Index by Subject

Love Authority

In matters secular, political, social, and religious, we understand that authority is expressed through direct commands, existing examples and necessary inferences. Commands can be positive or negative; examples can be approved or disapproved; inferences are only authoritative when necessary, not as additions or amendments. Some, however, by appealing to emotion and opinion rather than Scripture and reason, desire to add another track of authority–love. What cannot be authorized any other way through the word of God is justified should we desire it if we can argue that it is motivated by love. This represents a fundamental misunderstanding, and even vilification, of the word of God. It is not necessary to designate love as a fourth track of Bible authority, for love is the objective of every command, every example and every implication.

Motivation Matters

In making our arguments about authority and love, we do not want to risk going to an opposite, but equally sinful, extreme–that neither motivation nor love matter to God so long as one goes through the right pious motions.

In Malachi’s day, for instance, the prophet scolded the people who went through worship motions, but with an attitude of contempt toward them, and God was neither placated nor praised (see Malachi 1:1-14). In the New Testament, we find that motivation is precisely as important as method and means when it comes to serving the Lord (see 1 Corinthians 13:1-8).

Jesus predicted that some otherwise religious people would find themselves on the outside looking in at Judgment Day, arguing that their good works should suffice for their salvation, but he would deny them access to heaven because their other deeds were evil–their motivation was not sincere love of truth, but the hope of earning enough leeway to indulge a little on the side–and God was not mocked by that either (Matthew 7:21-27).

The word “love” is used all the time these days to refer to everything from one’s mate to his new golf club and thus it begins to have multiple meanings and degrees of intensity. For some, anything that can be described with love is justifiable, even if it contradicts the will of God; there is an unspoken assumption that God’s word has become flawed or did not anticipate the complexity of our circumstances and thus we are practically required to alter his ethics and adopt our own.

God is love and our duty to behave godly depends greatly upon our treatment of others (1 John 4:7-11, 16-21). The emotional and subjective argument is therefore constructed around an extreme misinterpretation of these words–anything that can be attached to love is justifiable, even without a positive command, approved example or divine implication. It is almost as if the one making this argument is saying that Scripture is not sufficient to anticipate and resolve the issues that arise among men–it is a liberal argument in its purest that when God’s word won’t sanction our intentions, it is because the word failed, not that our intentions are somehow misguided.

Love Is The Fulfillment of Law

It becomes clear that authority is communicated everywhere by means of commands, examples and implications (First John 2:3-6).

When, after years of taking her, a mother instructs her teenage daughter to go by herself to the store ten miles away to purchase bread and milk, she has expressed parental authority by the command to go, the cumulative approved example of years of doing the same thing, and the implication that she may drive the family car because the store is too far away to walk. If, while at the store, Daughter writes a check and buys not only the milk and bread, but also a $3,000 plasma television for Mother out of love, she has violated her authority in spite of her pleasant intentions, and she will learn a new lesson on how long the returns line at Wal-Mart is these days.

Bible authority is not some unique animal that uses different rules, no rules at all, or rules made up by “Campbellite preachers.” Noah learned to build his boat because he was commanded to build, had examples of how to do the work and inferred the necessary use of tools. The early church learned to observe the Lord’s Supper through Christ’s command, the apostle’s example, and the divine implication that every first day of the week was intended. Regarding the work of the church, the plan of salvation, and our own personal responsibilities, we discern authority the same way, and just because we may love an alternative, we are not justified in casting away God’s commands and approved examples or making unnecessary inferences where no divine implication is present.

There seems to be a growing belief that law and love are antithetical, that some are more disposed to one or the other, and that the two have little in common. The Bible, however, makes this point–that love is the fulfillment of the Law; it is the reason for the law and the result when the law of God is obeyed (Romans 13:8-10). All those commandments could be summarized simply by saying, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” When the will of God is assembled and active, it should become apparent that love is the reason behind it–love of God and love of neighbor will find expression when God’s will is heeded. If ever we find ourselves yearning to do something on which God’s will is either silent or prohibitive, you can be sure there is a flaw in our reasoning and what looks like love really is something less.

The Law of Moses was fulfilled at the cross and taken out of the way so that the covenant of Christ could reign supreme in believers’ lives, and that testament does even more to codify the expression of divine and human love in a constructive way (Galatians 6:1-2). The strong disciple’s interest in the restoration and preservation of his brother is an integral component of what the apostle calls “the law of Christ” (Galatians 5:13-15). Far from getting in the way, this law is the vehicle by which love travels!

It cannot be argued that having a carnal mind does only damage to one’s relationship with God, for it finds its way into drunkenness, lewdness, lust, malice, and violence that destroys families, neighborhoods, churches, and countries (Romans 8:1-7). Here is the law of the Holy Spirit that absolutely forbids such things and many others, not because the Holy Spirit opposes enjoyment, but because destruction should not be enjoyable. Moreover, the Holy Spirit defines the qualities elders and deacons must have, describes the work of the preacher and the local congregation, and exemplifies ways in which churches may cooperate and how widows, orphans and the needy should be cared for. Who are we to dismiss Scripture by claiming that we are more possessed with love than was the Holy Spirit who gave it? How dare any man endeavor to improve upon the communication of the Holy Spirit, even in the misnamed notion of love?!

The New Testament is a perfect law of liberty, even as it restricts our behavior and defines right and wrong for all time (James 1:22-27, 2:8-17). When you are overwhelmed with a sense of love for your fellow man and yearn to do good by him, the Scriptures will not get in your way, but will show you a still more excellent way. It is only when you lay them aside to follow your own wisdom that you will discover your love is not really having the effect you intended.

When Love Is Absent Authority

Still, we hear love as authority for things obviously evil all the time. How often is adultery justified on the basis of finding new love beyond a loveless marriage; doesn’t God want me to be happy and enjoy love?

The mission of the church in Scripture is spiritual, concerned with preaching the word to convert the lost and edify the saved, but a misguided sense of love causes some to want to make the church over into a relief organization, consumed with other, less eternal goals. Also, the church is targeted as a social and recreational organization to be sold with coffee, doughnuts, hot dogs, playgrounds and gymnasiums out of love for children and the weak who cannot be won with the mere word of God and promise of spiritual redemption. Fornicators are overcome with love; we fund the alcoholic’s habit because we love him and he begs for money; we refrain from rebuking the sinner because we don’t want him to think we don’t love him anymore–but that is not love!


What we find, then, is simmering discontentment with the word of God. It seems to be a 2,000-year-old document that is unsuited to modern times and thus we are fully justified in inserting our own authority whenever Scripture conflicts with our intentions. Love is wrapped around the situation to give it the scent of validity, but it is not love to cast aside God’s will in any pursuit (1 Peter 1:22-25). Be content to know that God’s law is the full expression of love; love is the objective of God’s law, so how could it ever get in the way of real love?

Love simply is not a fourth track of authority when commands and examples have failed to support our wishes and we are left to infer anything and everything we want on our own. Anything that is right will fit under a command or example or divine implication.