Thursday, July 27, 2017
Harvey Pearson and I collided with one another in 1957. He was the Central Church of Christ preacher in Ada, Oklahoma. I was a “licensed” preacher with another church. Before leaving Ada for Memphis, Harvey gifted me with this slogan, “Don’t accept something because I say it, accept it because you find it in the Bible.” Not too long after that, I read another slogan almost similar. “We teach the Bible, the whole Bible, and nothing but the Bible.”
As the years passed, I noticed that some writers and speakers would back up their arguments, not with scripture, but statements by uninspired notable brethren. It is a common fault. When a human statement is used to prove a specific interpretation, we need to question the validity of that claim! Anyone can make a claim, but claims are not our final authority.
After Acts 10, Gentile congregations began to appear. In Acts 15, James introduced a solution that affected both Jewish and Gentile assemblies. Jewish assemblies continued to be zealous for the Law of Moses (Acts 21:20-26). Gentile assemblies were not required to follow that Law which included its worship and divine traditions. However, in mixed assemblies of Jews and Gentiles, a problem developed over these different practices. Paul addressed some of it in Romans 14.
Imagine how the convictions of a Jewish Christian could be offended by a Gentile brother? The Gentile means well, but invites the church to his home after services and serves pork and catfish. No kosher food is available. Should the Jewish members pull a Simon Peter and say “NO” (Acts 10:13-16)? If he did, would that refusal offend the Gentile brethren? If so, what then? Should the Jewish brethren bring out their scriptures to prove that eating unclean items was scripturally forbidden? Should they not show Gentile brethren that such servings is offensive and contrary to their biblical convictions (Romans 14:23)? How long did confrontations like this continue until Paul wrote Romans 14? Did those confrontations continue after reading it? Yes, congregations had inspired prophets, but so did Corinth and look at their mess! Both Jew and Gentile saints had scripture that justified their position! Christian Jews were justified by the Law of Moses in their refusal to eat pork and catfish. Gentile saints were justified in devouring both foods because their epistle released them from that Law! Both felt God was on their side. Their differences were basically over what God had given to each.
Today, we get upset over a lot of things. The claim is usually made that something isn’t biblical. Yet, the differences are not over what the scriptures say, but based more upon tradition and human judgment than actual Bible statements. For many it is, “I like,” “My opinion,” “I’m not comfortable,” “My preacher says,” “My parents believe,” “the majority believes,” “my church teaches,” “my Bible is silent on that,” “in our judgment,” “I don’t like the direction we’re going,” “I don’t agree with,” “I’m fed up with,” and “the Bible may teach it, BUT. . .”
Before the 19th century ended, there were congregations which desired to follow the ancient order. Being “ancient” meant rejecting the inventions and traditions of men. If it originated from men, it wasn’t from God. Division erupted because things were introduced “which we’ve never done before.” Rather than Jews and Gentiles, it became “Conservatives” and “Innovators.” Conservatives claimed to be holding to the “old paths,” whereas those who accepted the “innovations” were not. Being “conservative” was identified as the ancient order. Those on the left were liberals or digressive. Today, due to multiple divisions in all flavors of Christianity, we have folks on our left and right. Right, left, or middle, all identify themselves to be following the Bible, the whole Bible, and nothing but the Bible!
So, the slogan I was given in 1958 was, “Don’t accept something because I say it, accept it because you find it in the Bible.” Who said that? It wasn’t Jesus, Paul, or any other inspired writer. In fact, I know of no book, chapter, or verse that contains that specific slogan. Most slogans or creeds usually fall short of their intended purpose. There is one fact that is clear. We are excellent in restoring the divisions of 1 Corinthians 1:10-13 and justifying that restoration as New Testament Christianity!