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Enumerating Our Powers

Friday, August 24th, 2007

The Enumerated Powers Act is a bill that Congressman John Shadegg has proposed to Congress in every session since the 104th. As of yet it has not been passed into law.

Here’s the purpose of the bill in Congressman Shadegg’s own words:

The Enumerated Powers Act, H.R. 2458, requires that all bills introduced in the U.S. Congress include a statement setting forth the specific constitutional authority under which the law is being enacted. This measure will force a continual re-examination of the role of the national government, and will fundamentally alter the ever-expanding reach of the federal government.

Basically, if passed into law, the Enumerated Powers Act would require Congress to cite constitutional authority for every law passed in either the House or the Senate. Some of the bill’s proposals have been adopted, but on the whole it seems our lawmakers are not comfortable limiting themselves to the restrictions placed on them by our Founding Fathers in the Constitution.

The church has an Enumerated Powers Act of its own: “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col. 3:17). Clearly the Lord intended for his people to seek authority for all of their actions.

Certainly this is true with respect to worship. But more and more Christians are becoming comfortable with expressions of praise that are not authorized in the New Testament.

Instrumental music is one example. Singing is the only music God authorized in the New Testament (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). But some preachers are insisting that God allows the playing of musical instruments too. Where did they learn that?

The word “authority” in the Greek language denotes power. In fact, it is translated “power” in numerous places. For example, the King James Version of Matthew 10:1 says Christ gave his apostles “power against unclean spirits, to cast them out.” The word here is the same word often translated “authority” (see ESV). Would we assume from reading this that these men had power to leap off of cliffs and land unharmed? That would have been a dangerous assumption for one of the apostles to have made. Jesus did not give them power to fly. If they had tried, I’m betting they would not have been pleased with the outcome.

What powers have been granted to us by the New Testament? In other words, what can we do in the name of the Lord Jesus? We can only practice what the New Testament has expressly or implicitly authorized. Let us cite a book, chapter, and verse for everything we do.

We should not be surprised that people don’t want to seek authority for their religion. They don’t want to look for it in politics either. The best policy is still to enumerate our powers. That is the surest way to an eternal reward (Mt. 7:21-23).

Building Sand Castles

Tuesday, May 15th, 2007

One of the most memorable parts of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount was a lesson on foundations.

Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it (Mt. 7:24-27).

Jesus sums up the responses to his message into two categories. Some people hear his Word and choose to follow it; some people hear it and choose to disobey it. We must recognize that Jesus intended for these categories to be broad, since everyone’s experience is slightly different. One guy heard the truth and rejected it because it confronted preconceived ideas; another ignored it because of the hypocrisy of a messenger; another exchanged it for false religion. In the other column, some are raised in the church to obey; some come out of false teaching; others are brought to their senses by a near-death experience. There may only be two foundations–one made of sand and the other made of rock–but the structures we build on these foundations come in all varieties.

Most of us think of the foolish man as a person who simply hears God’s Word and decides to go his own way. But this is only one example. There are many possibilities.

Bobby Duncan related another type of fool.

It is significant that false teachers in the church generally consider themselves to be far wiser and much more knowledgeable than the rest of us. Like the man who builds his house on the sand feels it is foolish to waste so much time and expense laying a good foundation, so the false teacher in the church does not want to be bothered with having to lay a good foundation. He just wants to get the superstructure as large and built as quickly as possible. He scoffs at those who are concerned about a good and solid foundation; he considers himself their intellectual superior, and boasts of his own accomplishments (The Vigil, “Building on the Sand,” September 1992, p. 66).

It is not uncommon to hear criticism aimed at brethren who show concern over doctrinal matters. “They’re wasting time and energy on futile arguments while more important matters demand our attention,” they say. “The church won’t grow like this!” Do they really believe the church will experience real growth without doctrine? If so, they have never read the Parable of the Sower (Lk. 8:11). For a house to stand it must be built on a solid foundation, and God reveals this foundation in the New Testament. Neglecting the foundation is not a good church growth strategy; it is a fool’s errand. The wise man built his house on the rock of the doctrine of Christ.

Experts have revealed that the devastation Hurricane Katrina brought to New Orleans was in part due to a poorly designed levee system. The levees bordering the New Orleans metro area were not designed to withstand the winds and the waves of a storm like Hurricane Katrina. What were the architects thinking? Perhaps they thought the storm would never come.

Perhaps there are Christians who overlook important fundamentals because, in their hearts, they really don’t believe a storm is coming. But Jesus did not leave them without a warning: “And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.”