Joe R. Price


More and more Christians are not grounded in how to establish and apply Bible authority. While most Christians agree that we must "have Bible authority for all that we believe and do," many do not know where to go from there. This has led to many unauthorized (and therefore sinful, 1 Jno. 3:4) doctrines and practices within churches of Christ. Saying we must have Bible authority is one thing, but being able to properly establish and apply that Bible authority is another.

The inspired scriptures are our authoritative source for doctrine and conduct (2 Tim. 3:16-17). They fully equip us "unto every good work" because they are inspired of God ("God-breathed"). The only way to hear Christ today is through the message preached by His apostles and prophets (Matt. 17:5; Heb. 1:1-2; Lk. 10:16; Jno. 13:20).

Once we understand that our authority to act with God's approval is found only in the New Testament of Christ, we must then set out to apply that authority in our lives. To do so, we must know how God's authority is revealed within the scriptures. Three ways of establishing divine authority in the New Testament: direct statements (commands), apostolic approved examples and necessary implications. All three of these ways of establishing authority must be applied, from time to time, to what we believe and practice (2 Cor. 13:5; 1 Thess. 5:21-22).

We should also understand that one way of establishing authority is not greater or more important that another. For example, a direct command does not carry more weight than an approved example. Neither is an approved example more important than a necessary implication. For instance, Christ directly commanded that His disciples partake of the Lord's Supper (1 Cor. 11:24-25). When it should be observed (the first day of the week) is established by an example in Acts 20:7, approved by the participation of the apostle Paul. While there is no commandment that the first day of the week is the proper day of observance we do not conclude that the time of its partaking is unimportant. Partaking the Lord's Supper was the stated purpose for their first day of the week assembly (Acts 20:7). To change the day is to go where Bible authority does not go (1 Cor. 4:6; Gal. 1:8-9).

At the same time, the only way to establish the frequency of the Supper (how often should it be observed) is a necessary conclusion which is inferred from Acts 20:7. Since there is one first day of the week every week, we may necessarily conclude that every first day of the week is an occasion to partake of the Supper (cf. Exo. 20:8; 1 Cor. 16:2).

It has been said by some that we do many things for which we have no authority. If this is true, then we are doing many things which are sinful! Acting without divine authority is iniquity (lawlessness), and will cause eternal death (Matt. 7:21-23, 24-27; 1 Jno. 3:4). To "do the will of the Father" our authority must be established by direct commands, approved examples and necessary implications. Acts 15:7-21 is an occasion when all three (apostolic example, 15:7-11; necessary inference, 15:12; and direct statement, 15:13-21)were used to affirm the freedom of Gentiles from the law of Moses. We must and can use the same ways to establish divine authority today for all we say and do (Col. 3:17)