the Lamb of God, as John the Baptist called Him (John 1:29), and the date reflects the fact. It is true that it had been thought desirable by a Council before that of Nicaea, to have a common date throughout the world, and that Nicaea obliged with a prescription, which meant that it could not occur before March 22 or after April  25. It had been a PASCHAL time from the first, that of remembering specially the death and resurrection at a time relating intimately to the actual time in history, in the area of time, the Jewish Passover, at which it had occurred.

That it conveniently allowed a continuation of that Feast is nothing remarkable, since for some 1400 years this feast had been in operation and with more and more force and detail, from 1000 B.C. on, the prophets had made it clear that it was Christ who was to be the Lamb to be slain.  In fact, it was simply the specified, predicted and once for all termination of animal sacrifices in that of Christ; and the time of Easter is simply the DOUBLE ENTRY, the times corresponding, since Christ carefully accomplished His replacement of the preliminaries with Himself, in the most appropriate time of the year. It was that when the Passover delivered the Jews in Egypt, the blood being placed on the door of each believing household.

The significance of Nicaea, is simply this: that the Empire having at last become agreeable to Christianity, it paid for MANY church representatives to come, and it proved an ideal time to make minor details of the dating method, uniform. Nothing was created; it was like making Church at 11 a.m. on Sunday. As Justin Martyr (about 150 A.D.) attested, "Christians did not place any virtue in keeping such festivals" (Trypho). People who go a astray will tend to place virtue in almost anything except Christ, or in addition to Him: but this is the testimony of the day.

Further, it was as Paul makes so clear, not a matter of necessity; but in view of the central character of it, most would want to follow the commemoration (Romans 14:4-5). Christians do not have to celebrate Easter in a day or seasonal way; but it is obviously most conducive to the wonder of it all, to remember at the sort of time in the year when it actually happened, the power of God in the resurrection and the grace of Christ in the crucifixion.

3. CHRISTMAS DAY, December 25

Anti-Christian news loves to make this sound pagan; but the evidence, as with Easter, attests significantly to the contrary, and it is substantial. Certainly, a pagan feast day COULD have been used for a very different purpose; but in terms of the Christian Church, the facts do not support such a declaration in this case. It is at best merely a 'punt', an ill-supported surmise.

As to the facts, it is demonstrable that there were many efforts to find a good way of observing recognition of Christ's birth on a day. Since the birthday was not known, there was a problem for those who wanted to celebrate its remembrance; and  strange and exotic procedures were sometimes used to try to 'determine' it. This led to a wide variety of customs in the early church, which the notable and voluminous Encyclopedia of Christianity, Schaff-Herzog, lists.

The first to determine the date, according to available evidence, appears the Christian Hippolytus, early in the A.D. 200's. His method was based on efforts to apply his thoughts of Christ's life as being exactly 33 years, the conception and death dates of Christ, both held to be March 25; and by taking 9 months from the latter, he came to December 25. That, according to the evidence, is how the matter began in the church, in one part of it; and this remained an option. Others had other approaches, with dates at Jan. 6 or April 18-19, March 28. The uncertainty of the actuality, as to date, made for multiplication of suggestions. Of course, as noted from Paul in Romans 14, and from Justin Martyr in the 2nd century, days were not held to be of special significance, necessarily, for all, and any could make a day of significance as a religious exercise without authority, like other personal exercises.

In the East, Jan. 6  as the day prevailed from as early as the first half of the 4th century, and Chrysostom indicates that Christ's birth on earth was not celebrated in Antioch until about 376, long after Constantine.

The earliest time of recognition of the Dec. 25 date clearly appears to be in the Philocalian Calendar, which related to times anywhere from 336 to 354.

The pagan festivities which had occurred on that day, and did, were not by any known evidence the cause of the selection of that date; and Hippolytus had his esoteric reasons for Dec. 25, as noted, built on his conceptions of history in this field, regarding the incarnation of Christ. The pagan idea, then, as Schaff-Herzog summarises, is not one which can be determined. The evidence is that long before a different ground arose for the date, and this appealed to some.

What we can say is this, that Christian leaders in the East (Mesopotamia) felt that those who had adopted this day were at fault, since unseemly frivolity was associated with it by those who publicly held it in pagan religions for their own purposes; for the same date was a national day after the horrid Bacchanalia, being its conclusion in the pagan Brumalia.

