After God spoke long ago in various portions and in various ways to our ancestors through the prophets, in these last days he has spoken to us in a son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he created the world.
So opens the book of Hebrews and this sheds much light on how the early believers viewed scripture; Jesus, the Christ and the Son of God, had fulfilled the scripture and was now the Word of God incarnate (in the language of John). As such, Jesus himself now takes the place in the life of the church that the scripture took in the life of Israel. God once spoke through Moses and the prophets but now he has spoken in a final way through Jesus. The scripture was still important, certainly. Firstly it provided evidence that God had acted in exactly the way in which he had promised in scripture and that Jesus had fulfilled the prophecies of scripture. Secondly, in the words of Paul, the scripture was `able to give you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.’ Thirdly, and again in the words of Paul, by virtue of its inspired nature the scripture was `useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness’. So, scripture formed an important part in both the evangelistic preaching and the internal teaching of the early church.
However, it seems clear that the most basic authority in the early church was Jesus as Word incarnate and his speech in the life of the church through the Spirit. It is clear that the Spirit could not speak in such a way as to contradict scripture — Jesus had not come to contradict scripture but he had fulfilled it — but it seems to me that the modern language of scripture as the sole authority in the life of the church would have seemed odd, if not outright blasphemous, to the early believers.