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At the church I lead I often say, “We’re Bible people!” and then I quote from our statement of faith:

(The Bible is) our final, absolute authority, the only infallible rule of faith and practice.

I love that! There’s security there. “Stick to the book.” I believe that’s absolutely true. Every time I accidentally step out of line I can look back and see what happened. Hindsight being 20/20, I inevitably see that I deviated from the book.

However, as true and secure as that is, I’ve found that warm blanket of certainty never quite covers me. There’s always a rogue limb exposed. Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not indicting the Scriptures as incomplete or insufficient. In fact, it’s the opposite. Like the throw on my couch I expect to cover my entire lanky frame when I get chilled, it’s not a failure of the blanket, it’s my misuse of it.

I believe the Scriptures command us to do more than repeat what’s already been done, and to look for God to do what He’s never done before. Therefore, the wholesale rejection of all things new, claiming they are “without biblical precedent,” is to undermine the Bible itself.

The Biblical precedent is that God does things that are unprecedented. 

For example, I don’t know what those people who gathered in the upper room were expecting to experience (Acts 2:1-4) … but it wasn’t that! God’s actions were unprecedented. When Paul prayed for a hanky (Acts 19:11-12), it was unprecedented. When Elijah took a flying chariot ride (2 Kings 2:11), it was unprecedented.

1. The sun stood still (Joshua 10:13).

2. The walls fell when the trumpets blew (Joshua 6:20).

3. Philip teleported (Acts 8:39), for crying out loud!  

All unprecedented. God is God. He doesn’t need precedents; he sets them.

I’ve experienced and witnessed God doing things in the lives of his people that are new and certainly aren’t replicas of how he moved in the Bible. When that happens, it always makes me uncomfortable. My mind starts racing, scanning the Bible for a precedent—I NEED A PRECEDENT!—a precedent means that I haven’t just stepped in it again! When I can’t find one, I’ve got some questions to ask:

1. Does this in any way contradict or undermine scripture?

2. Is this incongruent with what the Bible teaches about how God moves in the lives of his people?

3. Is there something in me or in people I trust that feels unsettled (the operative word here is discernment)?

If the answer is no on all counts, then maybe this isn’t something to fear. Maybe God is following the precedent he very clearly set in Scripture, and he’s just doing something new. Certainly God can do something new! Insisting that he can’t is just about the most unprecedented position I can imagine.

But isn’t that a slippery slope?

It certainly is! Slippery slopes require caution, no doubt. However, wholesale avoidance of all slippery slopes assumes two things:

1. You’re already perched at the top. Slippery slopes need gravity to present a real threat, and if they’re always bad, that means you think you’ve got nowhere to go but down. Provided you still see through a mirror dimly, maybe this is a slippery slope that you need to climb!

2. You don’t trust your anchor. If you’re truly anchored in the Word of God and have made it the final arbiter on all issues, then slippery slopes don’t pose a threat.

In the constant quest for a precedent, some have set the precedent of rejecting the new and amazing things that God is doing. I don’t want to make that mistake. 

He said to them, “Therefore every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.” - Matthew 13:52

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Alexander Shaw

commented on Mar 7, 2014

They were NOT in the Upper Room in ACTS 2 - but in the Temple - no one moved until Peter arose and explained. It was the curious observers and the religious critics and cynics who moved. The 120 were baptised in the Holy Spirit and filled with the Holy Spirit overflowing at the mouth with praise to God in languages they had never learned. If we are going to be anchored in the Word let us teach it accurately.

Julian Richards

commented on Mar 7, 2014

Actually we cant be sure where they were. We do know they were together in one place (Acts2:1), and that the noise like a violent wind filled the whole house (2:2 - Oikos meaning house, household, home and even palace, but never translated Temple). The point being made though, is not about location, it is being made about expectation, and God doing the unexpected/unprecedented.

Alexander Shaw

commented on Mar 7, 2014

Julian - Not specifically translated Temple - but implied? Where else could they have been? My house shall be called the house of prayer - etc. But Thank you.

