Bible-Based Faith

What is often defined as either “scriptural” or “biblical” is sometimes actually “unscriptural” and “unbiblical.” What has often occurred in the religious world is that some have studied their way through the Bible, searching for some hint of a belief or behavior that would validate their own self-improvised religiosity. In this scurry to discover “proof text” examples of behavior of the early Christians are highlighted, copied and cloned. These examples of the early Christians then become the authority by which we determine if one’s behavior is either “scriptural” or “biblical.” So we become quite hypocritical in our use of such terms as a standard for judging others.

Examples of behavior in the lives of the early disciples have sometimes become the authority for establishing doctrinal points on our outline to identify the New Testament church. The problem with this system of establishing the identity of the church is that we are often quite inconsistent, if not hypocritical. For example, as the church we want to refer to ourselves with a specific name, while there are several different references in the New Testament to the church. Which “name” is “biblical” or “scriptural” is a matter of opinion. Also, the early Christians sold their possessions (At 4:32-35). As we read their example of doing so, we want to covet our possessions and store them away in our garages or attics. And when we assemble, we completely ignore the fact that the early Christians assembled in their homes (Rm 16:5; 1 Co 16:19). Of course meeting in a house is a supposed lower location of assembly, while “high church” must construct some structure and call such a “church house.” Unfortunately, in the manufacture of our outline on the identity of “the church,” we simply pick and choose those examples we have traditionally determined that make us “biblical” or “scriptural.” The sad thing about this narrative is that there are so many who do not see the inconsistency of promoting such divisive theology.

Using examples of behavior in the lives of the early disciples as authority in matters of faith can be quite exhausting, if not very dubious. We must also keep in mind that how the early disciples behaved was how they responded to the gospel. Being first generation Christians without the New Testament Scriptures to guide them for the first twenty to thirty years after the coming of the Holy Spirit on the apostles in Acts 2, their beliefs and behavior during those intervening years was sometimes quite flawed. The purpose for which the early letters were written to the early churches as a whole was to correct dysfunctional behavior in the lives of the first disciples. We would do well, therefore, to be quite cautious about using any examples of behavior of the early disciples as authority in our faith. We would certainly not follow all the examples of the first generation of Christians in Corinth.

Today, we have the right to respond to the gospel, and in responding, we will often find no “scriptural” or “biblical” validation for some of the things we do as we live the gospel. In other words, building a church building is not “unscriptural” or “unbiblical” because we can find no examples of church buildings in the New Testament. Establishing some “order of assembly” when we come together in assembly has no “scriptural” or “biblical” authority, though Christians are free to bring order to their assemblies by establishing an order to assembly.

Even the meeting time of Sunday morning has become a tradition for which there is no “biblical” or “scriptural” support. As far as can be determined from the New Testament, Christians must come together on the first day of the week, or Sunday, though there is no specific command to do such (See At 20:7; 1 Co 16:2). This was the day on which the early Christians came together, and thus the specific day on which they meet. Meeting in the morning or evening is our choice, depending on what the assembled group desires to do. But there is no “biblical authority” for meeting on either Sunday morning or Sunday night.
Meeting at any other time throughout the week would not be “biblical” or “scriptural” simply because we find no mandates to do such in the New Testament. Nevertheless, if those who have responded to the gospel want to meet on another day of the week, in conjunction with their meeting on Sunday, then they have the freedom to do so, though a weekday meeting would not be a matter of faith. Our faith may move us to assemble more throughout the week, but our faith is not validated by our assemblies.

As the early Christians had the freedom to respond to the gospel in their own lives—which was often determined by culture—so do we. For example, wearing of a head covering was a cultural symbol of submission. Paul even instructed the Corinthians to continue the custom (1 Co 11:4-12), as he encouraged some to whom he wrote not to marry in times of social distress (1 Co 7:26).

