God’s Word is our Authority

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I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Occasionally, at church or the Adventist school where I teach Bible and evangelism, someone will ask me, “What do we believe about such and such?” My response has always been, “I don’t know what you believe, but here is what I, and many Seventh-day Adventists believe,” and I show them in the Bible what I believe and why. I am not going to tell someone what they believe. That is not teaching. It is brainwashing.

During the dark ages, when people did not have access to the Bible, people trusted their priests to tell them what they believed, and because of that there was a lot of brainwashing going on.

Even before the dark ages, priests abused their authority, and tried to brainwash people into believing whatever they believed. This happened in Jesus’ day when those in “authority” were trying to capture Jesus.

When the Temple guards returned without having arrested Jesus, the leading priests and Pharisees demanded, “Why didn’t you bring him in?” “We have never heard anyone speak like this!” the guards responded. “Have you been led astray, too?” the Pharisees mocked. “Is there a single one of us rulers or Pharisees who believes in him? John 7:45-48 NLT

The guards experienced and heard the Word of God speaking to them, and believed. Since the pharisees did not want to believe, they mocked at this. in John 7 the pharisees miscounstrued Scripture to try and prove their point, but amazingly instead of hanging their hat on Scripture, they hung it on the fact that none of the rulers or leaders believed.

So if someone in “authority” believes something it is automatically right, and if they don’t then it is automatically wrong? The pharisees seemed to think so. Do some think that way today?

And the people of Berea were more open-minded than those in Thessalonica, and they listened eagerly to Paul’s message. They searched the Scriptures day after day to see if Paul and Silas were teaching the truth. Acts 17:11 NLT

Like the Temple guards, the Bereans were interested in new ideas as long as they were found in Scripture. They didn’t believe something because Paul and Silas believed it or becasue a ruler did. On their own they searched the Scriptures daily to find truth.

I have heard Seventh-day Adventists telling their Baptist and Methodist friends to search the Bible for themselves because their pastors could be wrong. I have watched some of the same Seventh-day Adventists listening to their own favorite Adventist preachers, wihtout bothering to search the Scriptures, because after all, their pastor is Adventist so he is automatically right, right? Wrong! We all make mistakes, as we all continue to learn and grow.

Let’s not be like the foolish pharisees in John 7, who hang their hats on whether or not the rulers or those in authority believed something or not. Let’s be like the temple guards and hang our hat on the Word of God.

You may study this week’s SS lesson here. 

“If The President Does it, Then it is not Illegal.” Really?

I am writing today from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Sunday’s section of this week’s Sabbath School lesson states, “In some cultures, there is a tendency to distrust and challenge leadership; in others, to blindly submit to it. How has your own culture’s attitude toward authority impacted the church in your area?”

In an interview with David Frost, Richard Nixon, a former United States President, forced to resign due to a scandal, defended himself by saying, “If the President does it, then it is not illegal.” This bold statement shocked David Frost, and every other competent thinker! I believe, in the United States, people really started to question their leaders after Nixon’s downfall.

I believe we keep a healthy balance of respect for leadership, without blind submission, when we ask for accountability and checks and balances. In the United States we have a constitution the President must hold to. The Constitution also declares who ultimately has the authority. It reads, “We the people.” Not “me the president” or “me Thomas Jefferson, or James Madison, or Ronald Regan or Barak Obama.” The power and authority of the constitution comes from ‘The People!” Therefore our president is not above the law.

In the church we have the Scriptures as our sole authority, and our leaders must be held accountable. Also the church as a body has authority,

”God has ordained that the representatives of His church from all parts of the earth, when assembled in a General Conference, shall have authority.” –Last Day Events, page 56.

Just like in the United States, the President is not above the people, likewise church leaders are not above the church.

“The church is built upon Christ as its foundation; it is to obey Christ as its head. It is not to depend upon man, or be controlled by man. Many claim that a position of trust in the church gives them authority to dictate what other men shall believe and what they shall do. This claim God does not sanction. …. Upon no finite being can we depend for guidance. The Rock of faith is the living presence of Christ in the church. Upon this the weakest may depend, and those who think themselves the strongest will prove to be the weakest, unless they make Christ their efficiency. “Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm.” The Lord “is the Rock, His work is perfect.” “Blessed are all they that put their trust in Him.” Jeremiah 17:5; Deuteronomy 32:4; Psalm 2:12.- Desire of Ages, Page 414.

Many years ago, I heard the testimony of a church leader, defending himself for some shady deals, saying his boss told him to do it, therefore he had no choice but to obey his boss who had “authority.” I am sure Joab was thinking the same thing when King David told him to put Uriah on the front lines of the war. Please read what God’s messenger has to say about Joab’s rationale.

“And Joab, whose allegiance had been given to the king rather than to God, transgressed God’s law because the king commanded it.  David’s power had been given him by God, but to be exercised only in harmony with the divine law. When he commanded that which was contrary to God’s law, it became sin to obey. “The powers that be are ordained of God” (Romans 13:1), but we are not to obey them contrary to God’s law. The apostle Paul, writing to the Corinthians, sets forth the principle by which we should be governed. He says, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 11:1.  –Patriarchs and Prophets, Page 719.

We need to be respectful of authority, but remember where authority ultimately comes from. And while respecting those in leadership, and even being in leadership, we must remember we are accountable to the Scriptures and God’s church, of which Christ is the Head.

I would also like to share a parting thought. In my years of Gospel Work around the country, I have met people who are afraid to speak up in board meetings or Church business meetings, because they feel they are too young or poor, and their influence would not be felt. I have also observed people abusing their age or money to hurt others. So this is what I say to all. No matter how young, old, rich or poor you are, you need to speak your mind in these meetings. And, no matter how young, old rich or poor you are, you need to be nice when you do. Everyone has a right to speak, and everyone has a responsibility to be nice when they do so.

Acts 9; From Persecutor to Disciple

I am writing tonight from the beautiful Tampa Bay area.

Acts of the Apostles Chapter 12

This chapter is based on Acts 9:1-18.

And Ananias went his way, and entered into the house; and putting his hands on him said, Brother Saul, the Lord, [even] Jesus, that appeared unto thee in the way as thou camest, hath sent me, that thou mightest receive thy sight, and be filled with the Holy Ghost. And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized. Acts 9:17-18

As soon as Saul was converted he was introduced to Ananias and was baptized into the church. He had been called by God. “For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught [it], but by the revelation of Jesus Christ”.  Galatians 1:12 Still God had an elder lay hands on him in Acts 9 and be baptized into the church.

Thus Jesus gave sanction to the authority of His organized church and placed Saul in connection with His appointed agencies on earth. Christ had now a church as His representative on earth, and to it belonged the work of directing the repentant sinner in the way of life.  {AA 122.2} 

 

Many have an idea that they are responsible to Christ alone for their light and experience, independent of His recognized followers on earth. Jesus is the friend of sinners, and His heart is touched with their woe. He has all power, both in heaven and on earth; but He respects the means that He has ordained for the enlightenment and salvation of men; He directs sinners to the church, which He has made a channel of light to the world.  {AA 122.3} 

You may find more studies and devotionals at In Light Of the Cross.