How To Establish Scriptural Authority (3)

Implication. In our early days in the Bible college, we used to call this “Necessary Inferences.” The use of the qualifying adjective “necessary,” as in “necessary implication” or “necessary inference,” is of course redundant, but on the other hand I guess that is needed in order to guard us from making “unnecessary implications” of anything! By nature, all inferences are necessary, and what is not necessary to conclude from a group of facts is not an implication of it.

To say that an act, fact or principle is inferred from a group of facts, data or statements is to say that that act, fact, or principle is demanded or required by the available evidence resulting from our analysis of those evidences. Implication or inference is the result of our sifting and analyzing the evidences by the use of human logic. Implication or inference is not necessarily the Bible’s conclusion, and we have to guard ourselves from being too dogmatic in our conclusions.

For example, based on his conclusions on the teachings of 1 Corinthians 1:17, a minister taught that gospel preaching alone is necessary but baptism is not. But that is not necessarily the implication of Paul’s statement: “For Christ sent me not to baptize but to preach the gospel.” To say that baptism is no longer necessary contradicts Christ’s statement in Mark 16:16 and Matthew 28:18-20. To say so also contradicts Paul’s history because he himself was baptized (Acts 9:18; 22:16), and did baptize some (1 Corinthians 1:14-16).

Let me cite some example how inference or implication works. Matthew 3:16 says that after he was baptized by John, Jesus “went up straightway out of the water.” It never mentions that He went down into the water, but this is basically what we must infer although the text does not say so. To be baptized He had to get into the water. One can’t go up straightway out of the water unless he has got down into it, or has been it.

Furthermore, To baptize, in the Greek, means to immerse, to plunge, to dip. It does not mean to sprinkle or to pour. It does not mean anything else. Romans 6:3-4 in the New Catholic Edition of the Bible reads, “Do you not know that all we who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? For we were buried with Him by means of baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ has arisen from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also may walk in newness of life.” Baptism here is pictured as a burial; it is a truth that cannot be denied. So the New Catholic Edition reads in its footnote: “Verse 3. St. Paul alludes to the manner in which baptism was ordinarily conferred in the primitive church, by immersion. The descent into water is suggestive of the descent of the body into the grave, and the ascent is suggestive of the resurrection to a new life…”

To suggest that infants too must have been baptized because households have been baptized is a belabored argument and does not prove anything. It is not even implied. Advocates of infant baptism must perhaps start overhauling this argument because of its flaws; they should overhaul their theology too.

What can you imply from such passages as Mark 16:16, Acts 2:38, Acts 22:16, and Ephesians 2:8? They give me the assurance that the good Lord by His abundant grace and mercy will save me from my sins. It is implied that he does the saving after I have done what He requires me to do. I don’t understand how he does it, but I have great trust that He does it. My faith tells me that I can rejoice in that hope and in that assurance, that even though there are so many things about the salvific system I don’t understand much about, His promise overcomes whatever doubts and confusion I may have. He is powerful enough and gracious enough to do it. If I go to heaven at all, it is not because I have had perfect scores; it is because I am assured that His grace could fill up what is lacking in me. Shouldn’t you rejoice in this also?

Another thing. What kind bodies shall we have in the day of resurrection? It will be an incorruptible, glorious, immortal and powerful body, for sure (1 Corinthians 15:42, 43, 44, 50, 53, 54). 1 John 3:2 also says that we shall be like Jesus. How shall we look like? Will our bodies also penetrate closed doors? (John 20:19).

What can you imply from the following facts? (1) In the passage of Genesis 1:1, “God” is plural in form but “created” is singular. (2) In Genesis 1:26, God said, “Let US make man in OUR image, after OUR likeness…” (3) Genesis 1:27, “So God created man in HIS own image, in the image HE created him; male and female HE created them.” (4) Psalm 8:4, “Thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honor.” (5) John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (6) John 17:5, “And now, Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory that I had with thee before the world was.” (7) Genesis 1:2, “And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” (8) Matthew 3:16-17, “And, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him. and, lo, a voice from heaven saying, This is my beloved Son in whom I am well-pleased.”

Let me repeat: An implication or an inference is simply our conclusion based on our logical sifting, analyzing, evaluating, and weighing of the facts, data, or statements at hand. The value of this lies in the fact that we can have peace and assurance that the Lord approves our conclusions, actions, beliefs, or practices. He has given us the brain to do just this thing. Since we have tried in every way not to disobey Him and violate the principles He has laid out in His Word, we have faith that we have done the right thing He wants us to do. We live by faith and not by sight.

Expedient Matters. The word “expedient” is found seven times in the King James Version, and three times in the Revised Standard. In the first instance of its use, Caiaphas prophesied that it would be expedient for one man to die that the whole nation may not perish (John 11:50-51). Jesus also says it would be “expedient” for Him to go to heaven, because if He would not, the Holy Spirit would not come (John 16:7). An “expedient” is something that is appropriate for the purpose, or one that serves the purpose. What expedites, what works, what is advantageous, is the idea behind the word “expedient.”

Therefore, by expedient actions we mean that these are actions that expedite the fulfillment or carrying out of any divinely authorized obligation or option. Expedient actions are those that are deemed advantageous in the fulfillment of God’s will in the world.

Paul’s statement, “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedie
nt; all things are lawful for me, but all things do not edify” (1 Corinthians 10:23), gives us the value of expediencies: “Not all things are expedient.” When one is to make the choice between what is lawful and what is expedient, he should choose the first. I am of the opinion also that what is expedient does not always edify or build up.