The evidence then is this: that December 25 was adopted from a Biblical basis, probably an erroneous idea added to the Bible, and that it gained some recognition along with other possible dates, eventually coming to be recognised and accepted by most, on a day which for different reasons was a popular public holiday. To go beyond this, is, as far as is known, to invent results without evidence.

What needs to be added for another reason is this: NO DAY other than Sunday, to follow, is authorised to be BOUND on ANYONE. The habits of some countries, like Rome in its day, to want to control Christianity have led to a secular Christmas season, often misinterpreted, more of an excuse than a reality for those, of course, who do not believe; and certainly it is not binding on any Christian religiously.

Justin Martyr's view is quite correct, a thing both chaste and pure; and in accord with Paul in Romans 14: no store is set on such things spiritually. That was the view from the first.

Biblically, things such as these have merely an optional place, for those who find it spiritually advantageous. For them, spiritual things may then be celebrated for spiritual reasons; and that is their own affair. There are advantages either way, and it is open.

2. SUNDAY as the day of rest.

Christ appeared on the day of the resurrection: the disciples could then worship, free from anxiety, spiritually replenished, emotionally delighted, their faith set in the certitudes of evidence, following the trust in the Saviour. As John makes so clear, this was what we call the first day of the week (John 20:1). It was a beautiful thing, neither a State invention, a pragmatic intention, nor an imposition. In this day, the essence of life, the eternal life in Christ, the beauties and duties of reality in being alive as a human being, found by your Creator: these could be known and followed with liberty. No competition from the little contrivances of onerous kinds was given the sanction, but the liberty love desires, and fraudulence cannot stand.

But let us resume. On the first day of the week, Christ both bodily rose and personally came to various of the disciples, and to their meeting, and wrought rest in their hearts.

Next, He came and Thomas was there (8 days later - Jewish inclusivist counting method, as in John 20:26), and Thomas worshipped, following that great laboratory style challenge to him from Jesus the Christ, "Reach your finger here, and look at My wounds...," this being a basic component (John 20:28). Similarly (Luke 24:13ff.), on that same day Jesus appeared to and broke bread with the disciples on the road to Emmaus. On that day, says Paul in I Cor. 16:2, the Church offerings were to be set aside.

This, and not Saturday, was the day which the Lord had chosen to act to bring rest and relief, and the one which the apostle used in religious observance. Pentecost came on the same day and so the world's most famous apostolic sermon came into being, before the large assemblage on Sunday (Acts 2:1, the Day of Pentecost being on that day). Pentecost's waving of the sheaf came "the day after the Sabbath"  (Leviticus 23:11). On that day, in the ancient times before Christ, an offering was likewise to be made.

  • This day, then, the first day of the week, the Sunday,
  • used for founding the New Testament faith,
  • and for putting offerings by,
  • was the new diurnal focus;
  • and the very idea of 'resting' in the prescribed manner (Exodus 20),
  • statedly based on the method of our creation,
  • on any other day than the one that GAVE THEM REST - Sunday, the great day of the resurrection,
  • would be foreign.

They could not rest before the resurrection happened, on that first day; and rest could not be avoided when it came, and happened! ... on that first day. To do otherwise, therefore, than worship then, amid such rest and triumph of and for Christ: it would be like celebrating darkness at the source of light. To ignore this greatest work of God toward man, far eclipsing the creation, since it involved personal divine sacrifice and man's immortality, indeed the work without which creation would have been futile (cf. Isaiah 51:16): what would it be like ? It would be like a university professor of mathematics losing the ability to count. The church however was young, not old! It did not lose ability!

Thus this rest, on which Christ did the works on the first and second Sundays, and then in the massively important Pentecost Sunday, beautifully contrived in the original ceremonies of the Jews to be the day after the 'Sabbath' which commemorated creation, was the day which symbolised rest in redemption, and had to become, as it did, the day of worship in the peace of Christ, in the Church.

