12 For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law. 13 For He of whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no man has officiated at the altar. 14 For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood. (Hebrews 7:12–14, NKJV)
Properly handling God’s word includes respecting the silence of the Scriptures (2 Tim. 2:15). At times God says, “thou shalt not,” but that is not the only way He reveals His will. The double negative, “It doesn’t say not to,” fails to prove God’s approval. Yet, many use it to justify moral and religious decisions. We must search for what God says on a matter, content that it is sufficient for us to know and to follow (cf. Deut. 29:29). The Hebrew writer used the silence of the Scriptures in today’s passage. He arrived at the unavoidable conclusion (a necessary inference) that the law had to change because the priesthood had changed (v. 11; Heb. 6:20). He explained that only Levites could be priests under the Law of Moses (Num. 3:10). Yet, Moses never directly said, “You shall not have priests from the tribes of Judah, Ephraim, Benjamin, etc.” He did not need to. Moses said what God wanted, priests from Levi. All other tribes were necessarily excluded. Even though Moses did not leave a “thou shalt not” list, Israel knew the correct application. There was no authority for priests from other tribes. Thus, the law itself had to be changed for Christ to be High Priest. God’s silence restrains, it does not free us to act. Let us find what God says, for that is what He approves. Then, “hold fast what is good” (1 Thess. 5:21).
For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them. (Matthew 18:20, NKJV)
There is a context to this statement that informs our understanding and its application. It is not an unrestricted statement giving two or three Christians carte blanche to do anything they decide is in Christ’s name. Here and in other Scriptures, apostolic authority must exist for Christ’s approval and fellowship. The immediate context of today’s passage addresses dealing with sin by a Christian against another Christian (Matt. 18:15-17). Heaven’s approval for the forgiveness and retention of sins rests upon the teachings the apostles receive from heaven (Matt. 18:18). That is, what the apostles bound and loosed on earth was already determined by the Lord. The inspired apostles revealed heaven’s will, and they were united in faith and practice in the name of (by the authority of) Christ (Matt. 18:19-20). Christ was “in the midst of them” (His apostles) as they revealed heaven’s will. When we follow their teachings, we are following heaven’s will by heaven’s authority (Col. 3:17). Doing so assures us of fellowship with the apostles and the Lord God (1 Jno. 1:3). Two or three Christians gathered together do not establish what God’s will is. What the apostles taught is the authority we have to act in the name of Christ as individuals, as several saints, or as the local church.
“one Lord, one faith, one baptism;” (Ephesians 4:5, NKJV)
God’s “One-derful” plan of unity continues in Ephesians 4:4-6 with the emphatic declaration there is one Lord. That simple truth is forgotten whenever religious, moral, and social division occurs. I am not Lord. You are not Lord. Not “Lord Krishna,” not “Lord Buddha,” not any other person who has lived or is living now. Only Jesus Christ is Lord (1 Cor. 8:6). Through Him we have life and all things. He alone has been given “all authority in heaven and on earth” by God the Father (Matt. 28:18; Eph. 1:20-23). Christ’s word is truth and settles every issue concerning “life and godliness” (Jno. 1:14; 8:31-32; 2 Pet. 1:3). He rules, and by His authority (the “name of our Lord Jesus Christ”) we can “speak the same thing,” reject dissensions and be joined together “in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Cor. 1:10). This takes faithful effort by each Christian, no question about it (Eph. 4:15-16). Division arises when we follow men or women instead of following Christ (1 Cor. 1:11-12). We must ever remember that Christ is not divided (1 Cor. 1:13). Humble submission to the one Lord will guard unity and glorify God: “And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” (Col. 3:17).
