A key component of existential "thought" is the deconstruction of all authority based on anything in the past. The 21st century man or woman is statistically certain to reject the Bible as authority as it is from the past. Those wanting to "have it both ways" debunk all the New Testament books except the gospels. It is "assumed" that since Jesus did not "directly" make any statements about many issues widely discussed in the rest of the New Testament, the non-gospel portions of the New Testament are just so much commentary and not to be taken seriously. Many theological skeptics debunk most, if not all, of the non-gospel New Testament. In other words, these skeptics reject the authority of most of the New Testament. This is precisely why we hear such statements as noted below from wayward members of the church of Christ:
"Our times and circumstances are different than the 1st century and so we must approach matters differently."
What drives such statements?
The Acts, the Epistles and the Revelation address and teach clearly regarding all these issues but the skeptic is more interested in the "tail wagging the dog." The existentialist rejects anything "old" as pretty much useless for today's modern man. When this nonsense becomes the centerpiece of one's defining philosophy, the apostles become just so many dusty dead men from the insignificant and distant past. Paul, especially, is the target for the skeptic for it was he who penned most of the New Testament. The skeptic sees Paul as a homophobic, sexist, unreasonable, confrontational and a belligerent old man. He therefore automatically rejects the words he penned as just so much opinionated nonsense. If we were discussing Shakespeare or Homer none of this would matter. But we are not. We are discussing the very breathed out Word of God.
As in the 1st century, we in the 21st must accept the authority of the apostles completely or reject it completely. The decision will have eternal ramifications. Are the writings of the apostles, especially Paul, Scripture or not? Do the apostles have Divine authority to speak or did they not? Did Jesus Christ delegate His authority to the apostles of did He not? Is the entire New Testament authoritative or is it not?
"All authority in Heaven and on earth has been given to me." - Matthew 28.18b (ESV)
"This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him."
- Matthew 17.5b (ESV)
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom He appointed the heir of all things, through whom also He created the world. - Hebrews 1.1 - 2 (ESV)
Jesus Christ used, and is still using, His authority to delegate His Great Commission to His apostles who spoke, and are still speaking, it to every generation until the end of time. In the 18th chapter of Matthew, verse 1, the disciples came to Jesus and asked; "Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?" He first explains that the greatest is the one who becomes as a little child. Secondly He explains that it is His mission to "seek and save the lost." [vs. 11] He then goes on to illustrate that the greatest in the kingdom of heaven is he who "leaves the ninety and nine" to seek the one who has gone astray. The one who would be greatest in the kingdom of heaven is he who confronts sin privately, and if needs be, even before the church. Finally, in vs. 18 Jesus says this to His disciples:
He details this delegation of authority to the apostles even more precisely in the 20th chapter of John, verses 19 through 23. This text takes us to the most powerful delegation of apostolic authority in all the New Testament! The now resurrected God Incarnate actually breathes upon the apostles and says to them; "Receive the Holy Spirit." [vs. 22] That delegation is POWERFUL! How do we know Jesus is delegating here? He says so in vs. 21; "As the Father has sent m, even so I am sending you." What does all this entail? It entails a divine message delegated to the apostles by the Creator of the Universe! That message? The message of salvation; "If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them. If you withhold forgiveness from any, it is withheld." [vs. 23]Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. (ESV)
These same apostles not only spoke the words of salvation, they wrote them down by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit so that people of all ages can know how to obtain salvation and keep it! All the apostles spoke the words of salvation but only a few wrote them down; namely Matthew, Peter, John and Paul. Other inspired non-apostles also wrote books in the New Testament, Mark, Luke, James and Jude. One book, Hebrews, was written by a man unknown. Of all the 27 New Testament books, the largest number were written by one apostle...Paul. He penned 13, over half of the total! Not only was Paul an apostle writing with delegated apostolic authority, his apostleship was the most unusual of all the apostles as one "born out of due season." After all was it not our Lord who said that; "...the last shall be first and the first the last?" The very last apostle gave us the vast majority of the New Testament.The apostles were given authority to speak the words of salvation from Jesus Christ Himself!
To be continued...