Simplifying the Authority of Examples
Here is the foundational principle: love God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind (see Mark 12:30)
Some may try to pit careful adherence to obedience over against loving God. Arguing as if the Old Covenant was about strict obedience while loving God with all the heart is what living for Jesus is all about; some might fail to connect the fact that such strict obedience under the Old Covenant was closely tied to their need to loved God.
Never has there been a time when God did not want or expect His people to love him with all their hearts. Never has God accepted cold, rote ritual in lieu of loving him. God has always wanted people to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with him (Micah 6:8), and never has any of this contradicted the need to be careful in diligently obeying him. Christ did not come to free us from patterns of obedience. He came to free us from the patterns of sin. He didn’t change the context or the concepts inherently involved in loving God with all the heart. He strengthened them.
When we look into the New Covenant Scriptures and find God’s people doing what pleases him, should we not want to follow their examples?
If we ask, “But is that example binding?” are we really asking the right question? Such is like asking, “Do I have to?” Wouldn’t those who love God with all their heart rather want to follow an example that God saw fit to show us? Shall we not ask why this is here?
Think about it. By God’s grace we have an example of something given that He likes. The Scriptures aren’t all that large, considering what all might have been included. So when an example is given that shows God’s approval, wouldn’t his people who love him with all their heart want to take special notice of this example? If we are able, and if our circumstances are comparable, wouldn’t we want to follow the example that God, in his grace found important enough to include in his message? Following such examples is part of loving Him.
Further, what example of God’s people acting in a way that pleases him is something that we would not want to follow? Is there a specific case of his disciples acting with his approval that we would look at today and say, “No, we don’t want to do that?” If we are able, why would we look at something that pleases Him, argue it not necessary, and then ignore it? What kind of an attitude is this? It is one that demonstrates a total commitment and love for God? But aren’t there details in some examples that really are not necessary? Of course there are. Not every detail is as significant as another might be. We need common sense, in keeping matters in context and recognizing the difference between incidentals of telling what happened and core issues that led to the disciples acting as they did in the first place. Are we capable of drawing reasonable conclusions about these? God gave us minds to use. Let’s use them.
The point is that God chose to include examples of His people acting for a reason. Those who love him would, I would think, look at those examples and, as much as within their abilities, and where the circumstances compare, follow them. “Do I have to?” (i.e., “Is it binding?) Why are we asking that question unless we want some way around following what we see? When God has, in his wisdom, provided a look into the actions that he likes, those who love him would want to do the same. Why would we even debate that? That’s a foundational starting point.