REQUIREMENTS, EXPEDIENTS, AND VIOLATIONS
Christians are required to assemble for the purposes of worship, exhortation, and fellowship (John 4:24; Acts 2:42; 20:7; Hebrews 10:24-25). While we read nothing of church buildings in New Testament times, such are not wrong because they are expedient, convenient ways of doing what the Lord has authorized us to do. A place to assemble (including seats/pews, lights, etc.), whether in a private home, a rented hall, or a building constructed for that purpose inheres in and is authorized by the command to assemble. On the other hand, to fail to assemble and worship the Lord is a violation of His will, and therefore sin.
God requires Christians to minister to the poor and needy, including widows and orphans (Matthew 25:31-46; James 1:27). Both as individual Christians and as local churches we are to do this work of love and kindness (I Corinthians 16:1-4; II Corinthians 8 & 9; Galatians 6:10 [written to the churches of Galatia, Galatians 1:1-2]). We are to help needy individuals and needy families, the young and the old. An expedient way for providing for the needs of children who have lost their parents or who have been abandoned is to replace their natural home with a legal group home or what is sometimes referred to as an orphans’ home where several such children are cared for. The elderly may properly be cared for in a group home. The right of a church to help the natural home is the right of a church to help the restored home. These are expedient, practical ways for doing what God requires us to do. But failure to minister to the poor and needy, including widows and orphans, constitutes disobedience to the Lord.
The Bible authorizes Christians to eat the Lord’s Supper on the first day of the week (Sunday, the Lord’s Day) in memory of the death of Christ for man’s sins and the shedding of His blood for our spiritual cleansing (Matthew 26:26-29; I Corinthians 11:23-26; Acts 20:7). Two elements constitute the Supper—unleavened bread and the fruit of the vine (grape juice). How many trays are used to distribute the bread and how many containers are used to distribute the fruit of the vine (the cup, I Corinthians 10:21; 11:26) are all matters of expediency, and should not become the source of contention and division among Christians. But, to forsake the assembly of the saints and fail to partake of the Lord’s Supper every Sunday when one is able to do so, to substitute Ritz crackers and Coca-Cola for the divinely appointed elements, or to add strawberry jam to the bread constitute a gross violation of what the Lord has authorized Christians to do in observing the Lord’s Supper!
In our worship to the Lord, we are authorized to sing and make melody in our hearts to the Lord, thereby teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16). Singing is the kind of music God has commanded in the Christian age. Hymn books, pitch pipes, tuning forks, projection of the words and notes on a screen are expedient ways of carrying out what the Lord has required. When these are used we have only done what the Lord has authorized us to do—sing. On the other hand, when instrumental music is incorporated into the worship something is done that the Lord has not authorized. Instrumental music is another kind of music—completely different from that which the New Testament authorizes. Rather than being an expedient, instrumental music is an addition to, and in many instances a substitution for, what the Lord has authorized (the instrument is played, while the congregation sits in silence), and its use is a violation of the Lord’s will. Again, we must remember that there is no expedient way to do something which the Lord has not first authorized, and instrumental music has not been authorized in the worship of the church! Only singing has been authorized.
There was a time when these principles were understood and applied in the interpretation of Scripture by those seeking a return to the New Testament order of things. Over time, however, some failed to grasp these principles and began to object to the use of certain expedients in carrying out divinely authorized requirements. Others began to treat some matters of expediency as though they were requirements and endeavored to bind them as if they were the law of God Himself. Still others, in an effort to justify unscriptural innovations, tried to move things unauthorized into the realm of expediency. In all such instances, division and heartache occurred.
It is to be hoped that we may regain the ability to think clearly and biblically about these matters and to properly discern those things that are matters of faith (requirements), those things that are legitimate expedients for carrying out what is required, and those things that constitute a violation of what God has authorized.
Hugh Fulford – August 7, 2018
- August 19: Karns Church of Christ, Knoxville, TN
- August 20-21: Polishing the Pulpit, Sevierville, TN