Instrumental music is not lawful in the worship of New Testament Christians. But the church in Midway, Kentucky, led by their liberal minister, thought it was expedient to use it. Their singing drove away the rats (in a manner of speaking), and they thought a melodeon could help improve it. It was an innocent act, probably, done in the guise of what could help them sing better. Then it became the wedge that divided the churches of Christ in the beginning of their history in America. An expedient caused a division.

I know of a minister who, in order to increase and stabilize their Sunday collection, proposed that each member make a pledge. No one was dictated by anyone on how much to give. However, there was one guy who opposed the pledging system, and did everything he could to expose the “error of the system.” I even pleaded with him to go slow (he was my school mate in the Bible college). Well, to make the long story short, he left that congregation and transferred membership elsewhere. He still maintains that hobby of opposing anything that “smells” of “error” up to this day.

Some things we must remember about implications though: In some cases God has not specified how an action is to be carried out. In such cases, we may (please take note of the verb I am using) proceed to perform the action in accordance with our best judgment, in such a way that it does not violate the general instructions of the Scriptures. When we say “best judgment” we are referring to our “best opinion” on the matter, what we think works best.

Another: Jesus’ injunction to take the gospel to the whole world, a general one, leaves out the specifics for us in these modern times. The early disciples, we know, had preached to large groups (Acts 2), to places where there was a religious gathering (Acts 3:1, 12; 6:9; 13:14; 14:1; 16:13; 17:1; 17:17; 18:8), to soldiers (Acts 10:22-24), to a political official (Acts 18:7), to Jews only (Acts 11;19), to the Gentiles (Acts 13:48), to idol-worshippers (Acts 14:7-18; 17:16), to devout persons (Acts 17:17; 19:1), in cities (Acts 8:5; 8:40), in prison and in a residence (Acts 16:27-34; 28:30-31), in the market place (Acts 17:17), everywhere (Acts 8:4), in season or out of season (2 Timothy 4:2).

To us today, various opportunities, places and mediums have been afforded to proclaim the glorious story of that One Life who offered Himself, that we may inherit that better life in heaven that God has prepared since the foundation of the world. We once had mission societies as a tool to evangelize the world but objections had been leveled against it: It dictated to the churches, and robbed the church of its glory. The TV and radio programs too have been criticized for the reason that one church, the sponsoring church, violates the local autonomy of other churches.

Some churches too object to the use of literature because they want “the Bible only” as the source of their teaching. Others are against the Sunday school because it “divides” the church into many classes when they ought to be one and “undivided.” I am beginning to think that for every expediency we invent, there is always a hobbyist waiting to oppose it.

Scriptural authority for a particular action, as we have studied, could be established through direct statements, through accounts of approved precedents, and through implication. With regards to commands or direct statements as our binding authority, there seems to be no disagreements among Christians. He who worships God with musical instruments and he who worships Him without it, are both in agreement that we are to worship Him from whom all blessings flow. We disagree on the how. To say it clearly we disagree on the examples and on the implications. We disagree on what examples are binding, and what implications are expedient.

Next: Application


How To Establish Scriptural Authority (2)

Explicit teachings. There are two ways by which the Bible communicates God’s will to man: explicitly and implicitly. What is an explicit teaching? It is a teaching that is directly expressed, or directly stated. Many statements or propositions of the Bible are explicit statements—statements that are directly expressed— and as such they set forth the teachings of God in the clearest and most forthright manner.

Mark 16:16 is most forthright in saying that “he who believes and is baptized shall be saved.” Its grammatical structure is so simple. Its dialect translations (Hiligaynon, Cebuano, Tagalog) follow its KJV rendition very faithfully, it often makes me think that the dialect translators had the King James Bible before them as they did the translation! Yet we often wonder why many still fail to understand it. It does not say, “He who believes is saved and shall be baptized,” and yet my Baptist friends think that’s how it should be translated!

And how do you understand 1 Peter 3:21? “Baptism, which corresponds to this, also now saves you.” In case you have doubts, the verb “saves” in the Greek is singular, present active indicative. Singular the verb is, because the subject, “baptism,” is also singular. It is in the present tense. Furthermore the indicative active form shows it is the subject that does the action: Baptism SAVES.

The best argument my missionary friend did to disprove the meaning and the teaching of the passage is to deride his opponent: “Ow, so you have two saviors, huh? One is the Lord, the other is baptism!” But derision, sarcasm, and insult are not arguments. A mouthful of sarcasm plus an equal mouthful of insults show an empty head, my philosophy professor often says. Having thrown logic to the winds, these false teachers think they can out-argue their opponent by too much derisive talking.

John 1:1 explicitly says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” We know who Word is because of verse 14: “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” No one else but Jesus. Philippians 2:6 explicitly says Jesus was “in the form of God.” These and other verses I had used in debating the “Iglesia ni Cristo” (1914). There is no way they can explain away these passages.

The Jehovah’s Witness group has prophesied about 6 times already that the War of Armageddon would literally occur, and that the Lord would come to lead His people in this war. It never happened. Now they say that this war is sort of spiritual and that the Lord indeed came but nobody saw Him. A very convenient way to justify their prophetic failures! Not only did they show their ignorance of history; they also displayed their ignorance of the Bible. Ask them what they understand by this passage: “Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and EVERY EYE WILL SEE HIM.” You will see a blank look.

When the Bible explicitly declares a thing to be so, any other contrary opinion is a false teaching.

Implicit teachings. An implicit teaching is a teaching that is not stated in a direct manner, but the meaning of the teaching is understood from what is stated directly. An implicit teaching is embodied, is found, is contained, in what is concluded from the direct statements. It is also known as implied teaching. An implicit teaching is derived from the implication of direct statements.

