RECENTLY in a discussion with a long-time friend over human organizations holding gospel meetings, I said the Bible says the church, not human organizations, is "the pillar and ground of the truth." His reply was surprising, he said but it doesn't say "the church is the only pillar and ground of the truth." Over the centuries men have ignored the restrictive nature of silence in determining scriptural authority. It usually comes in the form of "but God didn't say ONLY," Or "The Scripture doesn't say not to." Or, "Where there is no law there is no transgression." Let's look at some Bible examples where silence was definitely restrictive -it did not give consent.
1. To Cain and Abel God didn't say the "firstling of the flock" ONLY for sacrifice. He did not specifically forbid other kinds of offerings. So, Cain offered the "first fruits of the ground." But God rejected Cain's sacrifice. (Hebrews 11:4) "By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh." Abel offered the firstling of the flock by faith, because that is what God specified (Romans 10:17). Cain obviously thought God's silence was not restrictive. What do you say?
2. God told Noah to build the ark of Gopher wood. He was silent concerning all other kinds of wood; he didn't say "Gopher wood only," nor did he say don't build the ark of oak, cedar, or pine, etc. But who will dare to affirm that any other kind of wood would have been acceptable? Had he used some other kind of wood, the ark would never have floated!
3. God told Abraham to offer Isaac as a sacrifice, but he didn't say "Isaac only," so if silence is not restrictive, Abraham could have offered Ishmael, (which Muslims say he did) or anyone else. But Abraham, being a man of faith understood that when God says what He wants, that includes everything He wants and excludes everything He doesn't want.
4. God told Nadab and Abihu to take fire from the altar to burn incense, and He didn't say, "altar fire ONLY" so they offered "strange fire which the Lord commanded them not." The result was death, (Leviticus 10:1,2). Was silence restrictive? What do you say?
5. In the transporting of the ark of the covenant, God specified that it should be conveyed on staves by the priests; but He didn't say on staves by the priests ONLY He didn't say don't convey the ark on a cart pulled by oxen, so David had it transported on a cart drawn by oxen driven by Uzzah who was not a priest. The result was death to Uzzah. David got the point however, for when they transported it later, David said that the time before they did not transport it " according to the due order" (I Chronicles 15:13). Was silence restrictive? What say you?
6. When God ordered Moses to bring water from the rock by speaking to it, He didn't say ONLY speak to the rock; so Moses smote the rock instead which act barred him from entering the promised land. Was silence restrictive? What say you?
7. King Saul was about to go to war with the Philistines. He waited for Samuel at Gilgal to come to offer a sacrifice. When Samuel didn't come when expected, Saul offered the sacrifice, which was to be done by a priest of the tribe of Levi, but God didn't say by a priest ONLY. Saul obviously proceeded on the basis that God didn't say the priest ONLY, and God rejected him from being king (I Samuel 13). Was silence restrictive? What say you?
8. In Acts 15, a meeting was held in Jerusalem to determine if Gentiles had to be circumcised in order to be Christians. Certain brethren came to Antioch and claimed that the Jerusalem elders had commissioned them to preach circumcision for Gentiles. The elders told the Jerusalem meeting "To whom we gave no such commandment." (Acts 15:24). They were acting without a commandment, thus they proceeded on silence. Was silence restrictive? What say you?
9. The Hebrew writer argues that Christ could not have been a priest on earth according to the Law of Moses, because he was not a Levite, but God didn't say Levite ONLY Jesus was from the tribe of Judah, and the writer says the law said nothing about a priest from the tribe of Judah (Heb. 7:14). Was silence restrictive? What say you?
10. In 1860 instrumental music was introduced into the worship of the church at Midway, KY. One of the main arguments for it was that God didn't say sing ONLY. Was silence restrictive? What say you?
11. In 1849 when the missionary society was formed one of the main arguments was that God didn't say the church is the only pillar and ground of the truth. Was silence restrictive? What say you?Today, history is repeating itself: we have a controversy over human institutions holding lectureships (gospel meetings). It is based on the silence of the Scriptures. If not, where is the Scripture that authorizes it?
