What Place Do Examples Hold in Establishing Authority?

Many have objected to the CENI (command, example, and necessary inference) methodology that is used to detect requirements in Christ’s law, saying it is too legalistic. However, if there is no law, then men cannot sin. We know there is sin, so law must exist. How can we establish requirements that Christ’s levys upon Christians? Most people agree that when the Bible says, “Thou shalt not kill” (Rom 13:9), that Christians are obligated to obey that law. Sometimes disagreements arise as to the meaning of the law, for example, one Christian may believe Romans 13 forbids capital punishment or serving in the military. Another may not, and they may practice different things as a result of their understanding, but God is able to make His servant stand when a servant honestly misunderstands the application of a law (Rom 14:4). However, it is one thing to say that a servant stands or falls to his master and quite
another to say that examples are not binding. It is also quite different to say that if we are not perfectly obedient to Christ then we are doomed to hell. That is what I don’t believe, but such a belief does not argue against TRYING to be perfect, nor does it say that because differences exist
on the application of CENI that we should stop using it. We must obey the apostles, for they are the ambassadors for Christ (II Cor 5:20), and the things that they have to say are the commandments of the Lord (I Cor 14:37). You can only extract law from what they say by the process of command,
example or necessary inference.

People say they have real problems with making examples binding. Well, there can be problems applying examples if you go to extremes, but you also have to consider Paul’s COMMAND to follow his example. Here’s what he says,

The things which ye both learned and received and heard and saw in me, these things do (Php 4:9)

Brethren, join in following my example, and observe those who walk according to the pattern you have in us (Php 3:17)

Paul said what we observe him doing, we are to do. The fact that brethren will sometimes disagree with what examples to bind does nothing to negate Paul’s command that we are to follow his example. It is a legitimate discussion as to what constitutes a binding example, but there is a command
to obey examples.

Hebrews 7:14 says under some circumstances there is legitimate force in the silence of scripture. Hebrews makes the argument that Moses spake nothing concerning priests coming from Judah (Heb 7:14), but priests of Judah are prohibited by the positive command to ordain priests of the sons of Aaron (Ex 28:41). When God has specified, His silence does not authorize. God does not have to enumerate every unauthorized behavior when He has specified what He wants done. Paul demonstrates what can be done in an assembly, and commands us to follow his example. His example excludes things we cannot observe him doing. We cannot participate in just any behavior that we might imagine and expect it to be pleasing to God, because God has specified what He wants done in the assembly. The only things we observe the NT church doing in its public assemblies on a regular basis were praying, partaking of the LS, giving of their means, singing, and teaching. We are commanded to follow Paul’s example to do that. What is postively commanded for the assembly limits what may be done there. Where the NT is silent regarding some behavior in the assembly, it is prohibited by what what has been specified. Paul gave us examples of what is to be done in the assembly, and we can learn from his example. However, not everything Paul did is binding, so people differ on what is incidental and what is necessary when binding examples. There are differences of opinion regarding what examples and what aspects of examples are binding, but we must nonetheless grapple with it, for the apostles commanded it, even as they commanded, “Thou shalt not kill”.

About James Johnson

Bible student for 60 years. Preacher of the gospel for over 40 years. Author of commentary on Revelation, All Power to the Lamb. Married with children. Worked in aerospace and computer engineering for over 40 years.
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