Date: Sat, 01 Nov 1997 08:03:55
From: David Riggs (email@example.com)
Subject: First Affirmative by David J. Riggs
1]I will be examining in this written debate the New Testament Scriptures which reveal that the inspired writings alone are the standard of authority in Religion today. In other words, I will be presenting the passages which teach that the Scriptures alone are the authority. No doubt, my opponent will ask, "Where does the Bible say: ‘the Scriptures alone are the authority'?" Those who ask that question (and others like it) know, as well as I, that there is no such verse. Even though there is no verse which says those exact words, the Scriptures very strongly claim for themselves that they alone are the authority, and I will be presenting the passages which so teach. It is my opponent's responsibility to endeavor to show by the New Testament Scriptures that the inspired writings do not claim that they alone are the standard of authority in Religion today.
2]God speaks to us today through His Son, Jesus Christ (Heb. 1:1-2). Christ spoke the words and commandments given to Him from the Father (John 12:49-50). We are to hear Jesus, not Moses or Elijah (Mark 9:2-8). Christ is the mediator of the New Testament (Heb. 9:15-17). Christ is that great prophet who was to come (Deut. 18:15,19; Acts 3:22-23). The name of Jesus is the only name by which we can be saved (Acts 4:12). We cannot reject His word and be guiltless (John 12:48). God, therefore, makes known His will to us today through His Son who gave us His New Testament.
3]Jesus Christ did not choose to write His New Testament (His commandments) for us, but selected others to do that for Him. Jesus gave the same words and commandments that He received from the Father to His twelve apostles (John 17:6-7; 17-20). He promised them the Holy Spirit who would remind them of all He had said, and would guide them into all truth. He said, "These things I have spoken to you while being present with you. But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you." (John 14:25-26; see also 14:16-17). Furthermore, Jesus said, "But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning." (John 15:26-27; see also 16:13-14). From the foregoing passages, we learn two important facts: (1) The promise of the Holy Spirit was to the apostles only. They were the ones to whom Jesus was speaking; they were the ones who had been with Him from the beginning. (2) The Holy Spirit would be in them and would enable them to teach all the truth concerning the will of God. Also, we learn from the foregoing passages, as well as from all others in the New Testament, that the promise of the Holy Spirit was never made to the church.
4]The apostles were to wait in Jerusalem to receive the Holy Spirit as was promised. "Behold, I send the Promise of My Father upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem until you are endued with power from on high." (Luke 24:49). "And being assembled together with them, He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father, ‘which,' He said, ‘you have heard from Me; for John truly baptized with water, but you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.'" (Acts 1:4-5). "But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you..." (Acts 1:8). All of this was in fulfillment of the Old Testament prophecies which said, "For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem." (Isa. 2:3; Micah 4:2).
5]The apostles received the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost as recorded in Acts 2:1-4. "They were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance." (Verse 4). Thus, they began to proclaim by inspiration the will or law of God as Jesus had declared in the words, "whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven." (Matt. 18:18). What Jesus said to Peter concerning binding and loosing (Matt. 16:19), He also said to all the apostles (Matt. 18:18). The meaning is not that the binding and loosing would come from their own devising--God alone is the lawgiver (James 4:12) and His word is forever firmly fixed in the heavens (Psalm 119:89)--but with the Holy Spirit guiding them they would proclaim the things God wanted bound and loosed. For example, they declared what God bound for forgiveness of sins (Acts 2:38), and what God loosed--"For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death." (Rom. 8:2). This principle is also expressed in Matt. 10:20 which says, "...For it is not you who are speaking, but the Spirit of your Father who speaks through you."
6]Up to the point as recorded in Acts 2, only the twelve had obtained the ability to speak by the inspiration of God. Verse 14 of Acts 2 shows that Peter, standing with the eleven, declared that the gift which they had received was in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. Verse 43 says, "Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles." Consequently, the apostles up to this point were the only ones who had received the baptism of the Holy Spirit. God worked with them by giving them the power to work miracles. Mark 16:20 says, "And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs." (See also Heb. 2:3-4).
7]As we read a little farther in the book of Acts, we see how New Testament prophets were made. The first account of someone besides an apostle working a miracle is that of Stephen. "And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people." (Acts 6:8). Stephen, as well as Philip, was of the seven on whom the apostles had laid their hands. "These they set before the apostles, and after they had prayed, they laid their hands upon them." (Acts 6:6). As we read still farther, we see that Philip is the next person who was able to work miracles. "Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria and preached Christ to them. And the multitudes with one accord heeded the things spoken by Philip, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did." (Acts 8:5-6).
