Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 13, 1961
NUMBER 48, PAGE 2,10-11

"See That Ye Refuse Not Him That Speaketh"

L. R. Hester, Orange, Texas

The above caption is from Hebrews 12:25 and emphasizes the authority of New Testament teaching. With an impure motive men asked Jesus: "By what authority doest thou these things?" (Matt. 21:23) Within itself, this question is proper, and in order prior to all religious activity. All religious endeavor is either from God or men. If it is from God, it is taught in the N. T., either by express command, approved example or necessary inference. If it is from men, it is vain. (Matt. 15:9)

Authority is "the power or right to give commands, enforce obedience, take action, or make final decisions; jurisdiction." (Webster)

Authority consists of authority to legislate, execute and judge.

Whether legislative, executive or judicial, all authority is either inherent, delegated or usurped.

Thus we ask: (1) in whom does religious authority inhere? (2) to whom has it been delegated? (3) through what medium is it enjoined upon men? and (4) what right, if any, does usurped authority have in religion?

Inherent Authority

All authority inheres with God. It is an integral part of him. He is the great "I AM" — the living force that existed before all created things. By his own power the universe, all substance and life, both physical and spiritual derive and exist. Thus, it is God's original power and right to have jurisdiction over the whole creation. Until the creature finds the wisdom and power to take over the throne of his Creator — until his wisdom and power surpasses that of his maker — he will be under the authority of God.

Delegated Authority

There is no legitimate authority in religion that does not come from God. But Jesus said: "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth." (Matt. 28:18) Of the exceeding greatness of God's power towards us who believe, Paul wrote thusly: "Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places. Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church. Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all." (Eph. 1:20-23) As head over the church, Christ is to have the preeminence in all things. (Col. 1:18) And "at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And....every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Phil. 2:9-11) Thus, Jesus has received from God full, absolute and final authority in religion. God has put "all things" under the feet of Christ with one exception. " is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him." (1

Cor. 15:27) God still reigns! But he has vested in his son all religious authority. Christ "is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens." (Heb. 8:1)

Authority Delegated To The Apostles

As God has delegated authority to Christ, so has Christ delegated authority to his apostles. An apostle is "one sent." While praying for the apostles Jesus said: "As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I sent them into the world." (John 17:18) God sent Christ with authority, and Christ sent the apostles with authority. He said to them: " my Father hath sent me, even so send I you." He then breathed on them, saying: "Receive ye the Holy Ghost: Whosoever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whosoever sins ye retain, they are retained." (John 20:21-23) He also said to them: "Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." (Matt. 18:18) And again "He that receiveth you receiveth me, and he that receiveth me receiveth him that sent me." (Matt. 10:40) Thus we know that apostolic teaching is the teaching of Christ and of God, and that it is as authoritative as God himself. Today, the apostles are "judging the twelve tribes of Israel." (Matt. 19:28) That is, apostolic teaching now governs the church of Christ — "the Israel of God." (Gal. 6:16)

New Testament Authority

Apostolic teaching is N. T. teaching. Christ's blood is the blood of the N. T., (Matt. 26:28) and he is "the mediator of the N. T." (Heb. 9:15) It is an inescapable fact that the benefits of Christ's blood are obtained according to the terms of the N. T., and that God's authority is exerted today through that covenant. The N. T. is the covenant — the covenant that is presently binding — between God and his people. And that covenant has been revealed by the Holy Spirit to the apostles, who in turn have written it in The Book. Of this matter Paul wrote: " revelation he made known unto me the mystery: (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit." (Eph. 3:2-3) Paul warned against thinking of men above that which is written, (1 Cor. 4:6) and said: "If any man think himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write.... are the commandments of the Lord." (1 Cor. 14:37) Thus, God's authority is enjoined upon us through Christ, the inspired apostles, and the written N. T.

Usurped Authority

Usurped authority is self-appropriated, and demands either ignorance of or contempt for legitimate authority. Observe these examples:

1. The authority of Absalom (2 Sam. 15): Absalom, through cunning and force, took for a time, the throne that God had given to his father David.

2. The authority of Papal Rome: Paul forewarned of "the man of sin," saying "Who opposeth and exalted himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself, that he is God." (2 Thess. 2:4) This "man of sin" is the Pope of Rome. His position of authority is usurped, and shows no respect for the legitimate Head of the church, the claims and forgeries of Catholicism to the contrary notwithstanding.

