Monday, August 28, 2017
Paul informs us that “all scripture” is “inspired by God and profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction,” and “for instructions in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). Then man steps in! What is the proper interpretation? Even when men were inspired by the Holy Spirit, divisions were introduced and had to be corrected (1 Corinthians 1:10-13). Even inspired individuals were in those denominated groups. They allowed misunderstandings, based on love for a preacher, to be their guide rather than the Spirit’s teaching (1 Corinthians 12:27-31)!
Some interpretations begin innocently, but later develop into broad misunderstandings. This may happen when an interpretation is accepted as heaven sent. Sometimes one extreme creates another. For example, Martin Luther believed one was justified by faith, but his religious heritage thought it was through justification by works. Alexander Campbell saw church traditions as detrimental to Christian unity and called for a return to the Bible. Yet, during his lifetime, the “Restoration Movement” developed a crack. That “tear” was due to misinterpretation. This developed into a multiplicity of divisions.
One interpretative rule in the writings of Martin Luther (1483-1546), Zwingli (1484-1531) and others was, “The silence of the Scriptures is prohibitive.” Another way of saying it is, “If the Bible doesn’t teach it, we cannot do it.” Its application has often been misapplied by those who advocate it. Some alter the slogan with, “Silence prohibits your actions, but not mine!”
Some believe silence is a scriptural reason for remaining on “the old paths.” “Sunday School” or “Bible classes” are not mentioned in scripture. Does that silence prohibit? Sunday School originated with the Anglicans, not from scripture. I cannot find a small table with the inscription, “Do This In Remembrance of Me” in Matthew, Mark, Luke or 1 Corinthians. Is it prohibited? I can’t find a passage commanding me to have such a table and call it “the Lord’s table.” With or without, neither practice would be wrong. There are many things being practice today that are not mentioned in scripture. Are those practices prohibited? It depends upon who is being asked!
Must one be bound by a view or practice that is not in scripture? Some believe it can be. How many still believe it is a sin to go to the movies? That was condemned by preachers in the early part of the twentieth century. How many believe it is a sin to mow your lawn on Sunday afternoon? How many believe it is a sin of disrespect to not wear your very best clothing Sunday morning? How many believe one must be immersed in a river, pond, stream or lake to be valid? How many believe God authorized only the King James Version? How many believe “thee” and “thou” must be used in prayer to show reverence to God? How many believe a prayer must begin or end “in the name of Jesus” to be valid? How many believe a baptism is not valid if the words in Acts 2:38 are not repeated before immersion? How many believe an invitation must be offered or one is not preaching the gospel? Misunderstandings and misapplications have reigned for centuries.
Failure to recognize the differences between the first and second covenant is a misunderstanding. For example, some believe when Jesus and the apostles “sung” a hymn, that the word “sung” authorized singing, but eliminated the instrument (Matthew 26:30; Mark 14:26). Even if Jesus and his apostles sang without one, it wasn’t because it was wrong for them to accompany their singing with an instrument. To use those two passages and apply them to “church worship,” is a misapplication, since they were under the first, not the second covenant. The second covenant was still future because Jesus had not ratified it with his blood, the church had not been established, so there would not be any church assemblies to offer worship prior to the cross or before Pentecost (Acts 2)!
Some may not in good conscience practice something which another has no problem doing (Romans 14:23). Neither may bind his personal belief upon another (Galatians 5:1-6). Each is to respect the other person’s differences (Romans 14). Man has a hard time learning and applying Paul’s lesson. In the first century, after Acts 10, there were two different congregations. One was Jewish and the other Gentile. Sometimes culture and tradition are powerful tools in shaping one’s beliefs, although Jesus left us the example of accepting and engaging in Jewish religious practices which were more tradition than scripture. He did not consider them to be prohibitive because they were not mentioned in scripture.
The differences among followers of Jesus illustrate how enormous this problem is! Jesus prayed for unity, but his plea has been ignored by those who call upon his name (John 17:20-21).