Sunday, May 14, 2017 am                                            NT Church 2017 Index


Authority - 9
Does Silence Give or Restrict Authority?


The past several lessons, we have been addressing the subject of Bible Authority as we examine the New Testament.  We have noted that authority deals with what we have permission to do, the legitimate ways to establish authority (Command, Approved Example and Necessary Inference), as well as addressing specific and generic authority.  In our last lesson we discussed expedients and additions.  Today, as we conclude this portion of our study, we want to address the subject of silence. 

Man often wants to do things that are not specifically authorized, so he seeks other ways to justify his conduct.  One way many seek to justify their actions is by appealing to the silence of scripture.  They might reason, “As long as the Bible doesn’t specifically forbid something, then it is acceptable to do” or “Where there is silence, we are at liberty to determine HOW to fulfill a task.” In our lesson this morning, we are going to look at how God feels about silence.

 I.              The Bible and Silence?

a.        What is silence? When we speak of silence we mean when God says nothing.  This is applied as we determine what we are permitted to do and prohibited from doing. 

b.       There are passages to consider with respect to the authority of Godl

                                                   i.      Colossians 3:17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

                                                 ii.      2 Tim. 3:16-17 – with scripture, the man of God may be complete.  There are many such passage that appeal to the scriptures giving us all that we need.

                                                iii.      1 Corinthians 4:6“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.

                                                iv.      2 John 9, “Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son.” The word “transgress” means to go aside or go beyond (as in a boundary).

                                                  v.      1 Peter 4:11, “If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

                                                vi.      Deuteronomy 12:32, “Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it.”

                                               vii.      Deuteronomy 4:1–2, “Now, O Israel, listen to the statutes and the judgments which I teach you to observe, that you may live, and go in and possess the land which the Lord God of your fathers is giving you. You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you.”

                                             viii.      Deut. 29:29, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”
In this text Moses is saying, GOD MEANS WHAT HE SAYS.  If He wanted to say something in a different way He would have done that.  If He wanted us to do something differently, He would have told us how to do that.  He also notes that what God DOESN’T say belongs to Him.  That is the silence of scripture. 

                                                ix.      Revelation 22:18–19, “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.”

                                                  x.      Considering all these passages (and others could be added to them), does it seem pretty clear that God knows HOW to communicate what He expects?  Does it seem that if God wanted to permit certain things He would have to us of them?


 II.             Examples of God’s Silence

a.       Israel crossing the Red Sea – Exodus 14:10-14.  Having left Egypt, Israel comes to the Red Sea where they are stopped on their journey.  And as Pharaoh and his army approach the people complain (vs. 11-12).  Notice the response of Moses in vs. 13.  Stand still and see the salvation of the LORD, which He will accomplish for you today…   NOTICE that Moses tells the to WAIT!  God would give them the solution they needed.  They then cross the Red say.

b.       Moses and the 2nd Passover – Numbers 9.  The Passover was an important feast to Israel.  Even in the wilderness they observed this feast.  Numbers 9:6-7 speaks of some who were unable to partake at the appropriate time (because they were unclean due to a dead body).  They did not want to be deprived of the opportunity to partake of this memorial, so they ask Moses about it.  Vs. 8 says, “And Moses said to them, “Stand still, that I may hear what the Lord will command concerning you.”” (Numbers 9:8)   NOTICE that they could not arbitrarily choose to set aside another day – regardless of good intentions or circumstances.  They needed permission.  Moses inquired of the Lord and the children of Israel were granted a second opportunity (IF they were unclean or away on a journey) Vs. 10.  BUT the point is SILENCE was NOT consent! 

c.        Nadab and Abihu –Leviticus 10:1-2.  They offered profane fire of incense before the LORD and were burned to death immediately.  Note that vs. 1 says, “they offered profane fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them.    When God specified, we cannot presume that He will accept something else.

d.       David ask to build God a temple 2 Samuel 7:1-2.  David is blessed and wants to build a house for God.  Nathan the prophet tells him to proceed.  However, that night, the LORD came to Nathan and gave him further instructions.  Among them, He acknowledges the goodness and desires of David (5-16).  IN vs. 7 we read, “Have I ever spoken a word to anyone from the tribes of Israel,…saying, ‘Why have you not built Me a house of cedar?’”    The answer was, NO!  God had been silent on that as Israel was expected to worship God at the tabernacle.  The LORD issued further instructions that Solomon, David’s son would build the temple (not David) – vs. 12-13.  NOTE: How David could NOT act with authority, UNTIL God permitted it.  His silence had to be respected. 

e.       Uzziah offers an unauthorized sacrifice.  2 Chronicles 26:16-20 where we find Uzziah, who was actually considered a good king in Judah, decided that he was going to burn incense on the altar of incense to the Lord.  Azariah tried to stop him, but he became furious and attempted to offer the incense anyway.  We are told that while he was angry, leprosy broke out on his forehead beside the altar of incense.  He couldn’t get out fast enough and was a leper until the day of his death.   AGAIN, his intentions may have been good, but he was NOT authorized to offer incense.  God’s POSITIVE instructions prohibited anything else.  His silence was NOT authority.

