Monday, September 21, 2009

Authority - 1

On the heels of some sharp discussion regarding misquoting the request of Jeremy...and, perhaps, against my better judgment...let's explore the concept of authority.


Before we begin, we need to get some things clear.

This discussion is based on the Bible as our standard. I assume you agree that the Bible is true and inspired. If you don't, this discussion really isn't for you. Check back later - I'll still post about other topics on occasion.

All commenters will assume the best motives of the other writers. Just because someone doesn't agree with you doesn't mean they aren't trying to follow God, Jesus, and the Bible to the best of their understanding.

No one is required to answer outlandish hypothetical questions. Let's stick to the heart of the matter, not the peripherals.

No one will be condemned to the hot place or called a swine. Period. That's rude and will no longer be tolerated here. God alone is judge and jury. If you disagree, state why you disagree as positively as possible. If you don't understand what someone is saying, ask questions. If you can't stay on topic and discuss like an adult, please go argue somewhere else. No labels, no name-calling. I can and will delete comments, although I don't expect to have to do that, because I assume your motives are good and you just need this one not-so-subtle reminder.

Those are high standards, but I believe you can do it.


OK, let's start with an easy one.

All commands found in the Bible are binding on all believers? Yes or no?

I mean, surely we can agree that if the Bible commands it, we should comply without question, right?

Many would immediately agree. Yes, indeed, all of the Bible's direct commands are required to be followed if one wishes to enter into heaven.

Hmmm. The Bible commands animal sacrifices, abstaining from eating pork, and observing the Sabbath each week. How are you doing at keeping those?

Hold it right there, you say. We are under the New Covenant, not the Old. If the command is part of the Old Covenant, we are no longer obligated to keep that command, for Jesus nailed the Old to the cross and it no longer applies.

Fair enough. Let's say we can agree on that.

So, now we have modified our opening statement to say that if the command is part of the New Covenant, that is, in the New Testament, we must obey it if we wish to enter into heaven.

Having addressed those concerns, many would once again be willing to agree with our statement.
I still say they're wrong.

You heard me, they are incorrect. That statement is false.

Now, before you label me a heretic (which you can't anyway, because it's against the commenting rules...but I know you're thinking it...), consider that every Christ-follower I've ever met agrees with me, too, even if they've never thought about it, realized it, or admitted it.

Here's why:
Romans 16:16 "Greet one another with a holy kiss."
1 Corinthians 16:20 "Greet one another with a holy kiss."
2 Corinthians 13:12 "Greet one another with a holy kiss."
1 Thessalonians 5:26 "Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss."

That's four direct commands in the New Testament. Hard to overlook. Pretty clearly stated.

Question: How many kisses of greeting did you share in yesterday when your church gathered? None? One or two? A hundred?


So, why don't we follow this one? The prevailing answer is that the greeting kiss was cultural. In American culture, the kiss has been replaced with the handshake, or occasionally with the hug. The argument has been for whatever greeting we use to be "holy".

We set aside the direct command to greet ALL the brothers with a holy kiss and instead substitute a different type of greeting.

This isn't splitting hairs. This is a huge point. We must get past this false notion that we follow every single command of the New Testament, for the truth is none of us do. The sooner we can admit that, the sooner we can begin a real, honest discussion about Biblical authority.

Therefore, the correct answer to whether a command is binding today is: "It depends."

It depends on the context of the command.
It depends on the cultural setting of the command.
It depends on the audience of the command.
It depends.

And that's where the discussion begins.


Steven Hudgins said...

Another observation can be made. Sometimes, we tend to bind things on others where things shouldn’t be bound based upon a person’s experience. Some forget where we come from. The image of God and this image of God provided a choice, which is called: Free Will. It started in the garden, “And the LORD God commanded the man, "You are free to eat from any tree in the garden” (Genesis 2:16, New International Version). James advises in James 4:17, “anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins” (NIV). Some feel drinking alcohol is a sin. I do not view drinking as a sin; however, becoming drunk is a sin. If I drink and do not become drunk, then I do it in private, so that I do not become a stumbling block to others around me. We have freedom, but must be careful in our freedom.

Choices are given through-out the old and new covenants, which allowed mankind to choose what they should do. Old Covenant example is found in Ex. 15:26. The New Covenant is different because it doesn’t have many commands as there were in the old. All the commands have been summed: “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Galatians 5:14, NIV).

