Be Clear When Teaching on Bible Authority

July 12, 2009

Some times the things we do with the best intentions still cause problems. For instance, just the other day, I came into the dining room to find the dinner dishes on the table and no one else was there. I decided to clean up. I scraped all the food on the plates into the trash, rinsed the dishes, loaded the dishwasher, and went on my merry way. A few moments later, I heard Marita call from the dining room, “Hey, where’s the rest of my supper?” Oops. The fact is, sometimes even what we do with good intentions can cause some problems.

This is true with teaching the Bible also. There are times when we have the best of intentions as we try to teach, explain, or illustrate some Biblical principle. However, sometimes even our best intentions cause problems. This is why we need to be careful regarding how we teach. Consider an example.

We are extremely concerned about sticking with the Bible and following the pattern it establishes. We read II Timothy 3:16-17 and learn that a work is good only if the scriptures provide equipping for it. In order to convey this idea, we have sometimes said things like, “We can only do what they did in the New Testament.” The problem is that statement just isn’t true.

We can only do what the New Testament authorized. However, that is not the same thing as only doing what they did. Because of that kind of statement many people today are constantly saying we do all kinds of things that aren’t in the New Testament—Bible classes, song leaders, song books, buildings, etc. They then conclude that while we say we need authority, we actually practice whatever we want. We get upset and try to correct that, but we rarely realize our own statements caused the misunderstanding.

We need to be clear when we teach. We are not limited by the example of the early Christians. We can do things they did not do in the New Testament. Their scriptural example is merely one means by which we find authority and equipping to act. For example, the church’s job is to uphold the truth (I Timothy 3:15). As far as I’m aware, we never see the churches of the New Testament have a set of Bible classes in which they divide up the congregation and have small group studies. However, when we have done that, we are doing nothing more than teaching the truth to a group of people. No, we don’t find Bible classes in the New Testament. However, we do find equipping for Bible classes in the New Testament.

We need to measure our speech, be clear, and make correction when our intentions cause problems. We need to quit leaving the impression that we are only allowed to do what is specifically exemplified in the New Testament. Rather, we are looking for authority from the New Testament and that authority can come in multiple ways. No, that won’t cause everyone to suddenly agree that we need New Testament authority to act. However, at least we won’t be contributing to their misunderstanding.

Communication is tough work and we’ll always make mistakes. However, let’s work hard at improving our teaching by being as clear and accurate as possible.

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