Sunday, May 15, 2014 am                        Basics Index


A Study of Authority
The Nature of Authority: Generic or Specific


This month we are addressing the subject of authority.  Thus far we gave defined what authority (simply stated – permission) is and emphasized its importance.  Last week we discussed how authority is established noting there are 3 ways to legitimately establish authority – Command, Approved Example and Necessary Inference.  We also discussed last Sunday night “the new hermeneutic” which is not really new, but a different (and unscriptural) way to establish authority – it dismisses the importance of an objective approach and lends to subjective conclusions (what you THINK it should be).

As we continue our study of authority, today we want to discuss the nature of authority.  We have noted that the Bible is a book that answers what we are to do and how we are to do certain things.  There are also times when we have discretion.  How do we determine the difference?  Also, it has been noted that the Bible is as applicable today as in the first century.  But how can it be relevant when times have changed so much?  For example: How can the Bible govern our driving habits?  And how can we use technology to further the cause of Christ when there were no computers in the first century?  In our lesson today we want to address how to consider what is and is not authorized in such matters.  It boils down to the nature of authority.  Today we are going to discuss the two types of authority: generic and specific authority.  We are also going to discuss the distinction between additions and aids.

 I.                    Specific Authority

a.        When plans are made for a building or even a renovation the first step is to produce a blueprint of what is wanted.  When that blueprint is completed and approved, it becomes the standard that will be used to complete the project.  Whatever is specified HAS TO BE followed or the finished product is not going to be the original standard.  That is why, in construction, standards are very exact.

b.       When something is specified that means there is no room for deviation.  By its nature it excludes that which has not been specified.  For example: In the blueprint we just mentioned, suppose it was for a house with 10 rooms in it, including 3 bedrooms.  If as the contractor you decide that 4 bedrooms would be better OR that the house only needs 2 bedrooms, you have rejected the blue print.  3 bedrooms excludes either 2 (1 less) or 4 (1 more) bedroom.
Specifics LIMIT your choices!

c.        In scripture we have specific authority –

                                                   i.      Joshua 1:7-8, “Only be strong and very courageous, that you may observe to do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.

                                                  ii.      When given instructions concerning the tabernacle and priestly garments (Ex. 25-28), God was very specific and even warned Moses and the builders to follow the pattern (Ex. 25:40, 26:30, 27:8, etc.)

                                                iii.      Noah was told to build an ark of gopher wood (Gen. 6:14-16) and given specific dimensions.  To be pleasing to God, Noah needed to follow those instructions.  The boat needed to be an “ark” which would exclude any other type of boat.  It needed to be gopher wood (whatever that is) which would exclude cypress, pine, cedar, oak, (unless gopher wood is actually one of those- tt), etc.  The dimensions were specific as was the 3 decks.

                                                iv.      Moses was told by God on one occasion to strike a rock and water came forth (Ex. 17:5-6).  But on another occasion, the Lord told him to speak to the rock.(Num. 20:7-11), but on this occasion Moses struck the rock twice and water came forth.  As a result of his disobedience (not following God’s specific instructions) he was forbidden to enter the land of Canaan.

                                                  v.      Naaman, a leper, was told to dip into the Jordan River 7 times to be cleansed of his leprosy.  (2 Kings 5:10)  He could not choose any other river, nor could he choose the number of times to dip.  In fact he protested (11-12).  But when his servants reminded him of the benefit of obeying, he complied and was healed.

                                                vi.      In John 9 Jesus sees a man born blind from birth.  He spits on the ground and makes a clay and applies it to the eyes of the blind man.  The man is then told to go and was in the pool of Siloam (Jn. 9:7).  The blind man obeyed and came back seeing.

d.       Some examples of specific authority –

                                                   i.      Matt. 28:19 – Go and make disciples of all nations – the command to “go” specifies our need to take action – namely to make disciples. 
Also, they were told to make disciples of “all nations” meaning the whole world – it was not exclusive to certain parts of the world (though there was a plan that was set – Acts 1:8)

                                                  ii.      Ephesians 5:19, we are commanded to sing.  Singing is a specific type of music.
That is why we do not use musical instruments in our worship – God specified SING!  And this concurs with every other passage in the New Testament dealing with our music in worship (Col. 3:16, 1 Cor. 14:15, etc.)   WE are also told that our singing is to be “to one another” (excluding choirs and entertainment) and in our songs we are to be teaching one another.  We are also told the types of songs to sing - psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. 

                                                iii.      1 Timothy 2:9 speaks of women adorning themselves in “modest apparel” as well as other descriptions of proper clothing.  We need to figure out what “modest” means and we ought to do so according to Biblical standards.  That which is NOT modest is forbidden.

 II.                  Generic Authority

a.        While a blueprint is specific in its instructions, there are often details that are left to the discretion of the builder (or buyer) – for example the color of the house might not be specified, or the type of carpeting or flooring.  (NOTE: Some of these things MAY BE specified – if so then the generic choice is not there)  Furthermore, in building the house which tools are to be used may not be specified so the construction worker is at liberty to use whatever tools he wishes, so long as it gets the job done right (while respecting the details of the blueprint). 

b.       When something is generic in nature it means that it is up to the discretion of the person as to how he carries something out. 
Generic authority by its definition is INCLUSIVE.It is based upon specific commands and addresses the choices we have in obeying the command.

c.        The Bible gives examples of general authority

                                                   i.      When Noah was instructed to build the ark, he was not told what tools to use in building the ark.   He was at liberty to use whatever resources he had as long as they did not reject the pattern.

