The Biblical Precedent: God Isn't Bound By Precedent

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In the constant quest for a precedent, some have set the precedent of rejecting the new and amazing things that God is doing.

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. If I’m diligent, I have a pretty good way to make sure I don’t screw up too royally: “Stick to the book.” I believe that’s absolutely true. Every time I ‘step in it’ 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. 

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:

  • Does this in any way contradict or undermine scripture? 
  • Is this incongruent with what the Bible teaches about how God moves in the lives of his people? 
  • 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, then that means you think you’ve got no where 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. 

Matthew 13:52
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.”  
Lead Pastor of the Maryville Vineyard, a growing church filled with incredible people in East Tennessee. He and his wife Sharon have two amazing children.

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  • audie

    I see that this article was written by the pastor of a Vineyard church. Interesting, That does, I suppose, put him in the NAR camp? Would that not tell us something?
    This kind of argument is the kind of thing the NAR specializes in. Don’t question the insanity that takes place in their services–the people getting “drunk in the spirit”, people barking like dogs and acting like animals, people getting glued to the floor, people saying all kinds of unbiblical craziness from the pulpits or from their television studios. If Todd Bentley wants to drive his knee into the gut of someone suffering from cancer, who are you to judge?
    All kinds of wackiness are made untouchable by someone saying, and others accepting the notion, that to reject those things is to “put God in a box”.
    I think I’ll pass on all of the “new and amazing things” people say God is doing today. I’ll focus, instead, on the truly amazing thing God did long ago, in sending His Son to die for our sins, and the truly new and amazing things He does when people today turn to Him in faith and repentance. I see no reason to add barking like a dog to that.

  • Deana Callins

    There is nothing we do (sin or righteousness) before God that is new to him. He created all things. He knows all things. I realized, that’s why The Holy Bible is Uptodate at this present Time. The same Righteousness before; is the same today. The same sins in the past; is the same today. The Holy Bibles instructions, examples, judgments, favor, rebuke, are the same concerning our actions today. Because the way God feels about doing good or evil has Not changed. There is nothing new under the sun. Learn from others mistakes. That’s why God wrote them for an example to us. Learn by the examples of those who were good. Go bless all who receive this. Remember, Jesus Christ said Believe Only. Do not fear! Do not doubt!