f.         Judaizing teachers –– Acts 15:1 records men coming from Judea to Antioch and demanding that Gentiles be circumcised and keep the law of Moses to be saved. 
In the discussion of the Apostles, elders and saints at Jerusalem they reached a conclusion that God did NOT require the keeping of the Law of Moses.  In fact, Acts 15:24, we find that neither had the apostles given such instructions.  The binding of circumcision was presumption.  It was adding to God’s instructions.  God’s POSITIVE commands as to what Gentiles needed to do excluded all other requirements for salvation.  Again silence prohibits rather than permits.

g.       Hebrews 7:14, in describing the Priesthood of Jesus, the author explains why Jesus could NOT be a priest of physical Israel.  He said, “For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood.” (Hebrews 7:14)   When God specified the Levites for the priesthood, He didn’t have to name the other 11 tribes as being excluded.  POSITIVE instructions excluded everything else.


 III.           What about today?

a.       When God gives us instructions and approved examples, we need to respect their authority. 

b.       Instrumental music – we have used this as our example throughout this study of authority.  Here let us consider: God SPECIFIED singing (Eph. 5:19, Col. 3:16, etc.).  He did NOT have to say, “Do not use instruments of music” for it to be prohibited.  His silence is ENOUGH!

Yet many today argue, “But God didn’t say we couldn’t”.    While that is a true statement, when we understand the silence of God, we realize that we must stay with that which He specified.  To add to what He has commanded is to transgress His laws and to challenge their sufficiency.   And that is dangerous ground to tread upon.  Our eternal destiny is far too valuable to tamper with by basing it on, “But God didn’t say I couldn’t do that!” 

c.        Baptism – immersion.  Both the meaning of the word and various examples demonstrate this.  So when someone today says, “But God didn’t say we could not pour water on one’s head as baptism” they are rejecting God’s SPECIFIC command which regulates how we do it.

d.       Baptism – is not for infants.  A study of baptism shows that only mature persons obeyed the gospel.  They believed BEFORE they were baptized (Acts 8:37, 16:31-33, 8:12 – the Samaritans, etc.).  That is why when one argues about the “household” of Cornelius, the jailer and Lydia, it is not valid.  God did not have to say “NOT infants”.  His POSITIVE command was enough!

e.       When to eat Lord’s Supper – first day of the week.  Acts 20:7. He didn’t have to say, “NOT any other day”.  We have a POSITIVE example we ought to follow.

f.         What is the work of the church?  It is to worship God collectively, evangelize, edify the saints and limited benevolence – NOTHING MORE! And how these works are carried out have many parameters specified by command, example and inference (we will discuss these in greater detail in future lessons).  God’s SILENCE does NOT give permission to change the work of the church or to add to it.  Some reason that since something is a good work, it must be acceptable.  That fails to respect God’s boundaries for her. 

g.       Organization of the church?  Local, independent and autonomous.  In the Bible, there was no earthly headquarters or organizations larger than the Local congregation in scripture.  God is SILENT about such.  I am convinced His eternal pattern for the church is sufficient. 

 IV.           Other thoughts about silence

a.       When God is silent, how long do we wait?  Until He speaks!  Like David and Moses we need to wait for an answer.  And since His revealed word is complete, we have all that He will give us.  The ONLY way we can change is if through HONEST and PROPER study we determine different. 

b.       It violates the principles of authority found in scripture.  Silence cannot be authorized with CENI, nor through generic or specific authority.  

c.        It is acting without faith – Romans 14:22-23 – whatever is not of faith, is sin! 
Appealing to silence for authority is presumptuous. 
2 Corinthians 5:7 tells us that we walk by faith and not by sight.

d.       Where will we stop?  Appealing to silence opens the floodgates to anything or any way not specifically forbidden in scripture. 

e.       Often silence involves practices that many assume are in God’s instructions.  There are many who blindly follow others (or perhaps they are young in the faith and relying upon the more mature).  They assume that one is acting with authority.  Such actions, if condemned by God, will jeopardize one’s soul.  Consider Matthew 15:9, In vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrine the commandments of men.

And thus we can see that silence is NOT a valid way to establish authority.  In fact, it is acting WITHOUT authority!  Let us understand that when we appeal to what God does NOT say to justify what we do we are saying that either God doesn’t care about how we do something (and many believe this) or He did not sufficiently present what He expects us to do and how to do it.  At best, appealing to silence is dangerous and gambling with your soul and possibly the souls of others.  In our study of authority, we have established that there are matters involving our judgment (i.e.  generic authority and expediencies), let us be honest and rational as we study God word.  But PLEASE do not base your authority on, “But He didn’t say I couldn’t do it!”