This is NOT, unlike the case of Christmas and Easter, an option, since it was the apostolic practice, and the index of Christ, both in significance and in what He Himself did. That we MUST rest on a day in seven, is as certain from Exodus 20, as our creation. That it can NO LONGER be what is called, in society, Saturday, is as clear as the resurrection, and its significance. ONLY THUS, through that resurrection following the crucifixion,  can you be justified (Romans 4:25ff.. 10:9); and hence only thus can you rest, in symbolism. Bypassing Christ in symbol on the day, may suit Seventh Day Adventists*1, but it suits neither the Gospel of Grace, the work of God nor the pre-eminence of Christ (cf. Colossians 1:18).

No politics, no councils of man could alter these Biblical facts, concerning Sunday as the day of rest, though they could acknowledge, as Constantine did years before (321) the Council of Nicaea (in 325), that it was good for the State to have it so. Rules for the conduct of the Empire, of course, like State rules today, have an effect on public life but do not constitute the action or opinion of the Church! This was simply politics, and it happened to be a good thing; but it was not the Christian Church that was involved, for he simply made it a rule then for the Empire. As for this Christian body, it had kept Sunday so for centuries before this! It was a settled date for Easter, not the Sunday, which was in view at Nicaea, and that simply as a universal form of convenience, around the actual time Christ's actions required.


It may be good here to look at some of the Christian practice, concerning worship on Sunday, hundreds of years before Nicaea. Justin Martyr around 150 A.D. gives a detailed account of the sort of thing that was common on the Sunday, declaring of it, that just as  the creation of light on the 1st day of creation, so was the awakening of Christ, the "Sun of righteousness" from the darkness of the grace on this 1st day of the week. That was simply a parallel, but it shows the intensity of belief in the place of Sunday as the day of rest. It was commemorative of Christ, and primary as the religious day because of this basic centrality concerning Himself.

Justin Martyr indicates how they met on this day, and speaks at length on the parts of the worship service, the address by the supervisor, exhortations, the eucharist and the visiting of the poor and such matters.

As Schaff-Herzog notes, "After Justin the mention of the Lord's day as the weekly observance of Christians becomes ever more frequent." The term "Lord's Day" apparently may be traced as far back as Ignatius in Magnesians, ix (around 112 A.D.) and it fully complements the words of Justin. These were amongst the most famous of the early Christians.

This Encyclopedia also adds this: "in addition to the motive for observing the day assigned by Justin Martyr and Barnabus, the great aversions of the early Christians to idolatry would preclude the possibility of such appropriation." They would be against using it as ...  what ? As using a particular day for convenience, in terms of Christ, religiously,  because that day related to some feature which some valued in connection with a pagan religion. There are various days and various uses made of them. It would be like having Sunday worship on the day BECAUSE Mardi Gras had been held on it ! Unholy, unwise and detestable! Not such is the evidence of the Bible or history.

Once again, the reasons are Biblical, centre on Christ. Thus,  when there is traffic, you do not lightly assume that one car on the road has the same purpose as another, or came in order to relate to it. Each car has its own journey, its own purpose and its own way. The Bible's statement of the day in fact symbolically began far before all this, perhaps about 1440 B.C.. If therefore there were any question of some one religion USING the day of another, because of borrowing, it would rather be those using the day which had been specified in the Jewish law for the Pentecostal climax! Christ's rising might use the day someone else used for someone else; but then NO BODY ELSE ROSE THEN, unaided by any man, physically from the dead.

  • To commemorate this then was not an option;

was historically prior;
and uniquely governed by power never paralleled.

Certainly Easter and Sunday are of Christian basis, the first the fulfilment of the thing of that date from over 1400 years or so BEFORE all this, and the second a movement of emphasis, built on God manifesting Himself in the flesh, and breaking death, thus proving His great exploit, on that day, and so giving rest (Romans 4:25-5:1)... the rest they all felt! who were His. Of these things, there can be no sober question. For more on Sunday and rest in Christ: see  Biblical Blessings Appendixes  I,  II, and  III, and Ch. 12, with which treat the matter in detail, and apply it to life.

So the faith continues, the day of rest secure as it was from the first, the celebration of Easter optional, but its date fixed with necessity in the area of the actual sacrifice of Christ, SINCE THAT IS KNOWN. Thus at Nicaea, just for convenience,   a formula was made for universal convenience at that season. The Sunday however is integral to life, the rest day, and its movement was no mere improvement, but of the very essence of the Christian faith: REST NOW, when the LORD has done the work which dwarfs even creation, without which you are lost.

