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Home The Light Articles from 2004 Changing the Church

Changing the Church

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Changing the Church

Recently, I ran across the following bit of concern by an unknown writer:

"Here is what I have gleaned from listening to those who want to change the church. First of all, I equate the change agent movement with the ‘Israel wants a king’ mentality. They see the denominations growth rates and their happy fellowship between one another and want to duplicate it. They hold them up as the ‘way to grow.’ They see the methods and then look for some way to justify the changes. I can’t tell you what all is being introduced, but I can tell you how they get their authority. We establish authority by Command, Approved Example, Necessary Inference, Divine Statement, and from the Silence of the scriptures. Those who want to change the church get their authority for what they do by throwing out everything but Command. Their claim is:

1.) Example is not authority, because "you can’t bind a narrative."

2.) Inference is not authority because "it is too subjective; my inference may not be your inference and as such you are binding opinion."

3.) Divine Statement is worthless–a simple statement is only a statement; there is no authority in a statement.

4.) The silence of the Scriptures means nothing. How can silence teach us anything? When you argue the example of Nadab and Abihu or even Hebrews 7:14, they claim ‘Old Testament is not binding on us today.’ Since they don’t accept silence as restrictive, anything not specifically forbidden is allowable.

"That leaves them with Command. If they can’t justify it under Command, they call it an Expedient. When anyone tries to call them on their errors, they blame opposition on the ‘legalists’ and claim that the opposition is violating Romans 14 by attempting to restrict their liberty. The Bible means less and less as we become more and more like the denominations. Even in churches of Christ." –via Dentel, adapted

Let’s examine these contentions–

1.) Example is not authority because "you can’t bind a narrative." But Paul wrote, "Keep the ordinances as delivered" (1 Cor. 11:2). Of the Communion, "as delivered" points us to the example of Jesus instituting the Supper. It is impossible to keep this ordinance "as delivered" without binding the example of Jesus. Suppose the question is baptism–how do we baptize, by sprin-kling or immersion? We learn from the example of Inspired men…"And [the eunuch] commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing" (Acts 8:38-39).

2.) Inference is not authority because "it is too subjective; my inference may not be your inference and as such you are binding opinion." It is true that an inference is subjective and should never be used as authority. But it is an entirely different matter with a necessary inference. There is a major difference. An inference is open to judgment; the inference may be likely, but it may or may not be as inferred. But a necessary inference can be no other way–it is not open to judgment. John 3:23 says: "John also was baptizing in Aenon near to Salim, because there was much water there…" "Because there was much water there" infers John was baptizing by immersion and not just sprinkling or pouring, but it does not necessarily infer this. One can be standing in water waist deep (much water) and a preacher may sprinkle water on the head of a candidate for "baptism." So John 3:23 is only an inference that the baptisms in Aenon were by immersion. (Immersion can be proved elsewhere; Roman 6:3-5 for example.) However, when Jesus took the cup of the Lord’s supper containing fruit of the vine, it is not just inferred he took the pure juice rather than strong wine, raisin water, Grape soda, etc., it is necessarily inferred that it was pure juice. That is, it can be no other way. The drink element in the cup was something the vine produced (Grk gennema: produce, offspring). It is absolutely impossible for a vine to produce strong wine, raisin water, Grape soda, etc., but it does produce the juice of the grape. This is why this is a necessary inference and not just an inference. "Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, "Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom" (Matthew 26:27-29 NKJV).

3.) Divine Statement is worthless–a simple statement is only a statement; there is no authority in a statement. But a statement may reveal the approved practice of the early church (or other things), shedding light on Christian duty. Where this is so, we may use this simple revelation as reason (authority) why we practice the same. For instance, the twenty-first century church observes the Lord’s Supper on the first day of the week because (among other reasons) the first century church at Troas, with apostolic approval, assembled to break bread on the first day of the week (Acts 20:7). This record is not a command, or necessary inference (and some deny that it is an example). However else it is viewed, it is certainly an Inspired statement of an action of the early church. It cannot be reasonably denied that this provides Divine authorization (authority) for breaking bread on Sunday. Thus, with the support (authority) of Acts 20:7 we break bread on the first day of the week. Comparatively, if some were to prefer breaking bread on Monday (or any other day), there is no Biblical support (authority) for such. Since the New Testament does not authorize such a practice in any way, those observing the Supper on Monday are using their own judgment that it is permissible to so do, in contrast to what they can know is positively approved, a Sunday observance. A simple Inspired statement provides Divine approval–authorization–for a practice, and Divine approval is Divine authority.

4.) The silence of the Scriptures means nothing. How can silence teach us anything? What do we mean by the "silence of the Scriptures"? Biblical silence cannot be reduced simply to matters of which the Bible says nothing, as singing at the rest-homes, having restrooms in the church building, having Wednesday night services, placing a sign out front, etc. Authoritative Biblical silence comes into play where Inspiration has spoken on a matter–where there is Revelation. That which is left unsaid in that specific matter, that which is unendorsed, falls into the category of Biblical silence. Noah was instructed to build the ark of Gopher wood (Gen. 6:14). God here named the wood to be used. Although He was silent about the use of Pine, Oak, Hickory, Poplar, etc, they are all woods that were, by this very silence, prohibited. Nadab and Abihu were consumed by fire even though what they did was not specifically forbidden by God. They offered strange (unauthorized) fire, "fire which he commanded them not." Had Noah used unauthorized Pine or Oak, we would have a sin parallel to the unauthorized fire, both condemned by God’s silence.

Hebrews 7:12-14 illustrates Biblical silence explicitly. Read these lines carefully. "For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law. For he of whom these things are spoken pertaineth to another tribe, of which no man gave attendance at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood." The passage clearly states Moses was silent about a man of Juda serving as priest at the altar. He "spake nothing" of the tribe of Juda, naming only Levi. Thus Jesus, being of Juda, could have no part in the priesthood simply because the silence of the Law excluded Juda.

The lesson here for us then, is that worshippers cannot offer acceptable worship to God unless our worship actions are authorized by the Word of God. To be assured that God will accept our worship offering, we must offer what is recorded as permissible; we must avoid all else. As brother Guy N. Woods once observed, "We must do what God says do, in the way that God says do it, and for the reason He said do it." And similarly, brother Foy E. Wallace is credited with saying, "If you annot read it in the New Testament, don’t do it!"


For those of you who question the stance of this paper on related issues, this brief study illustrates precisely why we do not use the mechanical instrument in our praise, why we do not use individual cups in the Communion, why we do not use strong wine in the cup, why we oppose multiple loaves on the table, why we do not observe the Communion on any day other than the first day of the week, why we oppose substituting a personal Communion service as opposed to gathering with a local assembly of the church. We can know what the Bible authorizes, and if we are anxious to please God, we will be cautious not to violate Him. Any change is, at best, taking a chance–at worst, an open Nadab/Abihu rebellion. It is impossible to know what pleases God in this New Testament era save through what is revealed in His Word. No matter how worthy our intentions, how sincere our motives, how logical our actions, how pure our objectives, if we offer acts of divine service which are not authorized by the Word of God, or change the acts that are authorized, we may very well be categorizing ourselves with the two ancient priests who kindled God’s wrath while in the very act of worship. –Jerry



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