23 Moreover I call God for a record upon my soul, that to spare you I came not as yet unto Corinth.
24 Not for that we have dominion over your faith, but are helpers of your joy: for by faith ye stand.
I have written previously about “The Authority of the Church“. I identified that the Church has not just the authority but the obligation to make disciples in all nations. In fact, in a very real sense, it is its only obligation. All other areas of authority serve to further this obligation and charge that Jesus Christ gave the Church.
I also covered that the Church has the authority to organize, although the Bible nowhere dictates how it must be done. The Church has authority to settle disputes between members, and, if necessary, to discipline the one who done wrong.
Tom Terry of Preach It, Teach It wrote an article that also covers what areas does not have authority over in “Does the Church Have Authority?” In particular, he identifies four areas where the Church has authority:
Let’s recap the main points we’ve learned. What are our examples in the scripture for using our authority as believers?
1.) The Apostle Paul exercised his authority in a fatherly way
2.) Paul exercised his authority firmly, and with conviction. Paul refused to compromise the truth even to cultural considerations.
With these in mind, what kind of authority has been given to the church of Jesus Christ?
1.) The church has the authority to teach God’s word
2.) The church has authority to share the Gospel—to evangelize others in his name
3.) The church has the authority to disciple its members
4.) The church has the authority to discipline its members—disciplining means to rebuke, shun, or excommunicate its sinning members
The breakdown is quite different, but this doesn’t contradict what I wrote. Basically, he breaks up the notion of “make disciples” into three areas of authority. He does not list the authority to organize, but he probably takes that for granted. Most do. It’s common sense, actually. Whenever and wherever people get together, they normally organize themselves in various ways whenever a large task needs to be done. In fact, Terry even speaks of “the church, as an organization“, which shows this implied assumption.
So, what does he list as areas where the Church does not have authority? He lists:
1.) The church does not have the authority to make laws or rules on par with the scripture. …
2.) The church does not have the authority to force conversion through coercion. …
3.) The church does not have political authority.
These, of course, have further implications. I want to cover just a few.
On Par with Scripture
Jesus criticized the Pharisees for their “traditions”, that is, their so-called “oral law”. These traditions were often made as important as the Law of Moses. One such tradition, “corban”, received special attention by Jesus because it was used as an excuse to not care for one’s parents in their old age.
I would broaden this to say the Church does not have authority to replace or add to Scripture. The Book of Mormon is not Scripture. The Talmud and Mishnah are not Scripture.
I remember a chill going down my spine in the late 1970s when an elder suggested that Mystery of the Ages might one day be considered “Scripture”! Gerald Flurry and his cult’s obsession with MOA is likewise disturbing. In fact, it is blasphemous to suggest it even approaches Scripture, as it contains errors and heresy! It might have been in one sense HWA’s crowning achievement, but that doesn’t make it right, and it certainly doesn’t make it inspired!
Conversion through Coercion
It should be obvious that conversion cannot occur without heartfelt repentance. However, Paul took it even further and told the Corinthians he had no dominion over their faith!
To “have dominion over” comes from kyrieuo, Strong’s G2961. It means to “lord it over” someone or something!
25 And he said unto them, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship [kyrieuo] over them; and they that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors.
~ Lk 22:25
However, isn’t this the way the Catholic Church operates?
“Faith” comes from pistis, G4102. Now, this is illuminating! It means “conviction of the truth of anything“! It means “belief”, including a belief in respect to man’s relationship to God. In fact, it can even mean “the conviction God exists“!
You know, it’s an interesting thing that Paul tells the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians that they are to discipline a church member caught up in obvious sin. He started the letter by pointing out his authority, and then he begins to chastise them for their divisions. He points to their pride in knowledge, in spite of the fact they really were still drinking milk! Sounds like today’s environment, doesn’t it? Still, are these actions for which he calls for discipline?
Who was to be put out and not associated with?
11 But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolator, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat.
12 For what have I to do to judge them also that are without? do not ye judge them that are within?
13 But them that are without God judgeth. Therefore put away from among yourselves that wicked person.
Excommunication, disfellowshipping, shunning, whatever you want to call it, was a serious punishment for serious offenses!
