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Gospel Gazette Online
Vol.  10  No. 11 November 2008  Page 4                    powered by FreeFind

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Generic and Specific Authority

By D. Gene West

D. Gene WestWhen God gives a command, even in very specific terms, it entails some generic authority when it comes to the execution of His commands. Consider the unassailable example of God’s commanding Noah to build the Ark, giving very specific commands as to the type of wood, the dimensions for it, the number of doors and windows, where these were to be located, etc. However, God said absolutely nothing about the tools that Noah would use in the building of this ark. He specified none, but when He gave the command “build” He authorized any tool necessary to the carrying out that command. In the New Testament, we have a similar situation. In the Great Commission our gracious and loving Lord said, “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature…” (Mark 16:15). The specifics in this command are that the apostles were to: (1) go; (2) into all the world; (3) they were to preach; (4) the Gospel; (5) to every creature. Does this command leave anything open to the decisions of men? Absolutely, it does! They were told to go, but not how. The method of transportation was left up to those who were going. That is the reason today we can use any conveyance we please from the automobile to the airplane to carry out this command. The word “go” authorizes the method of going. We can even go by means of radio and television.

The word “preach” comes from a Greek word which means to “herald or publish openly.” Consequently, the Gospel could be proclaimed by word of mouth, as was the most common method in apostolic times, or it could be heralded or published in written form as was the custom of the New Testament writers whose works we have with us yet. We could go through each in the above list and make similar points, but surely this is sufficient for us to see the point. Hence, we see a principle at work; every command authorizes whatever is necessary to obey that command. That is the reason why in proclaiming the Gospel we can use charts, chalk boards, white boards, overhead projectors or power point projection. No matter what aid we use to herald, proclaim or publish the Gospel, we are still just preaching the Gospel; we are carrying out the command. The need for specific authority to carry out every command of the Lord is simply not there. If God had specified every method for carrying out His commands, the Bible would be larger than a Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary and in several volumes that size. God gave man a mind, and He expects him to use it. He does not permit man to think for Him, nor does He permit man to think thoughts counter to His, but He does expect him to use the “natural wit” that he has been given. Though as A. Lincoln reportedly said, “Common sense is a most uncommon thing amongst common people,” God gave us that and expects us to use it.

However, when we decide to do something other than what God said, or when we begin to add to his glorious Word, we are not using common sense, we are using arrogant sense—we are usurping the right of God, and that is an egregious error. Why do we say that? Because we always end up doing what God has not required, or omitting what He has required. At that point, we have moved far beyond the realm of common sense and have arrogated, or preempted, the right of God to command us. We have indeed begun commanding ourselves in the name of God, which thing we have never been given the right to do. On the contrary, God has forbidden His people in both the Old and the New Testaments to engage in any such activity. When we choose to do so, we make that choice at the peril of our immortal souls.

Our God is both loving and gracious beyond our puny comprehension. As children are eager to curry the favor of loving parents, so we should be avid to respond to His love and grace by doing only those things that will demonstrate our undying loyalty to Him for the blessing of salvation He has provided for us in Christ.


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