Attacks On Authority
"Authority" may legitimately be considered to be a multi-faceted concept and may, therefore, as a word, be used in more than one sense. In this article, it will be used in the highest sense of the Divine right inherent in God to legislate to his creatures. It will also be used to refer to certain responsibilities God has assigned to mankind, especially, in the church. This article deals with attacks that are made on duly constituted authority in both these senses.
The supreme attack on authority is the unwillingness of man to accept the authority of God. Men find the idea of accountability for their actions distasteful and we continually wonder if this is not the root of humanism/atheism, skepticism, etc., rather than an objective approach in harmony with the laws of logic and science.
To deny that God is and affirm the universal negative that God is not, one must make himself God. Why? Well, to substantiate this categorical denial and affirm this universal negative, one must be everywhere at the same time. For if there is one place where he is not, it may be that in that place is the overwhelming proof that God is. And one must know all things. For if there is one thing he does not know, it may be the unquestionable evidence that God is. These are impossible circumstances for the infidel but logical ones nonetheless.
But to believe that God is not, there are a series of beliefs, articles of faith, to which the unbeliever, logically, must hold in spite of the fact that he cannot demonstrate a single one of them. He must believe: 1) Life spontaneously arose from lifeless rocks and dirt, 2) matter has existed eternally, or, 3) that something has come from nothing, 4) the meticulous order of the universe is the result of chance or non-intelligent causes, 5) consciousness arose from the non-conscious, 5) and that the moral sense arose from the non-moral. And all of this must be believed in spite of the truth that no observed fact, event, or scientific experiment demands it or leads us to believe it. And the infidel who swallows all of this calls the Christian naive and unscientific in his beliefs!
Unfortunately, not just those out of the church attack the authority of God. Some in the church as well do this and do it by denying the necessity of his revelation in faith and practice. This is done in various ways. One prominent elder (now deceased) in one of the large sponsoring churches stated, "We do many things for which we have no Bible authority, nor do we need it." Others have told us that the Bible is "not a book of patterns but of principles," whatever that means. And others are currently trying with all diligence to sell the idea that we need a "new hermeneutic." One of course that does not include such things as apostolic example, necessary inference, etc. The old hermeneutic keeps getting in the way of their restructuring of the church.
The Scriptures clearly teach that all we do in serving God must be authorized by direct statement, approved example, and necessary inference.
Ephesians 5:24 states, "But as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives also be to their husbands in everything." 1) Wives are to subjecting themselves to their husbands as the church is subjecting itself to Christ. 2) But, wives are to be subjecting themselves "in everything." 3) Therefore, the church is to be subjecting herself to Christ "in everything."
This subjection to Christ is subjection to His will as expressed in, for one thing, direct statement. "Direct statement" means a statement in the exact words of a speaker or writer. These direct statements may take one of four forms: Commanding statements, declarative statements, question statements, and exclamatory statements.
The observance of the Lord's supper, e.g., is taught by direct statement in the form of a command. "..this do in remembrance of me." (Luke 22:19)
But, the will of Christ is also demonstrated by approved example, actions on the part of disciples of Christ that are of the nature of revelation and that illustrate authority previously given. The time when to eat the Lord's Super is taught by approved example. Acts 20:7 says, "And when the disciples came together on the first day of the week to break bread..." The apostle Paul was one of those who "came together" and so this was done with the approval of a Holy Spirit-led apostle. He is the same apostle who wrote, "Brethren, be ye imitators together of me and mark them that so walk even as ye have us for an ensample." (Philippians 3:17) And he also wrote, "The things which ye both learned and received and heard and saw in me, these things do..." So, apostolic example does reveal faith and practice. This practice of meeting on the first day of the week to eat the Lord's Supper has nothing to do with custom or with human research. Sometimes the New Hermeneutics advocates will say, "Well, what about the upper room and the holy kiss." Well, upper rooms are not matters of Divine Revelation. They are matters of human research and development. And the kiss of greeting was a matter of custom in vogue before the New Testament was written. Revelation here was an exhortation to make it "holy," not hypocritical like that infamous kiss of Judas. Without Divine Revelation, first century Christians would not have known that there was a particular day the Holy Spirit wanted the Lord's Supper eaten. But they would have known to eat it or something else in an upper room because eating in upper rooms was something already being done. The first century Christians would have known to greet each other with a kiss because that was the custom. But Revelation taught them to make the kiss holy. It is somewhat frustrating to some of us that we have to cover this ground all over again when it has been so thoroughly covered in the last forty years already. Remember: Those who do not study history are doomed to make its mistakes. And we opine that is some but not all of the problem.
