|The Barnabas Ministry
The Bible is the full and final authority on all matters of faith.As a result of this, Christians spend an enormous amount of time studying the Scriptures, trying to figure out how they apply to this and that issue in the church. People look to the New Testament for everything from explicit teachings to obscure examples and principles.
They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Acts 2:42 (NIV)From all indications, the church existed for years, perhaps even decades, before a page of the New Testament was written. Most books are dated between the mid-40's to the mid-60's AD and were written for various specific purposes. (See the articles "Bible Basics" and "New Testament Survey" for more on this.)
Such, then, is their system, which neither the prophets announced, nor the Lord taught, nor the apostles delivered, but of which they boast that beyond all others they have a perfect knowledge. They gather their views from other sources than the Scriptures; and, to use a common proverb, they strive to weave ropes of sand, while they endeavor to adapt with an air of probability to their own peculiar assertions the parables of the Lord, the sayings of the prophets, and the words of the apostles, in order that their scheme may not seem altogether without support. In doing so, however, they disregard the order and the connection of the Scriptures, and so far as in them lies, dismember and destroy the truth. By transferring passages, and dressing them up anew, and making one thing out of another, they succeed in deluding many through their wicked art in adapting the oracles of the Lord to their opinions. (Irenaeus, Against Heresies 1:8:1)The church knew its faith and could clearly recognize things that were not a part of it. They judged the false teachers based upon 4 criteria:
Suppose there arise a dispute relative to some important question among us, should we not have recourse to the most ancient Churches with which the apostles held constant intercourse, and learn from them what is certain and clear in regard to the present question? For how should it be if the apostles themselves had not left us writings? Would it not be necessary, [in that case,] to follow the course of the tradition which they handed down to those to whom they did commit the Churches? (Irenaeus, Against Heresies 3:4:1)
I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people. Romans 16:17-18 (NIV)The New Testament writers frequently testify to the need of duly-appointed, authoritative human leadership for instruction in the faith:
I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the teachings, just as I passed them on to you. 1 Cor 11:2 (NIV)
Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. 1 Cor 15:1-2 (NIV)
But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent's cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough. 2 Cor 11:3-4 (NIV)
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel-- which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned! Gal 1:6-8 (NIV)
Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. But now he has reconciled you by Christ's physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation-- if you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel. This is the gospel that you heard and that has been proclaimed to every creature under heaven, and of which I, Paul, have become a servant. Col 1:21-23 (NIV)
I have become its servant by the commission God gave me to present to you the word of God in its fullness-- the mystery that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the saints. Col 1:25-26 (NIV)
So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter. 2 Thess 2:15 (NIV)
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 2 Tim 3:14-15 (NIV)
We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. Heb 2:1 (NIV)
Do not be carried away by all kinds of strange teachings. Heb 13:9 (NIV)
See that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is what he promised us--even eternal life. I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray. As for you, the anointing you received from him remains in you, and you do not need anyone to teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about all things and as that anointing is real, not counterfeit--just as it has taught you, remain in him. 1 John 2:24-27 (NIV)
Dear friends, although I was very eager to write to you about the salvation we share, I felt I had to write and urge you to contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints. Jude 1:3 (NIV)
And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." Matt 16:18-19 (NIV)Further- individual Christians were not allowed to “interpret” these writings as they saw fit; those who did so were rebuked:
Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age." Matt 28:18-20 (NIV)
When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon son of John, do you truly love me more than these?" "Yes, Lord," he said, "you know that I love you." Jesus said, "Feed my lambs." John 21:15 (NIV)
Don't you remember that when I was with you I used to tell you these things? 2 Thess 2:5 (NIV)
Join with others in following my example, brothers, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you. Phil 3:17 (NIV)
And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others. 2 Tim 2:2 (NIV)
Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith. Heb 13:7 (NIV)
I have much to write to you, but I do not want to use paper and ink. Instead, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete. 2 John 1:12 (NIV)
Did the word of God originate with you? Or are you the only people it has reached? If anybody thinks he is a prophet or spiritually gifted, let him acknowledge that what I am writing to you is the Lord's command. If he ignores this, he himself will be ignored. 1 Cor 14:36-38 (NIV)What about the times when the apostles would appeal to the Old Testament Scriptures? Typically, these happen as a means of demonstrating that Jesus or the church was fulfilling Old Testament prophecy. These facts were critical to the Messianic identify of Jesus himself; these cannot be twisted into some example of the early church practicing "Scripture Alone." Jesus had explained the (Old Testament) Scriptures to the apostles, and the apostles simply drew upon that as needed.
Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction. 2 Peter 3:15-16 (NIV)
Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not take him into your house or welcome him. Anyone who welcomes him shares in his wicked work. 2 John 1:9-11 (NIV)
Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. He told them, "This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high." Luke 24:45-49 (NIV)Over and over again, we see that the early church did not practice “Scripture Alone.” Christians did not devote themselves to studying Scripture to determine their guidance or church direction, practices or the like. The guidance of the church was a matter of continuing what had been started, under the direction of the apostles and other duly-appointed leaders. They were living out their faith, and growing in their understanding of it.
"All this I have spoken while still with you. But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. John 14:25-26 (NIV)What made the apostles special was Jesus' calling, training and promise of the Holy Spirit. The apostles did not take this position of authority upon themselves.
"I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you. All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will take from what is mine and make it known to you. John 16:12-15 (NIV)
"My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. John 17:20-23 (NIV)The faithfulness and unity of the church is a key component in world evangelism, as it is a key component in the integrity of Christianity itself. How was this to be maintained? Let's consider what Paul and Peter said about this topic:
And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others. 2 Tim 2:2 (NIV)The church was the living testimony of the apostles; what they delivered to the church was entrusted to "faithful men" who would take their place as they passed. Just as the Holy Spirit guided the apostles in their role, the New Testament teaches that the Holy Spirit himself ordained those appointed as overseers to guide the church:
So I will always remind you of these things, even though you know them and are firmly established in the truth you now have. I think it is right to refresh your memory as long as I live in the tent of this body, because I know that I will soon put it aside, as our Lord Jesus Christ has made clear to me. And I will make every effort to see that after my departure you will always be able to remember these things. 2 Peter 1:12-15 (NIV)
Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. Acts 20:28 (NIV)The church was entrusted to these overseers, just as Jesus entrusted his mission itself to the apostles. Jesus promised to guide them with the Holy Spirit, and subsequently the Holy Spirit worked through the overseers that he appointed for that task. And again- this is all before the existence of the New Testament.
They gather their views from other sources than the Scriptures; and, to use a common proverb, they strive to weave ropes of sand, while they endeavor to adapt with an air of probability to their own peculiar assertions the parables of the Lord, the sayings of the prophets, and the words of the apostles, in order that their scheme may not seem altogether without support. In doing so, however, they disregard the order and the connection of the Scriptures, and so far as in them lies, dismember and destroy the truth. By transferring passages, and dressing them up anew, and making one thing out of another, they succeed in deluding many through their wicked art in adapting the oracles of the Lord to their opinions. (Irenaeus, Against Heresies 1:8:1)Centuries of leaders and groups "studying Scripture Alone” has shown us that widely varying beliefs and doctrines all have some degree of “support” from the Scriptures. Each denomination and offshoot has developed arguments why their perspective is more legitimate than others. They have also developed “refutations” of the positions of others. Everybody so indoctrinated feels good about their faith, as long as nobody asks too many questions or thinks about it too much. The end result is thousands of individual churches and ideologies, each with enough Scriptural basis to appear to be reasonable, but together undermining the very principal of "Scripture Alone" that supposedly gives them a right to exist in the first place.
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