Authority and the Scriptures

In my previous post, I talked about the proper use of tradition vs. the authority of the Scripture. In the thread on FreeRepublic which spawned that post, I pointed out that the only person with the authority to change the Sabbath, which God literally set in stone by His own finger, was God Himself, and that He did not do so in the person of Messiah Yeshua. I got an interesting objection:


Recognizing as we both do there was a change in some form from old covenant to new covenant, yes, Jesus gave that authority to His apostles. “And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Matt. 16:19).

Not quite. Nevermind for a moment the fact that none of the Apostles made a pronouncement saying that there had been a change in the Sabbath—indeed, if you follow the thread, you see that after over a dozen challenges, the person in question has yet to provide a single verse of Scripture to support his view—even if they had, they wouldn’t have had the authority to do so.

“Binding and loosing” is a rabbinical term; it means to “forbid and permit”; that is, the right to make hallakah, rulings on how to apply the Torah (and by extension, the NT teachings) to people’s lives. There’s an interesting article in The Jewish Encyclopedia which actually discusses NT and post-NT use of the power as well as the rabbinical origins of the term.

However, the power of “binding and loosing” had it limits. No rabbi would claim that because of their authority they could undo any of the Torah’s commands. Neither did any of the Apostles make such a claim–all through their epistles and the book of Acts, we see them expounding on the then-existant Scriptures; not once do we see them saying that they were put aside. Indeed, as I’ve pointed out before, Sha’ul took a voluntary Nazrite oath to demonstrate that he still kept the Torah and taught others to do the same.

What they did do was “loose” Gentiles from being forced to undergo circumcision and become fully Jewish (i.e. obeying not only all the commandments of the written Torah, but those of the Oral Torah, which I discussed in my previous entry, as well) in order to be saved and admitted into the Assembly of believers as full members. That’s all.

Even prophesying and making pronouncements by the Spirit of God, the Apostles didn’t have the authority to change the Torah. Read Dt. 13:1-5:

If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods’ -which you have not known-‘and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the LORD your God is testing you to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

You shall walk after the LORD your God and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice, and you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has spoken in order to turn you away from the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of bondage, to entice you from the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk. So you shall put away the evil from your midst.

No prophet or miracle-worker who tried “to entice you from the way in which the LORD your God commanded you to walk”–i.e., to tell Israel not to keep the commands that God gave them in the Torah, was by definition from God. All of the prophets were inspired by the same Spirit that inhabited the Apostles (2 Pt. 1:21), yet God very carefully limited their authority: They were to prophesy under the authority of the Torah (Dt. 18:15ff), not apart from or in contradiction to it.

Likewise the Apostles could not prophesy against the Word of God by the Spirit of God. They do not have the authority to teach people to apostasize from Moses–indeed, Sha’ul rejected the charge (Ac. 21:20ff). What they did have was the authority to “bind and loose,” to rightly interpret the application of the Torah and make traditions and laws within that framework, and that is what they did.

If our congress, fallen and corrupt as it is, must pay at least lip-service to making all laws Constitutional, how much more then would the Apostles, the Emissaries of God, filled with the Spirit of God, have made all their legislation carefully within the framework of their “Constitution,” the Torah that God had given by His own hand and own lips and of which He said, “till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the Torah till all is fulfilled”?

And again, did any of them expressly make the claim that they were above the Torah, that they and other Jews in the Messiah weren’t supposed to follow it anymore? Again, look to Acts 21 for your answer.

So then, the only person who has the authority to put an end to any of the Torah is God Himself. Did He expressly do so in the person of Messiah Yeshua?

No, just the opposite (Mt. 5:17-19). To separate the Messiah’s teachings from the Torah is practical Marcionism: It puts a divide between the Word of God, the Written Torah, and the Word of God, the Messiah, the Living Torah.

Shalom!

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