Vol.VII No.VIII Pg.7
October 1970

Queries And Answers

Robert F. Turner

Bro Turner:

I find specific authority to use the collection for helping needy saints and supporting preachers, but where is the authority to use such funds for properties (buildings, books, communion service, etc.)? PT


If the querist means to say that we must have specific authority for all we do, he might try finding such for having the building, books, and communion service in the first place.

Go authorizes locomotion; it does not specify the means of locomotion. In the absence of a limiting specific or prohibitions, Go is all the authority we need to walk, ride a mule, swim, fly, or use other means of getting from one place to another. This is what is often called generic, or general, authority. It is not true to say we have no authority to fly, although it is certainly true to say we have no specific authority to fly. Means of locomotion are inherent in the generic authority to go.

Now go can only authorize that which is subordinate to this category, i.e., loco- motion. It does not, for example, authorize teach, for teach is a coordinate; a differing category, and one of equal rank with locomotion. It is illogical to contend that go authorizes methods of teaching, caring, or organization — it can only authorize that which is inherent in its meaning, and which is subordinate to or within its bounds. If this is not so, words have no real meaning, and are of no use whatsoever in setting forth the will of God. But the querist may have in mind some current contentions regarding the pooled funds of the saints; as if we had to have a specific example of the collecting of funds for every single item for which funds are spent. (I do not know of anyone who has gone this far — yet — but this is the logical end of their contentions.)

When the church in Corinth sent assistance to the needy saints in Jerusalem, we are given information concerning the means by which they put together this fund. (1 Cor. 16:1-f) Some details for pooling a fund and putting it at the disposition of the apostles, is found in Acts 4:34- f. But, as the querist acknowledges, the early church supported preachers( see Phil. 4:15), and no specific details are given as to how they brought together this fund. The thing itself is authorized — but authority for making the collection necessary for this is generic. In the absence of specific authority, surely we are not amiss in using the example of 1 Cor. 16: for the bringing together of funds to do whatever the saints are authorized to do collectively.

The saints are authorized to assemble, and subordinate to assembly is a place of assembly. They are authorized to sing — but you may object, They do not have to use books; they could memorize the songs. Yes, — if you could find specific authority for memorizing songs. Dont we see that the principle of generic authority is essential to interpretation and compliance with Gods will? Then let us study and understand the principle, and learn to use it wisely.