Lessons From Acts 15-The Authority And Acceptance Of The New Testament Scriptures

It is written:

So when they were sent off, they came to Antioch; and when they had gathered the multitude together, they delivered the letter. 31  When they had read it, they rejoiced over its encouragement. (Acts 15:30-31)

One of the great lessons we learn from Acts 15 is the authority of the the Letters written by the Apostles of Christ. Their authority was infused not only in what they said, but in what they wrote.

“The apostles imposed their writings. Since the apostles were aware of their authoritative office it is reasonable to think that they intended to write books that would guide the church under that authority….“Imposition can be seen in the commands that letters be circulated among the churches, even read publically in worship meetings (1 Thess. 5:27; Col. 4:16; Rev. 1:3)….“Imposition is more subtle in other letters, yet it can still be seen. It was already mentioned that Peter wrote to “the pilgrims of the Dispersion” scattered broadly throughout five different regions (1 Pet. 1:1). James also wrote “to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad” (Jam. 1:1). These are not the words of apostles writing to individual churches. It is reasonable to think that the apostles intended their letters to be widely distributed (i.e. imposed throughout regions)….“The best and earliest example of apostolic imposition comes from the Bible itself. In Acts 15 we read that letters were written containing the decision of the apostles and elders at the close of the first Jerusalem Council (v. 23). Their decision was just not verbally imposed upon the church (v. 27) but circulated through written letters (v. 20, 23). [47] This set a clear precedence from the beginning. A written letter from an apostle (or apostles) was just as authoritative as if the commands were given in person by an apostle. To receive a written letter from an apostle was equal to a visit (cf. 3 John 13–14). Furthermore, spreading info this way was very useful. Written letters helped when making a trip in person was not possible (cf. 2 Thessalonians 2:2). It also helped reach a wider audience more quickly with an important message. Thus the apostles imposed their authority via written communication.” (Norman Geisler & Shawn Nelson, Evidence of an Early New Testament Canon, 268-294 (Kindle Edition); Matthews, NC; Bastion Books)

The early church clearly recognized the authority inherent in the Apostolic writings, as they continually quoted from the New Testament Scriptures from the early second century on. Geisler and Nelson also provide the following information in their book. Following are the number of times some of the early church fathers quoted from the New Testament Scriptures:

Justin Martyr

Gospels: 268

Acts: 10

Pauline Epistles: 43

General Epistles 6 (and 266 allusions);

Revelation: 3

Total: 330


Gospels: 1, 038

Acts: 194

Pauline Epistles: 499

General Epistles: 23

Revelation: 65

Total: 1, 819

Clement Of Alexandria

Gospels 1, 017

Acts: 44

Pauline Epistles: 1, 127

General Epistles: 207

Revelation: 11

Total: 2, 406


Gospels: 9, 231

Acts: 349

Pauline Epistles: 7, 778

General Epistles: 399

Revelation: 165

Total: 17, 922


Gospels: 3, 822

Acts: 502

Pauline Epistles: 2, 609

General Epistles: 120

Revelation: 205

Total: 7, 258


Gospels: 734

Acts: 42

Pauline Epistles: 387

General Epistles: 27

Revelation: 188

Total: 1, 378


Gospels: 3, 258

Acts: 211

Pauline Epistles: 1, 592

General Epistles: 88

Revelation: 27

Total: 5, 176

Grand Totals:

Gospels: 19, 368

Acts: 1, 352

Pauline Epistles: 14, 035

General Epistles: 870

Revelation: 870

Total: 36, 286

This all goes to remind us about the fact that the New Testament Scriptures were understood to be authoritative by the Apostles, as well as by the church. They provide a perfect pattern for the church (2 Timothy 1:13; 3:16-17).

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit, be with you all. Amen.

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