The examples of the early disciples cannot be established as authority for our faith today. We learn from the examples of the early disciples, but we do not establish law from the example of their behavior. If we could go back to the first century in a time machine, we could not bind all the examples of our response to the gospel today on the early disciples of the first century. Christ has set both them and us free, and thus we will not be brought into the bondage of any religious behavior of the religious world in which we now live (Gl 5:1). Our faith is determined by what we objectively read in our Bibles.

This brings us to a concept that is quite liberating in reference to our personal response to the gospel. It is critical to understand first the following statement in order to preserve our freedom that we have in Christ: We must have Bible authority in all matters of faith. We are confident that few people really understand what this statement means. It is often erroneously used in the context of binding on Christians today many things in the New Testament that God never intended to be bound, especially in reference to examples. But when understood correctly, the statement actually refers to preserving the freedom of Christians lest they lead themselves into being religionists who are far removed from God, especially in these times when ignorance of the Bible is running rampant throughout the religious world.

In the following concept, Paul laid the foundation for understanding the preceding statement: “So then faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ” (Rm 10:17). Our faith is based on what we read in our Bibles. However, if we have little knowledge of our Bibles, then it follows that we have little faith, or a faith that is not pleasing to God. Our faith, therefore, must not be based primarily on the religious heritage of our fathers of the past, or our present religious rituals and ceremonies that we have invented for ourselves in order to validate our faith. Unfortunately, in these times Sunday morning has often become a ceremony for the validation of our faith because we have performed certain religious rituals or ceremonies. Once the Sunday morning religious rituals and ceremonies are performed, we then assume the our faith is validated and we go on our way feeling renewed.

Faith to the religionists, therefore, is strengthened by adhering to Sunday morning rituals and ceremonies. We must remember that one is stuck in religion if he or she feels “unfaithful” if the performance of certain rituals and ceremonies are not adhered to regularly on Sunday morning. But at the same time, those who are walking by a faith that is based on the grace of the gospel, feel “unfaithful” if they have missed an opportunity to assemble with fellow gospel-obedient brothers and sisters in Christ. The religionist misses the performances. Those who are walking by a faith that is based on the gospel miss fellow gospel-obedient saints around the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. One can determine if he or she is involved in religion according to what he or she misses when for some unforeseen reason assembly with the saints is hindered.

This brings us closer to understanding that we must have “authority in matters of faith.” The faith that is pleasing to God must result from what we read in the word of God. The Hebrew statement could thus read, “But without faith [that is based on the word of God] it is impossible to please Him” (Hb 11:6). The religionist struggles with this matter. In the behavior of the religionist there are numerous rituals and ceremonies that are not explicitly define in the word of God. These rituals and ceremonies can be performed, but they can never become a matter of being a test of our fellowship with one another. They can never be used to validate our faith. They can never be used to grow our faith. If this were the case, then we would find ourselves caught up in the fanaticism of some cult.

An example is here in order to illustrate a very significant manner by which we behave in our response to the gospel. It is imperative to understand that “authority in matters of faith” can never endanger our freedom that we have in our continued response to the gospel. Our individual responses to the gospel will differ. We may even find some similar example of our responses in the behavior of the New Testament Christians, for they too responded to the same gospel. Our responses to the gospel may be similar to theirs, but the example of their response can never be used to validate our faith. For example, in their response to the gospel, the early Christians in Jerusalem sold their possessions and parted the proceeds to those in need (At 2:45). We have the freedom to do the same, but their example of so doing does not establish a mandate (law) that we too must sell what we have and give to those in need.

Having authority in matters of faith is not a license to twist the Scriptures to the point that we become legal religionists by which we would bind where God never intended to bind. God never intended that we should give ourselves into poverty. In the historical context of the example of the first Christians, those early Christians sold their possessions in order to aid those who had come to Jerusalem for the Passover/Pentecost feast, intending to stay only fifty days in Jerusalem before they returned home. But extenuating circumstances prevailed—the Holy Spirit came upon the apostles—and the travelers needed help to stay on at the apostles’ feet in order to learn more truth (At 2:42; see Jn 14:26; 16:13). Therefore, those local respondents to the gospel shared with those visitors from other countries who had originally intended to stay in Jerusalem for a short period of time. The selling of possessions by the local respondents to the gospel revealed the power of the gospel working in their lives.

