My Thoughts. . .
From time to time I see articles challenging the reader to get back to “calling Bible things by Bible names and doing Bible things in Bible ways.” Although that phrase is not found in our Bible, it has a noble ring to it. The problem is that most who use it, though honest and sincere in statement, are inconsistent in practice.
One seldom sees written articles that warn us about “saying but not doing.” It is easier to criticize the actions of others rather than be the brunt of that criticism ourselves. When presenting our case to another, we want to be positive rather than negative. The glow of the positive always outshines the dullness of the negative. What salesman begins by pointing out why you should not buy his product? So, we want to teach truth, even if it means overlooking our negative practices.
Since we are individuals without perfection, there are inconsistencies that cling to us all. Many make the bold statement, “We only teach the Bible.” The problem is in failing to recognize that “truth” is not truth just because we believe it. The human side is disastrous in its failure to reach perfection. N.B. Hardeman pointed out three phases which all congregations go through. 1) Going into trouble, 2) Coming out of trouble, or 3) Being in the middle of trouble. Perfection is unreachable by each assembly in life’s journey. Jesus is the perfect head of the church, but the membership is made up of sinners who must be constantly cleansed (1 John 1:7-10).
Some congregations tout their faithfulness and believe their hilltop light is more brilliant than other assemblies. That may be so, and we are happy for the light which they shine toward others. Jesus himself spoke of those who had different degrees of work. Yet, there is a lingering truth which should humble those who wear their badge of pride. We are all sinners who should readily admit that imperfection and continue looking to Jesus for our cleansing.
Some may take pride in the fact that their consistency is better than that which is possessed by other congregations. Although I appreciate and love the elders, deacons, evangelists, teachers, and members at Campbell Street, I realize we are inconsistent because we lack perfection. Jesus came to save lost sinners and the “sinner” epitaph remains, but thankfully he made us “saved sinners.”
Do we actually find that what we do is specifically expression in the Bible? No. We take our actions and search for something similar in the Bible and proclaim that we are “doing a Bible action in a Bible way.” Our proclamation makes it a Bible action? If something is not “named” in our Bible, we refer to it as being “necessarily implied” or “inferred” therein. For example, others use the term “Sunday School” whereas we refer to it as “Bible classes.” Neither phrase is found in scripture. Anglicans introduced us to that practice over four hundred years ago. We refer to the furniture which holds the unleavened bread and the fruit of the vine as “the Lord’s table.” Since we have had house churches since February, which house assembly is the one using “the Lord’s table”? We allow time and tradition to make a piece of furniture be that “table” rather than the two elements used as the Lord’s supper.
Some of our “church” songs and beliefs about the church building are man created rather than Bible based. Certain rooms are “holier” than other rooms. We reserve one room for worship and another for teaching. We never ask for a Bible passage that demands such. Manmade rules regulate what is not acceptable in one room but allowed in another. We misunderstand Paul’s point in 1 Corinthians 11 and believe the entire congregation must be in one room to validate the Lord’s supper. Covid-19 threw that practice out the window, but it will be restored once a vaccine is found. Sometimes habit is stronger than scripture. The problem is in not knowing the difference.
The fault of the first century church continues to be one that lingers today. Sometimes believers think their practice is blessed by God and is required of all. All traditions that some wish to bind today originated years after the first century. Time helps a a tradition to evolve into a doctrine. Some beliefs do not take much time to make that transition. Religious gullibility often spreads faster than a pandemic.
So, when we do things that are not named in the Bible, but we criticize another who follows our practice, why are we not just as guilty as they are?