Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 26, 1970
NUMBER 29, PAGE 9b-10

When Is A Thing...Scriptural?

John W. Hedge

The usual answer to this question is, a thing is scriptural if it is commanded, or if we have an apostolic example of where it was practiced under the direct guidance of the Holy Spirit, or if the thing is in harmony with the spirit and general teaching of the New Testament. It seems that we experience our greatest difficulty in determining when a religious practice is out of harmony with the spirit and general teachings of the New Testament. Some seem to think that our liberties in the field of "the generic" means that we are licensed to do as we please. They have gone the full limits in introducing things into the worship and work of the churches. Because there are no "shall not's" to restrain them in so acting, they refuse to be governed by the spirit and general teachings of the New Testament. One has the freedom to eat meats of any kind; but this does not give him license to eat meats of a certain kind which offends another. One has the freedom of choice to employ any form of transportation available in carrying the gospel to all the world; but he does not have the freedom to "steal a ride." One has the freedom of choice in a method of teaching God's word; but he does not have the right to force any particular method upon others which he might like.

Some things done in the name of religion are unscriptural, not only because they are not commanded, and not only because there is no apostolic example for such, but because such things are out of harmony with the spirit and teaching of the Bible. I mention a few of these things:

1. Baptizing infants, is a thing which is not commanded, neither is there an apostolic example of such found in the entire New Testament. Since God has neither commanded nor forbidden infants to be baptized, how do we know that it is unscriptural to baptize such? The simple answer to that question is, God has told us to baptize the taught, those who are capable of believing and repenting of sins, and since infants can do none of these things, therefore it is unscriptural to baptize them.

2. God has given the order to the elders of the churches (local) to take the oversight of "the flock which is among you." (Acts 20:28. Pet. 5:1-2.) It is unscriptural, therefore, for a group of elders of one local church to plan a work which they are going to oversee which requires the help of other local churches. Now if it is scripturally right for one local church under the direction of its elders to plan such a work, how do you reach the conclusion that it is wrong for the elders of one local church to oversee a work done by a group of churches? Another thing, if it is scriptural for a group of local churches to do their work of preaching the gospel through the agency of one local church and under its eldership, what would be wrong in all the participating churches having some part in forming such plan of action? The liberals among us frown upon the idea of a meeting of heads of churches to plan a work in which all of them are to have some part; yet they favor the idea of one local church making such a plan! They will not tell you that it is wrong for each local church to plan its own work and do that work according to its ability at the congregational level. If this is the way God ordained it to be done, how can it be scriptural to do it otherwise?

3. It has been said that "general benevolence is a work of the churches," that is, helping all people whether saints or sinners who are in need. If you ask the advocates of this teaching to produce the authority for the churches helping all needy people, they will usually refer you to those verses which apply to the individual members and not the churches. Galatians 6:10 is one of "the golden texts" used in an effort to prove the right of churches to engage in general benevolence. But this text, while addressed to the churches of Galatia, proves too much in the application which Paul here makes of it. The requirement is, to "Do good unto all men," and that covers more ground than the liberals will allow. There are many ways in which individuals may "do good unto all men," but the churches cannot go so far. Individuals may contribute to Christian colleges, help those who are not widows indeed, order their homes, and participate in governmental affairs, and in many other ways "do good unto all men," but the liberals declare that the churches cannot do these things. This, then, forces the conclusion that there is a great difference in what the churches may do and what individual members of the churches may do. The liberty and freedom of one to act does not mean that both may act in the same way. Liberals will not deny that it is scriptural for churches to help those who are "widows indeed" and needy saints in times of need. When a local church limits its benevolent work to these two classes it is on scriptural ground; and when it "lifts the ban" and extends its work to all people without restriction it becomes unscriptural in practice.

When a religious practice is introduced for consideration to a church, it is not enough to ask is it commanded or is there an apostolic approved example for it; but is the thing in harmony with the spirit and general teaching of God's word. It is here where we are having most of our troubles today.

P.S. Firm Foundation and Gospel Advocate, please copy.

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