A more simple example may be in order to make a specific application to our own situation today. Before and after assemblies, some today have customarily chosen to have an “opening” and “closing” prayer in reference to their assemblies. Christians certainly have the freedom to carry on with these prayers before and after their assemblies. However, since neither an “opening” or “closing” prayer is found in the word of God, then such can never became a matter of faith. “Opening” and “closing” prayers are only the invention of ourselves. Such prayers, therefore, have no “biblical authority.” Strictly speaking, therefore, they are “unbiblical,” or “unscriptural.” They are so because “opening” and “closing” prayers are found nowhere in the Bible.

Add to this example a host of examples that have become so entrenched in our assembly behavior that people do not feel right when there is no “closing” prayer. But not feeling right about something is subjective religiosity. “Not feeling right” about something leads us into being religionists. In other words, “feelings” become the validation for what is either right or wrong in reference to our obedience to the gospel, specifically in reference to our assemblies. This is called “subjective religion.” In other words, our behavior as a Christian is subjected to our feelings. We establish authority in our faith by what either feels good or bad.

On the other hand, having Bible authority in matters of faith is objective. It is objective because our beliefs and behavior are authorized by what is actually stated in the word of God. For example, baptism is an objective action of behavior simply because it is stated in the New Testament. One can be baptized, therefore, not as a subjective action in order to perform some religious tradition, but because of an objective reading of such in the New Testament. Baptism, therefore, is a matter of faith. We can thus establish baptism as a foundation upon which to determine fellowship, for in baptism, one is baptized into Christ (Rm 6:3-6). Those who have not responded to the gospel by being baptized into Christ, are good religious friends, but they are not brothers or sisters in Christ.

“Opening” and “closing” prayers, meeting in “church buildings,” vacation Bible schools, song books, Bible tracts and Sunday school material are not matters of faith. They are not because they are not mentioned in the New Testament. This does not mean that they are wrong to do or use, only that they are not matters of faith. Therefore, no test of fellowship can ever be made between brothers who have the freedom to use those things that are not matters of faith, that is, things that are in the realm of their freedom to use in their response to the gospel. We must understand, therefore, that when we use the phrase “Bible authority in all matters of faith,” we are respecting the freedom of others to use or do that which they have freedom to do, even though we cannot find such in the Bible. They have the right to so act even if we do not feel good about their actions. If such actions are not contrary to what the Bible clearly states, then there is freedom to act.

It is imperative, therefore, that people of faith must know their Bibles. If they do not know their Bibles, then they will become religionists, and religion is inherently divisive because the identity of each particular religion is based on the performance of certain rituals and ceremonies. For this reason, religions are essentially very emotionally based on the performance of the accepted, or traditional rituals and ceremonies. Adherents to specific religious groups, therefore, are very defensive about the identity of their particular religious group, for their faith is validated by a strict performance of the traditional rituals and ceremonies that identify one’s particular religious group. And now we understand what God meant when Hosea recorded Hosea 4:6. The Israelites became religionists after Baal because they forsook the word of God, and subsequently established their own faith that was based on their own religious inventions.

Be Not Deceived

In view of the calamity that was coming upon national Israel, Jesus knew that in the decade before the final event in A.D. 70, the news media, especially the Jewish news media, would be reporting all sorts of nonsense in reference to the affairs of the times. Knowing that the calamity was coming, accompanied with all the sensationalism of the news media, thirty years before, Jesus warned His disciples, “Take heed that you not be deceived” (Lk 21:8). We would add, “Take heed that you not be deceived by the local and international news media concerning the events of the times.”

So one morning in our own home we sat there for a moment, stunned in our chairs! We just could not believe what came out of the mouth of an international news correspondent on our television news of April 2021. This was one of those moments when one simply falls back in his chair, pleasantly surprised by the use of one simple word, realizing that not all news reporters have lost their way by reporting either twisted or fake news.

