I have an interesting biblical question that a brother and I were discussing over dinner yesterday, and I wanted to pose it to you. We were comparing the beliefs that we hold today compared to the 1st-century church. The difference that we discussed was the fact that we've always claimed that faith in the New Testament as the "word of God" is essential for salvation, and yet it was not essential for salvation in the 1st century, as they didn't have a written NT. As the story of Philip and the Eunuch in Acts 8 shows, Philip relayed the story of Jesus verbally -- as was done for many years until it was written down -- and still the Ethiopian was baptized. It was not necessary to have faith in the N.T. as a book, since it did not yet exist -- just the O.T. The story of Jesus was only a verbal one for many years, yet this was enough for thousands of people to have faith in and be saved. Acts is full of these examples. So have we added an “extra layer” of required faith in our modern teachings? -- Bryan

I would expect the person to understand and accept the basic gospel message as found in the N.T. Nearly everyone in this position tends to accept the collection of documents we call the New Testament as inspired. If someone was unsure of, say, the book of Jude, I would deal with that the best I could…before or after that person made his decision for Christ.

In connection with this, few people read the N.T. before they are baptized, let alone the entire Bible! We are striving to bring them to faith in a person, not a book--even though the person is known through the book.

There is a danger here, though. Too "low" a view of inspiration, and it becomes easy for the individual to rationalize himself out of obedience to the word. At the opposite pole, one may slip into "bibliolatry." Again, the point of the gospel is a relationship with God through Christ, not a sophisticated understanding of a book.

Short answer: There are many compelling reasons to accept the truth and inspiration of the entire N.T. And yet different people arrive at this conclusion in different ways, and through different processes, taking different amounts of time. The Lord's servant must gently and patiently instruct others, as 2 Timothy 2 directs.