There is a progression to maturity in Christians. Peter writes the progression and the steps to this maturity through the knowledge of Him. How is our knowledge of Him? The progression of maturity starts with adding to our faith by our goodness (Saving blog space, therefore, read 2 Pt 1:1-9). There is an interesting sentence in verse eight, that if we possess these qualities we keep from being ineffective and unproductive.

Are we ineffective if we don’t have love and can’t forgive someone who has murdered our only child? Are we unproductive when we debate is it authorized to have a paid worship minister? The true message of Christ is lost in our quarrels and debates. If I wasn’t a Christian, then why would I want to be a part of a church whose members debate and argue because it causes confusion? Mark 9 provides an example of people being in wonder because they were arguing. Sometimes, if we do not agree among ourselves, it needs to be taken in prayer.

What matters above all commands or laws is our love for Him. If we love Him, then our love for the world must be there. We are created in His Image. His Image was created in the flesh and sacrificed through love for the world. Therefore, we were called to love, so that we can teach and make disciples. How productive is it when debates are aired (on the web) and where there are those outside of Christ debating on the decision to become like one of us? We forget why we were cleansed. We were cleansed so that we can receive love. The Corinthian church argued and Paul reminded our Christian duty and maturity as a reminder in 1 Corinthians 13. Love is not self seeking. Is it self-seeking when one forces an opinion on another that doesn’t believe in eating meat offered to idols?

Finally, Paul has the right path in the use of authority when he wrote: 2 Corinthians 13:10, “This is why I write these things when I am absent, that when I come, I may not have to be harsh in my use of authority—the authority the Lord gave me for building you up, not for tearing you down.” Therefore, the authority we have been given is to build each other up in front of those who are making that decision to follow Christ. If there is an error then we need to go to our closets and speak in private to each other, so that in our discussions, we don’t become a stumbling block to others. So….. how about that kiss?

Robin Brannon said...

Very well said, both of you. We do need to get on the same page if we are to claim Christ as Lord. To add to what Steven said, I've heard the analogy of a triangle in the love category: Love God and love others as you love yourself (if I could draw the diagram here it would make more sense). If you love God, you love others and yourself. If you love others, you treat them with love. If you love yourself, and are a follower of Christ, you treat others with love because love is of God. Isn't it cool how that works?

Normally, I don't give shameless plugs, but I'd love for people to read my post from yesterday and respond. It's a fun discussion topic, and I'd really like to know other folks' thoughts. It kinda goes along the same lines as what we're discussing here.

Keep up the great work, Shane!

Jeremy said...

A good post, too many have simplified this issue and never even examined the different kinds of direct statments and commands God has given us. I would add that while some commands are cultural, I let the Bible define what is cultural.

For instance, with the command to "greet one another with a holy kiss" (Romans 16:16 and others). The main part of this command is to greet one another and must be obeyed. A holy kiss shows one way to obey this command, but we have others ways to obey this command recorded for us. In 3 John 14, we are told to greet by name. Other ways of greeting we see are by letter (Romans 16:22) and by extending the right hand of fellowship (Galatians 2:9). If the Christians John wrote to did not have to greet with a holy kiss but could do it by name, we understand that this is a cultural matter. There is some flexibility in this command to greet. We have to obey the command, but can choose how to obey it.

I try not to let what we do, influence what I think the Bible says. Our goal should not be to determine what we do, but what we should do. I also try not to let our culture influence what the Bible says. I believe God wrote the Bible in way that it is timeless and one could be righteous even in a wicked culture. I simply let the Bible tell me what is cultural.

Shane Coffman said...

Good thoughts Steven, Robin, and Jeremy.

Jeremy, I really agree with what you said about the Bible telling us what is cultural. If the Bible truly stands alone, then we shouldn’t need outside sources to be able to understand the big stuff. That’s not to say that extra-Biblical sources are of no value, that is simply saying that we should be able to discern the most important things, the salvation issues, based upon the Bible alone. I’ll even go so far as to say that is true not only in the original Greek text, but also in today’s English Bibles, especially given that we have so many versions we can compare and they were compiled by such a variety of scholars (which to me helps mitigate against personal biases). I believe God has preserved His Word through translation so that we can understand what we need to know to enter into relationship with Him.

That’s why when someone’s entire point hinges on an obscure meaning of a Greek word, I’m immediately skeptical. God has not revealed Himself to only certain well-educated individuals. The veil was torn a couple thousand years ago.

