"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)

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. 

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.

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.

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. 
"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. 


  1. Thanks for your comments. All comments will be published. Even the negative ones. The purpose of my blog is to encourage dialogue.

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  3. I believe a pastor, father , mentor, etc. has scriptural authority to make wise recommendations regarding separation and saving YOURSELF from this untoward generation. I believe a more appropriate scripture to quote, in that context, would be the words of experience that the writer of Hebrews wrote.

    Hebrews 12:1-2
    1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
    2 Looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.

    I have so many older, mighty men of God in my personal life that God has used to shape me into the man I am today. I'm always mindful of the witness of their life in Christ.

    For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me. 
    1 Corinthians 4:15-16.

    Ultimately, I am what I am by the grace of God, the true I AM. His Word is my Lamp upon this narrow road. A lamp that shines it's bright light ever onward to that strait gate I'm striving to enter in at. And since Jesus is the Living Word, He is the only Author and the only Finisher of the great faith He has graciously bestowed upon my life ! I WILL stand before Him one day and hear Him say, " Well done, MY good and faithful servant. " I am His and He is mine.
    Lord bless.

  4. Excellent post. John Carroll