A Study Of Authority
Whenever an issue arises in which two people differ in their belief, there is a controversy. Most of the time, it is a matter of you going your way, and letting them go their way. Sometimes it is not that easy. Sometimes, someone who wears the same name and professes to carry the same belief that you have says or prints things that you disagree with. Of course, we should be accomodative to allow people of like faith to have their opinions and that should never cause divisions.
It becomes a real problem when their opinions are different from doctrine. When they teach a different doctrine other than the one which has already been preached (Gal 1:6-9), it becomes an issue of doctrine and not just opinion anymore. Using the language of Paul, we must understand that to accept something other than what we have received from God's word, is to fall away from the doctrine of Christ.
For those people who are sincere and honest before God, the presentation of false doctrine signals several warning signs. The presence of error means that Satan has arrived. The presentation of error could not come without ignorance on the part of some people. The presentation of error was necessary because of the hard hearted people who wanted to sin anyway, but still have acceptance from the brethren. This also signals that brethren do not love the truth as presented in the word.
If we have a concern for the souls of our brethren, and also the souls of those outside the faith, then we must stand up for the truth. It even becomes necessary to confront these false teaches and reprove, rebuke, and exhort them (2 Tim 4:2). Reprove their digression from God's law, rebuke their false teaching (even expose it), and exhort them to return to the true light of God's word.
We recognize that if this false teaching continues, then people will accept it and believe it. By doing so, bringing condemnation on their souls. But wait a moment; is the mere belief in a false doctrine, even though you never practice it, going to condem your soul to Hell? Most likely, you will give your support to those who do teach it and who do practice it (Rom. 1:32). If you believe it, then you will defend it. By defending your faith, which is based upon error, you are defending error and not the truth. Even if you perceive that you are right. When people do not love the truth anymore, God will allow them to believe what is false (2 Thess 2:11). These people will be numbered with the goats (Matt 25:32-33). These people will be rejected by Christ (Matt 7:21-23). These people are out of fellowship with God (1 John 2:3-4).
Because a member of the church of which we are members starts to declare false teaching, we are also associated with that doctrine. Everyone represents that of which they are a part of. We are a part of Christ, and when people see us, they should see Jesus. If they do not see Christ living in us, then we must examine ourselves and correct our error. We are also a part of each other (Rom 12:12-27). If they as a member are speaking, then they are speaking for us. If their message is not acceptable, then we must correct it. We must expose the false teaching, and if necessary, discipline the false teacher. We cannot tolerate error just because they profess the same faith. Within the church, there are brethren who have taught false doctrines. These brethren should be marked and pointed out so that their poison does not affect the rest of us (Rom 16:17-18). Because we stand for the truth, we must of necessity oppose error in whatever form it takes. We should do this immediatly. For when apostasy arrives the people flock to it. Why? Because of stubborness, obstinance, and worldliness.
We have been debating the issue of divorce and remarriage for a long time. This is because the false doctrines keep coming. They keep coming in order to accomadate those who are guilty of this sin. We want to keep our members and add new ones. Therefore, many feel that we should adjust our faith to allow the more to come in. What they are saying is that we should compromise the truth. If these people want to live in sin, then they have many choices in the world that allows them to believe it.
The church is to be different. We want our members to be of a right relationship with God, because we believe that the church will be presented to God without spot or blemish (1 Cor. 15:24; Eph 5:27). Because we believe the Bible to be God's word, we must use it as our standard, creed, rulebook, and guide. When false doctrines are preached they have left the boundaries of scriptural authority. Let us look at how to determine scriptural authority and we will let God's word have the final say in this matter.
The Sovereignty of God
God created the heavens and the earth (Gen 1:1). It belongs to God and everything in it (Psa 24:1). This includes man who was created in His image (Gen 1:26-27; 2:7). All things were created for His pleasure (Isa 43:7; Phil 2:13). All things were created for Him (Col 1:16) who is our Lord, Jesus Christ. He holds all things together (Col 1:17). He is our spirital leader, guide, example, and king (Col 1:18). We must also understand that we are not only subject to Him, but we belong to Him (Rom 14:7-8).
Regardless of our acceptance of Jesus as our Savior, or our rejection; we are still accountable to Almighty God. If we are to have any hope of salvation, then we must submit to His will. We do this by showing our humility and acknowledging Him in our lives, and by the way we live our lives (1 John 2:5-6). Failure to submit to His will, will bring about the wrath of God (Rom 1:18-23). The wrath of God will come upon those who suppress the truth. In other words, the keep it concealed or quiet. By not teaching the whole council of God (Acts 20:27), they are guilty of suppressing the truth in unrighteousness (Rom 1:18). Anyone who does not declare the whole purpose of God, is guilty of unrighteousness, and those who follow the unrighteous will pay the ultimate penalty (Rev 20:12-15).
God has given His soverign rule to His Son, Christ Jesus (Psa 2:8-9). With the soverignty, comes the authority. This also was given to Jesus (Matt 28:18). Jesus is only subject to God (1 Cor. 15:27-28). God put Jesus in charge (Eph 1:22), and He will stay in charge until the end (1 Cor. 15:24).
How we determine authority
We are to learn from the word of God (Rom 15:4). We see that in the early part of the Bible, God spoke to mankind through the patriarchs and the prophets (Heb 1:1). But in these last days, God speaks to us through His Son (Heb 1:2). Jesus was given this position because of His obedience (Heb 5:8-9). It is not only Jesus who commands us, but also His apostles (Heb 2:3). The apostles were guided by the Holy Spirit (Heb 2:4). This is because of the promise that Jesus made to them (John 14:16-17,26; 16:7,13).
