Monday, October 15, 2007

Authority to Run God’s Church and Ordinances

Nearly all churches have some form of requirements for a person to preach. Mostly ministerial colleges need to be attended or a university degree in religious studies, need to be completed. Sometimes these can be done by correspondence. A certificate of successful completion from these institutions becomes the authority to become a minister/priest. In addition to this attainment, acceptance must still be obtained from the individual church itself. In spite of this system existing many observing it claim that authority isn't necessary or just comes out of the Bible, in some manner, while reading it. Some churches have it that authority must be handed down by one having authority themselves (which is what is happening, in a sense anyway, when acceptance is required), ordaining the next person. Only 2 churches claim an original line of authority from Jesus Christ (which line can be demonstrated from person to person back to Christ) himself. Those are the Roman Catholic Church and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.

The Catholic line of authority has some dubious instances however. On some occasions the method of passing this authority was when one group came in and killed the Pope and all his Cardinals, and took over as the new Pope by sitting in his seat, and calling his generals Cardinals. I don’t see this as a demonstration of passing on of authority. Additionally with one Pope they didn’t realise he was a she until he got pregnant. While the Bible and D&C demonstrate that a person shouldn’t expect perfection from church leaders, I think that is getting far beyond a safe line of authority. It opposes any scriptural way of passing authority.

Ordinances (such as baptism and the Lord's Supper/Communion/Sacrament) are performed in varying ways. And many doctrines and non-doctrines are taught by those proposing to speak in the name of Christ. So what does scripture say in this regard? What are the arguments for and against the necessity to have authority given by Jesus Christ or our Heavenly Father to run his church and perform the necessary ordinances? And, if necessary, why would God demand such authority to perform these ordinances?

Some Confusing Scriptures
Let's first look at some statements relative to casting out spirits and authority. The first of these is used by those in favour of no necessity for having authority. And another one is used to present that it is necessary. I'll throw them all in the pot and then we can look at it as a complete subject.

Mark 9:38-40 "And John answered him, saying, Master, we saw one casting out devils in your name, and he followed not us: and we forbad him, because he followed not us. But Jesus said, don't forbid him: For there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name, that can lightly speak evil of me. For he that is not against us is on our part."

Acts19:13-16 "Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preaches. And there were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, and chief of the priests, which did so. And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you? the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded."

Luke 9:1 "Then he called his twelve disciples together, and gave them power and authority over all devils, and to cure diseases."

So first we are told that a man was casting out evil spirits in the name of Christ who wouldn't go with the apostles, and this didn't seem to bother Jesus. Then we are told that some men tried to cast out spirits in the name of Jesus and weren't accepted as having authority from him to do so. Next we have a quote of Jesus actually giving his apostles authority to cast out devils.

What can we deduce from this relative to needing or not needing authority. Clearly both Christ and the devils have held authority to be necessary. So what of this (seemingly out of place) first quote that could be interpreted that Christ couldn't care less? The evil spirits were obviously successfully removed. So the question arises as to whether this person really had authority or not? Why did the evil spirits obey him, but not these others who had no authority? This proves this person had authority on its own.

Should we conclude that Jesus was the only person giving authority and that no other revelation existed in Israel other than his. This isn't supported in scripture. Two people made prophesies at his attendance at the temple when a baby. Caiaphas received revelation that Christ would die for all nations (John 11:49-52). John the Baptist received revelation about Christ (Matthew 3:17). [Peter also received revelation while Christ was with them (Matthew 16:15-17).] So the revelation necessary to give authority existed among others. [John the Baptist automatically had priesthood authority as a descendant of Aaron – as declared by revelation to Moses.]

It is obvious that the person did have authority that the evil spirits couldn’t refute. Christ would have realised this also - note that Christ said, "there is no man which shall do a miracle in my name" in regard his statement. In other words his ability to perform this miracle has demonstrated his authority, from Christ’s point of view. This other person hadn’t been called to follow Christ around, apparently.

This scripture demonstrates that those claiming authority should be able to prove it by the capability to perform miracles, including casting out evil spirits.