Mark 16:16 again. If he who believes and is baptized shall be saved, anyone who does not do both of these actions shall not be saved, since that is implied in the passage. Jesus saves only those who believe and are baptized. Furthermore the passage says, “He who does not believe shall be condemned.” The Baptist comes back to me and says, “You see? Baptism is not really necessary; faith alone is necessary. Having no faith will condemn you.” My answer: It takes two (faith and baptism) to be saved; it takes just one to be condemned. An unbeliever does not need to be baptized, because if he does, he ceases to be an unbeliever, right? His unbelief alone damns him to hell.

Other examples: In worship, Christians are to address one another “in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.” This implies that any other kind of songs—drunkard songs, secular songs— is prohibited. See Ephesians 5:19.

Furthermore, Christians are enjoined to “make melody in your hearts to the Lord” (same passage). “In your hearts” is a prepositional phrase. A prepositional phrase is easily recognized because of the presence of the noun (”hearts”) and its preposition (”in”). In Ephesians 5:19, the preposition in the Greek text is dative instrumental. The dative instrumental shows how melody making is to be done. It is by the heart. The instrumental churches have for hundreds of years been using pianos, guitars and accordions to accompany their singing, when the instrument God wants is right under their nose! God by inspiration told Paul to enjoin Christians to “make melody in your hearts.” We must be contented with the instrument that the Lord has designed for use in praising Him. Doing otherwise is disobedience.

Direct Statements. Either explicitly or implicitly, the Bible authorizes what a believer must believe, and teaches him, gives him directions or guides him on how to act according to that belief. I am in agreement with other theologians in our brotherhood for proposing that this form of teaching by the Bible be called “Direct Authorization” or “Authorization by Direct Statement.” “Commands” is too limited. How then does the Lord authorize by direct statements?

The Lord authorizes by simple declaration of facts. For example, Mark 16:16 is not a command but a declarative statement of fact: “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved.” It is a direct statement from the Lord Himself that authorizes us to preach and teach that anyone who wants to appropriate to himself the blessings of salvation must not just believe but also be baptized. Many statements of this type are to be found in many parts of the Bible, authorizing men to do things in harmony with what these declarations of facts precisely say.

Furthermore, the Lord authorizes by commands. Other direct statements in the Bible are structured in imperative form, and this precisely makes them “command.” In the Greek, a command statement is ALWAYS in the imperative form. You are right in saying that “imperative” has the same root as the word “emperor”! Who could disobey the emperor’s command in ancient times? You could at your own risk. And that political culture found its way into the Greek grammar, so when you say “imperative,” you mean “command.”

Examples of commands are found in the book of Ephesians. “Children, obey your parents in the Lord for this is right” (Ephesians 6:1). “Honor thy father and thy mother” (6:2). “Fathers, provoke not your children to wrath” (6:4a). “[Fathers,] Bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord” (6:4b). “Servants, be obedient to your masters” (6:5). “Brethren, be strong in the Lord” (6:10). “Put on the whole armor of God” (6:11). “Take unto you the whole armor of God” (6:13). “Stand therefore” (6:14). “Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God” (6:17). Please see to that.

The Lord also authorizes by the use of hortatory statements. Hortatory statements are also statements of exhortation. Hortatory statements may authorize belief as well as action. Examples are: Hebrews 6:1: “Let us press on unto perfection.” Hebrews 10:22: “Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith.” Hebrews 10:23: “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering.” Hebrews 10:24: “Let us consider to stir up one another to love and good works.” Hebrews 10:25: “(Let us consider) not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is, but exhorting one another, and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.”

Next, the Lord also authorizes by the use of interrogative statements. This is a statement in the form of a question. When Paul asks the question, “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” (Romans 6:1), the answer of course is No. This question has the same force as Christ’s direct statement to the woman: “Go and sin no more” (John 8:11).

Finally, the Lord authorizes by the use of optative statements. An optative is a statement that expresses a desire or wish. It is also an example of a direct statement (not a declarative statement!) and may carry divine authorization. To his question, “Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound?” Paul himself gives the answer, “God forbid!” which means “May it not be so!” The verb “genoito” is an aorist, optative, middle deponent and literally means, “May it not happen!” The function of the optative is to reject a false conclusion. (Note: “God forbid” to the Cebuanos is “Simba ko palayo,” which even they themselves have a hard time translating. Literally it may be rendered: “Church me away!” or “Worship me away!”).

Authorization by Approved Precedents. God authorizes an action by providing examples on how a thing has been done. The term “examples” is too limited if not too imprecise. Authorization by approved precedents indicates divine sanction, direction, or permission of a particular belief or action. Not all precedents, not all examples do indicate divine approval; therefore, only those accounts of actions or beliefs approved by God in the New Testament times can truly authorize positive actions by Christians today.

For our consideration, let us examine five types of New Testament precedents, approved or disapproved:

(1) Action that is considered obligatory but temporary in nature (meaning, it does not last). The unbelieving Pharisees and Sadducees had asked for signs and the Lord gave them the sign of Jonah (Matthew 16:1-4). The establishment of the first church began with signs (Acts 2). Peter and John’s preaching in the temple began with signs (Acts 3). The signs had a purpose, which was to confirm the truth of their preaching (Hebrews 2:3-4). But these signs didn’t last forever (1 Corinthians 13:8). They didn’t last because their purpose had already been served, which was to confirm the truth. Furthermore, a truth confirmed by miracles yesterday does not need to be reconfirmed today. If anyone among these “miracle workers” insist they could reconfirm the truth or falsehood of the doctrines by the use of miracles, bring them to the nearest cemetery for an actual demo. I for one have many relatives who had not heard the gospel, and it troubles me to think I would see them in hell someday. Will these quacks take the challenge? I doubt it.

