If you were to ask this question to 100 church leaders of different denominations and groups, you would get a wide range of answers and explanations. Firstly, we know that the word of God is inspired, or God breathed…it was written by His Spirit in a simplistic way that we may be able to follow Him and obey his commandments yet all do it in the same way.
Phillipians 3:5 Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. 16 Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.
I present to you a systematic approach to the scriptures and a way to determine if your actions are in accordance with God’s authority. When evaluating this, you will see that this is exactly how we live our everyday lives and do it without question or controversy. However, when it comes to religion, we seem to just wing it and trust in our church leaders to tell us what to do. We must get serious on this issue and follow God’s commands or else face the consequences.
There are basically three ways to determine what God desires on a particular subject. Firstly, He may tell us directly—a direct command. This is commonly referred to the “thou shalt” or “thou shall not” type commands. We find many examples of this direction throughout the New Testament.
Romans 13:8 Owe no man any thing, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. 9 For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
Acts 17:30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent…
Acts 2:38 …Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
This is very straight forward and we can understand that when God makes a commandment in this manner, we are to follow it.
The second way to determine if an actions is authorized is through approved examples in the New Testament. God used examples of the apostles and other Christians in showing what was expected in worshipping God and following His commands. Some examples of this include:
Assembling and breaking bread on the first day of the week.
Acts 20:7 And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.
Brethren sending relief to other brethren
Acts 11:29 Then the disciples, every man according to his ability, determined to send relief unto the brethren which dwelt in Judaea: 30 Which also they did, and sent it to the elders by the hands of Barnabas and Saul.
Finally, we can conclude that something pleases God through His teachings and writings that necessarily imply or infer that He wants it done a certain way. We have to use this reasoning in our everyday lives and we do so without even thinking about it. For example, if I say that I’m going to work tomorrow…it necessarily implies that I will get up, get dressed, get in my car, drive to work, etc. Look at these Biblical examples:
We can imply that Jesus had gone down into the water first
Mattew 3:16 And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him…
Implication that Philip baptized the eunuch (not vice versa)
Acts 8:38 And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him.
Some call this approach the CEI approach for command, example, inference but I don’t like to label it because it makes it sound like a man-made doctrine that works for certain people and not others. This is a systematic and organized way to approach the Scriptures and ensure we do things by God’s authority.
In previous discussions with a preacher in Newport News, Va …he stated:
How do we know the Bible only authorizes by command, inference and example? Our hermeneutic is nowhere fleshed out in the NT. In fact, it is almost self-defeating-- If only things taught by CEI are authorized, then CEI isn't authorized because it's not taught by CEI.
--Charles Tucker, Evangelist, Denbigh church of Christ
This is why so many groups have become so liberal and diverged from the word of God. They have no set way to approach the Bible…they are easily tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine. (Eph 4:14) Brother Tucker even implies that direct commands have no meaning in the Bible because this hermeneutic isn’t outlined in the scriptures. I leave you this week with one final passage:
Acts 5:29 Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, We ought to obey God rather than men.
Next time, I will apply these three ways of establishing authority to specific Biblical examples.