Max B. Adams

commented on Mar 7, 2014

Did you say, "Where else could they have been?" They could've been anywhere "together in one place" (Acts 2:1). And that one place could've been the temple but it also could've been the upstairs or "upper room" (Acts 1:13) where the apostles and the other disciples were staying just ten days earlier. Of course as Julian mentioned the place is not the point.

Max B. Adams

commented on Mar 7, 2014

Did you say, "Where else could they have been?" They could've been anywhere "together in one place" (Acts 2:1). And that one place could've been the temple but it also could've been the upstairs or "upper room" (Acts 1:13) where the apostles and the other disciples were staying just ten days earlier. Of course as Julian mentioned the place is not the point.

Max B. Adams

commented on Mar 7, 2014

Oops...sorry about the multiple posts. I got button fever.

Doug Conley

commented on Mar 7, 2014

1. How do you KNOW it was in the Temple? 2. How do you KNOW "no one moved"? 3. How do you KNOW there were specifically 120? 4. (A little off the subject) How do you teach verse 28, if you do at all? "Teach it accurately"!

Alexander Shaw

commented on Mar 7, 2014

Thank you - and - sorry - because I really did not want to enter into an 'e-debate'! They were ALL present - 120 from Acts 1 verse 15 - the leadership moved or stood up together - and Peter explained what was happening - and 2 verse 28 Peter quotes from Psalm 16.

Jason Smith

commented on Mar 7, 2014

The "they" of Acts 2:1 refers to the previous verse where the Apostles are the subject, not the 120.

Max B. Adams

commented on Mar 7, 2014

Did you say, "Where else could they have been?" They could've been anywhere "together in one place" (Acts 2:1). And that one place could've been the temple but it also could've been the upstairs or "upper room" (Acts 1:13) where the apostles and the other disciples were staying just ten days earlier. Of course as Julian mentioned the place is not the point.

Charles Waters

commented on Mar 7, 2014

The key word is "Biblical" which indicates that it is something that is taught by the Bible or found in the Bible. Sometimes change is unprecedented but if it is "Biblical" shouldn't that mean that we can find authority for it in the Scriptures? I'm not saying that change isn't needed. We can't go wrong if the changes we make are "Biblical".

Jason Cardwell

commented on Mar 8, 2014

I think the issue is how you define the "authority for it in the Scripture" The author's point seems to me to be just this: you won't always be able to predict God's next move based on what you find in Scripture. Take "Holy Laughter" for instance. I've never experienced it, and can't speak authoritatively about it, but I am under the impression some people are against it just because they can't find an example of it in Scripture. This is just the kind of restrictiveness I think the author is speaking against in this article.

Charles Waters

commented on Mar 8, 2014

The word "Biblical" refers to the Bible. How can something be Biblical that is not "in the Bible"? The title of the article referred to Embracing (Biblical) Change. Those in Berea searched the Scriptures daily to see whether the things they were being taught were true. (Acts 17:11 )They were said to be "Nobel" for this.

Charles Waters

commented on Mar 8, 2014

Sorry for the double post. I was trying to correct a typo. (noble)

Charles Waters

commented on Mar 8, 2014

The word "Biblical" refers to the Bible. How can something be Biblical that is not "in the Bible"? The title of the article referred to Embracing (Biblical) Change. Those in Berea searched the Scriptures daily to see whether the things they were being taught were true. (Acts 17:11 )They were said to be "Noble" for this.

Dale C

commented on Mar 7, 2014

Thank you Aaron. I appreciate the lesson and the point of view. I will be watching and expecting more interesting things from my Sovereign Lord. You cannot put Him in a box and you can expect surprises. Your tips for discerning His moving are very good.

Wendy Pawsey

commented on Mar 10, 2014

Great article! In our church we hold to the belief that the principle remains but the practise may change. So as long as you keep with the Biblical principle how you express that can be tailored for who you're addressing.

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