Vol.XIII No.X Pg.7
December 1976

You Know What?

Robert F. Turner

Bro. Turner:

Where do we get the authority to say when a New Testament example is binding and when it is not? P.T.


We have no authority to bind commands or examples — God does that. We just try to understand and follow the teachings of Gods word, accepting or rejecting on the basis of our understanding. We desperately need more faith in Gods way of teaching truth.

The apostle Paul taught by example (Phil. 4:9, 1 Cor. 11:1). When some first century church did something on the basis of Pauls example, we have apostolic authority for the same action. Either this is true, or there is no point in considering binding anything that the apostles taught.

First century churches did some things that were disapproved by inspired men (Corinths neglect to discipline, 1 Cor. 5:). This teaches, by the force of a negative, that we can not have divine approval in such an attitude and act today. But other things were done with apostolic approval (church support of Paul, Phil. 4:15; 2 Cor. 11:8), and by this approval we believe such support is authorized today. Either this is so, or the vast majority of the N.T. books are next to worthless as respects authority. If such approved examples are not binding, how does one argue that commands (given to churches in the first century) are bound on us? The rejection of divinely approved examples is an initial step in the rejection of any specific will of God, and of inspiration in the Bible sense. But the querist indicates that some argue: if human judgment determines which examples are approved, then the example (as: Lords supper on First day) becomes but a matter of personal choosing. Interpretation, of examples and commands, involves human judgment; i.e., we must apply human intellect to that which is revealed and draw conclusions as to what the word symbols mean. Human reasoning is involved in the application of Acts 2:38 to someone not a Jew, and who had no part in the crucifixion. Find the authority to study commands and draw conclusions, and I will offer it to you for authority to interpret (or properly determine meaning) of all that is written by inspiration. When Paul said the things written aforetime were written for our learning (Rom. 15:4), was he referring only to commands? Consider 1 Cor. 10:11.

The N.T. is not a church manual, with a list of things to be believed, things to do, regulations for organization, etc. It is first century literature — history, biography, public and private letters, doctrinal discourse, and encouragements for early saints. But indications are plentiful that a wider use was intended. (Note 1 Cor. 1:2b; 2 Pet. 1:13-15; Jn. 20:31). The nature of the writings (if we are fully convinced that the Holy Spirit did the teaching — 1 Cor. 2:13; Eph. 3:3-5), is enough to cause us to cherish and follow approved examples. No divine rules are set up for interpretation of examples or commands. But Paul declares that what he wrote can be understood (Eph. 3:4; 5:17), and he certainly wrote something more than specific commands.