Several years ago brother Jim Cope made and argument from silence at the FC lectures. He framed it this way, "Where there is no law, there is no transgression." (Romans 4:15). This argument is based upon the silence of the Scripture and it says that everything is authorized that is not expressly forbidden. It says, "Silence is not restrictive. " What say you?
The argument that the silence of Scripture is not restrictive is saying that, "Anything God has not expressly forbidden is allowed." This has been around since Cain. Martin Luther had it as a philosophy of religious authority.
It is amazing how brethren can put on blinders when their long-held views are found to be out of harmony with God's word, and more especially when money is involved. It appears that pride and money get in the way of open-mindedness and the truth is viewed through colored glasses. Brethren determined to have it their way, refuse to be confused by the facts. These human organizations must have money to survive. Lectureships (gospel meetings) bring large numbers of brethren together and are a means of financial gain and acquiring new customers. This is using the gospel to promote a human organization.
The idea that we are at liberty to do anything which God has not expressly forbidden is the devil's snare that has caught people from the time of Cain and Abel. Solomon says, (Proverbs 1:17) "Surely in vain the net is spread in the sight of any bird." This is a truth well taken. A bird that is caught in a net that he sees being set, is a careless bird indeed! History provides overwhelming evidence of the snare of the silence of Scripture in determining Bible authority. We are seeing the net being set before our eyes this very day. We are very careless and unwise if we get caught in it as brethren did in the past. It is disappointing that such a false argument is being made in plain sight and in view of undeniable historical evidence of it unscripturalness devastating results, and yet some brethren are being caught in this devilish net again. One would think all would avoid it like the plague.
If the fact that God didn't say the church is the ONLY pillar and ground of the truth justifies human institutions usurping the function of the church by holding gospel meetings (lectureships), then Cain, Nadab and Abihu, David, Moses and King Saul were all justified in what they did, and God should not have condemned them. Noah could have built the ark of the wood of his choice, and instrumental music would be justified along with the missionary society. Also, we should apologize to the liberal brethren for the sponsoring church/institutional division and to the Christian church for the division over instrumental music and the missionary society.
If the church is not the only pillar and ground of the truth, where is the scriptural authority that says something else is? All we have heard from those promoting these human organizations to do exactly what God established the church to do is human reasoning. "Where is the Scripture?" keeps ringing in my ears. The argument that it is parallel to something else proves nothing. Bowl weevils and elephants have some likenesses, (both have snouts, legs and eyes) but they certainly are not identical. The argument that when Paul and Barnabas, or Paul and Silas working together is parallel to some human organization preaching the gospel is not worthy of consideration by right-thinking brethren. If it is a valid argument, then when Corinth, Macedonia and others working together and the churches that supported Paul at Corinth (II Corinthians 11:8), or any time more than one church works together would also constitute an organization. If the argument about individuals working together constitutes an organization, then churches working together does the same thing. Now, if this is valid argument, then these constitute organizations that are larger than the local church, and we all surely know that no such thing is scriptural. We have rightly argued that the churches are independent and have no organic ties to each other. Have we been wrong?
If Paul and Silas constituted an organization, then who was the president, treasurer, secretary, and the board of directors. There is a difference between an organization and an orderly arrangement.
When brethren work together as individuals, and when churches work together while maintaining their independence, it is simply an orderly arrangement, not an organization parallel to a well endowed human organization with a president, secretary, and board of directors and a gainful business..
David prayed that God would (Psalms 19:13) Keep back thy servant also from presumptuous sins; let them not have dominion over me: then shall I be upright, and I shall be innocent from the great transgression. The word presumptuous is defined as "not dreading or shunning through fear, " "daring," "to be very bold" (Vine). To proceed in any matter without divine authority is indeed, very daring and bold; it is to proceed without fear. It takes a lot of courage to so do. David called the sin of presumption "the great transgression." Peter says a characteristic of it is self-willedness (II Peter 2:10).
Arguments based on the silence of Scripture have been answered so many times that it is simply amazing that informed and intelligent brethren are still making them. When will they ever learn?
Silence is restrictive and it does not give consent.by James P. Needham
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