Another example is the baptism of the Holy Spirit. I considered it obligatory in that the Lord made His apostles wait in the city of Jerusalem to have them overshadowed with promised power from on high (Acts 1:4, 8). This baptism by the Holy Spirit was God’s way of setting the apostles into the kingdom, where they would serve as the church’s foundation, with Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20). That baptism also equipped them with the power they would need to bear witness to the authority of Jesus the Messiah, to proclaim His truth, and to launch the new era of Christ’s universal reign over the church and over the world. They were baptized in the Holy Spirit in fulfillment of God’s promise through Joel the prophet (Joel 2:28ff; Acts 2:16). Even the Gentiles too had to be baptized by the Holy Spirit, if only to show Peter and other Jewish Christians that the Lord meant for the Gentiles too to be a part of the body of the saved (Acts 10:44-45; 11:1-18; 10:34). Baptism by the Spirit was not for the purpose of saving them. These, the baptism of the apostles and the baptism of the household of Cornelius, are the only two cases of the supernatural overshadowing, overwhelming, immersing of mortal men by the immortal Spirit of God to equip them in their mission to proclaim and to launch God’s new order in the world. It has not been repeated ever since.

(2) Action which is optional in its nature and temporary in its duration. In the beginning of Christendom, the disciples were enjoined to preach to the Jews only (Acts 2 to 9). The Lord has commissioned them to preach repentance and forgiveness of sin in His name, to all nations, BEGINNING at Jerusalem (Luke 24:47; cf. Acts 1:4, 8, 13, 14; Acts 2:1). The first converts to Christianity were Jews (Acts 2:5, 14, 22, 29, 37, 38, 41). Jewish apostles Peter and John preached to their fellow Jews (Acts 3 & 4). Peter and other apostles too preached in the Jewish temple and in Jewish homes (Acts 5:25, 29, 42). They converted many Jewish priests (Acts 6:7). Philip, one of the seven deacons in Jerusalem church, preached to the people of Samaria (historically, the Samaritans were half-Jews), and his preaching journey is told in Acts 8. The point is: The Jewish Christians had chosen to start preaching in their own backyard as the Lord had commissioned them, and after that, to the Gentiles (Acts 10). The gospel, Paul says, is God’s power to save those who believe, to the Jew first, and then to the Gentile Greeks (Romans 1:16). Their action was authorized and approved by God.

But such action–the preaching of the gospel to the Jew first–was an option. Since sin is a universal problem, the gospel too must be universally proclaimed because it is the universal solution to the problem. Jewish preachers preached first to the Jews, and gathered a lot of saved people from this group, the group that carried the Messiah and served as the vessel of God’s Old Covenant books. It was only when they experienced rejection from this race that they started to look elsewhere and turned to the Gentile.

(3) Action which is optional in nature but may be continued. In preaching, Paul traveled by boat (Acts 13:4). It was his option then, but today if transportation fares are prohibitive, that could be the Christian’s option. Paul also made tents to support himself while preaching. A self-supporting ministry is also one option Christians may take, especially when financial support is hard to come by, in order to continue serving the Master.

(4) Action which is both obligatory and must be continued. Baptism in the Holy Spirit was a baptism of promise; it was obligatory and was discontinued after its purpose had been served. On the day of Pentecost, when the new Kingdom was launched by the power of the Holy Spirit, three thousand souls were also baptized. These three thousand souls underwent a different kind of baptism. It was not a baptism in the Holy Spirit, firstly, because that baptism was promised to the apostles but not to the three thousand (Acts 1:4, 8). Anyone who believes otherwise has the obligation to prove his contention that the three thousand souls on Pentecost day had also been promised to undergo that Holy Spirit baptism. There was not any promise at all.

Secondly, the Holy Spirit baptism was accompanied by signs (they heard something, and it filled the house where they were sitting, Acts 1:2; they saw something, and it sat upon each one of them, Acts 2:3; they began to speak in tongues because that something, the Holy Spirit, filled each one of them, Acts 2:4). The three thousand never underwent this experience.

On Pentecost day, two groups of people underwent through different classes of baptism. The apostles, through baptism in the Holy Spirit; the three thousand souls, through baptism in water.

In another time and in another place, the household of Cornelius underwent through two baptisms, too: that of the Holy Spirit, and of water.

Why do we say that water baptism is both obligatory and permanent? Firstly, It is obligatory because it is commanded (Acts 10:47, 48). Holy Spirit baptism is not commanded.

Secondly, It is obligatory since it is included in the last commission Jesus gave before He ascended to heaven (Mark 16:16; Matthew 28:18-20).

Thirdly, Water baptism is the baptism that continues to this day because it is the answer to man’s need to be cleansed by the blood of the Savior who also had declared that he who believes in Him must also be baptized in order to be saved. It is true that baptism is not our Saviour (because Christ IS our Savior), but he who wants to avail of the saving power of Jesus’ blood must also come to Him in faith and obedience, in which case he must repent and be baptized (Acts 2:38; Mark 16:16; Acts 22:16).

Fourthly, It is obligatory because Jesus says rebirth in water is a must, in the same way as the rebirth in Spirit is (John 3:3-5).

Fifthly, Because of the many passages that speak of the necessity of this baptism. “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16). “Repent and be baptized everyone of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins” (Acts 2:38). “And now why tarriest thou? Arise and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16).

There. I have listed every passage relating to the question. Let the objector argue with the Word if he thinks he can.

(5) Action that is sinful. By this we mean that the sinful act is the one that is disapproved, but the divine lesson that it relays is the one that is approved. An example is the sin committed by a couple, Ananias and Sapphira, that of lying about the proceeds of the property which they had sold. Lying is disapproved, but the approved lesson here is: Do not lie.

