Must We Have Authority

Connie W. Adams
Akron, Ohio

After his resurrection, Jesus said, "All authority hath been given unto in heaven and in earth" (Mt. 28:18). Paul said God had given Christ to be "head over all things to the church" (Eph. 1: 22). Through the guidance of the Holy Spirit the will of the head of the church was made known to the apostles (Jno. 16:13-14). They wrote it down so we can read and understand it (Eph. 3:3-4). It is sin to preach anything different (Gal. 1:6-9). "Whosoever transgresseth and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ hath not God" (2 Jno. 9). Whatever we teach and practice must be according to "the oracles of God" (1 Peter 4:11).

The New Testament gives authority by direct command, by approved apostolic example and by necessary inference. Whatever can be established in one of these ways is authorized. That authority may be expressed generally or specifically. We observe the Lord's Supper because the Lord said "this do." The time of the observance is authorized by an approved apostolic example, "upon the first day of the week." By necessary inference we establish the frequency of observance, every time the first day of the week comes.

This has been generally recognized among gospel preachers for years. Of late, however, strange sounds have been heard. In December 1965 issue of Gospel Beacon published at Oak Hill, West Virginia, edited by Dennis L. and Wilma Moss, an article is carried by H. Littrell of Blytheville, Arkansas. We believe this article contains much error.

The title of the article is "Things for Which There Is No Pattern." The premise of the author is that if there is a distinction between the duty of the individual Christian and that of the church, then there is no authority for a meeting house owned by the church, for a preacher's house, for such furnishings in a meeting house as air-conditioning, restrooms, drinking fountains, seating, class rooms, communion set, poison for termites, paint for woodwork, carpets for floors, PA system, song books, light, heat, etc. He further says there would be no justification for a lawn, lawn tools, and food for grass or for a parking lot.

Mt. 18:15-17 shows a distinction between the individual and the church. If your brother sins against you, you are to go to him and tell him his fault between you and him alone. (v. 15). If he will not hear you, then take one or two more. Then, if he will not hear them, "tell it unto the church" (v. 17). If Brother Littrell's argument is worth anything, then it was already brought before the church when the brother went to him. Then 1 Tim. 5: 16 makes a distinction between the individual and the church. "Let him relieve them, and let no. the church be charged that it may relieve them that are widows indeed." It is evident from these passages that everything the individual does the church is not doing and that destroys the premise on which the article rests.

Since Brother Littrell is wrong in his premise, I wonder if he is ready to accept the consequences. He said that unless his premise was true then there is no authority for the items mentioned. A number of other brethren have been saying lately that there is no authority for a meetinghouse, a preacher's house, songbooks, lights, etc. Either these brethren do not know how to establish scriptural authority or else they are guilty of using things for which they say they have no authority. If one thing can be done without authority, then anything else can be if we want to do it. There is no stopping place.

A place to meet is necessary to fulfill the command to assemble. Such a place must be donated, rented or bought. When we have built and furnished a building with items necessary to accommodate a public and divinely authorized assembly, we have only expedited the command to assemble. Whatever is necessary to facilitate this action is included in the command itself. A preacher's house is a part of his wage. Paul said those who preach the gospel should live of the gospel. He took "wages" to do service in Corinth (1 Cor. 11:8). The church at Philippi sent "once and again unto" his "necessity" (Phil. 4:16). These brethren know that. If they were not hurting they would not so expose their ignorance of such fundamental matters.

Now I'll tell you what I would like for one of them to do. Produce the authority, either generically or specifically, expressed in a command, example or necessary inference for the church of Christ to build and maintain human organizations whether for evangelism, edification or benevolence.

Since Brother Moss carried the article in question without anything to indicate his disapproval of it, I want to know if he believes the individual can contribute to the college. The next thing I want to know is, if there is no difference between what the individual and the church can do, then if the individual can contribute to the college, can the church do so? It would make interesting reading to see an article from Brother Moss explaining how it is that the college at Parkersburg can be supported by individuals but not by church donations.

When brethren introduce practices for which there is no pattern or authority, then it is not surprising when they minimize the need for such. Some brethren repudiated long ago the approved apostolic example as a means of establishing authority. Not long ago I read where another referred to a necessary inference as a "no man's land." If they can find some way to minimize direct commands, they will have the ground ready for whatever their inventive minds can create. There is a pattern for the church of the Lord and whatever is not included in it must be left out in our preaching and practice. In the meantime, we shall be watching with interest to see if Brother Moss will accept the consequences of this article he carried when applied to the college question.

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Author: jfm

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