Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 3, 1955

When Is An Example Binding? -- (III.)

Robert H. Farish, Lexington, Kentucky

This final paper in the present series on "When Is An Example Binding?" will deal with the matter of the scriptures teaching by example from a different standpoint. Our work so far has been devoted mainly to the task of establishing when the action is binding in our day. We need now to show that the action is limited to that which is taught by the approved example. It needs to be shown that when a thing is taught by approved example we dare not go beyond that teaching. Some might agree that eating the Lord's supper on the first day of the week is required by approved example, but not be able to see that eating it on Good Friday etc. is forbidden by that same approved example. That other days are excluded will be seen when we learn that the teaching of approved examples is exclusive.

Scriptural Precepts

Rules for determining when an example is binding should be based upon scriptural precepts. Care should be exercised to avoid laying down arbitrary rules based upon human reasoning. Hence, in trying to establish that the teaching of approved examples exclude other actions we appeal to scriptural precepts. First we notice a passage which has to do with the binding nature of approved examples.

All that the scriptures teach by express statement, approved example and necessary inference is binding — "to him shall ye hearken in all things whatsoever he shall speak unto you." (Acts 3:22.) This precept requires the observance of all that is, by Christ, taught through the examples of the New Testament.

But we are also by the scriptures restricted to the things taught therein. That we are so restricted is clear from the precept of "Whosoever goeth onward and abideth not in the teaching of Christ, hath not God: he that abideth in the teaching the same hath both the Father and the Son." (II John 9.) This passage limits us to the total teaching of the approved example. To go beyond the total teaching of the approved example is to venture into the "area of silence" for authority.

When the scriptures through an approved example specify the first day of the week for eating the Lord's supper, every other day is excluded. The application of the rule of exclusion to some current problems would eliminate a great deal of confusion. By approved example churches are bound to help needy sister churches. To fail to fulfill this duty is sin just as failure to eat the Lord's supper on the first day of the week is sin. It is to fail to "hearken in all things whatsoever he shall speak unto you." To this truth most will agree, but what about churches going "onward and abiding not in the teaching" by sending to churches which by no scriptural grounds can qualify as needy churches i.e. churches unable to perform their own work. Broadway's Germany work and her orphans' home for the area — Highland's Herald of Truth and other like cooperative arrangements find no authority for their existence in the examples of cooperation found in the Bible. Neither can churches justify their action of sending to these churches, by approved examples. Both actions (receiving and sending) are forbidden by the same rule (rule of exclusion) that forbids eating the Lord's supper on Friday.

Note: I do not presume to even hope (the element of expectation being absent) that all the rules for resolving the problem have been suggested in these papers. I do hope that this paper will be of value by provoking others to study the problem. To this end I solicit any thoughtful criticism and comments. I have been working intermittently for over two years on these papers. In studying the question of "When Is An Example Binding," the problem which presented the hardest knot is the "upper room" item in Acts 20. To this problem I have devoted most of my attention; consequently other examples may have been neglected.