Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Few in truth is better than many in error

I like what Baptist leader Adrian Rogers said:

"It is better to be divided by truth than to be united in error. It is better to speak the truth that hurts and then heals, than falsehood that comforts and then kills.

"It is not love and it is not friendship if we fail to declare the whole counsel of God. It is better to be hated for telling the truth than to be loved for telling a lie.

"It is impossible to find anyone in the Bible who was a power for God who did not have enemies and was not hated. It's better to stand alone with the truth than to be wrong with a multitude. It is better to ultimately succeed with the truth than to temporarily succeed with a lie."
(The Berean Call, December 1996)

my thinking exactly,

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Freedom in Christ

A speaker recently argued that a belief in prohibitive silence was a real threat to the freedom we have "in" Christ. Now Americans and people the world over treasure the concept of freedom, and we should. We are blessed to be a free people. But the freedom we have in America as a democracy, where each man has a voice and a vote, should not be confused with New Testament Christianity which is not a democracy but a kingdom. Only the Lord Jesus is King, and only King Jesus can make the rules. We have no vote and no legislature.

Freedom in Christ does not give us license to add to His word. We cannot, in the name of freedom, overrule the will of God. We cannot plead for two gospels, when the Lord has proclaimed there is but one (Gal. 1:6-9). We cannot plead for two baptisms, when the Lord has declared there is but one (Eph. 4:5); and we cannot say there are two bodies (or churches), when the Lord says there is but one (Eph. 4:4; 1:22-23; 5:23). Freedom in Christ is not a license to add new forms of worship either.

The freedom we have "in" Christ is not a freedom to act "outside" of His will. We cannot claim we are free "in" Him, while we are pleading for things foreign to His will and outside His instructions.

Notice John 8:31-32
“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Freedom in Christ is found only when one abides in the word, not when one goes outside the word to innovate whatever he finds pleasing and popular. The truth sets us free.

Humanly devised religion is a return to the things that enslave people to the world. It doesn't get very far with God (Matt. 15:14). Why should we adopt what the world thinks? Should we not go back to the Bible and do Bible things in Bible ways?

Don't be fooled into thinking that we have to be like others to be free. There is nothing out there in the religious world that surpasses New Testament Christianity. Doing things God's way sets us free from the delusions and confusions of the world and allows us to exercise a pure faith and a spiritual worship.

Let us offer to God what He desires, free from all the contamination of worldly desires. This is what makes us free, and as sons we are free indeed!


Can we worship with the instrument?

For many years I have heard that worshiping with the instrument is a matter of conscience and tradition. The thought was that while churches of Christ preferred to sing a cappella, that this was a tradition and optional. The other option for them was to use the instrument.

It is to their benefit to proclaim a cappella music merely as a tradition, because this would put singing and playing in their mind on equal footing--one as good as the other. The only problem is that singing (speaking, teaching, admonishing, confessing, giving thanks) is Biblically instructed (Eph. 5:19; Col. :16; Heb. 13:15) as the fruit of our lips. It is not a human tradition but a divine one (2 Thess. 2:15; 3:6). There is Biblical injunction and exhortation to do that. As for playing instruments, the Scriptures are silent. Opponents from the beginning have clearly admitted that.

George P. Slade argued as late as 1878 that psallo and psalmos meant that we ought to use the instrument of music in our worship. They took an old view of psallo and psalmos out of context and pressed it to mean something it did not mean. Later debaters stepped back from the view that we "ought" to use the instrument to the view that psallo and psalmos "permitted" the use of the instrument.

Everett Ferguson said of psallo, “If the precise meaning of certain verses may be in doubt, what is clear is that an instrument did not inhere in the word psallo in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament, dating 150-250 BC). Psallo could translate a word meaning ‘play’ (nagan), or a general word (zamar). The meaning which would cover all occurrences is ‘make melody.’ This could include making melody on an instrument, but in the preponderance of occurrences it clearly refers to making melody with the voice.”

F. F. Bruce said of psallo in Eph. 5:19, “Nor should the etymological force of the terms be pressed, as though psalmos inevitably meant a song sung to the accompaniment of a stringed instrument…while such plucking of the strings is the original sense of psallo…it is used in the NT with the meaning ‘to sing psalms.’” In confirmation of this view, the Greek Orthodox Church
(who knows Greek better than anyone) has never used instruments of music in worship.
While some have abandoned the idea that psallo requires the use of an instrument, they today suggest that it permits the use of the instrument in Ephesians 5:19. If this were so, the first readers of the epistle of Ephesians and early churches did not know it. If Paul indeed was permitting the use instruments, we are at a loss to explain why early churches so adamantly and uniformly opposed them. Actually, no ancient writer ever made the argument that psallo and psalmos permitted the use of instruments is worship.

