CHRISTIANITY IN ACTION
T. PIERCE BROWN
In Acts 2:42, we read, “And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread and in prayers.” For all those who are interested in the idea of having a life or a church patterned after that which Christ ordained, a continued emphasis on the four aspects of Christianity mentioned here should be valuable. In this article, we will have space for only the first one.
First, we need to consider the Apostles’ doctrine. What was it? How do we discover it? What difference does it make? Is it good for us to continue steadfastly in it? I never thought I would live long enough to hear those who claim membership in the Lord’s church teach that doctrine is not important. Paul said to Timothy, “Take heed unto thyself and unto the doctrine; continue in them, for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee” (1 Timothy 4:5). If Paul’s language to Timothy does not teach that doctrine is important, what does it teach?
In taking heed to the Apostles’ doctrine, we need to make some significant distinctions. First, we need to make distinctions between the Old Testament and the New. It is amazing that there are still those connected with the Restoration Movement who try to prove their practices (like those of using mechanical instruments of music in worship) by the Old Testament. I received a letter recently from a preacher who said something like this, “If God approved of instrumental music in the Old Testament, what makes you think He has lost His taste for it now?” Whoever made an argument that instrumental music is not appropriate in New Testament worship because God does not like the sound of it? Does anyone assume that God authorized the burnt offerings of the Old Testament because He liked the smell of them? Then, because His taste changed, He failed to authorize them in the New? David showed that even in the Old Testament God had not commanded burnt offerings because He had delight in the offering (Psalm 51:16). The things He had (and has) delight in is a broken and contrite heart that is willing to do what God authorizes in the way He wants it done (Psalm 51:17).
We need to continue to emphasize that there is a definite distinction between faith and opinion. Faith comes from hearing the word of God. Opinion is guessing about what God wants. I have faith that Peter preached as recorded in Acts 2. I may have an opinion about why God chose him instead of John.
We need to distinguish between the things that were temporary and those that were permanent. I still hear those who should know better refer to God’s providential acts of today (and what they assume to be such) as miracles. They say, “It is a miracle that theBerlinwall is down.” “Our defeat of Sadam Hussein was a miracle.” There is and always has been a difference in the providential and miraculous. Miracles could be seen and verified as absolute evidence of the power of God and confirmation of the word of God.
We need to make a distinction between the circumstances of a situation and the requirements of the situation that apply to us. When Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper, He had the disciples follow a man bearing a pitcher of water, prepare an upper room, and reclined at the table with the twelve. There are those who seem to think that if we follow Jesus, we must follow His example and meet in an upper room. I had a friend who said she wanted to be baptized in running water, like Jesus. He was not baptized in a baptistery. I told her that if she really wanted running water, I could open the faucet and the drain and get that. She said, “No, I mean a river.” I replied, “Then, if you are consistent, it should be theJordan.”
We need to understand the difference in the principles underlying an action and the means of expediting the command. In 1 Corinthians 14:26-40 there are at least four principles set forth. 1. All things should be done decently and in order. 2. God is not the author of confusion. 3. Women are to be in subjection. 4. All things are to be done unto edifying. The means of carrying out those principles may differ in various circumstances.
We need to know the difference between divine law and a statement concerning the custom of the times. The holy kiss and the wearing of veils can be shown to be customs. The principles underlying those commands are constant.
The general principles underlying these things are: We are obligated to do certain things at certain times and in certain ways. Sometimes we have a choice. How do we tell when we are bound or not bound? There are those connected with the Lord’s church who teach that we are not bound to take the Lord’s Supper on the first day of the week. It is admitted that they took it then, but they also took it in an upper room. How do we know that the day is bound, but the place is loosed? Whole articles, or books could be written on the subject, but the simplest easy way to tell for those who honestly want to know is that when the inspired instructions and example show that any aspect of the activity was important, we need to be aware of it. There is nothing in any record at any time that shows there was significance or importance in the upper room. Everything about the example and command indicates that the day was significant.
The second aspect of Christianity is continuing in the fellowship. We need to determine what is meant by fellowship, with whom we are and are not to have fellowship and determine to practice that. Space does not permit us to dwell on that, but I only mention it here because it is so closely related to the first. If a person does not continue in the Apostles’ doctrine, we are to have no fellowship with him as a brother.