That, it is the Lord's day. With the stone at the tomb, He moved it. Rest is the same, periodicity is the same, redemption is as always portrayed and long predicted; and its testimony, now that it is paid, has its day now matured into a recognition of the rest which leaves all other rest, a preliminary and an index only. The bud has bloomed; the beauty of its savour is now filling the earth, before, untouched, it moves with His people, back to Him; and the earth to its extermination. Indeed, it is the earth, not the bloom which is from above, that is destroyed. How much of history is simply the endeavour to reverse the position! Such things oftne quickly move alas, to the irreversible.

Meanwhile,  many love the fragrance of the bloom, loved it in the bud as well, and rejoice that the whole is immovable. Here is the paramount thing of beauty which is a joy forever; for it is nothing less than the beauty of the Lord.

The faith continues exactly as the Bible states, as it always has been and will be. Nothing changes here.

1. The Biblical Canon.

It should here be noted that so far from Constantine having led to the canon, it was settled in later Church Councils, when he was no more Emperor, about 50 years after his time. These were the Councils of Hippo Regius (393 A.D.) and Carthage (397 A.D.). Constantine's reign was from 307-337. The political power has nothing whatsoever to do with the Bible's compilation by the early Church, which recognised the authentic productions of the inspired apostles, who had been so closely known, and those who worked with them, when as with Mark, this occurred. Before these two Church councils, indeed, which virtually  rubber  stamped what had become apparent, there were three most famous Christian leaders who set forth in direct terms the 27 books of the New Testament, namely the illustrious Athanasius, 367, and then in the West, Jerome, the renowned scholar, and Augustine, no less so.

Athanasius had fought strongly at the Council of Nicaea, and was 5 times exiled later, though he prevailed at this Council: but it was the deity of Christ according to the Scripture from which he most successfully delivered the Church, in the providence of the Lord, as one of the chief anchors of orthodoxy in the face of the horrendous Arian lapse, rather like that of the Jehovah's Witnesses today. Again and again Athanasius triumphed, but again and again he was exiled; and in the end, just as Arius was beginning to succeed in trying to drag in imperial power, the heretic himself died. The battle was lost forever; the attack on Christ's deity was left for wolves and apostates, far from the Bible.

As  to the Bible itself, it stayed put as it had, and as it does to this day. The Old Testament is as handed on by Israel (see for detail, Sparkling Spirituality Ch. 2 with SMR Appendix C). As to the New Testament, the early Church stood firm, on its own divine donation; but now the sects multiply like a nightmare in computing! It is to their own destruction. Many attacks were made on it, but the more they attacked (as with the heretic Valentinus around 140 A.D.), the more they evidenced for posterity the certainty of the Biblical books, against which they were railing, or bent on rebelling!

The Council of Nicaea dealt with Easter as above, and various matters of order and organisation, famously with the Nicene Creed, which Athanasius so approved and many more. Constantine apparently sought unity, and it was not with Arius that it was found. It took Christian courage and determination, holiness and power from on high, however, to overcome later State interference, beyond organisational matters for the State; but such godly courage in a godly style and with godly help, simply won.

The Bible canon itself is not evidenced as an issue at the Council of Nicaea; its canon already being clear in all fundamentals, and these being determined officially at Councils considerably later than this one. What is striking is this: that the Emperor, indeed more than one of the rulers, made the law which the Church agreed to, or in its own way bound, binding in the Empire! (Schaff, History of the Christian Church, Vol. 3, p. 338). Thus the internal was externalised!

As Schaff also notes (op.cit. p. 133), moreover, "Constantine once said to the bishops at a banquet, that he also, as a Christian emperor, was a divinely appointed bishop, a bishop over the external affairs of the church, while the internal affairs belonged to the bishops proper. In this pregnant word he expressed the new posture of the civil sovereign toward the church in a characteristic though indefinite and equivocal way. He made there a distinction between two divinely authorized episcopates; one secular or imperial, corresponding with the old office of Pontifex Maximus, and  extending over the whole Roman empire, therefore oecumenical or universal; the other spiritual or sacerdotal, divided among the different diocesan bishops, and appearing properly in the unity and totality only in a general council ... Accordingly, though not yet even baptized, he acted as the patron and universal temporal bishop of the church."