In fact, George P. Slade in 1878 was the first ever to argue that psallo or psalmos permitted the
instrument even if the instrument is not mentioned. Early Christians never understood the context of Ephesians or Colossians to demand or permit instruments.

The first rule of hermeneutics in the study of words is that a word does not and cannot mean what the author and the first readers did not understand it to mean. Whatever the words psalmos and psallo meant to them, it could not have demanded or permitted the use of instruments. The universal opposition to the use of instruments among the early church fathers makes it clear they understood the epistles of Ephesians and Colossians to teach vocal music only.

Ferguson explained that early Christians drew the meaning of the words psallo and psalmos from their regular practice in the synagogue (which did not use instruments of music). They frequently psalloed psalms in the synagogue without the use of instruments at all. So when the early Christians thought of singing psalms from their hearts, their first thought was not to grab a harp but merely to sing. And that's what they did for centuries, considering the use of instruments to be Judaizing or worldly in nature. They wanted pure worship without the corruptions of the religions around them or the worship of the Temple.

We can read the practice and instruction to sing in the New Testament. But one must use extraordinary means to try to find an instrument in Christian worship. Indeed one must be guilty of eisegesis (reading into the text).

Would it not be better simply to do what God's word says? Would it not be better to simply sing and end the division between us? Loving the Lord means that we will follow His teaching and obey His will (John 14:15). We urge all men everywhere to follow the New Testament pattern of singing and to avoid adding an instrument to their musical worship.

May God open our eyes and hearts to a deeper love for truth and for each other.

For more about Music in New Testament worship go to:

In Christian love,

Friday, March 17, 2006

Formless Christianity?

Recently a speaker argued that Christianity was amorphous (formless). His point was that the New Testament did not provide any patterns for the church to follow, so that he felt free to exercise his faith any way he felt would cause the church to grow. He said that form matters little, but function matters much.

This is an interesting perspective. If the church is patternless, it is the only thing God ever created that is!

God took a formless and void universe and organized it (Genesis 1). We can see God's wisdom and purpose for everything He has made. We can see design in the leaf of a tree, in the paths of the sun and moon, in the precision of the movements of the earth, and in our own bodies. Every cell in our bodies has an extremely complicated DNA pattern that defines and controls its functions. Every leaf on a tree has a vein pattern to match the other leaves on that tree.

When God created the world both plants and animals were given a seed that produces after its own kind--and only after its own kind.

The seed of the kingdom was designed to produce after its own kind too (Luke 8:11; 1 Peter 1:22-25). It was not amorphous; it had standards and boundaries, form and function.

Our obedience to the gospel was from the heart to a form (pattern) of teaching. We died with Christ, were buried with Him, and raised with Him (Rom. 6:3-18). Our response of obedience to the gospel unites us with Him, giving us a pattern to follow, a pattern which culminates in baptism.

When Paul returned to visit the churches, he appointed elders for them in every church--that looks like a pattern to me (Acts 14:23). In 1 Tim. 3:1-13 there are qualifications of elders and deacons. These qualifications lay out the kind of person God wants in leadership roles in His church. The same pattern was to be followed in every church.

When Jesus instituted the Lord's supper, which was observed on the Lord's day (Acts 20:7), He laid out a pattern of remembering His body and blood with unleavened bread and fruit of the vine (Matt. 26:26-29; 1 Cor. 11:23-31).

Paul said, "Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim. 1:13 ESV). These sound (healthy) words deal with many things: life, morals, and the church. It is pretty hard to say we don't have to observe the patterns for the church, and then insist we are to imitate Jesus in His love, forgiveness, purity and devotion! Carrying a cross is itself a pattern for us, is it not?

It seems only natural that if God had a pattern for the ark and a pattern for the tabernacle, that He would also have a pattern for His church. Indeed, if the Old Testament had types for the New Testament, then patterns are a necessity.

Now, we admit that the Lord's Supper isn't anywhere near as complicated as observing the Passover meal; but that doesn't mean there is no pattern to it.

It is not wisdom that mocks patternism; it is foolishness. Wisdom hears the words of Jesus and does them; foolishness hears the words of Jesus and does not do them. Foolishness disrespects the words of Jesus, builds where it wants and does what it wants. But look at the difference between the results (Matt. 7:21-27). Calling ourselves disciples but failing to do the will of the Father and failing to do the words of Jesus is self-deception.

There are indeed forms, patterns, and standards to Christianity, and those who will not observe them do so to their own harm.


