Authority in Christianity
The division and resulting confusion of the religious world today will continue until the leaders of the sects recognize that the church of the Lord is not a democracy whose practices are to be determined by majority vote or by conferences and councils of men. Jesus in the Word has taught us that the church is a kingdom. Read Matthew chapter 13 that records parables of the kingdom which refer to the church and Matt. 16:18 where He spoke of building his church, then in the very next verse referred to it as the kingdom. See also verse 28 of the same chapter in which Jesus said, "There shall be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom." Moreover, Paul wrote, "God hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son" (Col. 1:13). Jesus himself "is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords (1 Tim. 6:15).
Those familiar with secular government know that in a democracy the people rule either directly or through elected representatives. In an aristocracy the ruling class is composed of a few, but in a monarchy the king has all power, which he may delegate if he chooses. In a democracy there are three separate branches of government: the legislature, to make laws; a system of courts, the judiciary, to interpret the laws; and the executive branch composed of officials to enforce these laws. In a monarchy the legislative, judicial and executive powers are ALL vested in the king. So also it is in the divine order of government for the kingdom, the church. Of this divine kingdom Christ is King, ruling over his subjects who are members of his body, the church, and citizens of his kingdom (1 Cor. 12: 20, 2 7; Phil. 3: 20 ASV).
Jesus said unto his disciples, "All power (or authority the American Standard Version says) is given unto me in heaven and in earth." Inspired by the Spirit, Paul wrote, "Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power" (1 Cor. 15:24). Hence, Jesus now has "ALL RULE AND ALL AUTHORITY AND POWER."
We must listen, therefore, to Jesus in all matters religious rather than to the ideas of human, fallible man who has no authority whatever since Christ has it all. Jesus further stated to h s disciples, after having declared that he had all authority, "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost (Spirit-ASV): Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen." (Matt. 28:19-20). Jesus in giving this worldwide commission stipulated the conditions of the apostles' preaching, namely, they were to observe all things commanded them by him, and not by any man or group of men in conventions or synods.
The reason so much religious confusion exists is because too many people take what some preacher says rather than listening to what Jesus and the apostles plainly teach in the scriptures. Following the transfiguration of our Lord, God spoke from heaven saying, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him." Let us listen to authorized teaching from the Son of God, who pleased well the Father and who has been given all authority in Christianity.
Protestantism apologizes for its divisions on the ground, "We can not all understand the Bible alike." This is not true for when we understand anything, we must of necessity all understand it alike. Many people, however, misunderstand the Bible! What we need is more study and belief of just what the Bible says!
The underlying cause of division in the religious world is a lack of recognition of AUTHORITY. Groups of men convene to determine the practices of their denomination and forget or disregard the divine standard of authority, the teaching of Christ and the apostles contained in the New Testament. It should, though, ever be remembered that Jesus said for us to observe all things whatsoever he has taught. He has all authority! (Matt. 28:18; 1 Cor. 15:23.) Also, hear the words of Peter preached on Solomon's porch, "For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A Prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; (Moses was speaking of Jesus) him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you. And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that Prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people" (Acts 3: 224-23) .
Many members of denominations will admit that the Lord authorizes a certain act in a specific way but they say, "I don't think it's wrong to do it another way." They then disregard divine authority and set themselves up as the end of all wisdom.
Pope Stephen II in 1311 introduced sprinkling as a substitute for scriptural immersion.
The New Testament teaches that baptism is a burial (Col. 2:12; Rom. 6:3-5), a going down into, a coming up out of the water (Acts 8:38-39; Mt. 3:16-17). Whether you accept sprinkling or immersion for Bible baptism is an index to whom or what you recognize as authoritative!
In 658 Pope Vitalianus introduced instrumental music to accompany the scripturally authorized singing of New Testament worship. These are the New Testament scriptures which authorize singing in acceptable worship to God: Rom. 15:9; 1 Cor. 14:15; Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16; Heb. 2:12 and 13:15 and James 5: 13. There is no authority in the New Testament to use mechanical instruments such as the organ, piano, trumpet, etc, in the worship of God.
Jesus said, "But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men" (Mt. 15:9). Therefore, in subscribing to those doctrines and practices unauthorized by Christ and hence commanded by men, ones worship is in vain. No man has the right to make religious laws binding upon the church nor has any conference or council of men.
The word of Christ which is to dwell in us richly (Col. 3:16) and by which we are to live and ultimately be judged (John 12:48) is our authority in Christianity. Since we are to be judged by this divine standard, the teaching of the New Testament of Christ, let us diligently study it that our lives and religious practices may conform thereto.
1. Since 1910 churches of Christ have contributed, from the treasuries, to Orphan Home Corporations and Old Folks Home Corporations. There is not one passage in all the New Testament of Christ that authorizes the church to contribute to another organization except to a church of Christ which is in NEED (Acts 11:27-30; 1 Cor. 16:1-4; Romans 15:25-31; 2 Cor. 8 & 9). When men "go beyond that which is written," (1 Cor. 4:6), and corrupt God's plan for taking care of the needy their worship is in vain (Matt. 15: 1-9).
2. In recent years brethren have solicited and accepted church contributions to Colleges and Schools. There is not one scripture that teaches by precept or statement of fact, by approved example, or necessary inference that churches of Christ may contribute to an Educational Society. The beloved apostle wrote, "Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God" (2 John 9).
3. During the David Lipscomb College Lectures in the Spring of 1960, "Prophet" Marshall Keeble said, "I prophesy that we'll have Church of Christ Hospitals in the next few years." Friends, there is no authority from Christ for such. Certainly Christians, as individuals, are to visit the sick for Jesus said, "I was sick, and ye visited me" (Mt. 25:36), but this does not authorize churches contributing to a church of Christ Hospital Corporation.
Indeed, all need to recognize the importance and seriousness of these matters and "continue steadfastly in the apostles' doctrine," (Acts 2:42), and ever be content to "abide in the doctrine of Christ," (2 John 9). Then when "we walk in the light, as he is in the light" we will "have fellowship one with another" (1 John 1: 7).
Truth Magazine VI: 2, pp. 22-24