In this way, things which belonged to the church were exported to the world - however unwisely, for spiritual things are spiritually discerned; but as for the early Church, it did not find politics its king, but Christ. Movements from there in successive councils did occur, making later ones increasingly dysfunctional. Meanwhile, Emperors were far more likely to bind on their own desire, when pugnacious pagans, what they wanted in religion for the Empire.

For this, many paid with their lives, being burnt, thrown to lions, used as lamps, covered with tar. Rome took notice, and later capitulated. But it was not imperial power that was needed, for as Christ declared to Pilate, "My kingdom is not of this world!"

Any fool can cut heads off;
it is putting clean hearts in
which takes the power of God;
and it is the Lord who does it.



Now let us look at some of the facts concerning the New Testament Canon. From the outset, from Clement of Rome before the end of the first century, from Polycarp the famed martyr a few years later, from the Muratorian Canon, from Papias and Justin Martyr, we have indication of the TOTAL INSPIRATION which the scriptures have, expressed in the most vigorous fashion, with imagery to emphasise, as Ezekiel's living creatures of four faces: four like the Gospels. Many books of the canon to come were noted as part of it, or could be deduced from quotations made.

Thus Irenaeus (about about 180 A.D.) declared:

"When they {the heretics} are refuted out of the Scriptures they betake them to accusing the Scriptures themselves as if there were not correct and they did not carry authority!"

In this, you see the divine access of their authority. This is in his work against heretics, and the tenor is revealing. In fact, he indicates the four gospels are as unchangeable as the four winds of heaven, or compass directions, and makes the statement that "the apostles, likewise being disciples of the truth, are above all falsehood" ! Indeed, "Thus," he declares, "did the apostles, simply and without respect of persons, deliver to all what they had themselves learned from the Lord."

Tertullian, famed scholar about 200 A.D., declared that scriptural proof is required for every doctrine, and that heretics cannot stand on pure scriptural ground. Nothing has changed! Justin Martyr relates that the apostles, after the Resurrection "were invested with power from on high when the Holy Spirit came down, were filled from all, and had perfect knowledge" (Epistle to the Smyrneans III).

It is the simplicity, the noble simplicity, the readiness from reality which brings a sense of beauty to these straightforward utterances, betokening so much with such definition. There is so much from the early Christians which has a savour we do well to appreciate. But let us proceed to the testimony of those times, to our point.

The Muratorian Canon, probably dating from the end of the second century specified the Gospels (4), the Acts, the Epistles of Paul - Corinthians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Galatians, Romans, Philemon, Titus and I, II Timothy. Jude and two of John epistles are noted as accepted, as well as the Revelation. The Shepherd of Hermas is discounted as not scripture, though interesting, having been written only about the time of the Muratorian Canon, and it is noted that it cannot be noted among the prophets or apostles. There was some division about Peter, at least II Peter at this location. Again, conceivably, II Corinthians may have been intended also. This gives all but one epistle of John, Hebrews, James, I II Thessalonians.

It is in any case only a fragment of the Muratorian Canon writing, which remains. From quotations of Polycarp, early in the 2nd century, we find Thessalonians, Hebrews, I Peter and I John regarded as scripture. As famed New Testament scholar, F.F. Bruce states, "and so we might go on, through the writers of the second century, amassing increasing evidence of their familiarity with and recognition of the authority of the New Testament writings."

It shows however the situation: merely questions of total knowledge in any given place in the early days, of all the apostolic and apostolically supervised or received writings, or of some slight doubts about this or that at this outpost or that. The sharing of knowledge gradually overcame these peripheral problems, and leading Christians were able to summarise this, later acknowledged by two Councils, half a century or so after Constantine, whose Empire certainly helped sharing of information.

Thus from the first, the substance and the sacred significance had been clear; at last, the issues were formalised. Politics had nought to do with the result, except to facilitate movement and sharing, meeting and mutuality among the Christians; and at other times to remove their heads or their lives.

For a more detailed coverage of the facts of the Canon, see The Shadow of a Mighty Rock, pp. 1148 ff.. See also R. Laird Harris, Inspiration and Canonicity of the Bible, and The Infallible Word, Symposium from Westminster Theological Seminary, Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia with Philip Schaff's History of the Christian Church, esp. vols. 1 and 2..


