The Doctrine of Silence

The “doctrine of silence” is perhaps the doctrine most to blame for denominational error. You might ask, “What do you mean by doctrine of silence?” It is the argument that so many use to justify adding just about anything to the word of God. Their argument goes like this: “Well, the Bible doesn’t say we can’t.........” It is one of the arguments made for use of mechanical instruments in the worship service. “The Bible doesn’t say we can’t play a piano.” First, common sense will show how false and dangerous the argument is. For example the Bible doesn’t say we can’t use cornbread and milk for the Lord’s Supper. You might argue that this is foolish. No! It is the exact same argument as used for the piano or guitar. The Bible doesn’t say we can’t use incense as a part of the worship services; yet, the same denominations who justify the piano/organ will vehemently renounce the use of incense saying there is no justification. For ages the Lord’s church has fought this doctrine and has tried to teach the dangers associated with such a conclusion. Now we are finding those in the Lord’s church who either have never been taught the danger of such error; or they, like the denominations, have a favorite whim to support. I would like to hope that they have never been taught to recognize the error of the “doctrine of silence.”Second, and most important, the Bible strongly denounces using the “doctrine of silence” to justify our every whim and fancy. The Bible instructs mankind in three specific ways: [1] direct or implied command (statement); [2] approved example; and [3] expediency.

Acts 2:38 gives a direct command; “...Repent and be baptized for the remission of sins;...” This direct command leaves no doubt that both repentance and baptism is commanded in order to have remission of our sins. The direct command is easily recognized. On the other hand, Mark 16:16 is an example of implied or implicit command, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” Such a statement does not specifically say that if John Doe believes and is baptized that John doe shall be saved. However it is implied that this command is for John Doe, Jane Doe, anybody that seeks salvation. It is implied that John Doe is part of the “he” in this verse. Therefore it is necessary that John Doe follow this command.

Acts 20:7 teaches by example, “And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow; and continued his speech until midnight.” The example shown here is that Christians came together on the first day of the week to partake of the Lord’s Supper. Paul tells us that Christ said, “And when he had given thanks, he brake it, and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me.
{25} After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of me. {26} For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do show the Lord’s death till he come.” (1 Corinthians 11:24-26).
The specific time to partake was not given by Christ as He broke bread and gave it to the disciples. However the example set by the first century church shows us WHEN they did partake of the Lord’s Supper. The definite article “the” indicates every week, not just “any” week or “a” week.

In His great commission Jesus said, “...Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. {16} He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.” (Mark 16:15-16). “Go” is the command, but how to go is left to expediency. We can go by car, by ship, by plane, etc. Either method of “going” (travel) is expedient.
We are commanded to “preach the gospel”, but the method used to preach orteach the gospel is left to expediency. We can use the classroom, the pulpit, the radio, the newspaper, tract, TV, etc. Either method of teaching or preaching is expedient.

Paul said, “Now these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn not to go beyond the things which are written,...” (1 Corinthians 4:6, ASV). We MUST NOT GO BEYOND WHAT IS WRITTEN! If what we do can not be justified by direct or indirect command, by approved example, or by expediency, then we have no justification for what we do.

—John D. Cotham

Return to the General Articles page

Home / Bible studies / Bible Survey / Special Studies / General Articles / Non-Bible Articles / Sermons / Sermon Outlines / Links / Questions and Answers / What Saith The Scriptures /Daily Devotional / Correspondence Courses / What is the Church of Christ / Book: Christian Growth / Website Policy / E-mail / About Me /