I think we need to make a simple distinction between the “Word” and the “Scriptures.” The New Covenant church was founded on the Word (that is, upon Christ and his message as preached by the apostles), but it was not founded upon “the Scriptures,” for the obvious reason that decades elapsed during which the church was growing, and no NT books had even been written, let alone collected and recognized as canonical.(source)
So whatever our doctrine of ecclesiastical authority, it needs to do justice to the fact that the church existsed (not before the Word, but) before the Scriptures.
a) Most of the Scriptures predate the New Testament church, and those Scriptures speak of Christ.
b) The Church is, of course, founded specifically on Christ, and on the revelation of Him. The primary source of that revelation is the Old Testament Scriptures, but the New Testament Scriptures are also a critical part of the revelation, providing additional light that helps to explain the Old Testament.
c) The Scriptures were completed in the first century, and the Church was nurtured on them from the time of their writing onward.
d) Further to (c), the New Testament Scriptures were recognized as such during the lifetime of the apostles (See Peter's description of Paul's letters as Scriptures, as well as Paul's reference to Luke's gospel).
e) Further to (a)-(d) the Old Testament Scriptures were used authoritatively by Christ himself and the apostles as well. The one "council" that we see relied for its judgment on comparing their experiences to the authoritative Old Testament Scriptures.
f) Further to (e), the Bereans were specifically commended for carefully scrutinizing the Old Testament Scriptures to determine whether Paul the Apostle's gospel was true.
g) We also see from the earliest extant post-apostolic writings that the churches had and read both the Old and New Testament Scriptures.
h) The Scriptures were given for the purpose of the edification and instructions of the church.
From the above, which cannot be reasonably denied, it is proper and right to say that the true Church of Christ is founded on the Scriptures, and therefore the authority of the Scriptures cannot depend on the Church.
Certainly, beyond any doubt, the authority of the bulk of the Scriptures, specifically the Old Testament Scriptures, cannot come from the Church.
As a final support for the fact that the authority of the New Testament Scriptures does not come from the church, we see that Scripture itself explains to us that the Bible is θεόπνευστος (theopneustos), God-breathed. The Scriptures are not ecclesiopneustos (church-breathed). They come not from the authority of the church, but from God's authority.
Indeed, the same is true of Paul's own ministry. Paul was not an apostle of the church, but of Christ. He did not derive his authority from the twelve, but directly from God. Paul's discussion at the beginning of Galatians is especially clear about this. When he wrote Scriptures, he did not write from their authority, or from his own authority, but according to the authority of the Holy Spirit who inspired him.
The Scriptures were written for the church, not by the church. Their authority is greater than the church, because they are θεόπνευστος (theopneustos). There is no greater authority that we have. Paul himself explained that if the apostles themselves or an angel from heaven were to preach another gospel, we should not accept that (Galatians 1:8).
To divide the Word from the Scriptures, as Stellman is doing, is dangerous ground (although it is one of the approaches that the Romanists use). Surely the Word of God came to prophets in the apostolic age, even as the Scriptures were continuing to be given. Nevertheless, that Word upon which the church was founded is the inscripturated Word. The inscripturated word has, since the time of Moses, always had the priority over alleged prophets:
If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. Ye shall walk after the LORD your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him. And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn you away from the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, to thrust thee out of the way which the LORD thy God commanded thee to walk in. So shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee.
We see the difference between the time period of the apostles and the time period succeeding the apostles in Hebrews 1-2:
God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; ...
Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward; how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?
Notice that the author of Hebrews treats the period of confirmation of the revelation as a time that has past (was confirmed - aorist tense). This makes sense if, as many suppose, Hebrews is one of the last books of Scripture. It particularly makes sense in view of the prophesied completion of prophecy when the revelation was complete:
1 Corinthains 13:8-10
Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
So, there is little doubt that the prophecies, and tongues, and knowledge that failed upon the completion of Scripture were not formally the same as Scripture. Nevertheless, the Word of God is preserved. It is what was completed, ending the need for prophecy. And it has been preserved for us by the mechanism of Scripture.
Psalm 119:160 Thy word is true from the beginning: and every one of thy righteous judgments endureth for ever.
The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: the grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.
1 Peter 1:24-25 For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: but the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.
This is not a new idea from the 21st Century, but something that Irenaeus recognized in the 2nd century:
1. We have learned from none others the plan of our salvation, than from those through whom the Gospel has come down to us, which they did at one time proclaim in public, and, at a later period, by the will of God, handed down to us in the Scriptures, to be the ground and pillar of our faith. For it is unlawful to assert that they preached before they possessed "perfect knowledge," as some do even venture to say, boasting themselves as improvers of the apostles. For, after our Lord rose from the dead, [the apostles] were invested with power from on high when the Holy Spirit came down [upon them], were filled from all [His gifts], and had perfect knowledge: they departed to the ends of the earth, preaching the glad tidings of the good things [sent] from God to us, and proclaiming the peace of heaven to men, who indeed do all equally and individually possess the Gospel of God. Matthew also issued a written Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect, while Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome, and laying the foundations of the Church. After their departure, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, did also hand down to us in writing what had been preached by Peter. Luke also, the companion of Paul, recorded in a book the Gospel preached by him. Afterwards, John, the disciple of the Lord, who also had leaned upon His breast, did himself publish a Gospel during his residence at Ephesus in Asia.- Irenaeus, Against Heresies, Book III, Chapter 1
2. These have all declared to us that there is one God, Creator of heaven and earth, announced by the law and the prophets; and one Christ the Son of God. If any one do not agree to these truths, he despises the companions of the Lord; nay more, he despises Christ Himself the Lord; yea, he despises the Father also, and stands self-condemned, resisting and opposing his own salvation, as is the case with all heretics.
Notice that Irenaeus plainly teaches us that it is the Holy Scriptures that are the ground and pillar of our faith ("the Gospel has come down to us, which they did at one time proclaim in public, and, at a later period, by the will of God, handed down to us in the Scriptures, to be the ground and pillar of our faith."). That's because for Irenaeus there is a merger, not a division, between the Word and the Scriptures. I hope this post will encourage Stellman to do the same.