Larry Ray Hafley


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A Form of Authority


The veneration and exaltation of the Bible, that blessed old Book, is admirable and commendable if it be accompanied by understanding and application. But multitudes are deluded by a reverence that is nothing but superstitious sentimentalism. Souls in sectarian societies consider themselves members of the body of Christ because their "Pastor" is a "Bible toting, Bible quoting fundamentalist." The Bible is "interpreted strictly and literally" as their "only rule of faith and practice," so they think not to examine themselves whether they be in the faith (2 Corinthians 13:5).

A similar form of authority has been espoused by Christians. Since we "speak where the Bible speaks and are silent where the Bible is silent," we need not question our practices. After all, the preacher is allied and identified with "our Christian Colleges," and the elders endorse and encourage all that we do, so what fear have we? Oh, of course, we raise an eyebrow at some things that seem out of harmony with the past, but the young people are interested, so it must be right — we are just not used to it. The sole, whole authority for minds that are thus steeped in church traditionalism is the fact that "we have always been a Bible-based people." That being true, as it is assumed to be, then we are justified.

This is the way human traditions and unscriptural deeds and doctrines are brought forth, and they, when they are finished, bring forth a denomination. But the denomination does not seek to return and restore itself, for its members say, "We were born and raised on the Bible, in the Restoration movement, and in the true church, so we must be right," and on and on it flows from generation to generation, from denomination to denomination.

There is a present perilous development of just such a philosophy and its result, a denomination. It is occurring almost imperceptibly, especially to those ensnared therein. The departures are slight and gradual; at least, that is how they begin. Major errors are rebuffed at first because they just do not "ring true," but they are not repelled and expelled by the question, "Where is the authority — book, chapter, and verse, please?" When that approach to error and innovation is not used, the encroachment eventually will find its way into the body, and the opposers will adopt it with hesitancy in the beginning but will embrace it with fervor in the end. (This witness is true. Certain who see themselves uncovered by the above words will shudder and close their eyes at their nakedness before the truth. But, alas, they will maintain their present course. They have gone too far for too long. They have seared their hearts and sealed their fate, and their reaction is living testimony to the truthfulness of what we have written.)

The Jews preached Moses as the law and the prophets were "read in the synagogue every Sabbath day" (Luke 4:16; Acts 13:14, 15, 27; 15:21). But hearing, they heard not, and seeing they saw not, for they rejected him who was the sum and substance of all they read and heard. Both in an out of the church, it is likewise true today. The Bible is read and preached every Lord's day, but error remains in the churches of men and departures reign in some churches of Christ. It is an anguishing sight that wrings the spirit of its tears, but it must be fought and stopped. It may not be stopped, but it shall be fought (Titus 1:10-13; Jude 3). The sword of the Spirit is the word of God. It is yet alive and powerful (Ephesians 6:17; Hebrews 4:12). We are yet alive and, with it, powerful. Our aim and object is to reclaim and redeem some who have been discussed and described. Our love for them and the truth of God, and our hatred of every false way, will not permit us to leave them alone. We know who they are. They know who they are. God knows who they are.