Further, the will of Christ is expressed by necessary inference. The frequency of the Lord's Supper is taught in this manner. We know that it was to be eaten frequently because the early disciples "continued steadfastly in...the breaking of bread." (Acts 2:42) And I Corinthians 11:26 says, "For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink the cup..." And we are taught how frequently by necessary inference. We do not say possible inference nor even reasonable inference.. "Necessary inference" means an indispensable or unavoidable conclusion from given data or information. For example, in the Old Testament, when, in connection with the frequency of a given celebration, a certain day of a certain month was mentioned, that meant the celebration was a yearly one. If a certain day of the month was referred to, that meant it was a monthly celebration. If a certain day of the week was mentioned, that meant a weekly observance. Note: A certain day of a certain month means a yearly observance. A certain day of the month means a monthly observance, and a certain day of the week means a weekly observance. In connection with the Lord's Supper, we have a certain day of the week mentioned. Therefore, it was to have been a weekly observance.
Our faith and practice must be revealed and it must be revealed by Direct Statement, by Approved Example, or by Necessary Inference. Remember, the comments in this section deal with the necessity of Divine Revelation and the basic form this revelation takes.
An attack on authority may be found in the refusal to accept the oversight of elders in local churches.
Acts 20:17 states that "from Miletus" Paul "sent to Ephesus and called to him the elders of the church." In 20:28 he said. "Take heed unto yourselves, and to all the flock in which the Holy Spirit hath made you bishops..." The footnote in the ASV says, "Or, overseers." The text of the KJV and the NKJV say,"overseers."
To "the elders therefore among you" (I Peter 5:1) Peter says to, "Tend the flock of God, which is among you, exercising the oversight..." (I Peter 5:2) The KJV says, "Taking the oversight thereof..." And the NKJV says, "Serving as overseers.."
The fundamental meaning of the word given "overseers" is "an overseer, a man charged with the duty of seeing that things to be done by others are done rightly, any curator, guardian, or superintendent." (Thayer-Grimm, Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, p. 243) The verb form of this noun in I Peter 5:2 is defined as "to look upon, oversee, look after, care for, spoken of the care of the churches which rested upon the presbyters." (Thayer-Grimm,op. cit., p. 242) I Timothy 5:17 states, "Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor..." The verb rendered "rule" in this Scripture is said to mean, "to be over, superintend, preside over.."
Whatever, therefore, a fully developed or organized church does, is under the oversight of her elders. They oversee the work, personnel, use of funds, and the decisions made in these connections. Input is everyone's privilege but oversight is the responsibility of the elders/overseers.
Matthew 20:20-27 is sometimes used to show that no one can exercise authority among God's people and, therefore, elders cannot exercise authority among God's people. But this passage deals with a problem among the apostles regarding the kingdom ("Command that these my two sons may sit, one on they right hand, and one on thy left hand in thy kingdom." v. 21) and has nothing to do with elders and a local church. Moreover, the Lord, further, said, "Ye know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them. Not so shall it be among you."
The "authority" of the "rulers of the Gentiles" had to do with the imposition of their will on as many as possible and that without their consent and their will became law. Elders, in their oversight, become such by appointment after having been looked out by the church. They oversee the church carrying out, not their own will, but the will of Christ and, without making law, oversee in harmony with the law of Jesus Christ. It seems to this writer, that Matthew 20:20-27 is not a passage that prohibits the oversight and rule of elders.
But some brethren want to take the oversight away from elders by having all oversight decisions submitted to a business meeting of the men of the church for approval. This, for all practical purposes, puts the elders under the oversight of the church and this, no passage of Scripture indicates, is what the Lord wanted. The sheep were not to tend the shepherds but the shepherds were to tend the sheep.
But if the elders have the oversight of the decisions upon which the church is to proceed, this makes dictators of the elders, some say. And they are "lording it over the charge allotted" to them, that which the apostle forbade.
If this be the case, then WHO is to take the oversight of the final decisions as to, e.g., which evangelist shall work with a church, which evangelists shall hold its meetings, at what time shall the church assemble, who shall be helped benevolently and how much help shall be given? Who shall have the oversight of these decisions? They must be made and they must be finalized. Who shall do it? If the fact that the elders having the oversight of such decisions makes them dictators, then if the men in a business meeting have the oversight of such decisions, this makes them dictators lording it over the flock. The rule works just as well in one case as it does in the other. This, of course, is not dictatorship but a responsibility assigned by the Lord and it should not be attacked.
An attack on authority is seen in the issues that have been raised as to the role of women in the church. Unfortunately, standards that have been developed and adopted in the world have become a rallying point for some who do not care enough to be guided by the very best. The claim, fundamentally, that seems to be made is that, in all respects, men and women stand on an equal footing and, therefore, as respects function in the church, women are open to the same consideration, functionally, as men.
