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An Introduction

What would you decide in these situations?

  1. Your minister is preaching. In the course of the sermon he admonishes the congregation to imitate a particular lifestyle. Although he claims the text requires this obedience, you are not at all convinced that the text teaches it. Must you go along with what he preached, or may you ignore it?
  2. An elder in your church calls you. He and another elder wish to talk to you as soon as possible. Must you meet with them, or may you refuse, or put it off indefinitely because you are too busy?
  3. You open your bulletin one Sunday and read in the announcements the actions taken at the last meeting of Classis. You disagree emphatically with one of the decisions. What affect does that decision have on you? Is it binding, or may you simply reject and ignore it?

These three examples serve to illustrate real ques­tions we believers face continually about authority in the Church of Jesus Christ. A wide range of attitudes can be found on such matters. Some tend toward total and unquestioning acceptance of the teaching and admonitions of the preaching and the elders. At the other extreme are those whose attitude seems to be – we have the right to reject anything with which we dis­agree. In between these extremes are such attitudes as – we will accept anything that we believe agrees with the Bible, or, if we agree with his (their) interpre­tation of the Bible, we will follow his (their) admoni­tion. Perhaps you have never really faced these issues, but do reflect on this for a moment. What is your view of the authority of the preaching over you? MUST you believe and obey it? MUST you receive the elders and support the decisions of a classis and synod?

No small matter is this. At bottom is the question of the authority of the Word of God over us. It is the purpose of this rubric (The Binding Power of the Word) to examine these matters in order better to under­stand what authority the Word has over us – our beliefs and activities. In this series, we plan to discuss such matters as the authority of the preaching itself; the scope of that authority; possible disagreements with the preaching; the authority of the special offices (elder, deacon, and minister); and the authority of such ecclesiastical bodies as the consistory or classis. The common link among all these is that they all have authority in the Church of Jesus Christ, which authority is the right (from Christ) to speak the Word of God. From this is derived the title of the rubric – The Binding Power of the Word.

If you have questions along this line, or if ques­tions arise from the material, do feel free to send in questions. But do keep the questions as general as possible. I do not intend to pass judgment on specific ones or on specific decisions of consistories or classis, etc.

The first “power of the Word” to be examined will be the preaching. And to understand the authority of the preaching, we must first know the authority, or right, of the preacher to speak the Word of God. But that will have to wait until next time.