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

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