8]Although Philip was a New Testament prophet and could work miracles, he was unable to give the Holy Spirit to others. Only the apostles were empowered with that ability. Acts 8:14-19 says, "Now when the apostles who were at Jerusalem heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to them, who, when they had come down, prayed for them that they might receive the Holy Spirit. For as yet He had fallen upon none of them. They had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit. And when Simon saw that through the laying on of the apostles' hands the Holy Spirit was given, he offered them money, saying, ‘Give me this power also, that anyone on whom I lay hands may receive the Holy Spirit.'"
9]Please notice that the Holy Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles' hands. This is the only way New Testament prophets were made, and the prophets themselves were unable to give the Spirit to others. Philip could not give the Holy Spirit to the people of Samaria. Some apostles, Peter and John, had to be sent from Jerusalem before that could be done. When an apostle laid his hands on someone, he received miraculous powers. Acts 19:6 says, "And when Paul had laid hands on them, the Holy Spirit came upon them, and they spoke with tongues and prophesied." Cornelius and his household received the "like gift" as the apostles for the specific purpose of showing God's acceptance of the Gentiles into the New Covenant (Acts 11:14-18). Jesus appeared to Paul to make him an apostle (Acts 26:16). The authority of Paul, the one who gave us most of the New Testament, is well established in the Scriptures. (See Gal. 1:11-12; Eph. 3:1-8).
10]The possession of the Spirit is the factor that determined the authority of the apostles and prophets. They had the authority to deliver God's law because God was speaking through them. On that basis only were they enabled to unerringly deliver God's message to mankind. Furthermore, the apostles and those on whom they laid their hands could speak with tongues, prophesy, and work miracles. They worked miracles to demonstrate their authority, to show that they were indeed inspired of God. In defense of his own authority, Paul said, "Truly the signs of an apostle were accomplished among you with all perseverance, in signs and wonders and mighty deeds." (2 Cor. 12:12). No one can work miracles today as they did; no one is inspired of the Holy Spirit today as they were; thus, no one has the same authority today.
11]Thus, the authority of the apostles and prophets is well established by many passages in the New Testament. Their authority is indeed from the Lord Jesus Christ. One commits a grave error when he takes the passages which referred to the apostles and prophets and applies them to the church. The church was never promised the Holy Spirit. The church was not given authority in revealing or changing the laws of God. The church was simply the body of the saved and not a legislative body. When people heard, believed and obeyed the Word of God given by the inspired teachers, the Lord added them to His church or body (Acts 2:41,47). Jesus Himself is Head and Savior of His body (Eph. 1:21-22; 5:23). The responsibility of the church today is not to make or change laws, but to follow the laws which have been revealed by the Lord's holy apostles and prophets.
12]There was a time when all of the word of God was given orally--by word of mouth of the inspired apostles and prophets. Christians during that period were guided solely by the inspired teachers who were present with them. Paul said, "And indeed, now I know that you all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, will see my face no more. Therefore I testify to you this day that I am innocent of the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God." (Acts 20:25-27). The word of God given orally by the apostles and prophets of Christ was the guide and standard of authority in that early period. If an individual wished to be pleasing to God, he had to receive the word of the inspired men as coming from God Himself (1 Thess. 2:13).
13]There was a period when the word of God was given both orally and written. The apostles and prophets began delivering God's will both by preaching and writing. Paul said to the Thessalonians, "So then, brethren, stand firm, and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter." (2 Thess. 2:15; See also 2 Pet. 3:1-2). Thus, there was a time when people were guided either by having inspired men in their presence or by epistles written by inspired men. Both of these had equal authority because both were the product of the Holy Spirit. 2 Thess. 2:15 will become a very important key verse in this debate. Dear reader, I plead with you to examine it very carefully for yourself. The verse is certainly not teaching that oral traditions independent of the Scriptures are to be an authority in Religion today along with the Scriptures. Please notice: (1) The verse was addressed to the Thessalonian brethren. (2) The Thessalonians were not to hold just any traditions, but "the traditions which you were taught by us." (See also 2 Thess. 3:6). The authority was in the inspired apostles and prophets and the traditions taught by them whether verbally or written were to be held. (3) The expression, "which you were taught" is in past tense. They were to hold to the traditions which they had already received. The verse is certainly not teaching that mankind would continue to be guided by "oral traditions" which would be handed down through the ages by word of mouth.
