The Bible can be compared to an archaeological dig site.
All the truths are in the Bible; there is not one truth that is not in the Bible. Although they are all in the Bible, through man’s foolishness, unfaithfulness, negligence, and disobedience many of the truths were lost and hidden from man. The truths were there, but man did not see them or touch them. Not until the fullness of time did God release certain truths during particular periods of time and cause them to be revealed once more. These freshly revealed truths are not God’s new inventions. Rather, they are man’s new discoveries.
A few observations about archaeology are helpful:
1) Just because an artifact is discovered late does not annul its authenticity. A quick survey of scientific and archaeological discoveries demonstrates this.
2) The more elusive artifacts may be the most prized. The length of time it takes to find an artifact does not diminish its worth. Think of the hunt for Noah’s ark or the ark of the covenant.
3) The fame of the archaeologist does not necessarily correlate with the worth of the artifact. You shouldn’t be surprised then if you haven’t heard of the person who recovers something of antiquity. Sometimes it turns out to be the most unlikely archaeologist. Circumstances can create a hero. This should lead to honor or at least appreciative wonderment not supsiscion or hostility.
4) Often a new discovery overturns previously held notions. In the realm of scientific discoveries, Einstein’s theory of relativity radically challenged our understanding of the universe itself.
Revelation, Reception, Ruin, Recovery
Through this lens, the history of the Scriptures follows a general pattern—revelation, reception, ruin, recovery.
Take the law of Moses for example. The revelation of the law was given at Mt Sinai. The law was received and practiced for hundreds of years. Over time the nation of Israel began to fall into apostasy and forsake the law of Moses and the proper worship of God. Things became so degraded that they actually LOST the law of Moses. Under Josiah’s reign, when the temple was being repaired, they found the lost book of law and were recovered to God (2 Kings 22:8).
In principle, the same thing happened with the New Testament.
Although much was unearthed in the Scriptures from the sediment of church history during the Reformation, much still lay buried. If Sardis is identified prophetically as the church in the Reformation, as is common, then there is something “incomplete” about it (Rev. 3:2).
One “incomplete” was regarding the practice of the church. Justification by faith, although a precious truth, is a procedural truth. The book of Romans obviously doesn’t end with chapter 4, and the truth in Romans doesn’t plateau at chapter 4. It continues to build until it culminates in what seems to be an oddly mundane catalog of greetings.
However, archaeology has taught us that the plainest fields may overlay the greatest ruins. What lies buried in Romans 16 is an artifact that illuminates the practice of the church in the 1st century. And when it is combined with other fragments of the Bible, a composite picture emerges.
God has not merely taken care of redemption/justification and left us Christians around to figure out how to “do church.” The practice of church life is truth equally valid as justification by faith. But it is an elusive artifact, recovered from a late dig, by an obscure archaeologist, and it challenged previously held notions.
Does this annul its authenticity? No.
Just because it took so long to unearth it from the Bible, doesn’t mean it is lesser in value. Scriptural truth doesn’t loose its purity or integrity over time.