Sunday, April 30, 2017 am                                                        NT Church 2017 Index


Authority (7)
General and Specific Authority


With a goal of gaining a better understanding of what the NT church is, we are in the midst of a study of authority.  IF we are to achieve true unity it is imperative that we be of the same mind.  A part of that is approaching God’s word with the same mindset (cf. Philippians 2:2).  That is why we need to properly understand how we establish authority.  With that in mind we have addressed what authority is as well as noted its importance.  We have also devoted 4 lessons to the 3 ways we establish authority (CENI).  Today we want to address the two categories of authority – Specific and Generic authority.

Again, in our studies we will find our need to use logic and reason, as well as an honest desire to accurately handle the word of God (2 Timothy 2:15).  We need to examine passages of scripture OBJECTIVELY.

 I.                     Specific and General Authority

a.       Why is this important?  Because many either bind or loose beyond God’s boundaries because they fail to understand this.  There are typically 2 extremes in establishing Bible authority.

                                                   i.      Some say, we can do nothing unless it is specifically stated in scripture.  They want to limit where God has not. Some argue against Bible classes, buildings, multiple containers with communion, saying we must partake in an upper room, baptism must be in a river, etc.

                                                 ii.      Others say, we can do whatever we want, unless it is specifically prohibited.  This is used to justify all manner of innovations including instrumental music, entertainment in worship, turning the church into a recreational and social organization, etc.  

                                                iii.      BOTH of these extremes are wrong.  As we have seen, we MUST respect God’s word and His boundaries.  But there are matters that He has left to our discretion as to how we carry them out.  This is governed by an understanding of specific and generic (general) authority.

b.       General (generic) –

                                                   i.      Defined – pertaining to each and all within a specific class, not limited to a precise application. 
Including any thing, method, or means of execution that comes within the class or order of the precept, example or thing commanded.” (Walking by Faith, Cogdill, p. 15) This is authority expressed in general terms where the details are not specified.

                                                 ii.      Generic authority is INCLUSIVE. It leaves room for options or choices.  It involves expediencies (things which facilitate carrying out a command – i.e. a water fountain in a building, song books, etc.).  We will address this more next week as we contrast this with additions. 

                                                iii.      For example: I have a group over at the house and I say, “Could someone go get me a loaf of bread?”  There are many generalities left to the discretion of the group.  Who goes?  What type of bread?  How big of a loaf?  Where will they get it – at a store, at their house, etc.?

                                                iv.      Consider the great commission: Matthew 28:19-20, Mark 16:15-16 - Go and teach all nations.  While there are specific instructions, there are also generalities left to our discretion –

1.       How do we go?  Back then they could walk, ride in a chariot, on an animal, on a ship, etc. 

2.       Teach – while what they were to teach is limited (to the gospel), how they taught was left to their discretion.  In a public setting, in a synagogue, in a school, in a home, in a prison, in a chariot, etc.  Orally or in writing, etc.

                                                  v.      Is always based upon a specific command and deals with HOW that command is executed.

a.       Specific authority –

                                                vi.      Defined – precisely formulated or restricted, explicit, etc.  Particular and detailed, avoiding vagueness. 
Excluding every thing, method, or means of execution in the same order or class which is not particularly specified in the precept, example or thing commanded.” (Cogdill, ibid, p. 15)

                                              vii.      Specific authority is EXCLUSIVE.  That is, it excludes.  By its very definition, what is specified eliminates all other options OUTSIDE the realm of what is specified. 

                                             viii.      For example: I have a group over to the house and say, “Bob, could you go to the grocery store around the corner and get me a 24 oz. loaf of Ezekiel 4:9 whole wheat bread?”  I have given very specific instructions as to what I want.  Those matters are non-negotiable if I am to get what I want.

                                                ix.      Consider the great commission: Matthew 28:19-20, Mark 16:15-16 - Go and teach all nations.  Go – is specific as opposed to NOT going!  To stay and do nothing is to disobey.  Preach or teach – they were to proclaim.  To go and say nothing was to disobey. What were they to teach? The gospel, what is necessary to make disciples. 

                                                  x.      Abraham was called upon to offer Isaac – Genesis 22:1-2 – God told Him to go and take Isaac and offer him as a burnt offering.  He said it would be in the land of Moriah on a specific mountain.    In giving this command Abraham could NOT offer Ishmael or Hagar or a servant.  Nor could he go to a different location and be pleasing to God.

