There are two basic attitudes toward Bible authority. One attitude says that the New Testament was intended as a divine pattern or rule book for the church and that we must have Bible authority for everything we do in religion.The other says that the Scriptures are more of a general guide for us today and that we can use our own judgment in following or not following certain specific teachings based upon our own needs and circumstances.
We have to search the scripture to see what it says about what to do when God says nothing at all. The best place I know to turn is Hebrews 7:11-14. “Therefore, if perfection were through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need was there that another priest should rise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be called after the order of Aaron? For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law. For He of whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no man has officiated at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord arose from Judah, of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood.”
When God commanded Moses to build him a tabernacle (tent) in the wilderness, God specifically gave Moses a divine pattern right down to the very detail (Ex 25:9). Yet, God spoke nothing of the flooring of the tabernacle. Thus, the flooring was the dust from which man proceeded (Nu 5:17). Thus the principle applied: When God says nothing, man should do nothing.
The Principle Stated
First, we want to look at what God said. Concerning the priesthood, God said that the priests were to come from the tribe of Levi (v. 11). God named Aaron, a Levite, to be the first high priest (Exo. 4:14; 28:1-3). He and his sons after him were appointed to this office (Exo. 40:12-15). The tribe of Levi was appointed over the tabernacle (Num. 1:47-54). This tribe was to minister to Aaron instead of the firstborn from the other ten tribes (Num. 3:6-13). Aaron’s brethren of the tribe of Levi were to be joined with him in keeping charge of the sanctuary (Num. 18:1-7). The Levites were separated from the other tribes to stand before the Lord (Deut. 10:8-9). They were specifically chosen by God to come near him (Deut. 21:5). God gave them authority to bring incense before him and offer burnt sacrifice to him (Deut. 33:8-10). Thus, any of the descendants of Aaron would be qualified to serve as priests.
God did not say, “Thou shalt not have priests of the tribes of Reuben, Benjamin, Ephraim, Judah, etc.” But neither did he say that such was permitted. He was silent on the matter. Did his silence authorize or prohibit? It certainly did not permit Dathan, Abiram, and On, descendants of Reuben, to bring incense before the Lord (Num. 16:1-35). King Saul, of Benjamin, was rejected because he offered a burnt sacrifice (1 Sam. 9:1-2; 13:8-10). One of the sins of Jeroboam, king of Israel and member of the tribe of Ephraim, was to make priests of people who were not the sons of Levi (1 Kings 12:25-31). Even in Judah, when king Uzziah tried to burn incense in the temple, he was struck with leprosy to show God’s displeasure. Why? Because he was not of the tribe of Levi.
As we turn to the New Testament, the same principle holds true. Even God’s own Son, Jesus Christ, could not be a priest upon the earth. “Now this is the main point of the things we are saying: We have such a High Priest, who is seated at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens. . . . For if He were on earth, He would not be a priest, since there are priests who offer the gifts according to the law” (Heb. 8:1-4). Why? Again, it was because he was of the tribe of Judah, “Of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood.” God did not have to say, “Thou shalt not. . . ” and then name every other tribe of the children of Israel. When he specified one tribe, Levi, he automatically forbade all others.
The Principle Repeated
From a positive standpoint, all we do is to be done in the name of Christ Jesus. “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). To act “in the name of” someone means to act by his authority. An ambassador who goes to another country “in the name of” the President of the United States is authorized only to do those things which the President actually instructs him to do. Also, we are to speak only as the oracle of God. “If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. ..” (1 Pet. 4:11). This verse is the basis for the saying, “Where the Bible speaks, we speak; and where the Bible is silent, we are silent.” Only in this way can God truly be glorified.
From a negative standpoint, the Bible tell us not to go beyond the things that are written. “Now these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes; that in us you might learn not to go beyond the things which are written; that no one of you be puffed up for the one against the other” (1 Cor. 4:6). Also, we are told that the one who transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. “Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son” (2 Jn. 9).
The Principle Applied
Let us look at some examples of the application of this principle. First, we shall notice how it applies to specific authority . What God Said: Eat the Lord’s Supper (Matt. 26:26-29), this specified Bread and Fruit of the Vine. He was silent on any other kind of food or drink. When God Said: Baptism (Acts 2:38), this specified immersion. He was silent on sprinkling or pouring. When God Said: Music (Eph 5:19), this specified singing. He was silent on instrumental music.
The apostle Paul made it abundantly clear when writing to the church of Galatia. He said, “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed (Gal 1:6-9). The gospel cannot be changed or altered in any way, shape, or form, nor can the doctrine of Christ and his apostles (2 Jn 9). God has a divine pattern for man and only by that pattern can man be saved. If we add to it or take from it, we cannot be saved. Only when we do the will of God are we saved (Matt 7:21). All who reject the will of God shall be condemned (2 Thess 1:7-9).