Where do you draw the line on apostolic authority?

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Puritan Board Freshman
Where do you draw the line on apostolic authority? Here's a quote from Thomas Watson from The Ten Commandments:
The keeping of the first day was the practice of the apostles. "˜Upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them.´ Acts 20: 7; 1 Cor 16: 2. Here was both preaching and breaking of bread on this day. Augustine and Innocentius, and Isidore, make the keeping of our gospel Sabbath to be of apostolic sanction, and affirm, that by virtue of the apostles´ practice, this day is to be set apart for divine worship. What the apostles did, they did by divine authority; for they were inspired by the Holy Ghost.

We know though that not all they did was good:
But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, "œIf you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?" (Gal. 2:11-14, ESV)

So, was Watson wrong? And, in what way, to what degree?


Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Draw the line at sin, for one thing. Being an apostle didn't mean that you were sinless, or that what you did could never be questioned.

Watson is not saying anything like that. He is pointing out that it is according to apostolic authority that the NT age recognizes the 1st day of the week as the Christian Sabbath. There was no dissention or confusion recorded in the Holy Record on this point. The change simply took place, and no such positive change in the practice could have taken place apart from the direction of God. Man simply does not have the authority to make changes to a moral law, not even positive directions for keeping that law, apart from express divine warrant.

Where we find the apostles speaking or acting with that kind of uniformity and without dissention in Scripture, we are compelled to the conclusion that even without a written statement like: "The Sabbath-Day is changed to Sunday," nevertheless the "apostolic practice" (what they all did) has the force of law, the force of command. The Holy Spirit had such things recorded for the benefit of the church through the ages. The foundation laid in them was for us who come after.

Where we find an apostolic dispute such as the one referenced above, it is no difficult work of exegesis to determine which of them or which party was in the wrong. And if we find something less than a decisive statement in this or that area, we can safely conclude that, to the same degree the matter is unclear in Scripture (less or more), the issue is either more vital or less vital to the religion of Christ.
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