EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second in a series of planned articles by this author regarding the history of the Lord’s church. To be clear, it is more an observation of its history during my time in the Lord’s church (1966 to present), with attention to the changes witnessed during that time. Several readers would be much more adapt to penning incidents. It is this author’s desire to focus on the “attitude” of such realities. Names of individuals, journals (commonly called “church magazines”), and even the identifying of “issues” by name, are purposely omitted that the reader might more fully comprehend the focus on the “attitudes” that have changed within God’s children through the years from spiritual to temporal matters. Further, my prayer is to help reverse that historical reality and return the minds of God’s children to the fervent hunger and thirst for righteousness of which His children were once well known!
HISTORY – Part 2
When God first issued a written law for His children, it must have been rather heavy. Two tables of stone revealed the engraving of God’s finger (Exodus 31:18). Moses carried them down the mountain upon God’s order, (32:15 -20), only to see what God had angrily expressed to Moses: “Your people … have corrupted themselves … turned aside from the way which I commanded them.” (32:7-8) Moses, in anger, smashed the tablets to pieces, and was commanded then to write the commandments this time himself (Exodus 34).
For many years, God’s children relied on God’s voice for their authority. During the law of the fathers (aka. “Patriarchal Law”), God spoke directly to the fathers, who in turn told their children, who in turn told their children what God said. Even after the coming of the law of Moses, God still spoke directly to some (Hebrews 1:1-2), permitting holy men of God to speak as they were moved (i.e. inspired) by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:21). In these last days, God spoke to us through His Son (Hebrews 1:1-2), and we are cautioned to “give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip.” (Hebrews 2:1-4)
The earliest days of the Lord’s church found God’s children assembling from house to house (Acts 2:41 – 47), sharing in the rehearsing of those things which they had seen and heard from the apostles (Acts 4:20). This practice continued for decades after the first Pentecost following the resurrection of Christ Jesus as we find Paul instructing Timothy, “Thou therefore, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” (2 Timothy 2: 1-2) This is precisely the pattern established by our Lord when He spoke to the apostles at Matthew 28:19 – 20. It needs to be followed with exactness yet today!
Historians submit varying dates and instigators who brought changes to this pattern. From commentators to “quarterlies” to nearly everything but the Bible itself, written materials seemed to flood the libraries of well-intended, albeit gullible souls. “Lesson leaves” were distributed instead of an announced text of Scripture where students would have literally opened their Bibles and read. “What did you get for number 4?” was asked, instead of, “Would you please read and explain verse 4 of this chapter?” In time, those once identified as “walking Bibles” (because of their astute knowledge and understanding of God’s Word) became scarcer, and a populace of “We’re using _____ for our study material” more prominent. Seemingly, a respect for UN-inspired authors and UN-inspired speakers surpassed the respect God’s children once held for GOD and His inspired proclaimers!
From the beginning of the Lord’s church (Acts 2), fierce opposition toward a strict adherence to God’s Word existed. More modern ages (1700 to present) have not witnessed a decline in this pattern, nor will man ever see a decline in such (2 Timothy 3:13). Nonetheless, the FAITHFUL need not fall prey to the “let’s listen to what man has to say” attitude. History reveals loyalties to preachers/authors/ideals/etc. resulted in sharp divisions among God’s people. Manmade names for these divisions came: “liberal,” “conservative,” “anti,” etc. immerged with further divisions resulting when preachers were asked, “In what camp to you stand?” regarding various issues plaguing the Lord’s people. Even casual association with one “side” or the other resulted in “disfellowship” from one group, and high praise from its opponent. Monthly (and some bi-monthly) periodicals (aka. “church magazines”) became the “standard of authority” for these divided brethren (each promoting their own convictions) and so deeper became the chasms between brethren once united upon GOD’S word alone. Even now, many brethren find themselves “defending” some man or men, and the convictions of how they might “improve” the work of the Lord’s church, the spread of His truth, and the retention of His children (young and old) in the service of Christ the King, instead of defending Christ’s word.
Again, it has all come via the ATTITUDE of men and women! Only when God’s children remain satisfied with HIS manna alone will His children cease from attitudes that divide; only then will they gain the unity which is in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4:1 – 6)! Passages such as Romans 12:16; 1 Corinthians 1:10; Philippians 2:1-2; 3:16 all speak of “one mind, one judgment” and it isn’t man’s mind or judgment – it is the mind of Christ!! (Philippians 2:5)
Jesus said, “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me.” (John 5:39) Is there greater advice? Yes, I know that every article within these pages is written by an UN-inspired man; yes, I hope they are read and studied! But more, I pray they lead the reader to an understanding that we MUST PROVE ALL THINGS by the sacredness of God’s word and not via the written treatises of scholarly folk, whose boiled down verbiage still says, “I think.” Let’s let God’s word settle the arguments of who is right and who is wrong and return to imbibing HIS word rather than man’s.
History records the present actions of mankind. May it record a speedy return of man’s mind to the mind of Christ – and ONLY His mind!