I Peter 2:9 "But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light."

From this mention of a "royal priesthood" (he is speaking to people in the church - verse 7) it is presented by some that priesthood is automatically given to all males (he was writing to men, I Peter 1:22) who state a belief in Christ, regardless of church etc. If true, this would mean that no one had unique authority within any church, for starters. No minister would have any unique right to perform any ordinance. A child may just as well come up and perform an ordinance. You would be able to perform them in your own home, and no church would even be needed. Some may feel this a good idea. However is this how this scripture should be taken? These people to whom he was writing were already believers (which isn't debated). This only presents that all the men held the priesthood. I should also mention that it doesn't present that all priesthood was equal (the Scriptures speak of 3 priesthoods - Levitical, Aaronic and Melchizedek). It doesn't say anything about this priesthood they had, being automatic upon their belief, as claimed.

Now to the question of whether God should just give authority to everyone. What is the point of ordinances? They are symbols to represent things God wants us to come to understand. Symbols are like parables. Christ didn’t plan on everyone instantly understanding his parables (Matt 13:13). The symbols demonstrated through ordinances are to hide principles not all people are instantly able to understand. So if those symbols are done incorrectly, or with wrong words or ideas then the symbol becomes a false concept. Baptism by sprinkling being a classic case. The whole lesson of the symbolism is destroyed. Consider Genesis 4:2-5, which gives the story of Cain and Abel; where Cain gives an offering of his field harvest rather than the required lamb or kid in representation of Christ’s atonement. Because of these types of things God made order. He has made a priesthood, where revelation exists. That way he controls the entire manner in which the ordinances are performed.

Priesthood must be accompanied by revelation to know when to do what, in the name of Christ. So a person is required to have the Holy Ghost to use the priesthood effectively. Automatic priesthood would create confusion, with people attempting to do things they shouldn’t. There is a need to have an order where authority can be given or extracted where revelation dictates. Otherwise Christ’s name would come into disrepute (as has occurred due to false teachers).

For a Need of Authority
Hebrews 5:1&4-5 "For every high priest taken from among men is ordained for men in things pertaining to God, that he may offer both gifts and sacrifices for sins" & "And no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God, as was Aaron. So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee."

Mark 13:34 "For the Son of man is as a man taking a far journey, who left his house, and gave authority to his servants, and to every man his work, and commanded the porter to watch."

Acts 13:1-3 "Now there were in the church that was at Antioch certain prophets and teachers; as Barnabas, and Simeon that was called Niger, and Lucius of Cyrene, and Manaen, which had been brought up with Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. As they ministered to the Lord, and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away."

Acts 8:14-20 "Now when the apostles which were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John: Who, when they were come down, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost: (For as yet he was fallen upon none of them: only they were baptised in the name of the Lord Jesus.) Then laid they their hands on them, and they received the Holy Ghost. And when Simon saw that through laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Ghost was given, he offered them money, Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost. But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money."

Mark 1:7-8 "And preached, saying, There comes one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose. I indeed have baptised you with water: but he shall baptise you with the Holy Ghost."

Note particularly that the Holy Ghost gave direction to set apart Banabas and Saul, and that Philip could baptise but couldn’t give the Holy Ghost: It required Peter and John to come and do it. John the Baptist also (apparently) shared this later problem.

Argument is made that the priesthood only existed until Christ, who ended it by being the sacrifice. However that theory doesn’t stand with those Scriptures quoted above either. Nor does this idea stand as correct with the Scriptures originally quoted about authority and casting out evil spirits. Also, relative to priesthood continuing, note Isa 61:6, 66:21, I Pet 2:9, Rev 20:6, Rev 1:6, Rev 5:10. Priesthood was also used for other ordinances, not just that of sacrifice.

Me claiming that I have authority to speak and act for God purely because I’ve read the Scriptures would be like me claiming authority to speak and act for Woolworths because I read their catalogue.

The fact that Paul declared that even Christ himself couldn’t just claim authority, but needed the Father to give it to him, says it all to me.