God has never left women out in the cold as to His church. Women can, and should, be hospitable like Lydia (Acts 16:14,15), helpful like Dorcas (Acts 9:36-43), a co-teacher with her husband like Priscilla (Acts 18:24-26), teachers like Lois and Eunice (II Timothy 1:3-5; 3:14), teachers as in Titus 2:1-5, servants of the church like Phoebe (Romans 16:1,2).
As she functions in the church, she must realize that "the head of the woman is the man" (I Corinthians 11:3). She must not "teach nor have dominion over a man." (I Timothy 2:12) She must understand that in that meeting of the church which is provided for "the whole church to be assembled together" ( I Corinthians 14:23) in one place (epi to auto. See Acts 2:1), where men are teaching (v. 35) and "edifying," (v. 26) so that "all may learn , and all be exhorted," (v. 31) that "women are to keep silence in the church for it is not permitted unto them to speak," (v. 34) and because "it is shameful for a woman to speak in the church." (v. 35)
It is not so with singing for those who are to "understand what the will of the Lord is" (Ephesians 5:17) are also to be "speaking one to another in psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs." (Ephesians 5:19) Nor does this restriction apply to: 1) Confession of faith in Christ. Romans 10:9,10 teaches that one must "confess (omologeo, 'declare publicly,' Arndt and Gingrich, p. 571) with thy mouth Jesus as Lord.." 2) And James 5:16 teaches us to "confess (exomologeo, 'is used of a public confession or acknowledgement of sins.' Vine, Vol. I, p. 225) therefore, your sins one to another."
When the question regards oversight of the local church, "the elders of the church" (Acts 20:17) are her "bishops" (footnote, ASV, "or overseers"). The KJV has "overseers" in the text. And an "overseer" "must be" "the husband of one wife." (I Timothy 3:2) And he is expected to "rule well." (I Timothy 5:17)
In the matter of decisions and deciding , the woman is in subjection to her head, under the oversight of elders, among those ruled by elders. She is never placed on an equality with man in these respects and when she presumes to be, she makes an attack on the oversight or superintendency God has established.
Another attack on authority is the refusal to recognize the autonomous right of a congregation to discipline its own unruly members.
When there was a notorious case of "fornication among" the Corinthian saints that "one of" them had "his father's wife," the apostle Paul rebuked them for being "puffed up" over this matter and because they "did not rather mourn that he that had done this deed might be taken away from among" them. (I Corinthians 5:1,2) The formal action of the congregation is stated in 5:4,5. "...in the name of our Lord Jesus, ye being gathered together with the power of our Lord Jesus to deliver such a one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus." In a congregational assembly, this notorious fornicator is to be given over to the rule and power of Satan, the Devil. He has shown by his action he prefers the way of life into which Satan has led him, so he is to be abandoned to Satan's rule and association. This would mean that he has been "purged" (5:7) from their membership and that, on an individual level, they are to "have no company with" him (5:9), "not to eat" with him (5:9), nor with those in his category, i.e., idolaters, extortioners, etc., are classed as "wicked," and are to be "put away" "from among " them. (5:13)
In reference to those "causing division and occasions of stumbling, contrary to the doctrine which" saints had "learned," the Roman saints were told to "turn away from them," (Romans 16:17) or "keep aloof from, one's society, to shun one." (Thayer-Grimm, op. cit. p. 106)
In dealing with its impenitent and unruly members, each church is taught that: 1) The congregation, in an assembly, must openly, formally abandon them to the Devil and 2) the members of that church are to exclude them from their association. To refuse to do such is to attack the authoritative plan of restoration revealed in the Scriptures.
The foregoing is Divine wisdom and when Christians, or anyone else, in their human wisdom say something like, "Oh, but that will just drive them away," let it be said that such statements are indictments of Divine wisdom, contradictory of Divine Revelation, and contrary to Christians' experience. In reference to the fornicator of I Corinthians 5, II Corinthians 2:6,7 says, "Sufficient to such a one is this punishment which was inflicted by the many; so that contrariwise ye should rather forgive him and comfort him, lest by any means such a one should be swallowed up with overmuch sorrow." The punishment of I Corinthians 5 brought this man to "sorrow." Writing about this same situation in 7:10, the apostle says, "For godly sorrow worketh repentance unto salvation..." So, we must work the plan and not rebel and attack the authority of Jesus Christ in this connection.
The authority of God in all his appointments and plans should not be attacked but humbly honored and respected. It is only when we do God's work according to God's revelation that the churches grow, the lost are saved, and the saints are edified. And this is what God wants.
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