Thursday, March 16, 2006

The Gospel Advocate

The Gospel Advocate is one of my favorite magazines, and they let me write for them once in a while. If you are not subscribed to it, I hope you will. You can subscribe by calling 1.800.251.8446. (No, I don't get paid; I just love the guys there). The GA's last issue dealt with unity. They are my brethren, and I read them each month. I want to hear what they have to say, and I hope you'll read them too.

Neil Anderson urges us to take a stand for truth. Amen!
Several articles are greatly needed; and I was thankful to see one from the pen of my dear friend, brother, and mentor Jimmy Jividen.

Kerry Anderson asks, "If our beliefs on issues like worship, roles of men and women, and baptism are right, why should we apologize?"

We should not apologize for holding to a hermeneutic that goes back to the Scriptures. We should not apologize for saying no to humanly devised forms of worship and organization. We should not apologize for taking a view that it is presumptuous to act by our own authority.

The belief that silence is prohibitive (we should not believe or practice things not found in the New Testament teaching or approved examples) is not a flawed hermeneutic.

We are told by others (not GA) that a silence that forbids is divisive. Is it really? One speaker recently characterized all the division among churches of Christ as the result of this hermeneutic of silence. But a closer look at the situations at hand shows that personalities, not hermeneutics caused many of these splits. In many cases people began applying the hermeneutic before they had finished studying the text.

Now the situation is sometimes like a man who has a dispute with a person who is saved by faith only without baptism. If one thinks baptism necessary and another thinks it optional, they are divided. How do we decide between the two? We study the text and find that baptism preceeds salvation, that baptism is for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). By looking at the bigger picture we learn that the "faith only" view is unscriptural.

Likewise, one man thinks we cannot have multiple cups in communion for the fruit of the vine and another thinks it okay. The Bible says nothing about multiple cups. They are divided. How do we solve this problem? Well, we recognize that the word "cup" is a figure of speech referring to the contents of the cup not the container itself. In this case, the number of cups is of no importance. What they drank was to be one, not the number of containers. It wasn't a flawed hermeneutic that caused this problem; it is that misinformed people believed the wrong thing and could not accept the change. The speaker did not show his wisdom about the matter but his bias against the hermeutic.

Some think we ought not to have Bible classes, while others believe it okay. The Bible says nothing about Bible classes per se. So the speaker argued that that our hermeneutic is flawed, because people are divided over Bible classes. Is it really? Our hermeneutic speaks of expediency. An expedient is a lawful way to do what God instructs. The instruction is to teach the lost and to further teach the saved (Mt. 28:19-20; 2 Tim. 2:2). Alexander Campbell spoke of expediencies in his Christian System long before the division over the instrument. It wasn't the hermeneutic that is broken; it is that some didn't want the classes. Expedients merely help one do what God instructs him to do. The apostle Paul, for instance, took a ship to Macedonia in answer to the Macedonian call, even though there was no mention of a ship in the instruction. The ship helped him do exactly what he was instrcted to do (Acts 16:9ff.); that's what makes it expedient. Classes are an expedient way to teach God's word--that's all. They don't do something else--they do what God expects to be done.

That silence should be prohibitive not neutral is an implication of the fact that the Scriptures are all-sufficient(2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:3; Jude 3). God spoke; He said what He intended to say; He said all He intended to say; and when He finished, He intentionally hushed. Because He didn't say more, it is presumptuous for people to add new forms of baptism or worship to the practices of the church. If God had wanted Christians to use instruments, He would have said so. He told us everything we needed to know for life and godliness. To go beyond the Scriptures and to practice a humanly devised form of worship or a substitute for baptism is to disrespect God. When God is silent, so should we be.

Now when someone hasn't respected God's silence and has added a new worship form (instrumental music), then the person who respects God's silence feels obligated to speak out against the innovation. The hermeneutic of silence keeps the church pure from the human innovations and practices of men. It keeps people from showing irreverence and disrespect to the holiness and the instructions of God.

Now if someone demands that we use the innovation (instruments of music), he is driving a wedge between himself and the one who will not innovate. Since in an assembly, everyone has to participate in musical worship, the one who seeks to remain pure from the innovation is forced either to join in the innovation (which is sin) and to violate his conscience (which is sin--Rom. 14:23) or to leave. He must either compromise with sin or separate himself from that innovation which is irreverent. It seems a bit unfair that those who innovate accuse the person who wills to remain pure with the division. The innovators almost always blast the committed man with namecalling: "legalist," "Pharisee," and "judge." Is he really?