                                                  ii.      When the disciples were told to go and make disciples, how they were to go was not specified.  They could utilize whatever means were available– by foot, by ship, by chariot, by animal, etc.

                                                iii.      When they were told to “make disciples” of all nations – the method of teaching was not specified – they could do it in public assemblies, or house to house, orally or in writing.  All of these different methods were still “teaching”. 

d.       Some examples of generic authority –

                                                   i.      We are commanded to sing, but what types of songs is not specified – we can use unison, four-part harmony, responsive, fast or slow pitched, etc.  As long as our singing complies with all the specific details, the other aspects are our discretion.
Furthermore, the number of songs we sing, the order of songs in our assemblies is left to our discretion.

                                                  ii.      The command to “go” would authorize us to use a car, airplane, train or walk.  Any of those methods is still “going”

                                                iii.      There are also many ways that we can “teach” or “make disciples” today – we can write, teach publicly or privately, use a website, correspondence courses, newspapers, television, etc.  WE can teach in classes and in public assemblies.  We can have gospel meetings, etc.  Each of these could be utilized while still respecting the command to teach. 
NOTE: There is some limitations as to what the church can do based upon other passages.  We will discuss these at a later time, BASED upon what we have discussed dealing with authority.

                                                iv.      Hebrews 10:25 commands us to assemble.  But where we assemble is left to our discretion.  WE can provide a place (such as this building) to fulfill the command, meet in a home, rent a store front, or find some other place to assemble.  But we MUST assemble (and that includes at least once on Sunday to fulfill other commands).  How many times we assemble, as well as the time of day is left to our discretion. 

e.       Observations:

                                                   i.      Generic authority is always based upon a specified command and deals only with those aspects of the command that are not specified.  IF something in its proper context is specified, then that excludes all other options.

                                                  ii.      Generic authority is NOT a blank check to do whatever we want to do provided something is not specified.  We must still respect the boundaries of scripture.  This will become clear when we discuss what the work of the church is – what it can and cannot do.

                                                iii.      Silence is NOT generic authority.  We will address this next week.

 III.                Aids vs Additions

a.        In dealing with the nature of authority one of the challenges we face today is to distinguish between that which is an addition and that which is an aid to carrying out a command.

b.       An aid is something that helps us facilitate a command.  WE sometimes call these expedients.

                                                   i.      A building is an expedient to help us fulfill the command to assemble.  When someone asks what is the authority for a water fountain (usually because they want to justify something that is NOT authorized) the answer is – it’s part of the structure that helps us facilitate the command to assemble (just like electricity, pews, etc.

                                                  ii.      We are commanded to sing – we can use pitch pipes, song books, a song leader, etc.  All these are aids in carrying out the command to teach one another in song.

                                                iii.      Trays and cups help us to carry out the command to partake of the Lord’s Supper. 

                                                iv.      PowerPoint, black boards, bulletins – are aids in carrying out the command to preach the gospel. 

                                                  v.      It has been observed that aids are only scriptural if:

1.       They are left unspecified in scripture (otherwise they would be essential)

2.       They are expedient (helpful) – and thus non-essential – while not wrong, you don’t have to have a song book, bulletin, etc.  1 Cor. 10:23, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are helpful; all things are lawful for me, but not all things edify.

3.       They edify (build up the body) – it is something that builds us up rather than dividing us.

c.        An addition is something that is added to something else. 

                                                   i.      It is something outside the boundaries of what is commanded.  It is of a different type.

                                                  ii.      Instrumental music is an addition.  It is ADDED to the command to sing, not merely helping us sing. 
There are 2 types of music – singing and playing.  They are DIFFERENT types of music!
If He had simply said, “make music” then we would be at liberty to choose what type of music.  But God specified that we sing (Eph. 5:19, Col. 3:16).
BUT someone might argue, “we are told in Eph. 5:19 to “make melody” but the text tells us the “instrument” our heart.  That is used in our singing.
Some argue that instruments are expedients to our singing – NO! Singing is a different TYPE of music than playing.  Specific instruments are the expedient to playing which is NOT what we are commanded to do.
Some argue that instruments (piano, organ) are aids to facilitate singing - like a cane to facilitate walking or glasses to facilitate our seeing.   But the argument is not valid when you understand specific and general authority.   A cane is used exclusively to help one walk and glasses to help one see.  They are not different types of the activity – i.e. a cane is not a type of walking, or glasses a type of seeing – they are purely AIDS to help one walk or see.  An instrument is a different category of music, independent of singing. To call an instrument an aid is akin to saying that walking and a cane are different forms of “going” and seeing and glasses are different forms of perception (like seeing and hearing). 
The arguments are not parallel.

                                                iii.      WE are told not to add to God’s word!

1.       “Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it.” (Deuteronomy 12:32) – Under the Old Law

2.       For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” (Revelation 22:18–19)

3.       Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other.” (1 Cor. 4:6)

4.       “Every word of God is pure; He is a shield to those who put their trust in Him. Do not add to His words, Lest He rebuke you, and you be found a liar.” (Proverbs 30:5–6)


And there you have the nature of our authority.  As we can see, we need to use reason as we study and apply the word of God to our lives.  Let us respect His boundaries and thereby achieve the true unity He desires.