REQUIREMENTS, EXPEDIENTS, AND VIOLATIONS
Through His word, the Bible, God has set forth His will for mankind. By various kinds of statements (declarative, imperative, hortatory, interrogative, etc.), approved apostolic examples, and implications (from which we draw logical inferences or conclusions), God has communicated in an understandable way what He expects of us as rational, responsible, and accountable human beings. “So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17, NASB).
Along with what God has required are various expedients (practical, convenient, advantageous ways) for doing what God has authorized. These expedients themselves are not always specifically spelled out in scripture, but by their very nature they inhere in what God requires of us. We must recognize, however, that expedients may be employed only in doing what God has authorized. There is no practical, advantageous way to do something which God has not authorized! (A little later we will provide some examples of what we mean by expedients). Then there are violations of (disobedience to) what God has required us to do. The Bible includes a long, sad tale (beginning with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden) of mankind’s rebellion against God and his violation of God’s law and the tragic consequences of such.
In evangelizing the world with the gospel, Christ commissioned the apostles, “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations . . .” (Matthew 28:19, KJV). The apostles were required to “go,” and in their time they were limited to walking, riding a beast of burden, or sailing on a ship. God’s people today also are charged with the responsibility of evangelizing the world (I Timothy 3:15), but we are not limited in our going to ways only available to the apostles. Today, we may utilize cars, trains, and airplanes to carry out the mission of preaching the gospel to every creature. These expedients inhere in the command to “go,” and therefore are authorized. We violate what the Lord requires/authorizes when we fail to go, or when we turn the work of evangelism over to a missionary society or some parachurch organization.
In evangelizing the world and in strengthening Christians in the faith, Christ required the teaching and preaching of the gospel (Matthew 18:18-20; Mark 16:15-16). In Bible times this teaching and preaching could be done orally and in writing (as, for example, in the letters of Paul), and it could be done both “publicly and from house to house” (Acts 20:20). The fact that the early Christians did not have radio, television, newspapers, magazines, the internet, PowerPoint, etc. does not mean that it is wrong to use these advantageous means today. When we utilize these expedients we still are only doing what the Lord authorized us to do—to teach and preach the gospel. However, when we teach the doctrines and commandments of men, when we proclaim the creeds, catechisms, and decisions of the religious councils of men, when we preach “another gospel,” we violate what the Lord has authorized for none of these is the gospel (Galatians 1:6-9; Matthew 15:7-9; II Timothy 4:2-4).
The Lord required people to be baptized in order to be saved from their sins and to become His disciples (Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15-16; Acts 2:38-41; 22:16; Galatians 3:27; I Peter 3:21). “Baptize” is the anglicized form of the Greek word “baptizo” and means “to dip, plunge, submerge, immerse.” The New Testament was originally written in Greek, and if “baptizo” had been translated it would have come into our English Bibles as “immerse,” and John the Baptist would have been known as John the Immerser. All examples and descriptions of baptism in the New Testament show this to be the case (Matthew 3:13-16; Acts 8:38-39; Romans 6:3-4; Colossians 2:12; et al). Expedient places for immersion/baptism to occur are a river, a lake, an ocean, a baptistery—anywhere there is enough water to immerse a person. But since scriptural baptism is only immersion, sprinkling and pouring are not expedient ways to baptize because they are not an immersion in water. Sprinkling and pouring are human substitutions for what the Lord has required, and therefore constitute a violation of what the Lord has authorized. Likewise, to reject the necessity of baptism for salvation constitutes disobedience to what the Lord has commanded.
Understanding what the Lord has required, what are expedient ways of doing what the Lord has required, and what are violations of what the Lord has required is one of the most important lessons to be learned in the practice of New Testament Christianity in the present age. Unfortunately, many have not learned to differentiate where these matters are concerned.
(To Be Continued)
July 31, 2018