Thus the Church from earliest days, has moved to the realisation of the rest in Christ, on His appointed day when the ague and agony of the crucifixion yielded to the rest from His quest, since it was completed, and the people of the Lord rejoiced in the rest it provided, on the day which moved with the payment of redemption, to the day of acquittal accomplished, not merely in prefigured security, but provided payment.

But let us move from Sunday to Easter.

It also appointed a time useful for many, to assist a more universal expression of the highly clear-cut time of the Passover, which Christ replaced in His own pierced Person, and while it is not required, it is enabled.

Meanwhile, there was the question of a possible day for commemoration of the birth of Christ.
It became customary in the Church, but not for a long time, to find a day of common kind, first suggested as far as evidence is found, by a Christian on Christian grounds. This day has often been abused, from earliest times, first by pagan competition, which had its own reasons for the day, and latter by commercial interests, which sometimes have their own, often no less unworthy reasons for the day. However, in fact, the day is merely an optional symbol and its best use may often be to avail oneself of the opportunities the focus provides, to spread the Gospel.

Meanwhile, lastly,  the Church from the first received the word of God: the Christ, living, and with Him, the authority of His speech, loving but without escape to the unrepentant, and with the highest of specificities about life. With this and His divine appointments, it received the testimony of the apostles and the authority of their writings given in His name, so that they, with their associates, became a new sort of 'prophets', with the same old power and authority, writing in the name of the Lord. What, however,  had been spread over far more than a millenium in the Old Covenant days, now came to be the aggregation and testimony from chiefly, those who had been with the Lord from the first (Acts 1:15-22), as we see in the need to replace the devil-possessed Judas, who betrayed his Lord, as predicted (cf. Joyful Jottings 25). Since He HAD now already come, thus the work of testimony continued till the last apostle, John, passed to His Lord, and with this, he left his stricture, just as Moses did in Deuteronomy 4, and 12:1-4. NO MORE on these THINGS, and NO LESS of these words (Revelation 22:18-20). So the Church acted, when the time came, in the list called the canon.

The very end of Revelation, having made the word of GOD clear, also went on to make the COMING OF THE LORD clear, that this was the focus to look for, as you waited on Him and followed WHAT HE SAID. The divorce from a person, of his speech, would normally be regarded as a most profound tampering; and it is no less so here; but infinitely more. But the failure to know the person, while studying his speech, is quite as remarkable, and with the living God, such an omission is perfectly fatal (John 5:39-40).

All the combinations of disorder do not however remove the utter and entire simplicity of the matter here: He says, and you follow; He is and you come; and you come AS He says! WHEN you have so come, you never go (John 10:9,27-28), but having been saved by His grace, with which He also spoke, you are changed by His power, regenerated not by phrase mongering but by the power of God (Titus 3:5ff.), and so are led to the love of the word of the One who being truth, does not alter it, and being love as well, has in His person the artistry of wonder which orchids so well symbolise (Psalm 119, John 15:21-23, 1:14-18, Luke 4:22, I Peter 2:22). But let us hear from Peter:

"Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking,
as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby;
if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.

"Coming to Him as to a iving stone, rejected indeed by men,
but chosen by God and precious,
you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house,
a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual scrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

"Therefore it is also contained in the Scripture,
'Behold I lay in Zion
A chief cornerstone, elect, precious,;
And he who believes on Him will by no means by put to shame."

This salvation, says Peter, comes to "an inheritance, incorruptible and undefiled, and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice..." (from I Peter 1:4ff.).

But let us consider a little further, the testimonials of the apostles, in that appointment so long used by the other prophets, the scriptures.

What then ? In this apostolic case, moreover, their testimony did not only relate to things past, or to come in new and increasingly brilliant light from the Lord, so much as to the PERSON who in the past had then already become a PRESENT HELP, in His incarnation, crucifixion and resurrection, speaking and acting as God on earth: He HIMSELF the desire of the nations and the resting place of the Gentiles who should come to Him. The great act was past; God had come as in Ezekiel 34, Isaish 40:10, and now this had to be relayed and recorded aright.

Thus in the two covenants, there were differences of procedure but not ultimately of power; there was a diversity of historical unfolding, the one continual, the other to a point focus; but there was the same God, revealing Himself now through men, now AS MAN, in Christ the Lord (cf. Hebrews 1:1-3,8).