14]If we are to continue to receive the so-called "oral apostolic traditions" (traditions independent of the Scriptures received orally) as some claim, from where and how are we to receive them? No doubt, my opponent will claim that the Catholic Church was given the authority from Christ to deliver the "oral apostolic traditions" to us. If so, we plead with him to please give us the Scriptures which so teach. Also, we plead with him to give the Scriptures which instruct us on how we are to receive those oral traditions. Are we to search the mountain of volumes of the so-called church fathers? Are we to search the mountain of writings derived from the proceeding of the Councils and the decrees of the Popes? Furthermore, we ask him to please give us a list of those oral apostolic traditions independent of the Scriptures which constitute the laws of the Lord. In other words, if there are such traditions which obligate us before God, please tell us what they are. Many of the so-called "oral apostolic traditions" are nothing more than human traditions because they are condemned by the Scriptures. I emphasize, again, that a continual handing down of "oral apostolic traditions" is not authorized in the Scriptures. We are not told: (1) that we are to receive them, (2) from whom we are to receive them, nor (3) how we are to receive them.
15]When the apostles and prophets passed from the earth, their inspired writings became the only means by which we receive God's word. The apostle Paul said, "...How that by revelation He made known to me the mystery (as I have briefly written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ), which in other ages was not made known to the sons of men, as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to His holy apostles and prophets." (Eph. 3:2-5). Thus, since Paul and the other inspired men are no longer with us, their writings become the only authority by which we receive their revelation. Furthermore, Paul said, "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." (1 Cor. 14:37). There is no passage anywhere in the Scriptures which states that "oral apostolic traditions," "teachings of the Pope," or "legislations of the church" are the laws of the Lord. Thus, the Scriptures claim for themselves that they alone are the standard of authority in religion. When 3,000 souls obeyed the gospel on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:41) and the Lord added them to the church (Acts 2:47), that group (the church) was not thereby ordained an infallible, legislative body, to reveal God's Word to man. If so, where are the Scriptures which teach it? The church was "the pillar and ground of the truth" (1 Tim. 3:15) in the sense of upholding, defending, and proclaiming the truth (1 Thess. 1:5-9; Phil. 1:7). The authority to reveal, change, or legislate for God was never in the church. The authority was in the inspired men who revealed God's will by first speaking to the people and then by writing the Scriptures.
16]John the apostle said, "These are written that you may believe..." (John 20:31), "And these things we write to you that your joy may be full." (1 John 1:4), "...These things I write to you, so that you may not sin..." (1 John 2:1), "These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life..." (1 John 5:13). Again, not one time did John, or any inspired writer, declare that the ex-cathedra pronouncements of the Pope, legislations of the church, etc., are given that you may believe, might not sin, or may know that you have eternal life. The Scriptures do not mention or allow other standards of authority.
17]The Holy Scriptures completely furnish us unto every good work. 2 Tim. 3:15-17 says, "And that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work." This is another passage which forcefully teaches that the Scriptures alone are the standard. Some try to dodge the force of this passage by saying that Paul was referring to Old Testament Scriptures rather than New Testament ones. Certainly Timothy knew the Old Testament Scriptures from childhood, but he now had Paul's inspired writings as well. The apostle Peter referred to Paul's writings as Scripture. (2 Pet. 3:15-16). Paul is plainly revealing to us God's purpose for all inspired writings. The verses vividly teach that the Scriptures thoroughly equip us for every good work and, thus, no other standard is needed or allowed. Any so-called good works that men might do which are not in the Scriptures, cannot be good works in God's sight because the Scriptures contain "every good work."
18]All teachers are to be tested by the Scriptures. 1 Cor. 4:6 says, "Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that in us you might learn not to exceed what is written, in order that no one of you might become arrogant in behalf of one against the other." Even when Paul emphasized that his writings were the laws of the Lord (1 Cor. 14:37), it was in opposition to what men might claim as laws. The Scriptures, therefore, are the only authority. Any practice not found in them is of human origin and is, therefore, false.
19]The Scriptures are the standard by which we will be judged in the last day. Rev. 20:12 says, "...And the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds." (See also Rom. 2:16; James 2:12; John 12:48). We will not be judged by "oral apostolic traditions," "legislations of the church," etc.; thus, again, showing that the Scriptures are the only standard. Let us all have profound respect for the holy Scriptures, and never speak against or discredit their authority, because the very standard we might seek to discredit, is the one by which we will be judged in the last day. The Holy Scriptures claim for themselves that they alone are the standard of authority in Religion today. They do not authorize other standards of authority.
First Affirmative by David J. Riggs: Nov.1,1997.
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Last modified: November 1st, 1997.