We’ve Come a Long Way, by John R. Gibson

About two years ago the Athens News Courier contained a quarter page advertisement inviting all to a “Free Community Cookout.” The ad went on to say, “Join us as we say, ‘Happy Birthday America’ on Saturday, June 30th. We will begin serving hamburgers, hotdogs, chips and drinks at 6:00 pm and will serve until we run out. There will also be sno-cones, cotton candy, face painting and games. You will have the best view in town of the City of Athens’ fireworks display.”  [The ad is quoted word for word, but capitalization and punctuation have been changed to a normal paragraph style. JRG]

Don’t get me wrong about this. I’m a patriotic American who likes hamburgers, chips, and fireworks, so if this had been sponsored by the Lions Club or some other civic organization I wouldn’t have thought twice about it. However, this Free Community Cookout was sponsored by a local church and that raises a lot of questions in my mind.

  • Is there anything in the New Testament that would suggest church sponsorship of such events is the will of God? Matt. 7:21
  • Are there any examples of New Testament churches, under the guidance of the apostles (1 Cor. 4:17), hosting community events with free leg of lamb, pita bread, chariot races, and such?
  • Can a church rightfully claim to abide in the doctrine of Christ (2 John 9) and engage in practices never found in the New Testament?
  • When did the Lord tell us to change our approach from simply preaching the gospel as his power to save (Romans 1:16) to attempting to draw people with entertainment and food for their stomachs? See 1 Thes. 1:8 where it was said of the church in Thessalonica that “from you the word of the Lord has sounded forth.”
  • Should our conduct be any different than that of Paul when he refused to give either the Jews or the Gentiles what they wanted, but insisted on giving them what they needed, viz. the message of the cross? 1 Cor. 1:21-23

We’ve come a long way from the New Testament pattern when it was the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers who were equipping the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:12, 13). Now, most churches feel they need a director of basketball operations, a grill master, a face painter, and a host of other things never even hinted at in the New Testament. Yes, many churches, including those calling themselves “of Christ,” have come a long way, but the question remains—who gave the instructions to move?

We’ve come a long way from the New Testament pattern when it was the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers who were equipping the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:1213). Now, most churches feel they need a director of basketball operations, a grill master, a face painter, and a host of other things never even hinted at in the New Testament. Yes, many churches, including those calling themselves “of Christ,” have come a long way, but the question remains—who gave the instructions to move?

“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.” 2 John 9

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.” Matt. 7:21

“And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.’” Matt. 28:18

“For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.” Rev. 22:1819

Unless noted, all quotations from the New King James Version, copyright 1994 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.

SIMPLIFYING THE AUTHORITY OF EXAMPLES, By Doy Moyer

PictureHere is the foundational principle: love God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind (see Mark 12:30).

When we look into the New Covenant Scriptures and find God’s people doing what pleases Him, should we not want to follow their examples?

If we ask, “But is that example binding?” are we really asking the right question? Such is like asking, “Do I have to?” Wouldn’t those who love God with all their heart rather want to follow an example that God saw fit to show us? Shall we not ask, why is this here?

Think about it. By God’s grace we have an example of something given that He likes. The Scriptures aren’t all that large, considering what all might have been included. So when an example is given that shows God’s approval, wouldn’t His people who love Him with all their heart want to take special notice of this example? If we are able, and if our circumstances are comparable, wouldn’t we want to follow the example that God, in His grace, found important enough to include in His message? Following such examples is part of loving Him.

Further, what example of God’s people acting in a way that pleases Him is something that we would not want to follow? Is there a specific case of His disciples acting with His approval that we would look at today and say, “No, we don’t want to do that”? If we are able, why would we look at something that pleases Him, argue it is not necessary, then ignore it? What kind of attitude is this? Is it one that demonstrates a total commitment and love for God?

But aren’t there details in some examples that really are not necessary? Of course there are. Not every detail is as significant as another might be. We need common sense, keeping matters in context and recognizing the difference between an incidental of telling what happened and core issues that led to the disciples acting as they did in the first place. Are we capable of drawing reasonable conclusions about these? God gave us minds to use. Let’s use them.

The point is that God chose to include examples of His people acting for a reason. Those who love Him would, I would think, look at those examples and, as much as within their abilities, and where the circumstances compare, follow them. “Do I have to?” (I.e., “Is it binding?”) Why are we asking that question unless we are wanting some way around following what we see?

When God has, in His wisdom, provided a look into the actions that He likes, those who love Him should want to do the same. Why would we even debate that?

That’s a foundational starting point.

Doy Moyer