"Nothing more impressive than an intellectual and spiritual approach to seeking truth and a willingness to embrace it unconditionally."

Friday, May 30, 2014

"It Seemed Good to the Holy Ghost and To Us" Is Not a Blank Check!

For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; (Acts 15:28 KJV)

INTRODUCTION 
Preachers often use this verse as their authority to preach against things for which they admit they have no prohibitive verse (s). Well...they actually only use part of the verse. But I will make that point a little later. So they use this verse as their trump card to every objection that anyone raises against their personal authority. They even use it to trump biblical arguments. 

I am writing this blog post to place this verse in its biblical context. It should not be used as a blank check to preach whatever one chooses. A pastor has the liberty to make certain requirements for local church membership for which he has no explicit biblical command. However, no pastor has the authority bind, either on his local congregation or the global church, as requirement for heaven what scripture does not bind. This applied to me when I pastored in Alton, IL. And it will apply to me if I should ever pastor again in the future.

As I stated earlier, we do not have the authority to bind as requirement for heaven what scripture does not bind. Furthermore, we do not have the authority to use our opinions as a basis to judge our brothers and sisters in Christ. 

CONTEXT, CONTEXT, CONTEXT
The context of Acts 15:28 was whether or not to bind circumcision—therefore, the whole law—on Gentile converts. The Jerusalem Council decided that Gentiles should not be compelled to be circumcised. This is the context in which one should understand the statement under consideration.

IT SEEMED GOOD TO THE HOLY GHOST AND TO US: NO SCRIPTURE NECESSARY
This phrase is thrown around as though scripture did not figured into the apostles decision in Act 15. Therefore, this phrase is used to justify men binding their own opinions about contemporary issues on the entire body of Christ. This is the text many use to prove they don't need scriptural support for what they bind.  In fact, based on this verse, they can bind their own opinions on the body of Christ when the entire witness of scripture says the opposite.

So, did the apostles use this phrase because they issued a binding edict without, or contrary to, scripture? God forbid! Let's back up a few verses and see:

"And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written...Wherefore my sentence is..."  (Acts 15:15, 18 KJV).

Brothers and sisters, James and the others based their decision on written scripture. The reason  it seemed good the the Holy Ghost, the apostles and elders was because they consulted the written words of the prophets.

WHAT SEEMED GOOD TO THE HOLY GHOST AND TO US?
Notice the rest of the verse that never gets quoted:

For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things; (Acts 15:28 KJV)

What seemed good to the Holy Ghost was not:

  • To bind unnecessary rules for which one has no scripture. 
  • To bind unnecessary rules that are contrary to scripture.
  • To make ones own personal opinions the basis by which they judge those who do not comply. 
  • To make 20th and 21rst century standards (many of which may be wise) perpetual, unbreakable law by which we condemn all present and future generations. 
CONCLUSION
"To lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things" is what "seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us."

If we are going to quote this verse, quote it all. And if we are going to use this verse, use it. Don't misquote and misuse it.