Who caused the problem? When churches of Christ first began, they were all a cappella. In 1859 L. L. Pinkerton introduced the first instrument into the worship of the churches of Christ in Midway, KY. It was the irreverent innovation that called for a choice that the one who wishes to remain with the teaching of the Scripture cannot make. If he is to remain pure, he must side with what the Scripture teaches and cannot go with the innovation. Who caused the problem? The innovater, the one who brought in the unscriptural, unauthorized innovation. The right choice is to stay with Scripture, for to do otherwise is to separate oneself from God Himself.

In all ages God has shown displeasure with presumptuous innovation. Those who love God will not consider innovation as one option among many. They will keep themselves abiding in the word and so prove themselves to be true disciples (Jn 8:31).

Well, read the Gospel Advocate, subscribe to it. It's telling the truth about this controversy.


Monday, March 13, 2006

Jesus' prayer for Unity

Unity is precious in God’s sight. The Lord Jesus on the night He was betrayed prayed that his disciples might be one, “even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me” (John 17:21). Certainly, a fractured Christianity loses its power to influence the world.
Unity comes from a commitment of love toward God and to His Son Jesus Christ. Before Jesus prayed for unity, He recognized that He had given his disciples the words and commandments His Father had given Him and that they had kept that word (17:6-8).
These words were important to Jesus, because they were the Truth. Jesus also prayed to the Father, “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth. As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world. For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth” (17:17-19). Before there can be unity, there must be sanctification in the truth. Unity without truth is not unity; it is only the appearance of unity.
Postmodern thinking suggests that we dismiss the concept of truth altogether and find our unity in our respect for one another. They believe truth cannot be known, so we don’t have to fear opposing views. Jesus knew better. He knew that there are wolves who will tear apart the flock.
A wolf may appear in sheep’s clothing and join a flock, but he will always be a wolf. Paul warned about wolves who “will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:28-30). Allowing a wolf to come in among the flock unguarded will always result in loss.
This is why, as much as the Lord wants unity, faithful shepherds must mark and avoid those who cause dissension by their teaching and turn away from them (Rom. 16:17-18). The Lord’s desire for unity must never become an opportunity for the wolf to get in the fold.

Friday, March 10, 2006

H. Leo Boles on the Unity of the Church

From H. Leo Boles speech in 1939 when he addressed a unity forum between the Christian church and churches of Christ.

The Lord's people remained a united body from the meeting in Lexington, Ky., in 1832 to 1849. At that time in Lexington my grandfather presented the New Testament teaching for unity. He said, in part, the following:
"God has but one people on the earth. He has given to them but one Book, and therein exhorts and commands them to be one family. A union such as we plead for—a union of God's people on that one Book—must, then, be practicable.

"Every Christian desires to stand complete in the whole will of God. The prayer of the Savior, and the whole tenor of this teaching, clearly show that it is God's will that his children should be united. To the Christian, then, such a union must be desirable.

"But an amalgamation of sects is not such a union as Christ prayed for and God enjoins. To agree to be one upon any system of human inventions would be contrary to his will, and could never be a blessing to the church or the world; therefore, the only union practicable or desirable must be based on the word of God as the only rule of faith and practice... "I have the more cheerfully resolved on this course, because the gospel is a system of facts, commands, and promises, and no deduction or inference from them, however logical or true, forms any part of the gospel of Jesus Christ. No heaven is promised to those who hold them, and no hell is threatened to those who deny them. They do not constitute, singly or together, an item of the ancient and apostolic gospel. While there is but one faith, there may be ten thousand opinions; and, hence, if Christians are ever to be one, they must be one in faith, and not in opinion. When certain subjects arise, even in conversation or social discussion, about which there is a contrariety of opinion and sensitiveness of feeling, speak of them in the words of the Scripture, and no offense will be given and no pride of doctrine will be encouraged. We may even come, in the end, by thus speaking the same things, to think the same things.

"For several years past I have stood pledged to meet the religious world, or any part of it, on the ancient gospel and order of things as presented in the words of the Book. This is the foundation on which Christians once stood, and on it they can, and ought to, stand again. From this I cannot depart to meet any man, or set of men, in the wide world. While, for the sake of peace and Christian union, I have long since waived the public maintenance of any speculation I may hold, yet no one gospel fact, commandment, or promise will I surrender for the world" (Life of Elder John Smith, pages 452-454.)