Another is the case of Simon the sorcerer (Acts 8:18-24). Simon committed the sinful act of thinking that he could buy the power of the Holy Ghost with money. But behind this disapproved precedent are great lessons for Christians to learn–lessons on simony, on prayer, on repentance, on the Holy Ghost and His power.

In determining what New Testament accounts of action authorize us to imitate such action, we must first determine whether such action is right or has been divinely approved.

Secondly, we must also determine whether it is an obligation or an option that we could take.

Thirdly, after determining if it is an option or an obligation, we must also determine if it is indeed a part of the enduring nature of Christianity (Explanation: Whether it is a part of approved precedents that we can practice as Christians in these modern times).

There are no hard and fast rules in making the above evaluation, no simple ways to provide us instant recognition of what’s for us and what’s for them. For this reason, everything that I am laying down here is open to the scrutiny of everyone. I am not a perfect person. But give me the credit for being honest and sincere about what I am saying here. Test the validity of my reasoning. Many times in the past I had been proven to be wrong and I owned my mistakes. There is no reason why I would not change, again, if only for the better. I am no prophet; neither am I inspired.

Next: Inferences or Implication; Matters of Expediencies

How To Establish Scriptural Authority (1)

“When is a thing scripturally authorized? How do we establish Scriptural Authority” (Question asked during a lecture).
To a Christian, the Scripture is the basis by which he thinks, believes and acts. Through the Scripture God directs the life and practices of those people who truly serve Him. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 not only teaches that all Scripture is inspired of God but that it is also “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto every good work.” Throughout the centuries Muslims have called the Christians “people of the book.” They are a people guided by the Book.

The authority of the Book is thus a crucial matter. How then can we tell whether a particular belief and practice is truly authorized by the Book? “How do we establish scriptural authority”?

(1) Authorized matter that is obligatory. An action or a belief is an authorized matter if a man or woman of God is obligated to do it— since it is a matter which must be done if one is to be well-pleasing to God. In other words, it is an obligatory matter, a matter of human obligation. This must always be obeyed; failing to obey it, man becomes a sinner, falls short of God’s glory and is condemned.

When the Lord, through His Bible, demands that a believer take a certain course of action, He also authorizes that man to undertake that action. Not only is the divine command an authorized matter, man’s action to fulfill that command is also an authorized matter.

When an action falls short of fulfilling the divine command, that action is a form of disobedience; it is therefore an unauthorized action. For example. God commanded Saul to destroy all Amalekites, both men and women, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass (1 Samuel 15:3). What did Saul do? “But Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and of the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them: but everything that was vile and refuse, that they destroyed utterly” (1 Samuel 15:9). Saul’s failure to do what God had commanded cost him his crown and his soul.

God’s command is ALWAYS an authorized matter, from eternity to eternity, and man’s fulfillment of that divine command is always an authorized matter also. God had spoken to the patriarchs in old times, in which case what He commanded them was an authorized matter to them (Example: God’s command to Abraham to offer his son, Genesis 22:2). He had spoken to the people of Israel through Moses, their prophet and law-giver, in which case everything God commanded in the old covenant books was an authorized matter to these people (We have many examples of this beginning from the book of Exodus).

In the same way, what He has commanded to us through His Son is an authorized matter for us (Matthew 17:5), beginning from the four Gospels to the book of Revelation. For example, the command of baptism, together with faith, is an authorized matter, for Jesus says, “He who believes and is baptized shall be saved” (Mark 16:16). Based on our Greek studies, to baptize does not mean to sprinkle, or to pour, but to immerse. Thus, to sprinkle infants is wrong on two counts: (1) An infant is not a believer, and has no capacity to express his faith, and (2) he is just sprinkled, not immersed. (I have heard that when a priest asks the infant whether he believes or not, it is the sponsor, the so-called “godmother” or “godfather,” who answers, “Yes, I do.” This to me sounds stupid).

We have now shown that some authorized matters pertain only to a certain class of people to whom God had spoken (cf. Hebrews 1:1-2). However, the prohibition on eating blood is of a different kind. I would say that it has been prohibited from eternity to eternity, from the patriarchal age to the Christian age (Genesis 9:4-6; Leviticus 17:10-14; Acts 15:19-20). Therefore, anyone today who eats or drinks the blood of bulls, of goats, of chickens, of snakes, of their enemies, is doing an abominable thing; and he who promotes this practice under the guise of being a missionary of the Lord’s church does not know his Bible. Furthermore, any Christian who defends this missionary’s teaching and practice is an accomplice to this man’s evil deed.

To a Jehovah’s Witness who objects to blood transfusion, I would say that “transfusing blood” and “eating or drinking blood” do not mean the same thing.

(2) Authorized matter that is optional. There is another class of authorized matter, authorized in the sense that God permits it, but it is not obligatory for any man to do it. It is an authorized optional matter. Under matters that are commanded, God has given man liberty, in which case man is free to choose among several acceptable courses of action, each of which is authorized by God. By this we mean that God permits or allows each of these courses of action, but these are also actions that may or may not be done, according to human discretion. Let me give some examples: In fulfilling the command to be baptized, any action that satisfies the meaning of baptism, that is, by immersion, is also authorized. We know that John baptized Jesus in some place in Judea (”wilderness of Judea,” Matthew 3:1), specifically in the river Jordan (Matthew 3:6). Must immersion be always done in the river Jordan? Not so, and we have an abundance of cases that speaks of baptism performed in other places (Acts 8:12-13; 8:36; 9:18). Therefore a baptism done in the river, in the sea, in the pool, in the drum filled to the brim, all fulfills the spirit and meaning of immersion. These are all authorized. Since these are also optional, one can do any of these and still act by the authority of God’s Word.

