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The Authority of Apostolic Teaching

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
August 7, 2021 12:01 am

The Authority of Apostolic Teaching

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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August 7, 2021 12:01 am

Is every part of the Bible inerrant? Should we take the teachings of Jesus more seriously than those of Paul? Today, R.C. Sproul explains that the words of the New Testament writers are the very words of the Lord.

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Today on Renewing Your Mind. Jesus is not the foundation of the church. The basic metaphor that the New Testament uses for Jesus is that Jesus is the chief cornerstone, but the chief metaphor the New Testament about the foundation of the church is what the prophets and the apostles the whole building rests upon the apostolic word were the prophetic word of God and because of that we base everything we do, how we live and how we structure the church on the authority of God's word so when we run across things that are difficult to understand.

We must remind ourselves of what the Bible really is the word of God. Dr. RC Sproul taught several series covering the difficult and often misunderstood passages in Scripture and today we begin the hard sayings of the apostles today.

I'd like to turn your attention to a passage in Paul's letter of first Corinthians in chapter 7. Beginning in verse 10 in this section of first Corinthians, Paul is giving various instructions about Christian marriage and setting forth the regulations by which we are to be governed in our marital relationships.

He begins in verse 10, by saying this now to the married I command, yet not alive, but the Lord wife is not to depart from her husband. But even if she does depart, let her remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband and a husband is not to divorce his wife, but to the rest I not the Lord say if any brother has a wife who does not believe, and she is willing to live with him, let him not divorce her and a woman who has a husband who does not believe he is willing to live with her, let her not divorce him for the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband. Otherwise, your children would be unclean, but now they are holy. But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace. Now the first problem I have with this text is in focusing on what is the most difficult or controversial dimension of it because in this very short passage.

There are several major issues to be found within it, but the one I want to focus on most clearly is the statement that Paul makes in verse 12 where he says, but to the rest I not the Lord say I hear the apostle is giving a directive here, setting forth an apostolic principle for the church.

But he's careful to say that the source or the origin of this particular rule is coming from Paul and not from Christ. Nevertheless, by not the Lord say this and notice the stark contrast between that statement by Paul to the statement he makes in verse 10. Now to the married I command. He starts out by saying I command. I'm giving a commandment, yet not I, but the Lord will you see the Contras there in the first part of the text to give us a commandment that he himself utters but indicates that this commandment is not Paul's commandment but it is a commandment from God command from the Lord and then just a little while later he said now I'm telling you something, not the Lord. So the first question we have to deal with here is what this is making says this is something I'm saying and not the Lord. What does this do to the authority of the statement, and there have been different approaches to this text. One of the most common approaches to the taxes this since Paul goes out of his way to say that it is not the Lord's instruction that he is expounding here, but his own. But that would set this piece of Scripture. Apart from everything else because everything else we presuppose the New Testament writers are in fact speaking for the Lord, under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, and that therefore their words are the words of the Lord and carry with it the authority of God. We remember. Incidentally, the meaning of the term apostle. The word apostle in the Greek language apostle low's means literally one who is sent, but not anybody that is sent is necessarily apostle if I send my child to the grocery store for a loaf of bread I don't therefore confer apostolic status upon my child, but in the Greek world than apostle function as an emissary for a king or for the government and had the vested authority to speak for the king or to speak for the nation and we find this in the New Testament with respect to those men whom Christ selected to be his representatives were accustomed to speaking of disciples and apostles as if the term disciple and the term apostle were synonyms and they are not the word disciple means learner and Jesus had many disciples who were students in his rabbinic school remember one occasion he sent 70 of them out on a particular mission, and there was another occasion when Jesus was teaching on a controversial issue and we read in the New Testament that after that occasion, Jesus giving a hard saying. Many of those who had been following Jesus and who had been disciples left him. Remember Jesus then turned to the 12 and looked at Peter and said will you also go away. In Peter's response was, to whom shall we go thou alone has the words of life. Doesn't sound like Peter was too happy with what Jesus was saying either slight Fate.

We don't have a choice here. I don't like it either but the best we have and so were going to stay with you, but in any case we know that that number was reduced to the 12 that inner circle that major corps of students that Jesus called and instructed and then from that group. All of them, with the exception of Judas were then later appointed to be apostles and then Paul was added to this apostolic group later on as we well know that even though many of these people were both disciples and apostles, the office of disciple is not the same as the office of an apostle and apostle. As I said is someone who was commissioned an authorized to speak with someone for someone else know if I would ask the question differently is my seminary students who is the first apostle in the New Testament, what would you say Mary not Mary not John the Baptist. That's a good guess but he was not apostle he was a prophet, and there is a close link between the prophets and the apostles, the first and chief apostle of the New Testament may be surprised to hear this, Jesus.