                                                xi.      When God specifies something, we dare not change it.  Consider Uzzah in 2 Samuel 6:6-7 who was struck dead because he touched the ark of the covenant.  Realize that it happened because God had specified to Israel how the ark was to be transported – by poles carried on the shoulders of Levites (Num. 4:5-6, etc.)

b.       MOST commands contain both specific and general parts.  Specific always takes precedence over generic – because of the above rule.

                                               xii.      For example: Noah was given specific instructions to build an ark – Genesis 6:13-16 – there are many details that God specified.    It was to be an ark (not a raft, sailboat, canoe, etc.), built of gopher wood (not pine, cypress, oak, cedar, etc.), 450 feet long, 75 feet wide and 45 feet tall – with 3 decks, one window and one door.  It was to be covered inside and out with pitch (tar of some sort).  These were specified by God and needed to be followed exactly as stated.  Noah faithfully did this (Genesis 6:22, 7:5, cf. Hebrews 11:7).  He did so “by faith”.

                                             xiii.      Generic – consider again Noah.  God gave him very specific instructions, but He did not specify what tools to use to build the ark.   Therefore, Noah could use whatever methods he had at his disposal – hammers, saws, axes, etc. 

 II.                   Specific and General Authority Illustrated and applied

a.       Matthew 28:19-20, Mark 16:15-16 - Go and teach all nations.  As the great commission applies to us, we have the same specific and generic commands.

                                                   i.      Specific – we are to go.  We cannot please God if we are not trying to preach or teach the gospel.
We are to teach - make disciples of Jesus, preach the Gospel – not the writings of Max Lucado, Joel Osteen, Charles Stanley, or some other prolific writer.   Make known the gospel in its simplicity – cf. 1 Corinthians 2:1-2.

                                                 ii.      Generic – as we go we too can walk, ride an animal, go on a ship, etc. But because the method of going is generic, we can also drive in a car, take a bus or airplane, ride a bike, etc.
We can teach – in a class setting, from the pulpit, using literature (tracts, etc.), via a website, etc.  The method is not specified SO LONG AS we are proclaiming the simple gospel of Christ.

b.       Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16 – our worship in song.

                                                   i.      Specific God has told us to sing.  Singing is a TYPE of music.  Instrumental music is a DIFFERENT type of music.  God has specified by command and approved examples – thus we are ONLY authorized to sing acapella. 
We are to make melody with our hearts, sing with grace in our hearts – proper attitude, and plucking the strings of the heart – NOT the strings of harp, or guitar or piano.
We are to sing – psalms, hymns and spiritual songs – these are specific types of songs.  Our worship should not be singing contemporary chart tunes, country music, rap, etc.  
BTW, singing is NOT beep-bopping to imitate instruments. 

                                                 ii.      Generic – we can use four part harmony, 2 part harmony or sing in unison. 
Also, we have authority to use song books, a song leader, etc. This too falls under generic authority, as an expediency.  (More on this next week).

c.        Lord’s Supper

                                                   i.      Specific - When? Acts 20:7 – on the first day of the week.  We can ONLY partake on Sundays per example.  EXCLUDED would be taking it on Saturday or Thursday night or any other day.
It is also something to be done when we come together – Acts 20:7, cf. 1 Corinthians 11:20ff.
Also elements specified (NI).  Excluded would be any other elements.

                                                 ii.      Generic - BUT, WHEN on the first day of the week?  As long as we assemble and partake of the Lord’s Supper on that day, we have obeyed the command. 
How the elements are served is up to our discretion – multiple containers, a single container, distributed via trays, etc.

d.       Hebrews 10:25

                                                   i.      Specific - we are commanded to assemble – to forsake the assembling is NOT an acceptable option; Also, we know that our assemblies MUST include a Sunday service.

                                                 ii.      Generic - However, WHERE we assemble – in a building, a rented hall, a home, in a school, are all acceptable options as they fulfill the command to assemble.
It would also include the necessary amenities to facilitate the assembly – heat, electricity (today), a water fountain, pews, restrooms, etc.  
We CAN assemble at other times without violating the command to assemble on Sunday.

e.       Within the church – we have specifics as to how we may raise and use our funds, the organizational structure (no organization larger than a LC, also local oversight of elders, etc.), the work of the church, how we worship God, doctrinal and moral purity, etc.   In these matters there are specific commands, examples and conclusions, but there are also matters left up to our discretion.  


And thus we can see the importance of understanding the different types of authority.  He expects us to follow His commands exactly as they are given – nothing more and nothing less.  Remember, He said, “For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways ," says the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.”  (Isaiah 55:8-9)   In our next lesson we will address this more as we talk about expediencies and additions.   Are we following His commands?