Know Your Bible

VOL. 10                           July 31, 2011                           NO. 30

 From Heaven Or Of Men

     The chief priests, scribes, and elders asked Jesus, "By what authority doest thou these things? and who gave thee this authority to do these things?" (Mark 11:28) These men recognized the need for authority in religion. Jesus, with His reply, also recognized that there must be authority in religion. Jesus asked them, "The baptism of John, was it from heaven, or of men? answer me." (Mark 11:30) With this answer, Jesus identified the only two sources of authority in religion: Heaven (God) or men. Only one of these has the right to grant such authority, as identified by the Apostle Peter in Acts 5:29, "We ought to obey God rather than men." Though Jesus declined to answer those men who sought to cause him difficulty, he did later answer the question that they asked him. In Luke 10:22 Jesus made the statement, "All things are delivered to me of my Father ". In Matthew 28:18 (ASV) Jesus said, "All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth." We see, then, that Jesus had authority from God to rule over both heaven and Earth.

     We are told in Hebrews 1:1-2 that, "God hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son". These last days would refer to the time when we are under Christ''s covenant. God has chosen to reveal His word through Jesus, to Whom all authority has been given. Jesus also spoke of another that He would send after He left the Earth to return to Heaven. In John 16:13-14, Jesus told His disciples, "Howbeit when He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth: for He shall not speak of Himself; but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak: and He will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for He shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you." We find here that Jesus has promised that He would send the Spirit to "guide you into all truth." Remember, it was His disciples that Jesus was speaking to. Jesus had also warned these disciples that they would stand before governors and kings for Him. He told them, "But when they deliver you up, take no thought how or what ye shall speak: for it shall be given you in that same hour what ye shall speak." (Matthew 10:19) These men would be inspired and would speak by the authority that Jesus gave them. In fact, Jesus told Peter, "whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." (Matthew 16:19) Those things taught by inspired men are, therefore, just as binding on us as those taught by Jesus.

     Finally, the things that Jesus and His disciples taught, by God's authority, were written down for us. (I Corinthians 14:36-38, I Timothy 3:16-17) We are told that this written word "was once delivered unto the saints." (Jude 3) This statement means "once for all time," not to be added to or changed. Paul said, "But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:8)
 Let us, then, study the Word by which we have authority revealed from God.

---Mance J. Davis Jr.
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     In the realm of discussions about Bible authority, there are some men who are now complaining that anyone who demands "book, chapter, and verse" for what is taught or practiced is merely a "traditionalist" who is either following or attempting to defend some human-derived method of establishing authority that is [according to one recent assertion] "not found anywhere in the New Testament" and anyone who is using that method to establish authority is merely following recent traditions and is binding where God has not bound.  Yes, that's right; some are now boldly stating that we do not need Bible authority for anything we say or do in religious matters! But we should not be surprised.

     First, this man says, "a Church of Christ person [sic] cannot escape CENI's influence; that is, if they're really committed to the 'restoration' approach to Christianity. If one is dedicated to the 'restoration' of the NT church, then CENI is the only logical means by which to accomplish this task. If the goal is to do church [sic] exactly like church was done in the first century, then CENI is the hermeneutical tool to use." This man believes CENI is proper if we are trying to follow the pattern of the New Testament church, but he then says, "CENI's accompanying doctrine of 'patternism' is just as illegitimate as the rest of CENI's hermeneutics," and, "I'll simply affirm that such an approach to Christianity is nowhere found in the text of the NT." In other words, using CENI is wrong ['illegitimate' means not sanctioned by law] and the whole concept of CENI is human-derived and un-Biblical.

     That is a serious charge and assertion! Is he correct? Is the CENI approach human-derived and not of God? Is this method of establishing authority "nowhere found in the text of the NT" as this man asserts? By now you might be thinking, "What is CENI, and why should I care?"

     The acronym CENI simply means Command, Example, Necessary Inference and it refers to the basic method of establishing authority when considering spiritual matters. It is also often referred to as "book, chapter, and verse" when speaking particularly about the basis for authority. Some have been arguing of late that this approach, when attempting to determine right or wrong on any subject, is either out of date, human-derived, or - more boldly stated - 'illegitimate.' But
these assertions are often made without proof and we are supposed to simply accept their word? Let us instead take a look into God's Word and see if these spurious claims are true, or if they are off-base and blatant lies.

