Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 22, 1963
NUMBER 16, PAGE 3,11b

A Study Of Generic Authority - (No: 2)

Forrest Darrell Moyer

In our previous study we pointed out what generic authority and specific authority involves. We particularly showed that specific authority specifies what God desires. But specific authority is not the only kind that there is. When God commands, even in the realm of general authority, His commands must be obeyed. General authority authorizes the expedients of obeying God's command. When God told Noah to build an ark of gopher wood, it was left to Noah to choose the type of tools best fitted for the purpose of building. He had to determine the number of hours per day that he would work as well as the other particulars of building.

The same is true in our service today. God has taught us to use bread and fruit of the vine in observance of the Lord's supper. The teaching that we are to break bread authorizes a plate or utensil upon which to place the bread to pass it to the brethren. God nowhere specified a plate; but He authorized it by the general authority to break bread. The same principle is true in the fruit of the vine. God taught us that "the cup" is the fruit of the vine. The cup (fruit of the vine) may be placed in more than one container and still be just one cup. More than one container is authorized by the command "drink ye all of it." Those who contend for one container do not realize just what the cup is, and therefore, misunderstand the point of authority.

Song Books

In our singing of songs, hymns, and spiritual songs certain things are essential. It is necessary to have words, melody and pitch. Thus, the command to sing authorizes these things. Whether these are written in a book or memorized, the authority is there. God authorized the use of a song book by commanding us to sing. It is true that He did not specify a book; but it is also true that it is authorized.

The Lord's Supper

God, by example, specified the first day of the week as the day of the Lord's Supper. There is specific authority for the observance of the Lord's Supper on Sunday. However, He did not specify the hour. It may be observed at any hour on the first day of the week that is agreed upon by the local church. There are some essentials of the proper observance of the Lord's Supper. These elements must be present: (1) People who are in the kingdom of God. (Luke 22:29-30) (2) Scriptural elements — bread and fruit of the vine. (3) Sunday — the first day of the week. (Acts 20:7) (4) A coming together. (1 Cor. 11:33) (5) A communion with Christ. (1 Cor. 10:16-21) (6) A mental fellowship with fellow Christians — "the bread which we break" and "The cup which we bless " All Christians have a mental fellowship in the observance of the Lord's Supper. We do not all have to partake of it simultaneously in order for this fellowship to exist. This is not even done simultaneously in an assembly. Usually there is a lapse of time between the partaking of the bread on the part of different members. Yet, there is still this fellowship. When you have these elements all together, you have a scriptural assembly for the Lord's supper. You may have these elements on Sunday morning and/or Sunday evening. There is general authority for the observance of the Lord's Supper either morning or evening or for both morning and evening. Some have demanded specific authority for having communion at the evening service as well as at the morning hour. Of course, there is none. But the authority is there just the same. By what reasoning can we conclude that there can be an assembly of any kind more than once on Sunday? By general authority. And in the same way there is authority for communion.

Church Buildings

Sometimes people ask, "Where is your authority for having a church building?" There is general authority for it. Please observe: Any command that is given either to individuals or to the church authorizes the requirements of obedience to that command. If God places a responsibility upon an individual, He thereby authorizes the expedients of fulfilling that responsibility. For example, the Lord commands us to study. In doing so, He authorized the use of paper, pen, notes dictionary, concordance, encyclopedia, et al. While these are not specified, they are authorized. God commands Christians to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction. The ways and means of our doing this are not specified. We realize that it is right for us to take food, clothing and medicine into their houses in order to fulfill this. We are authorized by the command to care for them in our own houses. Certainly, there is no prescribed way for individuals to fulfill this duty. It cannot be pushed off on the church; this would be stepping out of the realm of authority.

Commands given to the church also authorize the expedients of fulfilling the commands. The church as a collective body has the responsibility of maintaining worship. It has been established as the temple of God. (1 Cor. 3:16; Eph. 2:21-22) A collective responsibility is set forth in 1 Pet. 2:5 — a spiritual house. The church is authorized to worship as a body. This is seen in prayer (Acts 12:5), in the Lord's Supper (1 Cor. 11:20, Acts 20:7) and in giving (1 Cor. 16:2 requires a collective action). Since this is a collective responsibility of the church, the church may make provisions to fulfill this worship. Now, one requirement of this worship as a collective body is a place. In most places, the requirement (due to size of the congregation, the climatic conditions, and other factors) is for a building. The responsibility to maintain worship authorizes a building in which to worship, and it authorizes the church to provide it.

The church as a collective body has the responsibility of teaching the truth. (1 Tim. 3:15) In the teaching of the truth, a building may be utilized. The early Christians used buildings in which to teach. The church is authorized to provide a building in which to teach by the command given to it to teach. So again, there is general authority for the church to provide a building whether by renting, buying, or building.

Class Teaching We might add that the responsibility of the church to teach all nations demands that proper arrangements be made for this teaching. This teaching was done in three ways in Bible days — to the whole assembly, to individuals, and to groups. The church may arrange for teaching in these three ways. When a local congregation arranges Bible classes for the teaching of the Bible, they do so with the authority of God. The authority is general. It is no less authorized than if it had been specific.

Hence, we see that general authority is vitally significant in the function of a congregation. Brethren, we need to understand general authority.

(More to follow.)

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