ALLOWED OR APPROVED
T. PIERCE BROWN
A few days ago, just as I was about to have an operation for a malignant tumor, I received a letter chiding me for an article I had written in which the reader assumed I was advocating “located paid preachers.” However, the article was not dealing with that subject at all. I decided not to try to “beat a dead horse”, since I knew the reader had already rejected the fact that every preacher must be located somewhere for some period of time. Paul was apparently located inEphesusfor at least three years (Acts20:31)and Paul took wages of churches (2 Corinthians 11:8. So, I told him I was not interested in entering a discussion with him at that time.
However, the thought occurred to me that although any reasoning I might do would be lost on him, there is a principle or two that appeared that might be of some value to someone with an open mind and an ability to reason properly. First, we need to realize there is a difference in presenting logical or scriptural arguments for the authority to do a certain thing, and presenting arguments for the propriety or advisability of doing them.
For example, one can present very sound arguments for the value of having local members of a congregation, especially elders and those who have knowledge of the scriptures and ability to teach, to do the primary teaching and preaching for the local congregation. Meanwhile the evangelist, if there is one, is somewhere doing mission work in preaching the gospel to the lost. But if someone makes that argument as if the scriptures teach that is the only way it can be done, he is wrong. He is doubly wrong if he says that a Christian does not need to hear the gospel, but only needs to hear doctrine, for once he has heard the good news it is no longer news.
One can make logical arguments that the majority of congregations spend more time and money planning programs and projects that are to satisfy the material or fleshly desires of the members than they do in spending time and money in programs that are designed to win souls for eternity. To argue that we should get rid of our padded pews and sit on hard wooden benches or planks and spend the money that would be saved in the effort to save a soul is one thing. To argue that some scripture forbids us to have a padded pew is another thing.
One does have the right to an opinion about the serving of the Lord’s Supper at the Sunday evening worship service. Some have said that when the Lord’s Supper is served on Sunday evening to those who did not have the opportunity to take it on Sunday morning (or did not choose to take the opportunity they had), it is better to have them stand in the audience where they are and be served than it is to have them go to another locality to be served. But to make it a doctrinal issue that it is contrary to scripture to serve them in some other locality seems almost incredulous for one who claims to be a student of God’s word or an intelligent logician.
If one person “esteemeth one day above another” (Romans 14:5) he has a right to argue forcibly for his position. The person who disagrees with him has the same right, but neither of them has a right to make it a doctrinal issue and advocate withdrawal of fellowship from the other as a result of the disagreement. For example, a person may conclude that if some Sunday happens to be what is called “Mother’s Day” it is an appropriate time to preach a sermon on motherhood, or family values, or something of the sort. Another preacher may reason, “I will never do that, for it would seem to be exalting a man-made day and making it special when God did not so ordain.” He has the right to refuse to preach about it on that day, and to present any arguments he thinks valid to uphold his position. He does not have the right to teach that preaching what the Bible teaches about the wonder or values of motherhood on any particular day violates any scripture.
The same thing is true about preaching about the birth of Christ at Christmas time. Most of my preaching life I did not emphasize the birth of Christ during this time. That was because it was my opinion that when we claimed that we did not observe Christmas as the birthday of Christ, and then did almost everything everyone else did, such as singing of Christmas carols and having special services, etc., it would seem at least inconsistent and contradictory. But for me to make an issue of it and claim that brethren were liberal or acting contrary to some scriptural principle to preach about the birth of Christ whenever they care to would be out of harmony with God’s word.
We have no doubt that many of the “issues” that have caused division and confusion in the Lord’s church could have been avoided if brethren had made the distinction we are trying to make at this point. Paul and Barnabas could have a difference of opinion so strongly that they parted company, but there is not the slightest hint in the Bible that either of them ever made an issue about it and charged the other with an anti-scriptural position.
We have felt so strongly for more than half a century that it is improper to conduct a wedding in a church building where an instrument of music is used that we have never done such. Let’s suppose the eldership and/or the preacher in another congregation decide that it is not a service of worship and does not violate scripture. I can argue my position as long as I choose but I have no right to accuse the other preacher of doctrinal unsoundness or of violating some scripture if he chooses to use an instrument of music in a wedding ceremony. It may be interesting to note that some who would make it a test of fellowship never seem to be concerned about lighting of candles, throwing rice or having a wedding in the church building at all. After all, where is the scripture that authorizes having a “church wedding?” It is probably very close to the one that authorizes having a church building.
Let us urge you to strive to emphasize your viewpoint, whatever it is, for you may help others of us to see more clearly a better way of doing things. But let us urge you to refrain from assuming that your viewpoint is the only valid one and that anyone who differs is a liberal heretic from whom all sound brethren should withdraw.