He is the one sent from God and Jesus repeatedly declares this to his people say I speak nothing on my own authority, but I only say that which I have been authorized to say by the father and everything of the fathers told me to say I say and so on and so Jesus gets in their dispute. For example, with the Pharisees because the Pharisees claim to believe the father they believe in God, but they reject Jesus and Jesus disallows that this junction say if you reject me, you really are rejecting the father because the father sent me to get the connection. If you reject the apostle you reject the authority of the one who has authorized the apostle to speak in his stead and Jesus when he commissioned his apostle said to them, those who receive you receive me and those who do not receive you do not receive may know that's important for us today to understand, particularly in light of some of the controversies that rage in the church and the feminist movement, for example, I've read repeated scurrilous attacks against the apostle Paul were people say Jesus I love and Jesus. I obey, but it's it's that Paul I can't stand he's that misogynist fees that narrowminded male chauvinist, and so on, and these attacks against Paul's authority in biblical categories would be seen as an attack on the authority of Christ because Paul also labors the point that he is an apostle, not by the will of man, not by flesh and blood, but he is been called and authorized by God and by Christ. That's when the reasons why the book of acts more than once recounts the circumstances and the occasion of Paul's conversion on the road to Damascus, and of his call by Christ to be an apostle and so when we are dealing with the apostles were dealing with those who have had a delegated authority from Christ.

In fact, were talking now about the very foundation of the church and again I asked my seminary students. What's the foundation of the Christian church and repeatedly the answer is what Jesus is the foundational assignment of Jesus is not the foundation of the church. The basic metaphor that the New Testament uses for Jesus is that Jesus is the chief cornerstone. In the Bible does say there is no foundation which can be laid except that which is laid in Christ Jesus.

But the chief metaphor the New Testament about the foundation of the church is what the prophets and the apostles the whole building rests upon the apostolic word were the prophetic word of God now given this understanding of this high level of apostolic authority. What are we to do with this passage when Paul says I tell you this, but not the Lord of the first thing we notice about the taxes that he's not saying that he's contradicting something that the Lord had said is not saying move.

Jesus told you one thing, and now I'm going to tell you something else, but he is careful to point out that he apparently does not have this word that he's about to say, by any conscious direct communication from Christ, so that what level of authority do we put this passage. Now those who believe in the inspiration of the Bible approaching two different ways. Some say well doesn't matter whether Paul had it through direct communication from Christ. The fact that he was an apostle still leaves us with the same authority of anything else that the apostle says because his office is an apostle is to speak for Christ, and so this is part of the inspired text and carries with it nothing less than the authority of God. Now there are two problems with that one is we are not to assume with our doctrine of inspiration whereby the churches confess their faith that when the apostles were writing Scripture. For example, they were so superintended by the Holy Spirit that their words being inspired and as I said superintendent by the spirit were the word of God is like the prophets in the Old Testament could preface their statements thus saith the Lord, and then they would give their utterance, and if when they are writing Scripture. They are writing under the inspiration of the spirit they are rendered for that task infallible. Does that mean that they are then at all times and all places and that everything they ever say over dinner or in the marketplace does not carry the weight of divine authority or of infallibility.

We know, for example, in the Roman Catholic Church where the churches exposition of the view of papal infallibility, which was decreed 1870 Vatican Council, one. The church was careful to restrict that infallibility. It doesn't mean that when the popes having a conversation over the dinner table that his words are verbally perfect or infallible but that infallibility is restricted to when the Pope is speaking on matters they feed a that is with respect to the faith and the speaking acts Catholic draw from the chair that is in a particularly formal specific environment that when we look at the apostles and their authority.

We recall, for example, in Galatians, where Paul was struggling with the Judaizers and their particular heresy. He makes mention of Peter's vacillation on the issue and how that Paul had to confront Peter for his behavior and to rebuke him to his face. We know that the Council of Jerusalem was called in part to settle a dispute among the apostles. So obviously they had ideas among themselves when they weren't working under inspiration that were in conflict and so I come to the conclusion at least that they were not rendered permanently or inherently infallible but that inspiration simply refers to their work of writing Scripture. However, this is what makes the plot so thick they still were permanently apostles, and they still had this ecclesiastical authority in the church and so some would look at this text in first Corinthians and say the only thing that inspiration extends to in this text is not the content of Paul's teaching but that what is inspired is his statement that this is his idea and not the Lord, where at least that much inspiration that Paul is saying, under the superintendents of the Holy Spirit.

