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|Vol. 15 No. 9 September 2013||
An elder once shared with a prospective new minister matters pertaining to the makeup of the congregation for which he served as one of the overseers. He lamented the fact the congregation was not that well united. He went on to describe what he saw as the presence of a number of cliques within the church. During the interview process, the elder asked the preacher what he would do in his approach to create one united body and work toward the elimination of the cliques.
The preacher began to share his thoughts with the group of elders that were gathered around the table. He began to suggest how he would take some time either teaching or preaching from the Scriptures the doctrine of unity. Remarkably, the preacher was quickly cut off by the elder, who then stated, “You’re too idealistic.” The preacher left the meeting wondering what the “right answer” might have otherwise been. Was the elder looking for some type of modern day gimmick or ideas that were the fruit of human philosophy?
It is terribly sad that we live in a day when sometimes even the leaders of the Lord’s church no longer look to the Lord or no longer appeal to Bible solutions to life’s or the church’s complex problems. If members of the family of God no longer want to hear from Christ and what He has to say about the unity of believers, then to whom will they turn? How can there be a real solution apart from Christ?
Jesus once told a woman who was living with a man, who was not her husband, to “go and sin no more.” Was that not practical? Was that unreasonable? Was Jesus being “too idealistic” to think she might be able to avoid the same sin in the future?
It is time we all take “the Good Book” down off the shelf, dust it off, open it up to read and digest with profit. “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12). The day the Word of God no longer has the power to change hearts, transform lives and empower folks to walk as Christ walked will be this writer’s final day as a Gospel preacher.
[Editor’s Note: The correct answer to the problem with cliques (or any of a number of circumstances) posed by elders to the preacher is – the elders – not the preacher – are primarily responsible for feeding the “church of God” (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:2), ruling the congregation (Hebrews 13:17) and shepherding the flock and being examples (1 Peter 5:2-3). Elderships need to take the lead and accept their biblical responsibilities for guiding the local church, with which a preacher and other members, too, can participate under their direction. Aside from ministers offering suggestions, etc., elders need to be proactive and responsive to the respective congregations over which they have been appointed. ~ Louis Rushmore, Editor]
Years ago, Gospel Preacher L.E. Wishum wrote an article entitled, “Shall We Be Circumcised, Build an Ark or Be Baptized?” In the article, brother Wishum presented the idea that we must learn to rightly divide the Bible, understanding that we do not live in the Patriarchal Age, and neither are we under the Jewish Law. The things God commanded during those two dispensations are not applicable to us today.
So, where do we turn for authority for what we do in religion? It is not to the church itself. The church cannot determine doctrines and practices for the members. Neither are we guided by traditions, whether written or unwritten. Men or women who claim to have received a revelation cannot be the authority when what they have espoused is contrary to the Bible. Such additional “revelation” or “inspiration” would contradict the truth that the sacred writings are all we need, able to furnish us completely unto every good work (2 Timothy 3:14-17). The Word of God does not leave us to wonder. We are subject to the New Covenant of Jesus Christ.
The Christian Age began with the death of Christ and will continue until the end of time. The first four books of the New Testament record the preparation for the coming of the Christian dispensation. The Book of Acts tells of the beginning of this age, the Gospel being preached, the church being established and the saved being added to the church by the Lord, based on their obedience. The remainder of the New Testament gives instruction to the church of our Lord.
Religious authority rests in or with God (Psalm 90:1-2). Because He created all things, He would have the authority over all things (Hebrews 3:4). Because He is “the Almighty God,” He has authority over mankind (Genesis 17:1). This authority God gave to His Son, Jesus Christ (John 17:1-2; Matthew 28:18). Jesus is “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). Jesus spoke for God (John 8:26-29; Hebrews 1:1-2). As God said from heaven, “This is my beloved son… hear ye him” (Matthew 17:5).
The apostles were instructed to teach men “…to observe all things” that Jesus had commanded (Matthew 28:20). All we do must be by the authority of Jesus (Colossians 3:17). Jesus gave the apostles words He received from God (John 17:8, 14). He had told the apostles He would soon depart this earth but that He would send the Comforter, the Holy Spirit, to bring to their remembrance all that He had said, and that the Holy Spirit would guide them (the apostles) into all truth (John 14:26; 16:13).
Since the words written by the sacred writers of the New Testament were inspired by the Holy Spirit (deity), then it implies the authority of God (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:10-13; 2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21). It also means we need nothing more or less than God’s Word, the Bible, to guide us in all things.