By Donnie Rader
Most, if not all, of the problems to arise among brethren are due to a lack of respect for the authority of God’s word. If I were asked what I think the biggest problem we are facing is, I would answer: “A lack of respect for God and his word.” All of the issues that we are facing and will face are mere symptoms of the problem.
The issue may be worldliness, divorce and remarriage or the role of women. While each of these is a different issue, they are all symptoms of a lack of respect for the Bible.
Quite often we find ourselves treating the symptoms without addressing the heart of the problem. To kill the pain in the arm without fixing the pinched nerve in the spine doesn’t cure the problem or the symptom. The pain will recur. The same is true with those who have little or no respect for what the Bible says. To show what the Bible says on the subject of worldliness or the role of women will not correct the problem until those being taught have some respect for what God says.
God Has Authority Over Man
By “authority” we mean “The power to command, en-force laws, exact obedience, determine, or judge” (The American Heritage Dictionary). God has the power to tell man how he is to live and demand that he be obedient to his will.
1. He is God. The very fact that God is God suggests he has that authority. He is eternal. He said to Moses, I am who I am” (Exod. 3:14). He is the Almighty — the all powerful God (Rev. 4:8).
2. He is the creator. He created the world and all things in it (Gen. 1:1; Heb. 3:4). The world was created for his will (Rev. 4:11). He created man and gave him the very life that he has (Gen. 1:26; 2:7). Thus, he has the power to rule our lives.
3. He is infinite in his wisdom. His ways and thoughts are higher than man’s ways and thoughts (Isa. 55:8-9). God is so wise that man cannot dare to sit in judgment on God and question what he says and does (Rom. 11:34). Thus, man is not left to direct his own steps (Jer. 10:23).
4. He controls the destiny of man. Paul described God to those who did not know God saying, “for in him we live and move and have our being. . . `For we are also his off-spring”‘ (Acts 17:28). In light of that principle, Paul states that God has commanded all men to repent (vv. 30-31). God has the right to command that of man in that he controls the life and destiny of man.
5. He will judge man in the end. God has appointed a day in which he will judge the world (Acts 17:31). Whether we like it or not, whether we are ready or not, God will call all men to appear before him to be judged (2 Cor. 5:10). If he will judge man, then he has the power to demand obedience to his will.
The Bible Is the Infallible Word of God
1. How the word came to man. God speaks to man through his Son, Jesus Christ (Heb. 1:1). The Son revealed God’s will to the apostles by the Holy Spirit (Jn. 14:26; 15:26; 16:13; Eph. 3:3-5). The apostles wrote down the revelation (by inspiration) so men and women could read and understand the will of God (Eph. 3:3-5).
2. The word is inspired. The Bible was given by the mouth of God. Its words are his words. The Bible makes two claims about its inspiration. (a) All of the word is inspired (2 Tim. 3:16). This is what we call plenary inspiration. (b) Even the very words that the apostles spoke and wrote were chosen by God (1 Cor. 2:13). This is what we call verbal inspiration.
3. The Bible is the word of God. The Thessalonians received the message Paul preached “not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God” (1 Thess. 2:13). The seed of the kingdom is the word of God (Lk. 8:11).
If it is the word of God, we ought to reverence it as such and not view what is taught from it as the word or tradition from man.
2. We will be judged by the word. In the end of time we will give an account as to whether we have accepted and followed the Scriptures or rejected them. Jesus said, “. . . the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day” (Jn. 12:48).
We Must Follow the Pattern of God’s Word
1. There is a pattern. God instructed Moses when he was about to make the tabernacle saying, “See that you make all things according to the pattern shown you on the mountain” (emphasis mine, DVR, Heb. 8:5). Bill Humble wrote,
The church of Christ is different! And the fundamental reason why this is true can be stated quite simply: We believe that the New Testament is a divine blueprint for what the church ought to be in every age, and it is our responsibility to build according to the pattern.
