How To Establish Bible Authority
"Authority" is the right to command, enforce obedience, and administer punishment. The beginning point with authority is to understand that ALL authority resides in God. Knowing that all authority resides in God, we must then understand that God has delegated or entrusted His authority to Christ. Jesus stated in Matthew 28:18 "...All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth." That's why He is "...head over all things to the church,..." (Ephesians 1:22) and "...that in all things he might have the pre-eminence" (Colossians 1:18). Can we not see then the importance of abiding in His word? "Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God...." (2 John 9).
Christ, while on earth, taught twelve apostles and gave them binding and loosing authority. "And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." (Matthew 16:19). The apostles would have the Holy Ghost to teach them all things and bring all things to their remembrance that Jesus had said unto them (John 14:26). Therefore, respect for the authority of Christ is shown by our respecting the authority of the apostles. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that receiveth whomsoever I send receiveth me; and he that receiveth me receiveth me receiveth him that sent me." (John 13:20). That is why the apostle John stated: "We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us...." (1 John 4:6).
Is there a need to have Bible authority for what we do today in religion? Some say, "No! We don't have or need authority." Some say, "We do many things for which we have no authority!". However, we are no more on our own to do things than Moses was and he was told: "See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shown to thee in the mount." (Hebrews 8:5). We are commanded to "...walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing." (Philippians 3:16). How can we do this if there is no rule or pattern?
No better way can be found to establish Bible authority than to see an example of it being done in the Scriptures themselves. In Acts 15 we have the apostles and elders of the church in Jerusalem considering the teaching which was being done concerning whether the Gentiles were to be circumcised as a part of salvation. "And certain men which came down from Judea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved." (verse 1). In order to establish whether such a practice was authorized by God or not, we find in verses 14 and 15 the words of Simeon and the prophets were appealed to that it might be shown that God had the same plan of salvation for the Gentiles as He did for the Jews. Thus, we are given DIRECT Continued on next page.
COMMANDS or statements to establish the fact in the matter. In verse 12 Paul and Barnabas showed that the miracles and wonders God done among the Gentiles evidenced that God approved of the Gentiles. Therefore, we have given APPROVED EXAMPLES by which divine authority was established to decide the matter. In verse 7-11, Peter tells of the conversion of Cornelius, a Gentile, and thus reaches the NECESSARY CONCLUSION that God had "put no difference between us and them" (verse 9) and therefore it would not be right "to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples"(verse 10). "We shall be saved, even as they". (verse 11).
The letters that were written to the church in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia stated: "Forasmuch as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, Ye must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment:" (verse 24). Why was there no such commandment? Because there was no direct command, approved apostolic example, nor necessary conclusion authorizing such a practice that involved circumcision being a part of salvation!
Today, the only way we know if we are authorized by God in what we do religiously is to find either a direct command or approved example or being able to draw a necessary conclusion from either the command or example. Is mechanical instruments of music authorized in worship unto God? If so, where is the passage of scripture giving the direct command authorizing it? Or the passage of scripture showing the apostles or early church engaged in its use? There are no such passages! What does this mean? Some think that if the Scriptures do not expressly forbide a certain practice, it is all right to go ahead and do it. Not so! We are commanded to "sing" (Ephesian 5:19; Colossians 3:16). Therefore, knowing what we are commanded to do eliminates all the other forms of music there might be. If Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 had said "make music", we would have authority for singing AND playing on a mechanical instrument: either vocal music or mechanical music. However, by God commanding "singing" that excludes all other forms of music and He did not have to give us the long list of things excluded for us to know they are unauthorized.
God has authorized unleaven bread and the fruit of the vine to be used in the Lord's Supper (Matthew 26:26-29). Because we cannot find a passage that expressly forbids cornbread and buttermilk does not therefore authorized their use on the Lord's table. When God has been specific, as in the case of singing in worship and the use of unleaven bread and the fruit of the vine in the Lord's Supper, that eliminates all other things for consideration.
Is what you did to become a Christian authorized in God's word? Is the name of the church you are member, its worship, organization, and work authorized in the Scriptures? Or are there many things you do for which you have no authority?
- E.R. Hall, Jr.