Partaking the Lord’s Supper is a command and an authorized matter. But to partake of this Supper is to partake both the bread that symbolizes the Lord’s body and the cup that symbolizes His blood. Partaking of the Supper in one kind (that is, the bread only) without the cup is not an option; partaking both is obligatory.

What are the authorized options? You may partake the Lord’s Supper in the evening, in the morning, in the afternoon, at noon, in a boat, under the shade of a mango tree, in a cave, on top of a hydroelectric turbine. When I was working with NAPOCOR in Binga Hydro-Electric Plant, up in the mountains north of Baguio City, I never had the opportunity of ALWAYS fellowshipping with the saints at 18 Rimando Road; I had to worship alone, study my Bible alone, partake of the Lord’s Supper alone, sing alone, and pray alone. In my prayers, I always asked the Lord to move me to a place closer to my family and to my brethren, whose fellowship I had been longing for. He answered my prayers: Two years later, I was reunited with my wife and my daughter, and I too became a teacher at Philippine Bible College. Now if someone questions my partaking of the Lord’s supper alone on top of an electric generator, wait till the day of judgment and listen to God’s verdict.

Those who insist that the Lord’s Supper must be eaten and drunk only in the evening capitalizes on the literal meaning of the word “supper.” But if he must be faithful in one aspect of this divine ordinance, he must be faithful to all: He is obligated to partake that Supper on a Thursday evening, in an upper room in Jerusalem, in the presence of the Lord Himself and of His twelve apostles. He must take weekly flights to Jerusalem to do that. You bet you could? I need to remind that objector too that he could eat his supper in the evening, in his house, but this is the Supper of the Lord that we are memorializing, not his! And we memorialize only a past happening.

Another illustration: I heard that Rizal was shot at the Luneta in the early morning of December 30th, 1896. I have yet to see anyone coming up from bed to attend a Rizal memorial day celebration at 5:00 a.m. of December 30. That same thing can also be said of America’s July 4th celebration. To memorialize does not mean to literalize!

What about correcting an error in the church? An authorized exhortation that relates to this matter is found in Galatians 6:1. “The spiritual” among them shall “restore” this brother who “has been overtaken in a fault” in the “spirit of meekness.” The question is: Do you consider yourself spiritual? You can affirm or deny it. Next question: Are all members of the Lord’s churches throughout the world your brothers? The answer is yes. Therefore, if you, who are spiritual, find anyone in these churches “overtaken in a fault,” will you do your job to restore him? Yes. I think you should (Galatians 6:1, “You who are spiritual SHOULD restore him in the spirit of gentleness,” RSV). To fulfill this authorized matter must also be your dream and mission in order to please your Maker. How will you do it? You can do it through emails, through phone, through an invitation, through a referral, such as what brother Wilson has done. Can you do it even without being invited? Yes, if you are available at a certain time and place and the need to exhort that erring brother arises. For example, I had the blessed opportunity to exhort a man whom brother Jun Arcilla had baptized a year ago in Pilar, Sorsogon, but who had stopped fellowshipping with the brethren on Sundays. He had not invited me, but he had not resented my coming; in fact he was happy that I had taught him other things that he needed to know.

An authorized matter includes both the command of God, and the way by which that command is fulfilled. Some authorized matters are commands from God, which man is obligated to do; other authorized matters are the options open to us as we strive to fulfill that command.

Next: Explicit and Implicit” Matters; Commands and Examples

You Cannot Just Ignore What Should Not Be Ignored!

As a former college instructor at Baguio Colleges Foundation and high school teacher at Trinity Christian, I had thought how terrible it would be to stand up in front of a classroom of students and lecture on the intricacies of structural grammar and have no one pay attention to me, to talk about dangling participles and have no one think it’s important, to give instructions in the exams and have students ignore them.

None of us likes to be ignored.

But over the years I have acquired too some traits and some strengths. And since I have developed this capacity to endure what I dislike and to bear with what I cannot in my human frailties and limitations change, your ignoring me does not hurt me at all. You do your thing, I do mine. And this works to my advantage, since I am the teacher and they are are, uh, my students. In the final analysis, it was they who suffered—-failing grades, and the like. By the end of the semester, a number of them were making a bee-line for BCF’s Education Dept office, seeking an audience with me. It was my turn “to exact revenge.” Sometimes I would vanish to the lunch counter, or exile myself to Burnham Park, and would appear a week later. It did them good. It shook them to their senses.

I met one of them in Cavite years ago, and he profusely thanked me for giving him a “failing grade,” but “passing” him after he had fulfilled my requirements.

I was not the terror of the Philippine Bible College dormitory, where I was then the dorm surpervisor. I think I just did my job trying to put some teeth to our college regulations, especially one that prohibits drinking alcohol. It was pure discipline that brother Felix Bravo, college president, wanted to impose, and that may include the threat to suspend recalcitrant students. But two of those we had disciplined are now well-known preachers in the brotherhood. Discipline did them good.

No, you cannot just ignore the college’s regulations. Neither can you ignore the laws of the land. I had paid the penalty for driving without bringing my license with me, without putting my helmet on, or driving when my vehicle’s registration had expired. It was a costly lesson to learn.

Laws of the land? That includes the law about paying the right taxes. You cannot keep on cheating the government in the taxes you ought to pay. Misdeclaring the price of the land in a deed of sale is a way of cheating the government too. Maybe you don’t realize that now, but you will. A missionary, for instance, had continually ignored the advice of brethren to secure a permit before putting up a church building, until I came. What their pleadings could not do, my threatenings could. He paid a high price for ignoring the building construction laws of this country for so long.

