This week finds Norma Jean and me attending the Florida College Lectures, as well as sneaking in some time with our grandchildren. As I have reflected on the lecture theme, “Inquire of Past Generations: Lessons From Church History,” a central thread has emerged in all of the presentations.
God’s Word is authoritative.
The appeal to the authority of Scripture has been apparent in every topic from our view of history, to the organization of the church, to the person of Jesus, to the effect of sin.
In one of the great verses of the Bible, the apostle Peter implored, “If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” (1 Pet. 4:11)
This is the attitude, focus, and commitment of all true seekers of Truth. What has God revealed? What does Jesus command? What does the Bible say?
Following Martin Luther’s famous challenge of his “95 Theses” at Wittenberg, Germany, in 1517, he was summoned to give an account of his actions and given 21 days to recant. Luther refused. “Unless I am convicted by scripture and plain reason–I do not accept the authority of popes and councils, for they have contradicted each other–my conscience is captive to the Word of God.”
In 1533 Zwingli, the Swiss Reformer, emphatically implored, “ Away with human ceremonies and regulations, we want only the Word of God.”
Thomas Campbell, a Presbyterian minister, educated in Scotland, migrated to the United States in 1807 and sought to restore apostolic Christianity. In his “Declaration and Address” in 1809, he spoke of being “Sick of the animosities and controversies between rival sects, and disgusted with the petty differences which occasioned alienation and strife…”
Campbell called upon his hearers to seek the “sacred Word” as “an infallible standard, which was all-sufficient” and lay aside “religious theories, opinions and speculations” that produced religious division. At the conclusion of his address he issued this affirmation: “Where the Scriptures speak, we speak; where the Scriptures are silent, we are silent.”
This is the plea of ThePreachersWord. It has been the mandate of the speakers on this Lecture program. It is the desire of every faithful gospel preacher, pastor, and disciple of Christ.
Steve Patton, in his fine Lecture on “The Many Faces of Church Organization,” affirmed the authority of the Word as a basis not only for church organization, “but in all things.” The basic principle for all our religious beliefs, Patton pointed out, is “the standard of apostolic authority.”
Last night Kenny Moorer raised the question in the title to his lesson, “Is First Century Christianity Still Relevant in the Twenty-First Century?” His answer was a powerful and overwhelming, “YES.” Because God has spoken through his inspired ambassadors. The Word has been preserved for us today. We can know the will and Word of God.
Moorer reminded us that “All men are fallible, but if God’s Word will be the final say in our eternal destiny, then I must seek o learn it and apply it to the very best of my ability.”
I am not a follower of Luther, Zwingli or Campbell. Nor am I a disciple of Harrell, Patton Or Moorer. But as they point me to Jesus and to His Word, I follow Him.
“Speak where the Bible speaks; and be silent where the Bible is silent.” This scriptural motto will continue to serve us well.
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman