Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 20, 1971

Law, Details, And Incidentals

A. M. Plyler

Over the years I have listened to much preaching in which it was taught that our Lord did not give us all the details; if the details are a part of God's law, why did he not give them to us? and if they are not a part of God's law, why should it be necessary to discuss them at all? Why take the time to point out and declare that God did not give us all the details? This kind of teaching has caused me to look further into this matter, and the meaning of these words that we hear so much about.

First of all, let us remember some of the plain and positive statements found in both the Old and New Testament. Our Lord said through Moses to the children of Israel; "And all things that I have said unto you be circumspect" (Exodus 23:13). Again in Eph. 5:15, "See that you walk circumspectly not as fools, but as wise." When Moses deviated only slightly from the commands of God (Numbers 20:8-12), God said, "Because you believed me not to sanctify me in the eyes of the children of Israel; therefore you shall not bring this congregation into the land which I have given them." Here it seems that God counts a slight change from his word unbelief and upon that his blessings are denied. Again, "If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the word of the Lord my God, to do less or more" (Numbers 22:18). Once more "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" (Rev. 22:18-19).

From these plain sentiments from God's word we must be impressed with the fact that to our peril we will tamper or change God's word.

Now the word "Detail" is not a Bible word but an English word, and to the dictionary we must go for its meaning, Webster says, "1. A dealing with things item by item; 2. A minute account; 3. A small part, item. 4. A small secondary part of a picture, building, etc."

This definition shows that the details are a small part of a thing. If God did not give us the details of his law, then he did not give us the small parts of his law; how then can he expect us to keep his law or be circumspect in doing his will if the small parts are left out of his word?- The word "Incidental" is the other word we must notice just now. This word means "1. Happening or likely to happen in connection with something more important; 2. secondary or minor."

It is the contention of this writer that God did give the details of his law, but the incidentals he left out; incidentals are no part of his commands, they are something that may happen or may not happen in connection with the doing of his will. The details are the small parts or small items of the commands he did give, or else we are left without chart or compass upon the sea of time; to drift with every whim or fancy that the wisdom of man may choose or invent.

No living man has the right to supply the details of God's law; that is where the doctrines and commandments of men come in.

Let us now illustrate: Baptism for the remission of sins is the law of God. Much water is necessary for a burial; the candidate must be a penitent believer; it must be performed in the name of Jesus Christ; or by his authority; it puts one into the Church or Kingdom of God. It is for all time; and for every creature. These are some of the "details" found concerning this law of God. Now "incidentals" that are not given would be the place of the baptism, (whether creek, river, pond, baptistry or bathtub), or who should perform the act; such as the preacher, elder, any member, or even anyone who may be asked to so perform.

Again it is the law of God that the church meet together for worship (Acts 20:7; 1st. Cor. 16:1-3; Heb. 10:25). The "details" of this worship are also laid out: Eph. 5:19, "Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your hearts to the Lord." 1st. Cor. 11:33, "Wherefore my brethren when you come together to eat, tarry one for another." Acts 20:20, "And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you publicly and from house to house."

"Upon the first day of the week let everyone of you lay by in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gathering when I come" (1st. Cor. 16:1-4). These passages set forth the law of God concerning worship and some items or details in connection therewith. Incidentals, that are not given might be the hour of coming together, or the place, whether a place owned by the church, a rented place, in someone's home, or public place of meeting.

Let it be now clearly remembered that God does hold us accountable to obey his will and that will must be revealed in his law with the details therein set forth. From this we cannot deviate, change, or add to, or take from. To this task let us forever dedicate ourselves, in love, patience, faith, and good will. And let the incidentals take care of themselves; and may God help us to so do.

Parrish, Alabama