Approved Example (6)
Editor's Note: This article is the sixth in a series of articles dealing with the subject of Bible authority. The articles are short, as they first were printed in the local bulletin I edit. Feel free to reprint them if you find them helpful. However, credit must be given to Billy W. Moore's class book A Study of Authority, as the articles follow closely the material found in that good book.)
In our previous article, entitled Expressed Command, I wrote:
One of these "logical rules of communication" can be identified as an approved example. The premise is simple. If in the New Testament we find Christians participating in an activity, and the example we find is spoken of as approved of God, we can rightly surmise that this practice is divinely authorized.
It is important to note that the example must be spoken of by inspiration as approved. There are certainly examples of unauthorized activity by Christians in the New Testament. We do not mean that we can engage in any activity found in the New Testament. Rather, only those which are shown to meet God's approval.
In Acts 20:7, we read the following: "Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul, ready to depart the next day, spoke to them and continued his message until midnight." The text clearly indicates that the disciples came together on Sunday to partake of the Lord's Supper. As Paul was present on that occasion, and did not speak against it, we are assured that what they did was approved by God.
The text of Acts 20:7 is the only text in the New Testament which indicates the day of observance. It constitutes the sum total of God's revelation on that matter. Hence, this approved example constitutes and exclusive pattern with regard to the day of observance. Today, if we observe the Lord's Supper on Sunday, we do so with God's authorization. However, if we partake of the supper on any other day of the week, we do so without divine authority. "And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men" (Matthew 15:9).
A second approved example is found in Acts 11:29-30. "Then the disciples, each according to his ability, determined to send relief to the brethren dwelling in Judea. This they also did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul." There are certain things which can be ascertained by this text:
As with the example in Acts 20:7, there is a pattern established in scripture by example, which must be respected. If a congregation sends money or goods directly to destitute brethren to fulfill benevolent needs, they follow the pattern. Paul gave instructions to the church in Corinth (cf. 1 Corinthians 16:1-2) to establish a weekly offering to accomplish that very thing.
However, some are not content with following that approved example, and devise other methods of engaging in benevolent work. Some violate the examples given regarding the scope of evangelistic work. In the New Testament, there is never any authorization for congregations to use the Lord's money for general acts of benevolence. These acts are relegated to the individual Christian's personal responsibility (cf. James 1:27). In the New Testament, such congregational relief was to indigent saints only. Some violate the examples given regarding the method of giving. They establish human benevolent societies, or establish sponsoring church structures to accomplish the work rather than following the approved examples found in scripture.
If churches follow the pattern as it is established in scripture to do the work of benevolence, they do so with God's blessing. However, to depart from that pattern is to show disrespect for the will of Almighty God.
Divine authority can be established by both Expressed Command, and Approved Example. This is both logical, and can be easily shown in the New Testament.