Franklin Wood said...

I admire you for continuing a tough topic, Shane.
Once I heard a sermon that really disturbed me. The speaker was asserting that "God does not hear the prayer of sinners."
He used the story in John 9:1-34 to prove his point...vs. 31 in particular.
As I looked at the passage, several things jumped out...
1. This passage is discussing Jesus, not people. (Kind of an unfair comparison.)
2. This was said by a regular person, not one recognized as a teacher straight from God.
3. This thought directly contradicts Jesus' story of the Pharisee and the tax collector in Luke 18. Here, Jesus says the one who was contrite and admitted being a sinner was the one who went home justified before God.
Context is SO important in our reading of God's word!

Terry Rush said...

Referencing Jeremy's statement:

"For instance, with the command to "greet one another with a holy kiss" (Romans 16:16 and others). The main part of this command is to greet one another and must be obeyed."

Not a thing against Jeremy, but this is a part of the interpretation I question. How did he determine "the main part"? Did he decide this or does the Bible say it is "the main part"?

This is where I think we slip (and I do will do it on another text just as I think Jeremy has here) as we so easily insert our comment as if God just said it when He just didn't say it. We felt He said it...but the words aren't really there.

As a result we slip into a conversation based on a false impression that we are discussing something "God said"....when we easily slipped it into the talk.

Jeremy said...


Here is a little more information about letting the Bible determine what is cultural considering your concerns.

I used two methods to determine the "main part."

First, I simply compared the verses. When you compare the commands and examples to greet Shane and I mentioned, the consistent part is the greeting. How they greeted, however, was different showing they fulfilled this command in a variety of ways. Thus, we can fulfill this command in a variety of ways as well.

Second, I used grammar. In Romans 16:16, “greet” is the verb (which has the force of a command in this instance), “one another” is the direct object showing who is to be greeted, “with a holy kiss” is and adverbial phrase modifying the verb “greet.” In other words, all “with a holy kiss” does is show us a way to fulfill the command to greet. The other passages have a similar breakdown as well. I know we do not use this stuff often, but what our high school English teachers tried to drill into our heads can actually be useful.

“Main part” may be bad terminology. Perhaps we could call it the consistent part or the root command. I don’t really care what we call it.

Hope this helps you to see my viewpoint.

Terry Rush said...


I see your viewpoint. I need to point viewpoints might bog one from discovering simply what God said.

If we understand these concepts are "our views" without labeling others who can't get there, then I'm in. Ours has been the practice to point out things about the Bible it did not say as if our "view" is to be the authoritative rule.

Jeremy said...


Thank you for sharing your viewpoint with me. I am just sharing information that I have found helpful in studying the Bible. What others do with it is up to them.

I don't really know anything about Shane or anyone else posting on this blog. I don't know what they believe or practice on many issues. I am not labeling anyone conservative or liberal (terms I hate by the way: what happened to Christian or disciple?). I know you and others will give the same consideration to me.

Terry Rush said...


You say it well.

I get your points and they seem to be accurate. What I'm not sure about is not necessarily your fault or problem.

I guess what I am getting at is the "helps" you or any of us use to discern the meaning of scripture are useful. My question is do they become law for some down the road to "conclude" meaning when it has been forgotten these were merely and originally "helps" to interpret?

I don't mean to be challenging. What I saw in a recent comment by another on Shane's blog was apparent insistence that one could only go by the Bible; yet spoke so intensely regarding personal opinion he seemed to believe that was also from the Word.

Thanks for enduring.

Anonymous said...

Good posts Shane. Interesting reading.

I came looking for pics from OSU football...


Doug Young said...

I am way late in this discussion. Sorry. I think we tread on shaky, and very shaky at that, ground when we use human reasoning to purport what is cultural and what isn't.

One can't let the Bible tell us what is cultural, and then not supply the passage that suggests its cultural. We infer that the "holy kiss" is cultural, and that a handshake is sufficient today for the holy kiss, but can it be proved from the Scripture. I think not. If the kind of greeting didn't really matter, then the command would've been to simply greet one another in the way one sees fit. The kiss, though, was significant. It was holy. If it was holy, then it was theologically significant.

The fact is, we pick and choose our issues of significance. One form of logic, though, entraps a person into practicing hermenuetical gymnastics (C,E,NI. I think what Shane and Terry are showing is more consistent with Scripture, as well as more practical.