Which books should be included in the New Testament is the question of canonicity. The test of canonicity is the test of divine inspiration. Some books were regarded by the early church as inspired by one and the same Spirit, thereby giving them authority. These were included in the canon (authoritative list) of the New Testament.
What is the test of inspiration? That is, how did the early church know which books were inspired? The Lord Himself established that apostolicity determines inspiration, that is, authorship by an apostle or men commissioned by the apostles. The following points summarize the development of the Canon.
Jesus Christ claimed full authority for His own words (Matthew 24:35; John 12:48) and they were received by His apostles subsequent to the resurrection as authoritative.
Because Jesus Christ had chosen the apostles and promised the ordaining work of the Holy Spirit for a work of revelation in them (John 14:26; 16:12-15) the apostles were conscious that they wrote as men inspired of God and claimed divine authority for their writing (1 Corinthians 2:10-13; 14:37; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21; 3:2,15-16).
The early church Fathers acknowledged that the apostles were far above themselves and were linked to the Old Testament prophets as to being authoritative.
Therefore, the twenty-seven New Testament books which arose in the last half of the first century A.D. were nearly all clearly known, reverenced, canonized, and collected well before a hundred years had passed. While it is true that fourth century church councils gave official ecclesiastical confirmation, no church decree made these twenty-seven books into authoritative Scripture. Rather, later church councils merely acknowledged and formalized existing conviction and practice concerning the New Testament canon.
Two excellent sources for more detailed clarification of this important issue are Philip Comfort, ed., The Origin of the Bible (Tyndale, 1992); especially see “The Canon of the New Testament,” Milton Fisher, pp. 65-78; and R. Laird Harris, Inspiration and Canonicity of the Bible (Zondervan, 1969), pp. 199-245.