The Holy Spirit was given a work to teach all that Jesus had said, and to guide people into all truth. We also noted that the Holy Spirit is not a separate entity, to do has He wills, but is just as much subject to God as Christ is. As the Bible was written by the Holy Spirit (1 Pet. 1:20-21), it becomes our source of authority, having the assurance that these words are from God (2 Tim. 3:16).
Now that we have established that the Bible is the word of God (John 17:17), we must understand that there is no error contained in it. Neither is there any confusion to be found therein. So whenever we have two different doctrines taught on a subject that the Bible covers, we have error. This error is on either one part or could even be both parts, but never can two different doctrines be right. It becomes our responsibility to determine from God's word, what is correct and intended. We then must teach it as God does. Do we have to agree with it? We should, but even if we do not agree with some of these conclusions, we are still bound to teach them that are in accordance with His word.
I feel sorry for those people who are in this unfortunate circumstance. I wish that there was a way that they could get right with God, and still have human companionship in a marriage relationship. But if I accomodate them, then I am neglecting God's word. Yes, we feel for these people, but we also must feel for God. Because it was His law that was first violated, so the consequences must be lived with. If that means a life of celibacy, then so be it. If they choose to follow a doctrine that allows re-marriage for people who do not have that right, then they also must face the consequences of their actions.
Jesus has this authority
We have already seen that God gave to His Son, Jesus, this authority (Matt 28:18; John 5:27). Jesus also demonstrated His authority while on this earth. When Jesus healed the paralytic ( Matt 9:1-8), He demonstrated His authority. Ten times, Jesus used the statement "But I say to you". Some of these times were during the sermon on the mount. The result we find is that the people were amazed at His teaching (Matt 7:28-29). Jesus claimed Diety while on this earth. He claimed that He was like God in many ways. He claimed that those who heard Him, were in fact, hearing the Father above. He said that He did not speak of His own volition, but His words were chosen for Him, by God. He said that if people kept His commandments, then they were keeping God's commandments. If anyone rejects the teaching and commandments of Christ, then they are rejecting God's laws. Jesus said that the words He speaks will judge us. Therefore, Jesus concludes, that If we are to have eternal life, we are to believe in Jesus (John 12:44-50).
If Jesus said it, it was the same as if God said it. Jesus gives us four passages of scripture to cover this subject. If we ever come up with a doctrine different than what is taught by Jesus, then we have rejected His authority, and the authority of God, and the authority of the Holy Spirits work, which is the Bible. That is why we have to debate for scriptural authority on this subject. If we find a passage of scripture elsewhere that seems to teach something different, then we have confusion. But the confusion is not from God (1 Cor. 14:33), but is found in the minds of men. To select a verse and apply a principle that would violate a specific command would be error.
My opponents in this subject have taken a passage out of scripture to authorize any remarriage by anyone. It is not good for man to be alone (Gen 2:18). This teaching violates other commands in scripture, therefore it is false asumption to say that this authorizes any remarriage by anyone. Why? Because they have taken the original application of that statement, and twisted it. Yes, God did say that it was not good for man to be alone. Yes, God did give man a suitable helpmeet. Yes, God did set up the institution of marriage (Gen 2:24). Yes, God did intend for this marriage to be for life. Yes, God does hate divorce (Mal 2:16). Yes, marriage should be intended that man not be alone.
But we must also recognize that when a law is broken, that there are consequences involved. According to Jesus, if we leave this arrangement that God has given to us, then we are not entitled to have this priviledge again. People give up certain rights when they choose to violate the law. In our country, people convicted of felonies have been denied certain rights that the faithful in the community are allowed to enjoy. Some people give up their rights by what they do. They do this by choice. They choose to ignore the law and they choose to violate it. Therefore they are denied their rights because of the nature of their crime. For major crimes, they are denied their right of freedom. For the most part, they are denied their rights as citizens (voting, ownership of guns, or representing their peers in office).
It is not any different in the spiritual realm. To start out, we are innocent before God. We have every right of citizenship that God offers His children. But we choose to violate His laws. When that happens we are deprived of our rights also. We are separated from God (Isa 59:2) because of our transgressions. Because we have sin in our lives, we cannot have God in our lives.
But God was merciful and gave us His Son (John 3:16) so that we could have a right to return to God (Eph 2:4-7). Now, it is by our individual obedience to His (Christ's) laws that will bring about our salvation. By faith, repentance, confession, and baptism, we may be cleansed of our sins. When our sins are forgiven or washed away (Acts 22:16), we become pure, without spot or blemish. We are then added to His church (Acts 2:47).
By being in the church, we have all the rights of citizenship therein. We are called the children of God (1 John 3:1). We are heirs of God (Rom 8:16-17). We are chosen to be holy and blameless (Eph 1:4) He has adopted us (Eph 1:5) In Christ we have redemption (Eph 1:7) through His blood. God made known to us His will (Eph 1:9) by the revelation of His Son. We are given these things so that God may be glorified (Eph 1:12). The Holy Spirit (or the work of the Holy Spirit) is given as our pledge (Eph. 1:14) of salvation, and keeping the worship of God pure. When we abide in the teachings of the Bible, we have a relationship with the Holy Spirit. We are guided by the Holy Spirit, and we are taught by the Holy Spirit. We have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit when we take His work and apply it to our lives. When we live according to the scriptures, then the Holy Spirit leads us. What the Holy Spirit leads us in, will produce Glory to God.
The Written Word
Our authority today is the written word. We have no right to add to, take away from, change, or leave out any part of it if we are to be found faithful before God. If we do any of these things, then we are not faithful, and will be judged accordingly. If our actions, words, and teachings cannot be confirmed by the word of God, then we are wrong. If we learn that we are wrong, we are subject to repent and change to the right ways. We cannot change what God has given us. There are no loop-holes. If God said it, then that settles it.
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