But some of the sect of the Pharisees who believed rose up, saying, “It is necessary to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses.” Now the apostles and elders came together to consider this matter. (Acts 15:5-6)
Solving Church Problems
Authority is necessary for life for almost everything a man does. Governments are ordained by God to establish a body of law which governs the lives of its citizens for their welfare. Officials have the power to enforce kingdom laws because authority has been granted to them in the exercise of such administration. Without authority there would be chaos. Sports are measured by rules and regulations with referees and umpires maintaining the laws of the governing body which determines what is right and wrong. There are implied lines of authority in nature that humankind must live within such as the law of gravity. While the understanding of authority is easily identified in every walk of life with necessary implications, religion is often viewed as a discipline where authority is not required. It is often said about the Bible that it is only a personal interpretation of scripture and that no man can bind truth upon another. The reason there are so many churches is that everyone can read the Bible as they want to read it and come to conclusions that fit their choices. When this same line of argument is used in courts of civil law, the arguments are rejected because there are no established theories of jurisprudence but only the facts of the case. A person’s interpretation of the law can be a powerful argument of logic and reasoning but the judge will not accept such rational because the law does not allow for personal bias to determine adjudication of what is written in the legal precedent of the governing body. In the arena of human wisdom men have changed and abused with crafty wisdom the laws to fit their own needs and serve their own purpose. One certainty in the existence of mankind is that when the Lord God establishes a law, only He can change that law. When that law is enacted, it will never change. The law for a person living in 1234 is just as binding on a person living in the year 2034 because God does not change and the covenant He established through His Son Jesus Christ has not changed. The question remains on how to establish Bible authority and the historian and gospel writer, Luke, gives us the pattern for divine jurisprudence.
One of the great problems in the early church was men teaching the disciples that unless a person was circumcised according to the custom of Moses, they could not be saved. The teaching of Judaizing Christians greatly influenced the infant church and potentially could have destroyed the church in the beginning. So large was the problem that it was decided that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of the church in Antioch should go to Jerusalem and discuss the question with the apostles and elders. Among the church were some that had been from the sect of the Pharisees who taught that it was necessary to circumcise and keep the Law of Moses. The apostles and elders came together to consider the matter which became a dispute among the brethren on how to address the problem. Then Peter stood up and presented an argument based upon his experience with teaching Cornelius, a centurion of the Roman Italian Regiment, and the subsequent conversion of the household of Cornelius. When he finished, the multitude kept silent as Barnabas and Paul declared how many miracles and wonders had been worked by God through them among the Gentiles. The journey of Barnabas and Paul had taken them throughout the region of Asia Minor teaching the gospel to the Gentiles establishing churches throughout the region. Finally, James, the brother of Jesus, explained how the scriptures taught the necessity of binding the word of God as authority. The question was settled and the problem solved by establishing a pattern of authority that all the brethren could model after and know the answer to whether a person had to be circumcised or not to be saved. Law was not established by the opinions of Paul or Barnabas or how Peter thought things should be but rather authority was established on three principles of divine law: command, example, and necessary inference.
There have been problems in the church from the beginning. The New Testament church was not immune from the wiles of the devil who seeks to destroy the kingdom of Christ. In the two thousand years since the Day of Pentecost, the church of Christ has suffered from the apostasy of Roman Catholicism and the denominational concepts of Protestants who created multiple churches with different names, creeds, worship, and dogmas. In a world ripe with religious division, the question of authority must be established to know where truth begins and human wisdom corrupts. The example of the events of Jerusalem with the question of what must a man do to be saved is the pattern of how to establish authority. The fundamental hermeneutics of divine law will always be established by the same principles governed by the early church when they met to decide how to answer the false teachings of certain men. Through the example of Peter, Barnabas, Paul, and James, the Lord put forth in holy writ that authority comes from a command (specific command from God; James); example (approved example from the New Testament; Barnabas and Paul), and necessary inference (implied within the text; Peter). Trying to rewrite the law of divine interpretation will only bring the student back to the same conclusion. Solving church problems can only be done when following the divine pattern. Without this view of the word of God, the opinions and interpretations of men will govern authority resulting in vain and false worship.