How Many Types of Account of Action Are There In The Bible And How Are They To Be Applied?

There are several types of accounts of action that are found in the Bible. Since we are living under the principles and specific details of the new covenant (Hebrews 8:8-13), we will limit our study to that area. Upon careful study, it must be determined which of these accounts of action are bound upon us by using valid reasoning, the immediate context, and the remote context. We will offer an example for each of these types of accounts of actions.

The accounts of action contained in the New Testament can be categorized as follows (see Thomas B. Warren, "When Is An Example Binding?"):

  1. Permanently Sinful. This account of action was sinful in the 1st century A.D., continues to be sinful in the present and will always be sinful. Acts 5:1-11 records the lying of Ananias and Sapphira for stating that they had sold all the land, yet had actually kept back part of it. They sinned in lying to God (Proverbs 6:17; Romans 1:29). This action of lying is still prohibitory today because no disciple of Christ should lie (Revelation 21:8).
  1. Obligatory and permanent. This account of action was a mandatory action in the 1st century A.D., continues to be mandatory in the present and will always be mandatory. In Acts 20:7 Luke records that the disciples came together on the first day of the week to break bread (that is, partake of the Lord's Supper in worship to God, 1 Corinthians 11:20, 23-26; John 4:23-24). Since this is an obligatory worship act that was done by the church on Sunday and only on Sunday (Acts 2:42 per Leviticus 23:15-17; Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 11:20 per I Corinthians 16:1-2 and thus "every Sunday"), and since it was to be done with the Lord, with the gathered church, until the Lord returns (Matthew 26:29; Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 11:20, 26), the gathered church is to partake of the Lord's Supper every Sunday until the Lord comes again.
  1. Obligatory and temporary. This account of action was obligatory for certain members of the church in the first century A.D., but are not binding today (in fact, it would be a sin if attempted today). In Acts 6:8 Luke records that Stephen (who had helped with the daily distribution of the needy widows) was empowered to perform miracles due to apostles' laying their hands upon him. Because Stephen was blessed with this ability, he was obligated to perform wonders and signs among the people as he confirmed the words of Jesus that he preached (Mark 16:20; Acts 8:6). Even the Corinthian brethren were commanded by Paul to desire (present imperative) miraculous abilities in 1 Corinthians 14:1. However, miraculous gifts were temporary and unique to the 1st century A.D. (1 Corinthians 12-14; Ephesians 4:7-16). Christians are no longer obligated to desire spiritual, miraculous gifts today (to do so would actually be a sin, because it would make God out to be a liar when He said that miracles would cease once the New Testament was perfected, 1 Corinthians 13:8-13; James 1:25).
  1. Optional and permanent. This account of action was optional for those who lived in the first century A.D. and it is still optional for us today. Luke records in Acts 20:7,8 that the early church at Troas met in an upper room to worship. This action, however, was incidental and optional not only due to the immediate context but also due to the remote context. John 4:20-24 states plainly that the place where the gathered church worships is optional. The church's first worship service was most likely in the Temple courts (Acts 2:42, 46). Many churches of Christ met in the members' homes (Romans 16:5; 1 Corinthians 16:19; Colossians 4:15; Philemon 1:2).
  1. Optional and temporary. This account of action was optional for those who lived in the first century A.D., but it is not optional for us today. Luke records in Acts 2-9 that the Jewish Christians only preached to the Gentiles. They were not fully aware of the meaning of the Great Commission in that preaching to "all nations" included the Gentiles. Finally, Peter came to realize that he needed to preach to the Gentiles (Acts 10,11). Today, we must understand we are no show partiality to anyone, but to preach to everyone, both Jews, and Gentiles, and not just to the Jews first (Acts 14:44-46; 2 Timothy 4:1-5; Romans 10:1-13). Another optional, temporary and very limited recorded action is found in Acts 21:17-27 where Paul underwent an Old Testament vow. The first century A.D. was a time of transition when New Testament revelation was being unfolded, making the Old Testament obsolete (Hebrews 8:13). It took time for the Jews to understand this massive shift in special revelation. Paul did not take this vow to obtain salvation but in order to win other Jews to Christ (1 Corinthians 9:19-23). It would be wrong for us to engage in such an activity today because we are no longer under the specific details of the Old Testament (2 Corinthians 3:14-16).

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Joey FerrellHermeneutics