Imitate me, just as I also imitate Christ. (1 Corinthians 11:1, NKJV)
In the Roman Catholic Church, an imprimatur is “a license granted by a bishop certifying the Church’s approval of a book to be published” (thefreedictionary.com). The word is more generally used to denote “a mark of approval or distinction” (merriam-webster.com). No such ecclesiastical certification is issued by the church of Christ in the New Testament. Today’s verse affirms our conduct must imitate the apostles of Christ to the extent they also imitate (mimic) Christ. Some scoff at binding apostolic approved examples today. “Where is your apostle badge?” is sarcastically asked when an appeal is made to apostolic examples to authorize practices. The apostles not only left us their inspired words, they also left us examples to follow. Jesus said, “He who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me” (Jno. 13:20). Their examples help us pattern our conduct after the will of Christ. By following their examples we are assured of the Lord’s favor (Phil. 3:17). How can one possibly think the Lord is pleased by refusing to follow the apostles’ examples (that imitate Christ)? “The things which you learned and received and heard and saw in me, these do, and the God of peace will be with you” (Phil. 4:9). The “imprimatur” of heaven is the apostolic doctrine, taught by their words and their examples. We ought to follow their examples because they have heaven’s approval (2 Thess. 2:15; 3:4, 9).
“For I also am a man placed under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”” (Luke 7:8, NKJV)
We all encounter authority every day. Whether it is the rules of the road as we drive, or the authority under which medications are dispensed, there are countless ways we tacitly accept living under authority. Yet, in matters of faith, too often we think we are free to do whatever we feel is right. We must learn to acknowledge and yield to the authority of Jesus Christ in every part of our lives. He said, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matt. 28:18). The authority of Jesus, which is so cavalierly rejected by many, was not taken for granted by the Roman centurion in today’s passage. He understood authority, both serving under it and exercising it. He trusted the power of Jesus to heal his servant because he believed Jesus had authority over distance and disease. When we believe Jesus has authority over us, it changes how we think and act in every area of our lives. Because He has supreme authority over us, Jesus deserves more than lip service from us. Let us be so committed to the authority of Christ that whatever His word says, we believe it and do it. Without hesitation or doubt, fully trusting He will fulfill His will, we follow Him. Submissive obedience to His word is the identifying mark of respecting the authority of Jesus.
14 Now about the middle of the feast Jesus went up into the temple and taught. 15 And the Jews marveled, saying, “How does this Man know letters, having never studied?” 16 Jesus answered them and said, “My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me. 17 If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority.” (John 7:14–17, NKJV)
The Jews were perplexed that Jesus was teaching with skill and expertise. He had not been trained at the feet of their scholars. Jesus was not given authority to teach by the scholars of the day. He was a commoner from an obscure village, far from their center of learning. Yet, He spoke the doctrine of God with authority (Matt. 7:28-29). The reliability of someone’s teaching does not depend on credentials the teacher has earned from a school of learning. Seminary training is not a biblical prerequisite to knowing and teaching God’s truth. The prerequisite to knowing the teaching of Christ is having a will to do God’s will (v. 17). A heart that is open to hearing and receiving the teachings of Jesus equips us to know the truth of God that has been revealed by the authority of Jesus. He taught the doctrine of the Father, who sent Him to the earth. The gospel of Christ is that very doctrine (1 Tim. 1:10-11). We preach His doctrine today, to save the lost and to secure the saved (Matt. 28:18-20; Col. 1:24-29). May we always have a will to do God’s will, and follow the teaching of Jesus.
29 “We know that God spoke to Moses; as for this fellow, we do not know where He is from.” 30 The man answered and said to them, “Why, this is a marvelous thing, that you do not know where He is from; yet He has opened my eyes! 31 Now we know that God does not hear sinners; but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does His will, He hears him. 32 Since the world began it has been unheard of that anyone opened the eyes of one who was born blind. 33 If this Man were not from God, He could do nothing.” (John 9:29–33, NKJV)
The blind man healed by Jesus exposed the insincerity and hypocrisy of the Pharisees who refused to accept the incontrovertible evidence that Jesus is from God. The man was proof enough that it was so. He had concluded Jesus was sent from God because of the miracle he received. He drew a necessary inference that God heard Jesus and worked this miracle by Him. Those who reject necessary inferences as a way to establish the binding authority of God from the Scriptures should revisit this text and admit that necessary inferences are indeed a God-approved way of teaching truth. This man used one to teach unbelievers. He was cast out of the synagogue for it, he was received by Jesus (John 9:34-39). If one rejects necessary inferences as binding today, then he must also reject the blind man’s conclusion about Jesus as worthless. Do you stand with him, or with the Pharisees?