COMMANDS. The first method of establishing authority is by direct commands or statements. We find that the apostle Paul said God "commands all people everywhere to repent" (Acts 17:30); are we to believe that this command of God does not apply to us today because some man now says that using commands to establish authority is "nowhere found in the NT"? [If I am not mistaken, the book of Acts is in the NT!] The apostle Paul wrote to the Thessalonian brethren and commanded that they withdraw from any disorderly brother (2 Thess. 3:6); did they have to obey Paul's command or not? Paul himself said just prior to this, "And we have confidence in the Lord about you, that you are doing and will do the things that we command" (v. 4). Paul expected that they would obey his commands, yet we have brethren today who are saying disciples today do not have to obey those same commands?

     Consider also that Jesus Himself spoke directly to His apostles and said, "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19-20). He also stated [in Mark's account of the same occasion] that the one who "believes and is baptized will be saved" (Mark 16:16); is this not binding on men today? Note well that Jesus told the apostles to first make disciples of all nations and that they should then teach those disciples to observe "all things that I have commanded you." If we claim to be disciples of Jesus Christ, it should be clear that His commands are binding!
EXAMPLES. We should, in all reality, narrow this down to divinely approved examples, for there are clearly some examples that are not binding upon disciples because they are contrary to the will of God. [Ex., The rich, young ruler's behavior should not be followed, Matt. 19:16-21.] That said, let us note that the apostle Paul told the Philippian brethren that they should "join in imitating me, and keep your eyes on those who walk according to the example you have in us" (Phil. 3:17). He had reminded the Thessalonian brethren of how he and the others had lived amongst them "to give you in ourselves an example to imitate" (2 Thess. 3:8-9). He had told the Corinthians, "Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ" (1 Cor. 11:1). He could say this [by inspiration of the Holy Spirit] because Jesus is the example that we should be following! Jesus Himself gave an example of humble service before His apostles and then said, "I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you" (John 13:15). Jesus, the head of the church and He with all authority, left us an example that we should follow in His steps (1 Pet. 2:21), so it should be clear that certain examples certainly are binding. [These examples are all found in the NT.]
NECESSARY INFERENCE. Let us note that not all inferences are necessary inferences. If any other conclusion may be drawn from a text when no direct command or statement is given, then the inference is not necessarily true. However, we find that Jesus used this method of interpretation when answering His critics. Once, the Sadducees presented a theoretical situation that they presumed would stump Jesus because they did not believe in the resurrection (Matt. 22:23-33). He, however, referred to an Old Testament text and drew a necessary conclusion that God was God of the living and not the dead [inferring Abraham was then living, or existing]. Was Jesus wrong to use necessary inference and to expect that the Sadducees should have known this? Was He wrong in condemning them (v. 29)? Jesus also cited Genesis 2:24 when answering the Pharisees about the cause for divorce and drew a necessary conclusion: "What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate" (Matt. 19:6). Was Jesus wrong in drawing a conclusion from that text and binding its meaning upon them and us? I don't think anyone would say Jesus was wrong in doing this, so we must conclude that necessary inference is approved of God. [And note that these are in the NT!]

     Now, having explained CENI and having proven that it is indeed found in the New Testament as a legitimate means of interpretation and of establishing authority, we must now conclude that this man, and any other, who claims CENI is 'illegitimate' and 'nowhere found in the NT' doesn't have any idea what they are talking about and all subsequent arguments should be eyed with great suspicion.

     Exactly what is their point? What are they trying to do? Why are they trying so diligently to discount this method of interpretation and means of establishing authority? The sad fact is, this man and others are trying to [re]introduce errors into the teaching and practice of the church by circumventing the authority of the head of the church Himself, Jesus Christ, and saying we do not need authority for anything! Many men before have acted in this way, and they, too, were proven wrong (cf. 1 Sam. 13:8-14). It is only through the revealed Word of God that we may know His will (cf. 1 Cor. 2:9-13). When we appeal to anything else, we cannot know that God approves.

---Steven Harper
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