God has always had a pattern for his great institutions for the building of the tabernacle, he said, “According to all that I show thee, the pattern of the tabernacle, and the pattern of all the furniture thereof even so shall ye make it” (Exod. 25:9). Centuries later, God selected Solomon to build the temple and the houses thereof “. . . and the pattern of all that he had by the Spirit. . .” (1 Chron. 28:11-12). David told Solomon, “All this have I been made to under-stand in writing from the hand of Jehovah, even all the works of this pattern” (v. 19).
If God was so concerned about the temple and tabernacle (physical buildings) that he gave his people a pattern and demanded that they build according to the pattern, could he be so unconcerned about the details of the church (a spiritual house) that he has no blueprint for it? The tabernacle is a “copy and shadow of the heavenly things, even as Moses was warned of God when he was about to make the tabernacle… ” The tabernacle was a shadow, the church is the reality. Since the shadow had a pattern, the reality must also have one” (The Preceptor, October 1953).
Whatever the Bible says on any subject is the pattern.
2. What this means. If we must follow the pattern of God’s word, then several conclusions naturally follow.
(a) We cannot add to God’s word (Deut. 4:2; Rev. 22:18-19).
(b) We cannot take from God’s word (Deut. 4:2; Rev.22:18-19).
(b) We cannot change God’s word (Num. 22:18; 23:20).
(c) We cannot go beyond God’s word (2 Jn. 9).
(d) We must abide within the confines of God’s word (Col. 3:17; 2 Jn. 9; 1 Pet. 4:11).
Some False Concepts About Authority
1. “We don’t need authority. ” This would mean that man is at liberty to do as he wishes without any consequences. However, it didn’t work that way with Cain and Abel. They both offered a sacrifice to God. But God only accepted the offering of Abel because his was by faith (Heb. 11:4). Faith comes by the word of God (Rom. 10:17). Thus, Abel offered a sacrifice in harmony with the authority of God and Cain did not. Abel pleased God and Cain did not.
Nadab and Abihu offered a “strange” (KJV) fire unto God (Lev. 10:1). This was an “unauthorized” (NIV) fire. They offered a fire that God did not authorize. The consequence was they died from a devouring fire from the Lord (v. 2).
Those who practice “lawlessness” (acting without law) will hear the Lord say “depart from me” (Matt. 7:21-23).
If we do not need authority, then man is permitted to do anything he wants in the service of God. Not only will we have instrumental music, but we will have women elders, women preachers, snake handling and you name it. There would be no limit.
2. “We need only to strictly follow and believe the `core essentials’ or `the affirmations of Jesus and salvation in him,’ but we have the freedom to change things about the church. ” This is the old “gospel/doctrine” distinction that has been made for years. It is a call to abandon the idea that the book of Acts and the Epistles are a “blueprint” for the church today. The reason is quite clear: the blueprint is just not what they want.
This has also been advocated under the idea of “preach the man and not the plan.” The conclusion to this whole idea is that we must believe what the Bible says about Jesus and salvation in him, but we are left to a “what sounds good to me” approach beyond that. That allows us to ignore what the Bible says on any subject.
The “gospel” and “doctrine” are one and the same. The “core essentials” are called the “gospel” in Romans 10:16. Those same “essentials” are referred to as “doctrine” in Romans 6:17.
We must follow the pattern that is laid down in the Epistles as well as what some are calling the “core essentials.” Paul wrote that one who did not “obey our word in this epistle” was to be disfellowshiped in order to bring him to repentance (2 Thess. 3:14). Consider: 2 Timothy 1:13; Philippians 4:9; 1 John 2:5-6.
3. “We are not under `law’ today.” The idea is that if we are not under law then there could be no serious consequence to some violation. Again, man is left at liberty to do as he pleases.
We are under law. We obeyed the “law of the spirit of life” when we became Christians (Rom. 8:2). We are blessed if we continue in the “perfect law of liberty” (Jas. 1:25). If we were not under any law, then we could not be guilty of sin, for sin is a transgression of the law (1 Jn. 3:4; Rom. 4:15).
Let us learn to respect the authority of the word of God.
Guardian of Truth XXXV: 1, p. 8
January 7, 1993