Friday, 20 February 2015
If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord. 1 Corinthians 14:37
What a logical way to determine if certain conduct within the church is truly of the Spirit or not! The Bible proclaims that it is the word of God. It also shows us how that word came about. Prophets and men of God, under divine inspiration, received the words of the Lord. They are inerrant, infallible, and are intended to guide the church. And so, in order to determine if Paul’s words are truly inspired, we can follow a logical process.
First, we can go to our thoughts about Jesus. Do we believe that the story about Him is true? If so, do we believe that He has the authority the Bible proclaims? If so, does that authority include the appointing of His apostles? If we have said “Yes” so far to each of these questions, then we can next go to find the Apostle Peter’s recorded appointment.
Peter’s selection, along with the other apostles, is found in Matthew 10, Mark 3, and Luke 6. His apostolic status is also noted in the Gospel of John and in Acts. If Peter is not accepted as an apostle, then there would be no point to accept any of the New Testament. It is as certain as it could be that he is, in fact, an apostle. Understanding this, we can then go to his second epistle for a note concerning Paul –
“Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless; 15 and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, 16 as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.” 2 Peter 3:14-16
Peter clearly identifies Paul as authoritative, and he places Paul’s epistles on the same level as “the rest of the Scriptures.” In other words, it is an explicit reference to the inspiration of Paul’s letters. Now, combining that with the selection of Paul as an apostle by Jesus’ own mouth, we can demonstrate that he has both the authority and the inspiration to back up his words to the Corinthians. In response to a question by Ananias, Jesus proclaims Paul’s commission and apostolic authority –
“Go, for he is a chosen vessel of Mine to bear My name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel. 16 For I will show him how many things he must suffer for My name’s sake.” Acts 9:15, 16
It is impossible to deny Paul’s authority and his inspiration without denying the rest of the New Testament. They are inextricably intertwined. Therefore, Paul has the right to state, “If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord.”
Understanding this, we have been given a valuable tool to refute the speaking of false tongues, to direct the order of prophesying within the church, and to confirm that women are not to speak in the congregation (which includes having any authority over a man – see 1 Timothy 2:11,12 which is tied into his thoughts of 1 Corinthians 14 on this issue). When identifying any of these false practices, the one so charged must deny the authority of Scripture and thus the authority of Christ. Or, they must admit that their conduct is not in accord with Scripture and Christ’s authority; they are being disobedient to both.
Life application: Paul’s letters are prescriptive, they are of divine inspiration, and they bear the authority of the Lord Himself. To dismiss Paul’s commandments is to directly ignore the Lord’s authority. Do you want to be found in such a position of disobedience? If not, adhere to Paul’s words which are set doctrine for the church age.
Lord, my mind is often at odds with Your commandments and I know that it is my sinful nature pulling me in the wrong direction. When this happens, help me to redirect my heart and my attention back to You. Grant me friends who can build me up, and also give me the desire to know Your word more and more. For sure, my spirit is willing, but my flesh is weak. And so send those strengthening measures to keep me from going astray. Amen.