|Understanding the authority
of the church
The written word teaches us in various ways Some teachings and commands are generic,
and some are specific. Some are direct statements or commands, some are approved
examples, and some are just necessarily understood (implied or inferred) from what is said.
Some things are a matter of being helpful or expedient, But, whatever way the written word
teaches, authority comes only from the written word. Without book, chapter and verse, there is
no authority. (2 Timothy 3:16,17; etc.)
Generic teachings or commands allow for freedom of direction upon the part of the individual.
Specific teachings or commands spell out exactly what is to be done. This is where the
individual has to use some sense (sometimes called "common sense," although there are
times when it is questionable how common it is).
An example of a generic command would be found in the Great Commission: "Go, and teach
all nations..." How is one to go? Walk, run, ride a beast, ride a bicycle, ride an automobile, ride
a sailboat, ride a steamer, ride a train, ride a plan... or by letter, telegraph, radio, television,
internet, etc? The answer is by any of these. The command to go is generic.
However, the command to teach is specific. This same Commission says, "...teaching them to
observe all things whatsoever I commanded...1 What is to be taught is the gospel, the doctrine
of Christ, the New Testament.
"In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." That is a direct statement. It gives
us authority to teach that God created the universe. "Thou shaft not steal." That is a direct
command. Commands to either do, or not to do things are easy to understand. Very few
people have any problem with direct statements and direct commands.
Approved Apostolic Example
"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"
[The Acts of the Apostles, chapter 20, verse 7]. This is an approved example that almost
everyone recognizes. There is no direct command to worship on the first day of the week. The
reason we do is the approved apostolic example of doing so. When we follow what was
approved by the apostles (who gave us the doctrine of Christ), we have authority.
Whether you call it implication (base upon the writer's intent), or inference (based upon the
reader's interpretation), part of authority must be recognized as what is necessarily understood
as a passage is read. The command to assemble is implied in Paul's Epistle to the Hebrews,
chapter 10, verse 25. Since it says we are not to forsake the assembling of ourselves
together.it implies we are to assemble together. Also implied (or necessarily inferred) is that
there must be a place to assemble. This place may be obtained because it is implied by the
need to assemble.
All things that are lawful are not expedient. [see 1Corinthians 6:12; 10:23] Expediency is that
which is helpful in accomplishing the desired end; but, does not change the nature of what is
done. Expediency does not mean the end justifies the means. Expediency is the application of
wisdom to doing what God has otherwise commanded to be done.
For example, a choice must be made as to what time to assemble. Should it be morning,
afternoon, or evening? or a combination of these? Depending upon the distance being
traveled by those assembling, depending upon their age, depending upon the culture (is it an
agrarian society, or an urban society?), one time may be better than another. If lights are a
problem, daylight would be expedient. If heat is a problem, staying out of the heat of the day
would be expedient. If it is an agrarian societ, time must be allowed for the feeding and care of
the animals, morning and evening.
Expediency is carrying out the command/example/implication in the wisest manner. However,
there can be no expediency where there is no command/example/implication. And, expediency
can only be used for generic command.
"And now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace which is able to build
you up and give you an inheritance among those who are sanctified." [Acts 20:32]