3. The authority exerted through denominational creeds: Since the reformation was begun men have multiplied many human creeds, designed to govern men and organizations religiously. Like Roman Catholicism, Protestant Denominationalism regards human creeds — Catechisms, Disciplines, Manuals etc. — above the authority of the N. T., and hence above the will and authority of God. While it is claimed that these creeds agree with and support the N. T., they exist only where its authority and all sufficiency are rejected. Divine truth is able to stand without a human prop. Those who rely upon human creeds stand with those in Israel of whom God said: " people have committed two evils they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and have hewed out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water." (Jer. 2:13) Whether written or unwritten, in the church or out of it, a human creed is no better than a broken cistern. It can neither supply (as a source) the living water nor contain (with any degree of consistency) that which is taken from God's flowing well (His Word) and put in it. These creeds are broken, empty and dry because they are usurped.

4. Usurped authority within the churches of Christ: There is today a growing tendency towards legislative authority on the part of some elders, and some are "assuming" oversight beyond their Scriptural sphere. More and more brethren are reasoning that the elder's decision to assign work to the church, and to support it out of the church treasury, though it is not authorized in the N. T., obligates the membership to cooperate. If the elders decide to put the church in such fields as secular education, recreation, entertainment, handicraft, general benevolence, selling parking space, renting houses, farming, etc., it is said that failure to give our support is disregard for God's authority. Some elders are "assuming" oversight of brotherhood projects, area-wide activities, works to which all participating churches are equally responsible, human organizations, etc.

Thus, usurped authority exists even within churches of Christ. By God's authority church elders are over nothing more than the membership and activity of the local church "in which the Holy Ghost hath made you (them) bishops." (Acts 20:28; 1 Pet. 5:2) And they have no God-given authority to go beyond the teaching of the N. T. in assigning church works or in spending church funds.

Usurped authority has no right in religion, and God holds no man accountable to it. It is as unholy today as it was in the days of Absalom, and it is as sinful in the church as it is in Roman Catholic and Protestant Denominational circles. The Lord has decreed that the man who exalts himself shall be abased.

"See that ye refuse not him that speaketh"

New Testament teaching must be respected. "God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in times past unto the fathers by the prophets Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son. whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds;...." (Heb. 1:1-2) Observe:

1. God has spoken — His will and our duty have been revealed.

2. God has "spoken to us," and His message unto "us" was spoken "by his Son."

God has spoken two messages — one "unto the fathers by the prophets," and another "unto us by his Son." The first is the Message of the Old Testament; the second is the New. The first came by the prophets (and by angels) the second came by Christ, who is greater than all. The first held its subjects to account the second will hold us to account.

"Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels (the O.T.) was steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward; How shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation (the N. T. plan); which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him; God also bearing them witness, both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles, and gifts of the Holy Ghost, according to his own will?" (Heb. 2:1-4) Observe that the N. T. began to be spoken by the Lord, was confirmed by the apostles, and has been certified by God, with the miracles of the apostles and early Christians. This proves its authority and man's inescapable accountability to its teaching.

We have not come to Mt. Sinai, the law of Moses, and the blood of bulls and goats, but "to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel." Thus we are admonished: "See that ye refuse not him that speaketh. For if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven:....For our God is a consuming fire." Read Hebrews 12:-8-29.

If we are not governed by the authority of the N. T., then in what way or through what medium are we governed by God's authority? If the N. T. does not authorize, encompass and limit our religious faith and practice, where is the divine standard by which we are to be governed? If the N. T. is not the standard of authority for all that we believe and practice religiously, how are we to determine just what part of our faith and practice is to be proved by the N. T.? Through what other medium than the N. T. can we have God's assurance that what we believe and practice religiously is acceptable with him?

Dear reader, we need to understand, as the centurion of Luke 8:5-13 understood, that the Lord's authority is conveyed in His Word. It is time for us to ponder the fact that accountability to God equals accountability to His message to us, and that we can no more mock the teaching of the N. T. than we can mock its Author. Come what may, it is to our best interest to hear and obey our Creator. "See that ye refuse not him that speaketh." And believe and do nothing religiously until you know it can be believed or practiced by His authority. Our attitude toward the word of God is our attitude toward Him, and that attitude will finally determine our eternal destiny.