Where’s the Example?
Colossians 3:17 says, “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” The phrase “in the name of” means “by the authority of”. Thus, where there is authority, we may do; where there is no authority, we may not do! It’s just that simple.
Revelation 22: 18 – 19 also forbids man’s alteration of God’s Word: “For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” Just what could you add that would improve God’s holy word? What would you extract that would permit the retention of its holiness?
The plea of the restoration preachers was established on these inspired proclamations: “We speak where the Bible speaks, and we are silent where the Bible is silent; we call Bible things by Bible names and do Bible things in Bible ways.” Fervent respect was not only displayed but demanded of gospel preachers, just as the apostles demanded respect for the same. As Peter and John declared, so do all preachers who through the ages uphold the integrity of the blood-stained banner of Christ Jesus: “We can but speak the things which we have seen and heard.” (Acts 4:20) Like the apostle Paul, we determine “not to know anything among you save Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” (cf. 1 Corinthians 2:2)
Unfortunately, mankind has endeavored to add many things to the structure and practice of the Lord’s church. From instruments of music (beginning circa 1650) to choirs (first in the U.S. circa 1847) to banquet meals (which Paul condemned when we come for worship – 1 Corinthians 11:34) to the formation of various institutions supported from the treasuries of local churches of Christ (fashioned first with “missionary societies” circa 1799) not only have denominationalists but many brethren of the Lord’s church, have purported sundry items they claim “will help and promote the work of the Lord’s church and its ability to serve God.” I say NONSENSE!! What say you?
First, if these and other innovations of mankind were at all needed for the “improvement” of the Lord’s church, we would have to admit that the God of heaven created an IM-perfect body for His perfect Son! The church is the body of Christ (Ephesians 1:22 – 23; Colossians 1:18; 1 Corinthians 12:12 – 13). Are you willing to say the church is imperfect? Where is your proof? Second, even if we could improve the Lord’s church (which we can’t) by what authority do we prove these innovations are perfect improvements? To my knowledge, there is nothing made by man that is not under constant review to improve its quality and function. Therefore, by what standard would we claim it “perfect” and compliant with the perfect body of Christ Jesus?
More importantly, if camps, colleges, orphanages, old folks’ homes, retreats, parties, seminars, and the like are critical to the work of Christ and His church, where do we find the apostles authorizing such innovations during their years of preaching the gospel of Christ? Paul told Corinth he suffered to know nothing among them save Jesus and Him crucified. Did he short-change them? Either there were no youthful ones to educate, entertain or care for, or the church wasn’t to be involved in man-made institutions providing these items. Either there were no old folks whose care required skilled nursing or the church wasn’t to be involved in such work. I submit there were youthful ones, older folks, and the needs of education, entertainment, training, and the like: but the church was never authorized to build, fund or operate such facilities!
When such needs were noted, individual members accomplished the task. Local men and women trained their own (Titus 2). They educated them in God’s Word. Should they desire secular education, the church was not charged with such responsibility! Should they need entertainment, they were at liberty to find such within righteous parameters, but the church was not charged. Care for the elderly certainly had restrictions, especially upon widows (see 1 Timothy 5: 3 – 14).
“What about James 1:27,” many ask. The rule is the same as we’ve indicated, and James proves it when he says, “and to keep himself unspotted from the world.” He shows care for orphans and widows to be an individual work. Even if it were the work of the Lord’s church, it could not be done through an institution since that would spot the church with the world! Where is the authority to compromise?
As one preacher said, “You can paint a chestnut horse any color you wish, but you’ll still have a chestnut horse.” Today, there are hundreds of excuses offered in defense of institutions and innovations being supported by the Lord’s church. I ask again: Where is the authority? Where did the apostles command such, or give an example that the church should financially support these things or even intimate such were needful to complete the work of the Lord’s church? Instead, we readily find the work of the Lord’s church is to save souls by teaching and preaching the gospel of Christ and be benevolent to our own needy saints. What is more than that is man’s concern for man’s desires or needs. With that authority, we’ve got more than enough to do!