This is the ground of unity that was accepted in 1832 by the Stone and Campbell groups; it is the fundamental teaching of the New Testament. Such a unity honors the truth of God, respects the authority of Christ, and glorifies God. Brethren, this is where the churches of Christ stand today; it is where unity may be found now; it is where you left the New Testament; it is where you left the churches of Christ, and it is where you can find them when you come back. On this ground and teaching, and only on this, can scriptural unity be had now; on these basic principles of the New Testament Christian unity may always be had. The people of God were united on these principles from 1832 to 1849; they were united on these principles when the church began. Christians enjoyed the sweet fellowship of the people of God and made marvelous progress when so united. They made deep inroads on denominationalism and increased more rapidly in number than at any other period in the history of the Restoration Movement.

for the whole speech, see

May the Lord help us find unity in the truth.

The Way to Unity

Since there is so much talk about unity this year, I felt the need to talk a little about the way to unity. That Jesus wants his people unified is no small matter. The Lord desired it enough to pray for it, and it behooves all of us to desire it as well.

The unity for which Jesus prayed however is not the postmodern kind. By that I mean that Jesus did not pray for unity which sells out the truth and tolerates humanly devised religion. Before Jesus prayed for unity in John 17:20-23, he prayed, "Sanctify (set them apart) them in Your truth; Your word is truth." Jesus believed that a relationship between himself and the Father came through the words that the Father had given Him and that He in turn gave to His apostles. That relationship of unity was held together by the disciples keeping the commandments and instructions that came from the Father (17:6-19).

There is unity within the Truth, but there can be no unity without it. How can men ever be unified with the Lord Jesus, if the words that the Lord Jesus are not given their proper place of prominence. I can never be one with Jesus if I hold that my opinion or my persuasion is as valid and as authoritative as the words of Jesus. Unity in Christ means that He is the Lord and the only Lord. No one can presume to step up into His place with their own religious teachings or practices.

In 1906 the Christian churches and the churches of Christ divided over several issues: 1) the missionary society, 2) the use of instruments of music in worship, 3) the fellowship of the denominations, and 4) the role of women in the worship of the church.

There were no Scriptures authorizing a missionary society in addition to the church, no Scriptures authorizing instrumental music in Christian worship, no Scriptures permitting denominationalism or the fellowship of humanly-devised religion, and no Scrputres endorsing a leadership role for women in worship.

The mindset of one group was to hold to the teaching of the Scriptures and not presume to act in the absence of any instruction from God. At one time, all the members of the churches of Chrsist and Christian church held this view. As time went by a second mindset developed, disrupting the unity of the church and causing division.

Those who objected to the missionary societies, to instrumental music, to the fellowship of denominations, and to the leadership of women could not conscientiously support those who were insisting on them.

With broken hearts, they loved their brethren. They love them still but love the Truth of God and His will even more--just as they should. If some ask for unity, the way to unity is not through continued rejection of God's will for an accommodation to worldliness; but the way to unity is through the rejection of the world's desires and a return to the teaching of the Scripture alone. We can have it no other way and please God.

We can have some form of union by setting aside the will of God and tolerating one another, but this is a union built upon sand. Sand theology is doing what we want and what looks good in the eyes of others. Rock theology is listening to God and doing the words of Jesus (Matt. 7:24-27).

Rather than seek for unity by compromising, let us return to God's way of singing without the use of instruments, of male leadership, of working through the church, and by remaining undenominational. This is God's way, God's will; and we can do no other.

One man recently criticized this mindset of churches of Christ, thinking that by insisting we stay with the Truth of the Word, we are making laws. He wittily said, “Where the Bible speaks, we speak,” referring to a cappella churches. “And where the Bible is silent, we have even more to say.”

We certainly see no value in making laws where God hasn't made any laws; but as far as the instrument of music in worship is concerned, it is not the churches of Christ who have spoken out of turn. Actually it is those who have presumptuously added the instrument who are speaking out of turn. They have added what was not there for centuries and now must find some way to justify an unauthorized, unwarranted, unscriptural form of worship.

The silence of the Scripture is prohibitive not permissive. God's silence is not some license for men to add whatever they please to the worship of the church. And why is it not permissive? It is not permissive because it is complete and final. The all-sufficient word is final. God spoke. He said all He intended to say; and when He finished, He purposefully hushed.

It is those who add to the word of God that have even more to say. Some indeed (as this speaker) have themselves already begun to divide the church once more by embracing the use of instruments of music in worship. He is calling for unity with the Christian church, while he divides himself from those in churches of Christ whom he knows will not follow him in his presumptuous pursuit of an unauthorized practice.

Unity can only come when all decide they will leave the human and embrace only the Divine. We are calling for all men to do just that. This is the true heart of restoration thinking. This is the true heart of real disciples--they want no creed but Christ.

with love for all and especially God.