Two Types Of Bible Authority
Those who desire to please God will demand Bible authority for everything they do in life. Colossians 3:17 says, “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.” To do something “in the name of the Lord Jesus” requires Bible authority. Specifically, since we live under the New Testament today (see Colossians 2:14), New Testament authority is required.
A direct command or statement in the New Testament authorizes a thing. An approved example in the New Testament authorizes a thing. And, a forced conclusion (necessary inference) in the New Testament authorizes a thing. But, even when authority for a thing is established, you must carefully evaluate whether it is generic or specific authority. Take a few moments to consider each one.
(1) Generic authority. Generic authority is authority for a thing without specifying how it is to be accomplished. For example, a parent might instruct a child to “Go to the grocery store and buy something for dinner.” Authority is established to go to the store and buy something for dinner. However, the authority is generic because how to go or what to buy was not specified. Thus, the child could decide to go to the store by walking, riding his bicycle, or by some other means. He could choose to buy chicken, ham, bacon, eggs, or something else for dinner. This would all be acceptable because generic authority was given.
A New Testament example of this principle is found in Mark 16:15: “And He said to them, ‘Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.’” Authority is given (established by direct command) to go and preach the Gospel. However, the authority is generic because how to go or the exact location to go to is not specified. We could choose to go to Middlebourne, WV or Rome, Italy. We could choose to go by foot or by plane. God has not specified how to accomplish the instruction.
(2) Specific authority. Specific authority is authority for a thing that is specific in how it is to be accomplished. For example, that same parent might instruct the child to “Walk to the store and buy hot dogs and macaroni and cheese for dinner.” Authority is given to go to the store and buy something for dinner once again. However, this time, the authority is specific because how to go and what to buy were specified. Thus, it would be a violation of the command for the child to ride his bicycle to the store and buy pizza for dinner!
A New Testament example of specific authority is found in Ephesians 5:19 (and all other New Testament passages on the subject): “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord,” The specific action that is authorized is singing. The action is to be accomplished in the heart (not on a piano or guitar). The songs that are to be sung are specified as psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (not popular culture songs). Thus, it would be a violation of the command to introduce a mechanical instrument of music into the assemblies of the church or to sing popular culture songs! God has given specific instructions on the matter that are to be followed (not changed)!
Since God authorizes in general and specific ways, you must carefully examine each thing you are involved in – not only evaluating whether you have authority for it, but also considering what type of authority you have been given. This is all necessary in order to do all things in word and deed in the name of the Lord Jesus. This is the only way you can know that what you do and say pleases God.