You cannot ignore God’s moral laws. If you mistreat your brother, slander or libel him, threaten to hail him to court for exposing you, there is a price you ought to pay. God exacts vengeance on us too for being unfair to our fellowmen, for being cruel and unkind, for being hateful, for being unforgiving, for extorting money from individuals and churches, for being selfish, for hoarding wealth, for being inhospitable, for being unloving to parents, to the church, to the aged and to the young.

You cannot ignore God’s teaching on living in holiness. You thought it is all right to shack up with another partner because your wife is abroad; it is not.

You cannot belittle God’s stipulations on the kind of men who would lead His church. You thought it is all right for a church to reward you with a position of leadership when your “deaconship” or “eldership” qualities leave much to be desired; it is not.

There is a price to pay too for being unrepentant of our sins.

Maybe you have ignored the church for so long, not fellowshipping with the Christians, because a few people in the church have hurt you. I sympathize with you in your pain. But God still loves you and wants to perform an amazing thing in your life, including that of changing you, giving worth to your worthlessness. Take it from me. I had suffered too. And I still remain.

We better listen. We cannot ignore Him forever. Someday we shall stand before Him and a judgment shall be rendered to each one of us based on what we did and how we responded to His pleadings in the Word. Neither a thousand crucifixes, nor a truckload of candles could be of help. The many who, in spite of the evidences to the contrary, thought you did good or that you were a morally upright person wouldn’t be there to sit with Jesus and to plead your case; for they too would be judged. Cries of mercy would be heard throughout the universe. You could not plead your case either; may be your option would be to cry out to the mountains to cover you so you wouldn’t see the terror in His eyes, His looks that would pierce through your whole being. Nothing is hidden from Him who knows all secrets. And you would be powerless to command the mountains; He owns the mountains too.

We ought to listen. We better listen now.

“”Unqualified Elders and Deacons?”

“If a sister congregation appointed elders and deacons who are not qualified according to the Scriptures, do we have the right to object or to oppose the appointments? What if we objected, and the appointing congregation justified its decision (appointing elders and deacons) citing the principle of “local autonomy,” what is to be done? We are now taking the flak for not doing something decisive about it, so we desperately need the advice of brethren (Name withheld).


In answering this question, I am not taking the sides of anyone. I don’t know the background of this problem, but I know that the problem involves the proper understanding and use of the Scriptures as regards the quality of men to be appointed as elders and deacons.

Note that I used the terminology “quality of men” instead of “qualification of the men” to be appointed to the above -mentioned work, task, position, or office. These qualities are laid out in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. Was Paul speaking here by his authority as Christ’s ambassador or apostle? Yes.

Does this ambassadorship or apostleship of his carry some authority? We affirm that it does. In fact it carries MUCH authority. His authority is rooted on the authority of the One who sent him. Respect for the Word Paul preached (meaning the Bible) means respect for the authority of God who sent the Word (or Bible) into the world.

Need we to differ from Paul as regards the qualities of men we as preachers appoint to the offices of elders and deacons? No. That is disrespect for the Word of God which Paul preached.

What if we do? What if differ from Paul?

You mean what if we differ from the Word that Paul said?

You as a church cannot invoke freedom to disagree, because such would mean disagreement with what the Scriptures say. While we all are free in Christ, we are not free to violate His will. We are not free to do what we will in matters of faith. While we may be free to disagree on matters of opinion such as the number cups to use on the Lord’s table, we are not free to disagree on the number of wives an elder must have (only one!), for this involves a matter of faith. While we may be free to disagree on the kind of songbooks we would use in worship, we are not free to disagree on the kind of music to use in worshipping our God (no drunkard songs, no instrument, for that is another kind of music)

Whence cometh this monster called “local autonomy”? It is not even in the Scriptures. But it has often been used to justify our disagreement with the Scriptures, it has been used to twist the Scriptures, it has been used to impose human will above the Scriptures.

Did Paul violate “your local autonomy” when he sent Titus to set things in order in Crete? Paul was not in Crete; he was somewhere else. Titus was a preacher in Crete, not an elder nor a deacon in the church in that place. The Cretan Christians never invoked their “local autonomy” when a Greek preacher sent by a Jewish apostle came on the scene and said, “Wait a minute, you guys. Let’s set this straight. Your elders must be such and such…”

One good act of a member in that one body glorifies the God who owns that body; one abusive act of members of the one body shames God and blasphemes His name. A misinterpretation of the Scriptures by a member of the body or by a collegial group of people in that one body, when pushed to its limits, divides the body. It destroys that body. Remember that there is only one body, and that body is the church. We are members of that one body, and we should be caring for one another, we should be responsible for edifying or building up the members of the one body in any place in the world. I can teach anyone in the one body, be he in Pangasinan or Benguet or in Germany or Australia, and I can do this in the name (or by the authority) of the one God who owns every local congregation in every place on earth. If that member or that church does not listen, I will keep preaching that message God wants me to preach. It is not I whom they disobey; it is God. They don’t do me harm by not listening to me; they harm themselves.

Why is it that when I preach about the love of God in every congregation no one objects and invokes “local autonomy”? But when I preach on the subject of 1 Peter 3:21 (”Baptism doth also now save us”) some foreign missionary objects and says, “You can preach that in ‘your’ church but not here”?

Why is it that when we suggest to this church it is high time they have elders, they rise up in unison, saying, “Amen, brother, and more amens”? But when they appoint someone whose qualities leave much to be desired, and we preachers object they now say, “Wait a minute, you can do that in ‘your’ church, but leave us alone”?