I want you to know, and I want you to know infallibly that I'm teaching you this validly say that again I do not want to fast for you is that this could mean simply that Paul is saying that I'm telling you now infallibly under inspiration that what I'm telling you is fallible set of that when he is instructing us not to take this admonition that he gives us here as being of divine authority. That's one way to handle this text and I have to say to you I'm not altogether sure myself how we are to take this, but I would favor the other view that even though Paul is declaring here that he did not get this through some direct immediate enlightenment from Christ. Nevertheless, as an apostle.

He's making a command and presumably that command is coming to us by virtue of apostolic authority and by virtue of inspiration, even if Paul is not immediately aware of his own inspiration.

That's another point that we need to understand that the prophets who prophesied in the Old Testament did not necessarily always understand even the content of their own messages. That wasn't their responsibility, their responsibility was to deliver the message and they didn't have to be all that cognizant of the message itself, but there is a passage later on in first Corinthians in chapter 14 that sheds a little bit of light on it. If we look in chapter 14 and verse 36 or did the word of God come originally from you was that you only that it reached 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. But if anyone is ignorant, let him be ignorant here he is saying to the Corinthians. Remember the things that I am writing to you the things that I am commanding you are from the Lord. Now that doesn't necessarily mean that this text that I read earlier. It is now therefore turn around and comes from the Lord.

Paul may be just speaking elliptically here and saying everything else that I've told you in this letter is from the Lord except that which I specifically designate as coming from myself. The good news about this particular troublesome passage is in the final analysis, it really doesn't matter a whole lot because the instruction that Paul gives here that he says is his commandment that comes from him at the very least, comes from the apostle and has been recognized by the church virtually of all ages to carry apostolic authority with it and what is going on here in this text simply is. Paul is adding something to the rules and regulations for marriage and divorce that was not explicitly spelled out by Jesus is making allowance for the separation of couples who find themselves in a mixed marriage not be careful here.

Paul does not endorse a Christian marrying a non-Christian and what is presumably the background here is that two non-Christians had been married and after their marriage. One of them became converted and then the unconverted one wants out and Paul is saying that the believer should not get rid of the unbelievers is because they are now in that mixed marriage, but the believer. If the unbeliever wants out is free to let that person out of the marriage and to be at peace on it, but that's a matter for further elucidation. Whenever we look again at the topic of marriage and divorce, but for now will conclude simply with this observation that the apostle here whether he got his information directly from Jesus are not from Jesus gives instruction to the church that we consider extremely valuable and important in the church submits herself to that's helpful in understanding the authority that God gave Paul because he was an apostle Paul was allowed to make rules for the church will have more on this is just a moment there, but we are glad you joined us for this Saturday. Addition of Renewing Your Mind.

I'm Lee Webb and we're beginning a new series this week is called the hard sayings of the apostles.

I hope you return each week as RC digs into other hard to understand passages.

His answers are thoughtful and helpful as he leans on the wisdom he gained from many years of studying and teaching the Bible and will be happy to provide you with a digital downloadable all five messages in the series. When you give a donation of any amount to give your phone number it's 800-435-4343 you can give your gift securely. When you call us or would you make your request online or web address is Renewing Your Mind.Ward we are thankful for your generosity to litter ministries. Let me also remind you to take advantage of link interconnects. That's our online learning community.

Link interconnect provides a way to link up with small groups around the world and with the study groups feature you have a private online classroom where you can invite friends and family members to take any course in our library together you can explore the courses that are available and learn more. When you go to now here's RC again.

I like to leave you with this thought today that we must remember that we have no writings that have been passed down to us in the Christian community today that come directly from the pen of Jesus the in Scripture rating of the teaching of our Lord was entrusted to the apostles and so when we want to place Jesus against Paul or Paul against Jesus.

What were really doing. In essence, is trying to pit Paul against Luke or Paul against Mark or Paul against Matthew because all that we know of the teaching of Jesus comes to us through the gospel writers and it's because of their delegated authority that we trust that we have knowledge of the actual teaching of Jesus Christ. And I remind you that in our day. It is become a very serious matter where we have seen a wholesale pervasive disintegration of confidence in the church itself over apostolic authority and Christianity.

From its very foundation. 11 is apostolic and it still holds true today that if we reject the authority of the apostles, we reject the authority of Christ and if we reject the authority of Christ, we reject the authority of God himself.

I hope you'll join us again next time is Dr. scroll turns to the book of Romans. When the apostle Paul calls himself wretched is he saying that as a Christian, or is he referring to himself before he was sitting.

We will address that hard saying next Saturday. On Renewing Your Mind

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