Over the last 200 years the churches of Christ here in America have had their fair share
of “issues.” It seems that the lessons learned from previous generations do not seem to
“stick” to the younger generation and a generation is raised up that did not know the trials and
battles that were faced. As a result, a new “apostasy” rises up in the church and it splits.
Some of you may be old enough to remember more than one of these such occasions.
Alexander Campbell, who was influential in the early days of the “Restoration Movement”
here in America, was also influential in one of the 1st divisions in the modern day church as
he became the president of the first “Church of Christ” missionary society. Not too many
years after that the church again split over musical instruments. Not long after that the church
again split over the proper use of the Lord’s treasury. In more recent times we have seen a
whole slew of other “issues” that have been debated and have seen churches divide over.
Things like marriage, divorce, and remarriage, the need of baptism, and the use of praise
teams have crept up. A study of these historical events will find that all of these issues
actually go back to a single issue. If we all could agree on how to establish authority, none of
these issues would be issues.
While brother Jim Deason was here he briefly mentioned to me some of the problems
going on in the churches in the south. After talking with his son, David, I learned a little more
of what is going on and quickly learned it is not just a “southern” issue. There are many
younger preachers today that are tearing down the standards we have been using to
establish authority in bible times. These standards are direct commands, approved
apostolic examples and necessary inferences (or forced conclusions. I have known for
some time that there are preachers who proclaim that necessary inferences could not be
used to establish authority. But, more recently, there are preachers out there teaching that
approved apostolic examples should not be used to establish authority.
Why should this be a concern for you? Because if approved apostolic examples are
not binding, then when the take the Lord’s Supper is irrelevant. Nowhere in the scriptures are
we technically commanded to partake of the Lord’s Supper on the 1st day of the week. What
we do know is that the church gathered on the 1st day of the week regularly (I Cor. 16:1-2)
and that when they gathered it was for the purpose of breaking bread, or to take the Lord’s
Supper (Acts 20:7). We also know that there are no bible passages that allude to the Lord’s
Supper being taken on any other day. And being that Paul was there on that occasion, we
know that by doing it on the 1st day of the week, we can know that it is approved of by God.
The truth of the matter is that we use these standards for establishing authority in our
everyday lives. When we see a speed limit posted on I-80 that says reads 70mph we know
that is a direct command. We know that traveling beyond that speed can/will result in us
receiving a penalty in the form of a speeding ticket (or worse if we are excessively
speeding). We used approved examples to teach others how to do things. When at work
we will teach a trainee how to do the job by showing them how it is done. The trainee knows
that other ways are not approved and could result in disciplinary actions such as written
warnings and even being fired. Necessary inferences or forced conclusions are used when
no other conclusion can be reached besides the way we are have come to. For instance,
Acts 8:38 says, “they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he
baptized him.” Who baptized who? The only logical conclusion is that Philip baptized the
eunuch, because it was the eunuch that asked to be baptized. You see, we use this type of
logic and reasoning in all facets of life. When we cease to use these skills in the secular
world we are perceived as foolish, unlearned, etc. But, when we use them in the realm of
religion, the weirdest thing happens; we are perceived as foolish, unlearned, etc by the
masses. Brethren, let us not be deceived by the so called wisdom of this world.
Why this new approach? Perhaps I am wrong, but I have often believed that people’s
emotions get involved. People get to thinking how can those who do so much good in their
communities, in this world, etc is considered wicked. How can those whose actions are
motivated by love be considered wicked because they reject baptism, use musical
instruments, etc. The answer is simple. There is a way which seems right unto man whose
end thereof is death (Prov. 14:12). We must remember that God’s ways are better than his
own (Isa. 55:9). And as Job learned, it is not our right to question why God expects certain
things to be done certain ways. -WTK