That church has a problem, or may be some members of that church has a problem. That problem began when we as preachers did not do our job to educate them much on the respect of the Scriptures. May be it began when we majored on LOCAL AUTONOMY and minored on hermeneutics. May be it began when we in our haste to save them before the day comes rush them into the watery grave of baptism and not teach them, “You must also do everything that God wants a Christian to do as he goes and grows.”

Let me ask more questions: Why doesn’t this congregation listen to you? What was wrong with your message? How did you say it? Did we tell anyone in that congregation to shape up or ship out? Did we threaten to expose anyone? Did we show love when we shared to them the word?

Did we appear to them as whatsamacallit with some degree from some university somewhere and tell them they better listen because they don’t know much?

Or did we give them the impression of a servant of God pleading all men to obey their God, persuading them to do things God’s way and not their way?

Some messages are sometimes lost on deaf ears because of bad impressions we as preachers make.

What is to be done? Educate. Teach them some more. Maybe I will ask the brethren in that congregation to defer appointing their elders until we all have studied what the Scriptures teach on the subject.

Another question: In what sense does that brother not possess the quality needed as an elder? If the death of his wife makes him a widower, then he becomes wifeless. An elder must be the husband of one wife (meaning a wife who is alive); a husband of a corpse does not of course qualify. Shall he remain as an elder? What if there were only two elders in that congregation? If the elder just “widowered” (my English!) steps down, that leaves only one elder standing. Shall this remaining elder step down too?

My option is to ask this elder just “widowered” to get married and remain as elder. If he remains a widower elder for a month or so while still looking for a wife, then the congregation must exercise patience with him until he gets himself a bride. This I am saying as a matter of opinion. If someone in the congregation agitates the congregation to remove that elder, be watchful of that man. He may be interested in the position, or he is just looking for trouble. I won’t suggest you appoint this agitator as an elder–you are buying more trouble.

If both elders step down because one of them no longer meets the stipulation of 1 Timothy 3:2, then I salute these men for making the sacrifice. But if the congregation retains them as elders on temporary status (that is, until the widower gets himself a wife), then I would salute the congregation for making the sacrifice.

I won’t agitate removal of the men at the helm. But I would sit down with the church and ask them to study their options. In all things I and the church should exercise patience and love. Agitating and making an advocacy for the sake of “purifying” the body won’t help; it is like burning the whole hen house because some hens have louse.

Let me stop right here. But you can ask me more questions and I will tell you more answers. Next time.

Ed’s Gallery

Photos of the Christians of Bayandong and Gindi, in Bacacay, Albay; of the Christians of Naga City; of the preachers involved in the work in the Bicol Region; of the Christians in the mountains of Cebu and other places in the country; of Ed’s family.  Click here to view: Ed’s Gallery.

A Letter from brother Charles T. Smith

Dear brother Ed,
Thank you for sending me the history of our faithful brother Erasto M. Fuentes Sr. I would like to share some observations that I have about this long-time friend and beloved brother.

I first met bro. Fuentes, when he was a student at PBC in 1954-55. I was in the US Air Force, flying with the 31st Air Rescue Squadron,stationed at Clark AFB. I was invited to come to the First Graduation of the PBC by bro. Ralph Brashears in 1954, and I was able to spend some time with all of the students and Faculty. I remember that bro. Fuentes impressed me very much, and we worked together again in 1961.

When I was the Director of the PBC at Pi y Margall, where bro. Greg Gallardo Sr., bro. “Johney” Poblete, and (Dr.) Neapolitan Belo were three of my students there. In 1962, I moved to Angeles City and started the Angeles Preacher Training School, and bro. Fuentes took over the PBC at Pi y Margall. Bro. Greg Gallardo, his brother Eddy Gallardo, bro. Mayor, bro. Ruephine, and bro. Ezequiel “Kale” Sandalo, lived in the same house with sister Mary Ann and I, near the Clark Church building. We studied the Bible 6 hours a day, and spent every weekend in Zambales planting Churches. I invited bro. Fuentes to come and conduct Gospel meetings in Angeles City, and teach the lost, and to teach our students. Bro. Fuentes was a great preacher, and many souls were saved by his teaching the truth of God’s Holy Word.

Bro. Kenneth Wilkey replaced bro. Ralph Brashears in 1963, and he asked me if I would bring all of my students to Baguio and be the Dean at PBC and share in the teaching of the students. We all went there. Another student we had at PBC was a young brother named “Rudy” Gonzales, presently an elder at the Kalaklan Church and teacher at PIBI- Olongapo City. We were asked to start a PTS in 1969, and we did with those brethren teaching in it, and bro. “Rudy Gonzales” graduated from that PTS.

After teaching at SIBI, in Lubbock, Texas for three years up to 1995, Mary Ann and I went back to see how we might continue our Missionary work in the Philippines. Bro. Sandalo & and Poblete asked me to start another Preacher Training School at the”Kalaklan” Church.

Therefore, in 1996 we started the PIBI- Olongapo. In 1999, bro. Erasto Fuentes,Sr. came to Kalaklan and asked me if we could start a PIBI-Naga City to train the brethren there to “Preach the Gospel and plant new churches in the Bicol Region?” Because brother Fuentes has a strong Faith, and a strong commitment to the Lord, I was more than happy to work with him and the “Bicol Church of Christ.” I am very proud of the work he has done, and that he is still doing for the Lord, in the Philippines. Erasto is a leader, and he has inspired his own family, and the brethren where he serves as an elder. I too have benefited from being a “co-laborer” with him.

I look forward to being with bro. Fuentes in May at the graduation of PIBI. Someday we will be living forever with bro. Erasto Fuentes and with all who are faithful brethren.

Charles T. Smith,
Director of the “Philippine International Bible Institute,”
Republic of the Philippines

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