Those who promote this theory do not seek to convince historians. They merely seek to convince their core supporters.
Binding and loosing
In Matthew 16:18 Jesus talked about the permanence of the church (the spiritual organism). In verse 19 He talked about binding and loosing.
Here are two ways that people apply the concept of binding and loosing.
- Some claim that saints are obligated to follow the interpretations and proclamations of church leaders. They claim that, if a leader officially says something, saints are required to follow it.
In other words, religious leaders are never wrong, or God expects people to follow leaders even when they are wrong.
- Others claim that God is obligated to bind or loose doctrine based on the leaders' interpretations and proclamations. They claim that, if a leader officially says something, God is required to enforce it.
In other words, God is subservient to them.
In reality, church groups should seek to explain what God has already bound or loosed in heaven.
Inspired by God?
Let me share only a few of the decisions modern religious leaders have made under supposed authority from Matthew 16:18-19.
Years ago church leaders instructed divorced people to leave their spouses and children to return to their first spouses. If people did not comply, the leaders disfellowshipped them.
Church leaders prohibited members of the congregation to seek medical treatment when ill, although the leaders did allow members to visit dentists.
Church leaders later allowed members of the congregation to seek medical treatment when ill.
Church leaders prohibited people in the United States from voting.
Church leaders later allowed people in the United States to vote for issues that involved them.
Church leaders prohibited women from wearing cosmetic products.
Church leaders allowed women to wear cosmetic products.
Church leaders once again prohibited women from wearing cosmetic products.
Church leaders once again allowed women to wear cosmetic products.
Now, I ask you: Do many of you out there believe God inspired these decisions and that church leaders had the authority to bind them on people?
Blessings, liberty and unity
In Acts 15 the apostles addressed a doctrinal matter about whether physical circumcision was required for salvation. They announced that this practice was not necessary.
Dozens of church rulers today claim authority to legislate doctrines and policies based on the supposed precedent of Acts 15.
Acts 15 is about God giving blessings to gentiles in general (Galatians 3:14), liberty for saints (Galatians 5:1) and unity among the Body of Christ (Ephesians 2:19-22).
Misapplications of Acts 15 are often about men using policies and procedures to divide saints and control their perceived portion of the flock.
Same as Acts 15?
Let's look at a few of the administrative decisions made by modern religious leaders.
Church leaders decided that Petra was a "place of safety" that would provide a home for the brethren shortly before the return of Jesus Christ.
Church leaders decided that church members would go to Petra in 1972 and Jesus would return in 1975.
Church leaders later decided that church members would go to Petra in 1979 and Jesus would return in 1982. (They added seven years to their previous calculations because of Nebuchadnezzar's seven years of insanity.)
Church leaders decided to exempt their employees from saving a second and third tithe while continuing to espouse the necessity of second and third tithe to the congregations.
Church leaders decided to use third-tithe funds for the full-time ministry. Some of those funds were used to refurbish ministerial homes.
Church leaders prohibited students at their church colleges to date young people who did not attend those campuses.
Church leaders presently discipline people who attend a Feast site of (what many historians would call) a sister church. People who visit a sister church are prohibited from leading songs or giving sermonettes in their own congregation.
Church leaders presently forbid teenagers from sister churches to play basketball in their youth tournaments. This policy is oftentimes designed to punish families that have left their group.
Church leaders presently forbid people from speaking in a sister church. Can you imagine Jesus Christ forbidding His disciples from speaking in a sister church? Can you imagine Jesus forbidding His disciples from speaking anywhere?
Now, I ask you: Do many of you out there believe that these man-made policies are on the same level as salvation being offered to the gentiles?
Following is a simple test with seven questions. Each question has two options. Choose the answer that most accurately reflects the truth about the circumstances surrounding Acts 15.
Question No. 1: What happened in Acts 15?
a. The apostles decided truth for God.
b. The apostles confirmed the eyewitness reports of what God was doing (Acts 10:44-48).
Question No. 2: Why did some saints before Acts 15 believe that circumcision was required for salvation? (Acts 15:1).
a. They followed Baal.
b. They believed Genesis 17:1-14 and Exodus 12:43-50.
Question No. 3: Had God given any indication that He might adjust His administration of circumcision?
a. No. Either the apostles decided for God, or God made a rash and spontaneous decision.
b. Yes. Deuteronomy 10:16, Deuteronomy 30:6 and Jeremiah 4:4 all mention circumcision of the heart. Of course we have the advantage of hindsight.
Question No. 4: When did the decision about not requiring circumcision for salvation become apparent to the apostles?
a. The decision became apparent to the apostles when they made the decision for God.
b. The decision became apparent to Peter when he saw the effects of God pouring out His Spirit on the gentiles (Acts 10:44-48). The decision became apparent to the other apostles when they heard the eyewitness reports from Peter, Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:6-29).
Question No. 5: When should the eyewitnesses have accepted God's will?
a. They should have ignored what they saw God doing and waited until authorized leaders told them what to believe.
b. They should have believed what they saw God doing.
Question No. 6: What should the eyewitnesses have done if the group of men announced a different decision about circumcision?
a. Believe the interpretation and proclamation of the apostles, even when it is wrong.
b. Believe God.
Question No. 7: What would God have done if the apostles had announced a different decision about circumcision?
a. God would have changed His mind about the gentiles receiving the Holy Spirit and would have revoked His Spirit from the gentiles.
b. God would have continued according to His will, even if people did not recognize it or accept it.
Sometimes people ask me: Can you explain to me why I foolishly followed man-made decisions?
First, I tell them about two theories that influence many people.
Theory No. 1: The official interpretations and proclamations of religious leaders are never wrong.
Theory No. 2: The official interpretations and proclamations of religious leaders are oftentimes wrong, but God expects you to follow them anyway. (In other words, this theory teaches the obligation of saints to follow men into error instead of following God.)
Next I remind them that many people believed one of the two theories for years.
Finally I tell them about a third theory. This theory has always existed, but many people were not aware of it. Now people are seeing it.
Theory No. 3: The official interpretations and proclamations of religious leaders are oftentimes wrong, and therefore God expects you to follow Him.