Book 4 of 4 - External Means by which God Invites Us into the Society of Christ and Holds Us Therein
Chapter 8 - the Power of the Church
1-9 - Church power limited by the Word of God
1. The power of the church is in individual ministers and in general or regional councils. It is spiritual power to teach doctrine, make church law, and jurisdiction in applying church law. Church power is to edify, not destroy - 2 Cor 10:8; 13:10; 1 Cor 4:1. Ministers can only build up the Church if they leave with Christ His authority to teach all - Matt 17:5. "The power of the church is therefore to be not grudgingly manifested but yet to be kept within definite limits." If we give men whatever power they feel they should have, we will soon have tyranny.
2. Men do not receive authority personally, but only to carry out the office "in the name and Word of the Lord." Moses did this - Ex 3:4. They are to teach the law - Deut 17:9-13; Mal 2:4-7. "If the priest wishes to be heard, let him show himself to be God's messenger."
3. God does not allow anyone to teach more than He has commanded." Ezek 3:17; Jer 23:28.
4. The NT apostles could not "prate whatever they please." Matt 28:19-20. "The power of the church, therefore, is not infinite but subject to the Lord's Word and, as it were, enclosed within it."
5. "God has never manifested Himself to men in any other way than through the Son." But "this Wisdom has not always manifested itself in one way." God's revelation has a single source and a cohesive unity, but the form has varied greatly from the patriarchs to the present.
6. The priests were to teach only the Word - Mal 2:7; 4:4; Deut 4:2; 5:32; 13:1. The prophets brought the Word to the people. The Word is perfect - Ps 19:7ff - and taught us to "yearn for no [other] foreign thing, since all perfection was contained in it."
7. Jesus is the final and fulfilled revelation of God - Heb 1:1-2. We shouldn't expect God to add to it in these "latter days" - 1 Jn 2:18; 1 Tim 4:1; 1 Pet 1:20; Acts 2:17; 2 Tim 3:1; 2 Pet 3:3. In Matt 17:5 God "conduct[s] us to His Son alone" for instruction. We should "hearken to His voice alone," for "after Himself He left nothing for others to say."
8. The only Word of God is the OT law and prophets and the NT apostles. Matt 28:19-20; 23:8-10; John 16:13; 14:26.
9. The apostles, like us, are to "do all things in God's Word." See 1 Pet 4:11; 2 Cor 10:4-5. Even they didn't have "dominion over [Christians'] faith" 2 Cor 1:24. Any prophecy was to be tested - 1 Cor 14:29-30. The object of faith is found in God's Word - Rom 10:17. God alone is our teacher, as He alone is true - Rom 3:4.