Even among churches of Christ, we are seeing churches turning from the truth to error, supposedly at the prompting of the Holy Spirit. An eldership recently wrote a letter to the members of the congregation explaining why they were going to use instrumental music in one of their worship services. They said:
In the last few months we have been led by the Spirit to believe that as one of our tools we need to offer a second service, a service which will include a blend of a cappella and instrumental music. We realize that this is a break from our tradition and that many of you are struggling with this, but we have witnessed the Spirit’s great movement in the Wednesday evening college worship, a worship service with instrumental worship. Where God is moving, we seek to join Him, even if that entails some departure from our tradition. We believe Jesus gave us this pattern in John 5:19 (“The son can do nothing by himself; he can only do what he sees his Father doing”). …
We have spent considerable time inquiring of God and feel led by His Spirit to pursue the goal we set forth for 2009 and to utilize the implementation of two services as one of the tools for reaching this goal. We ask you to walk with us as we strive to walk with God.
It is indeed hard for me to imagine that the Holy Spirit led them to act divisively by adding a worship activity they knew would violate the conscience of some. While the elders recognized a cappella music as a tradition, they seem oblivious to the fact that it was a divine tradition—a tradition of the Holy Spirit himself. Nor do they recall that neither the Son nor the Holy Spirit would speak new teachings or make new practices not instructed by the Father (John 12:49-50; 16:12-13).
Of course the evidence for their change is not what the Holy Spirit has caused to be written in Scripture but their own observations. They do not tell how they know that the Spirit was moving. We wonder how they knew the Spirit was moving on the college class in their use of the instrument, when there is no record of any church in the first century using an instrument. Did they hear speaking in tongues at they did at the house of Cornelius or at Ephesus? Did they see miracles?
If the Holy Spirit guided the apostles into all the truth in the first century (and He did—John 16:13; this the promise of Jesus), why didn’t the Spirit reveal the need to use the instrument in the New Testament? Why didn’t the early church, who was guided into all truth, understand they were to use the instrument? Why are the members of the congregation being asked to rely on the findings of the elders but given no Scriptural precedence for the practice?
Those who are bringing the Spirit to bear into what they are doing often ignore the all-sufficiency of the Scriptures. They forget the Scriptures claim they are inspired and complete. “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). If Christianity had all truth and was equipped for every good work in the first, we will not see any new truth or need any further equipping in the 21st century. “All” and “every” means “all” and “every”; not “all,” except when I feel moved.
People today are using phrases such as “the Spirit led me to…,” “the Holy Spirit impressed on my heart to…,” or “the Sprit prompted me to…” to justify their own choices and directions. Such subjective assertions are often more a statement of what they desire than of what the Spirit has revealed.
The argument that they use to justify the instrument is also the argument women who want to preach use to deny the teaching of 1 Corinthians 14:34 and 1 Timothy 2:10-11. It is the argument the emerging church people use to try to reinvent Christianity.
The Holy Spirit is not in the innovation business. Jesus said, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come” (John 16:13). The Holy Spirit only speaks and acts what He hears from the Father. We are now to contend for the faith, which was once for all time delivered to the saints, not innovate and reinvent Christianity.
In the days of Jeremiah, some false prophets were always claiming to speak “the word of the Lord.” Jeremiah said:
Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD. They say continually to those who despise the word of the LORD, ‘It shall be well with you’; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, ‘No disaster shall come upon you.’”
For who among them has stood in the council of the LORD to see and to hear his word, or who has paid attention to his word and listened? (Jer. 23:16-18)
“I did not send the prophets, yet they ran; I did not speak to them, yet they prophesied.
But if they had stood in my council, then they would have proclaimed my words to my people, and they would have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their deeds.” (23:21-22)
Jeremiah spoke of prophets who were convinced God had spoken to them but the vision came from their own hearts and minds. God did not speak to them; they weren’t listening to God. They spoke out of their own imagination.
To blame the Spirit and say He moved us to innovate, to originate our own beliefs and practices, is ignorant and dishonoring to the Holy Spirit. Don’t blame the Spirit; obey the Spirit who spoke in Scripture (1 Thess. 4:8). Do not go beyond the teaching of Scripture. Only in this way will you imitate the Son and Spirit.