Even the much maligned putting out of someone for “division” needs to be taken seriously. If someone sits in the back row and isn’t arguing with anyone about how the “Church has gotten it all wrong” (yes, people have used those words, sadly), then how arrogant is it for a minister to put out someone like that when even Paul did not put out people for simply disagreeing with him?
Even after the Jerusalem council met in Acts 15, Paul still battled those who believed that Gentiles needed to be circumcised! Yet, what was Paul’s real complaint with them? That they would not keep quiet. Otherwise, why not just come out and say, “If they will not profess that Gentiles do not need to be circumcised, kick them out”?
Outside of John’s admonition to test the spirits and to recognize the spirit of antichrist, there is very little justification for removing a member because their beliefs are not exactly the same as long as they are not causing division, arguments or other disruptions.
I think most of the sane ones left in the COG know that political involvement is actually sending the wrong message to the world. I’m not going to spend much time on this one, although there are those who have risen up in recent years who believe we should get down and roll with the pigs rather than shine our light.
In practical terms, this is the real separation of church and state. God’s government is from above, and one day that government will rule the earth without Satan’s influence. For now, this is Satan’s world. Oil and water do not mix.
However, even in ancient Israel, there was the civil government of the judges, and later the kings, and there was the religious order of the priests and Levites.
The Church is made up of a future priesthood. Not only that, but we are to be future kings, rulers, in the Kingdom of God. Our authority is future as far as a civil authority goes. It is not now, and the governments of this world are not part of God’s government.
It should be noted that the Church has no authority to tell you to do something in direct contradiction to clear Scripture. That should not be confused with its obligation to make judgments, which requires interpretation of not so clear instructions.
Is Pentecost on Sunday or Monday? You know, I’ve seen arguments on both sides, and I remember the change of a Monday to Sunday Pentecost. It’s not that clear, as you can have inclusive or exclusive reckoning. The Church made its decision, and now we meet on Sundays. The Church has made a legal and binding decision.
It is not on 6 Sivan, that much is very clear. That would be breaking God’s word. Having a fixed date for Pentecost/Shavuot while the instructions quite plainly say it should be counted is silly enough to be dumb. Is God logical or not? Would He have us waste our time counting when it will fall on a fixed date regardless? If the Church suddenly decided to keep Pentecost on 6 Sivan, that is a command that must be disregarded because it clearly disregards God’s Law.
There are many such unclear instructions. Paul instructed women to cover their head during services. However, you know what? For any woman in that culture to not cover her head — ever — was “shameful”. So, what does Paul do? He calls it a “shame” for a woman to have her head uncovered (1Co 11:5-6). So, the Church has ruled that this was a cultural obligation, which translates into women today should dress with respect to what is not considered shameful in their culture wherever they are.
It not only points out the need for the Church to clarify certain things, but it also points out the silliness of the notion of disregarding the culture in which the Bible was written and to whom the various texts were addressed. “Let the Bible interpret the Bible” is appropriate but only if you can understand the context with which it was written.
However, I left one notion for last.
4 Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;
2 Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;
3 Forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.
Paul is referring to Gnosticism here. It should be no surprise that there is a certain church in these latter days that forbids its priests to marry and to abstain from meat during certain days called “Lent”.
However, was he only talking about that church? What is this about “shall depart from the faith”? Could it be that they once had the correct beliefs?
In particular, I am referring to the many stories that there is a certain counterfeit “Church of God”, which is really part of the synagogue of Satan, that tells its members whom they can or cannot marry. In fact, they are often told to marry this or that person!
Yes, Paul was addressing Gnosticism, but is any interference in a person’s personal life living according to the Torah justified? No! It is not only wrong, but it is the spirit of the greatest micromanager in existence. It is the spirit of the one who would possess anyone he could and force them to be puppets. That spirit is not of God!
That is Calvin’s “god” — a god so weak he cannot even allow free will.
Adam and Eve were born with free will. God knew the outcome. Did He stop it? God knew when Satan tempted Eve. Did He stop it? He knew when Eve grabbed the fruit and when she gave it to Adam. Did He stop it? God gave free will, and He does not take back that which He has promised.
Churches which try to suppress the lawful will of the individual are not working with the Spirit of God! They do not deserve to be called “Church of God”! We should plainly state that they are not part of the real Church of God! We should not even go to their services!
And note, this could be a local congregation or even an entire church organization that can be infected. There are wolves everywhere, so beware!