DIVINE AUTHORITY AND PRINCIPLES

Tommy Thornhill

There is too much assuming and asserting going around in the religious world today, and not enough proving by scripture. Some go so far as to say we do not need “book, chapter, and verse” (Bible authority) for the things we teach and practice in religious matters. “After all,” some say, “it’s the spirit, not the letter of the law that counts.

But, if one asserts he believes the Bible to be God’s inspired word, and it is accepted as the pattern for his life, consistency demands that he not assume the authority for the things he wants to believe and practice religiously. He must go to the word itself. He must have a “thus says the Lord” (divine authority). “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to the Father through Him” Col.3:17. The phrase “in the name of the Lord” means, “by the Lord’s authority.” Along the same line Peter writing by inspiration taught, “If anyone speaks, let him speak by the oracles of God…” 1.Pet.4:11. The “oracles of God” would of course be that which the Lord has spoken. So, if there is no scripture (oracle of God) to back up what one says about a certain subject then one can be sure it comes from man, and not from God, and it must not be trusted. God’s people will always turn “to the law and to the testimony” Isa.8:20. On the other hand, “error gives no proof, nor seeks it.”

One searching for divine authority and approval will always go to the word of God for he knows that to please God he must have proper faith. “But without faith it is impossible to please Him for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” Heb.11:6. But how does he get this faith? “So, then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” Rom.10:17Yet, to have this kind of faith one must possess “the spirit of faith.” “But when we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, ‘I believe and therefore I spoke,’ we also believe and therefore speak” 2.Cor.4:13From these scriptures we learn that it takes hearing, believing, and speaking the word of God to have the kind of faith that pleases God. But one who hears, believes, and speaks that which is not found in the word of God, does not have the faith that pleases God. He is acting and doing things without true faith and Jesus said those who fail to do His Father’s will are practicing lawlessness (acting without divine authority) and will be told,” depart from Me, I never knew you” Matt.7:21, 23.

With these thoughts in mind, let’s notice some principles pointed out by a preacher of the 19th century. His name was Benjamin Franklin (not the historic philosopher involved in the founding of our country), but a gospel preacher during the Restoration Movement (as it is called by many of the 1800s) who died in 1879. He was the editor of The American Review. A collection of his writings was published in a book entitled Book of Gems, written shortly before his death. The things he wrote are certainly appropriate even today.

On one occasion he wrote, “There is nothing more important for individuals or bodies of people than clearly defined and well settled principles. To stand the test, and to be of any importance to the world the principles of an individual or a body of people must be correct, and of vital importance. They should also be clearly defined, well understood, and constantly kept in view.”    

At a later time he wrote of being engaged in a conversation with a man who was a member of the M.E.(Methodist Episcopal) Church. He asked the man, “If a man will take the scriptures, read them, believe them, and do what they require, will he not be a Christian? With an air of surprise, the man answered, “No! He must have something more than that.” Franklin was perplexed, so he asked, “What more could there be than what the scriptures require? If there is something more than the scriptures require, how did any man find it out? And still further, what is it? If it not required in scripture, how does any man know what is required at all?”

After this incident with the M.E. member Franklin, reflecting on the conversation, sat down and wrote several observations about Bible authority, setting forth some principles that have stood the test of time and they are still applicable today. I do not have room in this issue to publish them so I will save them for the next issue. Look for them.

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