The reporter’s frank use of a biblical word to cast judgment on another news media organization was reassuring. In the surreal experience of the moment, the word that was used by this “secular” reporter floated around in our living room, trying to unravel all our prejudices that had been implanted by the liberal news media of day. In some things, we too had allowed ourselves to be deceived. Nevertheless, we thought we would never hear such things coming forth from the secular news media, especially in these times when much of the news media have long forgotten their moral bearings.

My father grew up in the wake of the William Randolph Hearst (1863 – 1951) news media corporation of the first of the last century. I can still see my dad sitting in the living room of the old farm house after a long day in the field choking on either dust or grain chaff. But in the evening he would just sit there in that old hole-ridden armchair with the weekly newspaper held up and spread across the entire width of the chair. We could only identify him to be there by two legs that protruded from under the newspaper and the Prince Albert smoke from his pipe that bellowed up over the top of the newspaper.

One time after reading a provocative article, he slowly lowered the now worn newspaper, took that charred pipe out of his mouth, and said to all of us, “Boys . . . you can’t trust half of what you read in these newspapers. And the other half . . . well . . . you must always question its truth.”

I have never forgotten those wise words. Our father was living in an era after William Randolph Hearst had bought up newspapers across early twentieth century America, and by doing so, built the largest network of newspapers in the world. By controlling the editorials and news reports of local newspapers, Hearst figured out that he could have voted into or out of political offices those candidates he either favored or disliked. He would do his political deed by running stories, or propaganda—whichever you like–that favored one candidate and slandered the opponent. Hearst had no moral values in reference to honest news reporting in a democratic society. He was morally bankrupt. He was, as most corporate news media, into the news media for the money.

So on that April morning in our living room, when we heard the use of a three-letter word by an international news reporter, the judgment of God was enacted on most of the liberal Western news media of today. And would you believe it, that reporter who made the moral pronouncement was a Russian. Yes, a Russian news reporter.

The particular story upon which the Russian called down higher powers of judgment was a story that had been leaked from an employee of a well-known cable news network in America. The “whistle blower” revealed that it was the determined purpose of the cable news network to distort all their reporting during the last four years in a manner that would bring down the sitting President of the United States. As the story unfolded, it was explained that from the very top of the news organization, to the those who gave live panel reviews and reports throughout the election cycle, the determined purpose was to slant all stories in order to make the former President look bad, and thus, unelectable.

It was as if William Randolph Hearst had been resurrected from the dead and was now running this particular media organization. As Hearst, the news organization determined that they did not like the President of the time, so they would use all their influence through their “news” organization to bring him down.

In order to accomplish their deed, specialists in politics and doctors of medicine were scheduled for interviews who would assume that the administration was making all the wrong decisions concerning the pandemic. Reporters became political agents by presenting only one side of the story. The President was presumed to be in some alliance with foreign demons. The media organization, as the Hearst organization, had no moral value system by which to conduct honest reporting and interviews, and thus most of the personalities of the media network focused on a twisted understanding of the sitting President. Lies were pronounced to be truth. Good was called evil, and evil good.

This particular news corporation under consideration simply became a political arm of the opposition party. Objectivity in news reporting was sacrificed for hidden political agendas.

We then remembered the words of our father. Therefore, this was not news to us, only the old Hearst behavior that surfaced from within those who are in the business of selling twisted sensationalism. (It is particularly interesting to note that after all the sensationalism of the past four years in America, the number of viewers of the news corporation under consideration fell by 47% after the November 2020 election.)

The particular news media organization against which our Russian reporter made the striking condemnation had lost its moral compass. This was brought out in the leaked testimony of one of the employees of the offending corporate news organization. What was revealed was that the particular news organization under consideration persisted with the claim that they were an objective “news” media network. However, we must not forget that when either politicians or religionists lose their moral compass, they will always establish a corrupted behavioral pattern of leadership that will seek to win over and maintain the votes of the populace.