In this way, the prophets of the past and the prophetic-apostolic structure of the present soon became the New Testament aligned with the Old, both one word from one God: foreshadowing the Christ in the Old, manifesting Him in the New; both leading on to judgment in Him from Him, in His time (John 5:19ff., Acts 17:31).

You would like imagery ? Why not!

The canon has never misfired; and its fire consumes, or it cleanses. For its part, it is no monumental piece set by the sea-side, if you will suffer the mutation of the term, but the potent word of God which has from the first produced two major results.

  • Some who are believers have always followed the incitations, exhortations, confrontations and comforts offered by the prophets, knowing that thus has God spoken.


  • On the other side, there have from earliest times been those who, without wanting the word,

have either sought to seduce the prophets (like Balak),

or the people (as with Zedekiah, with Micaiah),
or to reduce them (as with Jeremiah given the pit, literally),
or to intimidate them (as with Ahab and Jezebel),

or to alter what they say (as once more, with the lusting King, Balak, seeking a word from God, to order, from Balaam),
or indeed to alter their capacity to say it,
for example by removing their lives
(as with fine old Jehoiada's son, noted by Christ in his martyrdom, Matthew 23:35, II Chronicles 24:15ff.).

Again, many in places of prestige,  have treated it like a lovely song, at times, to be heard and not done (as in Ezekiel 33:30ff.). However it has always stood, always acts as God who spoke it acts, has never been exposed in error, though it exposes error; and has trampled on all resistance like the rain on the grass, which is a strange figure indeed, yet it brings home in its imagery, the point. The word of God to many seems light and easy, a matter of disregard, like rain; but diversely,  in its capacity of deluge and in its power to transform, it is stronger than steel and more penetrating through softening without breaking, like rain!

Its streams can transform landscapes, for ruin or restoration. Its waters can refresh the meek, and as to those who know the Lord, they find this, as in Hosea 14, that:

"His going forth is established as the morning.
He will come to us like the rain,
Like the latter and former rain to the earth."

  • "O Israel," says Hosea, "return to the LORD your God,

For you have stumbled because of your iniquity.
Take words with you,
And return to the LORD.
Say to Him,
'Take away all iniquity;
Receive us graciously,
For we will offer the sacrifices of our lips...' "

and we hear the reply,

"I will be like the dew to Israel,
He shall grow like the lily...

"Ephraim shall say,
'What have I to do any more with idols ?'
I have heard and observed him.
I am like a green cypress tree;
Your fruit is found in Me."

And where are the idols ? in the mind of man, who makes them in his life. And where is the peace ? in the word of God, who utters it as He pleases, and His pleasure is a good pleasure and His goodness never fails (Ephesians 1:5). Yet it is like an oil-rig in the raging seas. It is not enough to recite that the oil-rig is helpful in one's oceanic pilgrimage. You must stand on it. Nor is it sufficient to assert that it is safe; it must be the one which in fact really is so. False trust is as useless as none. It is the word of God, always clear, always uttered in His name and which works, whether the people rebel and kill the messenger or not, in its day till the earth passes and the heavens reel, leaving only God and those who love Him, steadfast together (Isaiah 51:6, Matthew 7:21ff.).

To cut out God's tongue is not possible; to brain-wash His truth is not to be accomplished; to subvert various bodies, formerly faithful churches is clearly a possibility, but the truth does not die with them. The word of God like a hammer breaks rock, like a lion roaring announces its intention, and unlike the flower of the grass, never fails nor does it fade (Isaiah 40:6-7, Jeremiah 23). Endorsed by God from the works of the prophets to the resurrection of Christ and the the authorising of His apostles (cf. Matthew 5:17ff., 24:34-35, John 20:21, Revelation 21:18ff., II Peter 3:15-16), it outlasts the heavens for the simple reason that He who made them, made them temporary, but His truth is of Himself. "Thy word," as He said, "is truth " ...

Indelible, indefatigable, inextinguishable, it is His!

Note:   The reader may now wish to read SMR Appendixes  C and D; and Sparkling Spirituality Chs. 1 -  2.


*1 See :

BAB Appendix III,
BAB 8 - Easter Alert,
BBCh 12, p. 148,
TOAN 2, End-note 1A