|Volume 18 Number 3 March 2016||
Louis Rushmore, Editor
Not everything is a test of fellowship, but some things are, in fact, a test of fellowship. While there are many things in life and in religion that do not matter, there are a number of things, including religious beliefs and practices, that mattered yesterday, matter today, will matter tomorrow and will matter eternally. Hence, mankind must adhere to divine instructions when it involves something that matters in both this life and in eternity. “O Lord, I know the way of man is not in himself; It is not in man who walks to direct his own steps” (Jeremiah 10:23 NKJV).
Characteristically, humans frequently are given to extremes. Every facet of life demonstrates this (e.g., politics, religion, social organizations, at work, etc.). Some people are too loose with rules and values, while others oppositely are overly strict respecting procedures and beliefs. In the Lord’s church, even some Christians do not try hard enough to practice biblical instructions, while still other Christians try too hard to implement and enforce religious teaching. Those on the left of biblical center loose God-given teaching, while ultraconservative brethren essentially make rules where God did not make any. The Gospel of Christ is difficult enough to apply to one’s life, and so no one ought to take it upon himself to make it more difficult (Galatians 1:6-9; Revelation 22:18-19).
Regarding members of the church who take a liberal approach to the Scriptures, it is misleading and deceitful for them to presume that they are more studied and more mature in the Christian faith than those with whom they disagree regarding New Testament teaching. “Oh, we used to believe like you do, but we have studied Scripture [again] more earnestly, and we are more mature in the faith now.” Such self-aggrandizing has become the code words for excuses to introduce instrumental music (and other things, too) into Christian worship, despite the fact that the New Testament specifically defines acceptable music in worship as “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing” (Ephesians 5:19) and “teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing” (Colossians 3:16).
The attitude that whatever is not specifically prohibited in New Testament Scripture is permitted dilutes Christianity to the subjectivity of each individual; it lays aside the authority of God’s Word to regulate our lives and to serve as the roadmap from earth to eternity. In addition, limiting the authority of the Bible to direct commands and laying aside apostolically approved examples as well as implied New Testament teaching (from which we are obligated to infer correctly and only what is implied) disarms God’s Word of its authority, too.
Notice that Acts 20:7 is an approved, apostolic example relative to the day on which (first day of the week) and the frequency of which (weekly) to partake of the Lord’s Supper. It is no wonder, then, that those who disregard approved biblical examples have no scruples about not limiting the observance of communion to Sundays, care little about how often it may be observed (monthly, quarterly, semiannually, annually) or care on what occasion it may be served and eaten (e.g. at a wedding).
Notice that for any New Testament command to apply to anyone now living, a person must infer from the scriptural implication that some of what was originally spoken or written to a first century audience applies to someone to whom it was not written and whose name does not appear in Scripture. Without implication and inference, none of God’s Word would apply to anyone today!
As a final attempt to justify departure from the authority of God’s Word (and to quiet dissenters to their apostasy), apostates clamor for tolerance based on Romans 14. This, too, is an abuse of the biblical context. Romans 14 concerns matters over which brethren had differences of opinion, not matters that were the subject of divinely-given New Testament doctrine or teaching. It is wholly wrong for anyone to attempt to relegate departure from God-given instruction to merely a matter of opinion.
Departures from the Christian faith were prophesied and warnings abound about the same. “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (2 Timothy 4:3-4). “Now I urge you, brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned, and avoid them. For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple” (Romans 16:17-18). “Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds” (2 John 9-11). Not everything is a test of fellowship, but some things are, in fact, a test of fellowship.
How many people want things and never get them because they do not ask? How many people need things and never get them because they do not ask? Jesus tells us very plainly in the Sermon on the Mount that as God’s children we do not need to be hesitant to ask God for the things we need. As humans, being the fallen creatures that we are, we know how to give our own children the things that they need. We provide for our families and give them the things that they need, so how much more can God provide for us if we just ask?
We need to make sure we understand that Matthew 7:7-11 is not a blanket statement that God will give us everything for which we ask. Many people get so upset because God does not give them everything they request; the reality is that He has never promised to give us all of our wants. We know this is true in this section especially by the example given: bread and fish. When a child asks his father for things that he needs, like food, it will be given to him. When we ask our Father for the things that we need, like food, clothing and shelter (Matthew 6:25-34), He will provide them for us. The Lord will provide (Genesis 22:14).
[Editor’s Note: Yes, God provides, but there is some truth to the old adage that “God helps those who help themselves.” Man must do his part. “For even when we were with you, we commanded you this: If anyone will not work, neither shall he eat” (2 Thessalonians 3:10 NKJV). “The soul of the sluggard craves and gets nothing, while the soul of the diligent is richly supplied” (Proverbs 13:4 ESV). God’s providence works, in tandem with man’s honest efforts, to provide blessings to His children (Romans 8:28) beyond the common blessings showered upon the just and the unjust alike (Matthew 5:45) However, (1) one must ask (James 4:2), one must ask according to the will of God (1 John 5:14) and one must ask God, but not according to one’s “sensual delight,” ‘desires’ and ‘pleasures’ (James 4:3, Strong’s). ~ Louis Rushmore, Editor]