When the religionists of a society forsake the authority of the Scriptures in matters of faith (see Hs 4:6), they will invent their own authority, and thus use their religious inventions as the standard by which to make judgments in reference to the behavior of others (See Mk 7:1-9). In the same manner, when political leaders and news media lose their moral integrity, they too will go in search of demons to shoot and crucify. If they find none, then they will manufacture some. And sometimes, and if possible, police states will assume that all protestors in the streets are demons, and thus must be shot. Their leaders must be nailed on crosses.

Since liberal religionists have given up the authority of the word of God, they must have some standard by which to make judgments against their opposition. Someone or something must be demonized. Through propaganda (“lies”), they will convince the multitudes to crucify any opposition candidates. The Pharisees, scribes (lawyers) and Sadducees knew well this tactic.

It is no different with the liberal left in politics. Since the liberal left has forsaken any conservative principles by which to determine judgments, and thus, recruit the voters through principles and policies, they must demonize something or someone in order to persuade the people to vote for their party. The voter, without considering principles or policies for which to vote, thus becomes a puppet to vote against the manufactured demon.

In order to demonize an opposing candidate, in today’s world, much of the news media operates as the arm of the liberal left. Sometimes, the liberal left must extend its tentacles throughout the world in order that demons be found in the leadership of other countries. International leaders are thus judged either “tyrants,” being without souls, or dishonest merchants who seek to steal away our riches.

Liberals cannot win elections in a democratic state without demons, both locally and internationally. Collective opposition to demons is the only foundation upon which liberals have to stand. They win elections, therefore, by opposing their manufactured demons. They do not win by taking a stand on a foundation of moral principles and policies. If they established a moral standard upon which to stand in an election, then they would be considered conservatives. If you have forgotten this, then you are a prime candidate for the persuasion of the liberal news media that circles as vultures for those like themselves who have also lost their moral values, and especially their integrity. They circle because they have no moral compass to direct them to a specific location.

All of us who live outside America can see the vultures circling over America. It is as one respected reporter outside America recently stated, “It is now time that we start talking about end-of-empire issues in reference to America because that society is losing, if not already lost, its moral compass.” These are things that transition over a century or two, and thus are largely not realized by the citizens who live at any particular time within a society during its decline. Bible scholars who are deep into the history of the Old Testament realize these trends.

Moral decay is slow and always without social pain. Those who notice the decline are simply shouted, if not intimidated, into silence. In fact, the silence of the old guard of a declining empire is evidence that an empire is morally in decline. When the past majority that brought an empire to its zenith eventually becomes the minority, then the new majority threatens the old to the point that the old is intimidated into silence. “Cancel culture” is the order of the day since culture always reflects the past. The culture of “cancel culture” means that all discussion is over, and the new order seeks to suppress alternative ideas. (Any historian will reveal that this is an elementary principle to identify empires in decline.)

So back to our living room when we heard that Russian reporter turn to preaching. The Russian reporter was correct in making an assessment of the last four to five years of political conspiratorial behavior that was broadcast throughout the past election cycle. Though nauseatingly regurgitated from day to day from the American media corporation that had lost its integrity in the business of honest and objective news reporting, Russia, and much of the world, have simply dismissed one particular news network in reference to news reporting. When this story broke on the international Russian news network, Russia Today–the news media that was previously judged a demon by the liberal left–the Russian reporter pronounced his judgment. His judgment was a startling denunciation of the twisted behavior of the American cable news network. He judged, “This is SIN! It is beyond propaganda.” And the Russian was absolutely correct.

When declining democratic empires lose their moral compass, such is reflected in the candidates that the citizens of the empire chose to be their leaders. When the people lose their moral integrity, they will vote into office like-minded people.

Nevertheless, we will keep a cautious eye on the next few years of America. We are waiting to see if the now silenced moral minority will once again rise to save the nation.