Sunday, August 19, 2007

Who Gave The Church Its Authority, Or Where Else Is Authority?

Again, an answer I wrote some time ago. I will give what I understand the Reformed answers to be after I put out all five answers that I wrote earlier in my discernment process (before I hesitated more).

2) If so, who gave the church that authority? If not, where then lies the rule of faith? Starting with the “if not”, absent church authority, as I have already addressed, then authority rests in the souls or hearts of individual men. The rule of faith is left to each on his own, doing as he sees fit. Clearly this has carried Protestant believers down widely varying paths, each practicing their own moral norms. And in the extreme, this has caused Protestants to avoid fellowship altogether, for no two Christians, when held to their own individual standards, could possibly agree in complete uniformity on faith and morals. Indeed, this individual rule of faith seems to fly in the face of scripture, "Let every person be subordinate to the higher authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been established by God. Therefore, whoever resists authority opposes what God has appointed, and those who oppose it will bring judgment upon themselves (Romans 13:1-2, NIV).” And further, “Obey your leaders and defer to them, for they keep watch over you and will have to give an account, that they may fulfill their task with joy and not with sorrow, for that would be of no advantage to you (Hebrews 13:17, NIV).” I find it challenging enough to believe that I will give an account for my family as their spiritual head. In that light, I would be greatly relieved to come to the conclusion that I should submit to the visible church and allow her earthly leaders to give account for any failures of leadership and stewardship.

If the church does have authority, as I believe to be the correct answer to my first question, it could only come from above, namely God Himself. Following the doctrine of sola scriptura, one cannot hold that Holy Writ declares prima facie that Christ passed authority to a visible church (be it Rome, the Lutherans or others). Of course such a claim would be absurd as the church was in its infancy, growing as a Rod out of Judaism. John 10:14-16 speaks to Christ’s relationship to his Church with a promise, “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd (NIV).” This promise that there shall be one flock is profound. Stipulating that Christ cannot break His word, we must conclude the there is somehow one flock (i.e. one church).

In fact, germane verses seem to show Christ passing His authority to men, to His Apostles. First let us remember Scripture’s clarity on the matter of Christ’s having authority. “Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. (Mat 28:18, NIV)” and “…the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins . . . (Mark 2:10, NIV).” This leads to my third question: (to be continued)...

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