Divine Authority and the Church

By Connie W. Adams

Since God created the world, he controls it as it functions according to the laws which he set in motion. It is subject to his authority. God also made man in his image and therefore man is subject to divine authority. He will be called to judgment (Acts 17:30-31). God established the family and defined the roles of men, women, and children in the relationship. When it operates according to the will of him who created it, then great blessings flow. When his authority is rejected, then chaos follows. God also ordained civil government “for the punishment of evil doers that for the praise of them that do well” (1 Pet. 2:13-14). Peace and safety emanate from following this divine plan. Rejection of it brings anarchy, crime, and violence of every kind.

The church is a divine creation. Those who make it up are called “a new creation” (2 Cor. 5:17). We are “created in Christ unto good works” (Eph. 2:10). It was built according to the “eternal purpose of God” (Eph. 3:11). The very establishment of it made known to heavenly powers the “manifold wisdom of God” (Eph. 3:10).

Everything about it suggests divine order. Christ is its builder. “Upon this rock I will build my church” (Matt. 16:18). Christ is its foundation. “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 3:11). It rests upon his divine power and deity. Christ is its “chief corner stone” (1 Pet. 2:6-7). He is the point of reference for every-thing about it. He is the purchaser. He purchased it “with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). He is its savior. “He is the savior of the body, the church” (Eph. 5:23). He is its king. “My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36). He is “head over all things” to it (Eph. 1:22-23). All things in it must be done according to his authority. “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Col. 3:17). If anything is taught or practiced which he has not authorized, then divine authority has been rejected. This will amply proved in a future article.

Walk By the Same Rule

There is an objective standard by which all who make up the church of the Lord are expected to walk. “Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing. Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample. (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things). For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Phil. 3:16-20).

The word “rule” in verse 16 is kanoni from which we get the word “canon.” This is from the Hebrew /canna) which meant a cane, reed. It was used of a measuring rod, rule, a carpenter’s line, or measuring tape. In the New Testament it meant (1) a definitely bounded or fixed space within the limits of which one’s power or influence is confined; the province assigned one; one’s sphere of activity: 2 Corinthians 10:13,15, and (2) Metaphorically, any rule or standard, a principle or law of investigating, judging, living, acting: Gal. 6:16; Phil. 3:16 (Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament 324). Green says “met., rule of conduct or doctrine” and cites Gal. 6:16 and Phil. 3:16 (Greek and English Lexicon to the New Testament 92).

There is a rule, a standard of action, to which all in Christ are subject. All are expected to walk by it. Paul was stern in describing those who did not walk by that rule. Since our citizenship is in heaven, then the rule of God and Christ must govern our “walk” as citizens.

That rule, also involves the practice of the apostles of the Lord. “Be followers together of me” and walk so as ye have us for an example.” Apostolic examples are crucial in understanding the rule of Christ. I hear preachers speak disparagingly of the old sermons they have heard on “ac-cording to the pattern.” One said recently, “and do you know what that pattern is? The pattern is Jesus Christ.” Well, now, what does that include? Is that limited to what Jesus said while here on earth? Only what we can read in red? Or does it include what the Holy Spirit guided the apostles to preach and write? Paul wrote “Which things also we speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Spirit teacheth, combining spiritual things with spiritual words.” “But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:13,16). “If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord” (1 Cor. 14:37). When we speak or write about “the pattern” for scriptural worship, work or organization, then we must consider what the head of the church about it, including what the Spirit guided his apostles to preach and write. The Lord’s pattern is the sum total of all he said on any subject. This business of arguing that we “must major in the gospels and minor in the epistles” and that the epistles are just “love letters” and therefore the doctrinal matters presented there are not of equal weight with what Jesus said while on earth, or what we might imagine he would have said or done based on our own subjective analysis of his person, springs from an unwillingness to “walk by the same rule.”

Unity in spiritual things is both desirable and required. We are to be “of one mind.” How is that possible? Don’t we all have our own prejudices and opinions? That may be, but when we stretch out the reed of divine truth for measurement, than what it says is right and I must be willing to lay aside my prejudice or opinion. And so must you! If there is no rule by which we all walk then we are left with spiritual anarchy. The universe functions by divine law. So does the family. So does civil government. And so does the church. Disrespect and disregard for divine authority in either or all of these matters brings chaos of gigantic proportions. (More To Come)

Guardian of Truth XL: 7 p. 3-4
April 4, 1996