In the past eighteen months, three large unity meetings have been conducted between preachers and elders of the churches of Christ and the Independent Christian Churches. The meetings were at the Ozark Bible College, Joplin, Missouri, August 7-9, 1984; at the Garnett Road Church of Christ in Tulsa, Oklahoma, March 17-19,1985 and at Pepperdine University, Malibu, California, July 7-9, 1985.
Most of the proposals and propositions that have emerged out of these gatherings will not, and can not, produce the unity for which Jesus prayed and the apostles pleaded. The reason for failure is that their suggestions are pseudo in nature and human in origin. A unity of the Spirit, or a unity of the faith (Eph. 4:3,13), will not be forthcoming because they are trying to attain unity on false premises. Let us look at these premises and observe why they will not produce the unity of which the Bible speaks.
1. Unity in diversity. This is just another way of saying, “You do what you want and we will do what we want and both of us will ignore the difference.” This approach demands acceptance of the Sonship of Jesus, but allows flexibility with the teachings of Jesus. But Jesus said, “And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things, I say” (Lk. 6:46). The Bible teaches that we must not only believe that Jesus is the Christ (Jn. 8:24), but also do what He says (Jn. 8:31; 12:48; 2 Jn. 9).
Granted, the Bible provides room for diversity in the individual’s conscience, such as eating of meat or herbs, or keeping of days (Rom. 14), but these are individual actions that do not involve the participation of others. Too, it is immaterial with God whether I eat pork or vegetables. To equate these indifferent matters with premillennialism, women preachers and instrumental music in worship is a total misunderstanding of Romans 14 and 15, and the issues involved. Premillennialism is blatant error, making Jesus a liar, the church a substitute and the New Testament temporary codicil for the “church-age. “ Women are forbidden to preach (1 Tim. 2:12) and instrumental music corrupts the worship of the church because God never authorized it in the New Testament.
Yet, we are asked to cease our opposition to these gospel perverters and innovators for the sake of a feigned unity so we can appear to the world as being one. The world is not that naive and I am more interested in what God thinks about our “unity” than the world, anyway.
I would also concede that a brother may believe some types of error, keep his views to himself, and walk in truth. But this is altogether different from one who believes error, preaches it and practices it. We can fellowship the former but not the latter.
2. Silence of the Scriptures. One digressive brother wrote, 6 41be Scriptures are silent on any given subject means only the Scripture are silent on the subject, and no other conclusion can be drawn. Silence neither approves nor disapproves anything. “ Wonder why the Holy Spirit did not have this profound insight when He said through the inspired writer, “For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Judah; of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood” (Heb. 7:14)? Based on the silence of the Scriptures, no one from the tribe of Judah (or any other tribe besides Levi) could serve as priest. Now you can quibble, equivocate, vacillate, fluctuate and oscillate, but the text to-aches disapproval by silence.
Men who espouse a position that permits, in consequence, donuts and coffee on the Lord’s table, sprinkling for baptism, burning of incense, praying to Mary, holy dances, instrumental music in worship, and a multitude of other things that the Bible is silent about, have no business trying to preach. They ought to get out of the pulpit and get into some kind of business that requires not too much common sense.
Through the years we have been asked, “Where does the Bible state not to have instrumental music in worship?” The same passage that says, “Do not have donuts and coffee on the Lord’s table.” If you can see the principle that eliminates other elements than bread and the fruit of the vine for the Lord’s Supper, then you can see, I guarantee, the principle that eliminates instrumental music in worship. If you cannot understand this simple point, then be good to your wife or husband and neighbors, and you will make it to heaven with the other unaccountable folks.
3. Ignorance. We are told, “If we can baptize those who don’t agree with us on everything, then we can fellowship them after baptism in spite of their differing comprehensions. “ This statement was made to try6 to show that we can fellowship those who use the instrument. I admit that people must be taught after baptism (Matt. 28:19), and grounded and rooted (Eph. 4:13-14; Col. 2:7), but since when are we to baptize people who make it plain they do not intend to change their sinful practices after they are baptized, or since when should we fellowship those who insist on living in sin after baptism? Because they do not perceive their actions as sinful, alters nothing.
To jump from misconceptions that people have at baptism to walking and living in religious error is too big a jump for anybody. Wonder how this new-found method of fellowship and unity is supposed to work toward homosexuals, polygamists, idolaters and denominationalists who want to continue in their practices? If it allows baptized believers to keep their instruments of music in worship, then it allows any other person, or persons, to do as they please, as long as they are ignorant. No, my friends, to embrace all of the ignorant brethren regardless of their practice, is not a biblical premise for unity.
4. Non-essentials. The way to have unity, we are told, is to agree on the essentials, and be tolerant toward one another on the non-essentials. Of course, those who tell us this want to decide what is essential and what is nonessential. Generally, instrumental music is classified as a non-essential. But what if somebody wanted to have monthly observance of the Lord’s Supper, have women elders, wear religious titles, such as “Reverend,” adopt majority rule, work through a missionary society, and claim an of these were “non-essentials,” what should we do? Accept them as non-essentials because somebody says so? Absolutely not! Go to the Bible and see what the Book says. Now, brethren, learning the Word of God is not as complicated as some would have us to believe. We can know what the will of the Lord is (Eph. 5:17), and we can differentiate between essentials and non-essentials. Yea, we can determine what is scriptural and unscriptural (Heb. 5:12-14).
Instrumental music is not a “non-essential,” but it is an unscriptural act in worship that came from the wisdom of men. Read the New Testament and find it in worship, either by generic authority or by specific authority. It is not there! You know it is not there; I know it is not there and everybody else knows it is not there if he has read the Bible. We talk about the New Testament being our pattern (which it is, 2 Tim. 1: 13) and then go off in all directions. If some preachers worked in a shirt factor they would windup with breeches.
5. Unsolvable by the Scriptures. “We may contend until the ‘cows come home’ about authority of the Scriptures or respecting the silence of the Scriptures, and we will still be divided when the Lord makes His second advent. . . . for love is the ingredient that will bind us together in perfect harmony?” There you have it from a loose brother who sees no solution in the Scriptures for unity - only love. Since when did love circumvent the Word of God? How would we know how to love, other than through the Scriptures?
“We can’t understand the Scriptures so we can agree?” someone says. Who said so? If you can’t, that is your problem that you need to work on. Those who believe the truth, love the truth and have honest hearts, can understand the truth (cf. Psa. 119:104-105; 2 Thess. 2:10-12; Lk. 8:15; Eph. 3:3-4; 5:17). To blame the Word of God for our failure to be one in Christ is utter nonsense.
Our liberal and digressive brethren have the same disease that denominational churches have and that is a lack of respect for a “thus saith the Lord.” Oh, they (denominations) won’t admit their disrespect for the Word of God, and they make plausible arguments (to themselves) for their beliefs and practices, but they are wrong, nevertheless. Reckon we ought to quit contending with them about the authority of the Scriptures and just “love them”? After all, I think we will still be divided when the Lord makes His second advent.
Brethren, there is a cure for division. It is not found in sweet-sounding epithets or calling our differences petty and childish matters, but rather the solution for division is to seek and pursue unity with a fervor for Bible authority in all we do. This is the only basis for peace and all other endeavors are for nought. This whole contrived, compromising strategy of these unity “summits” is characteristic of the days of Jeremiah when the false prophets said, “Peace, peace; when there is no peace” (Jer. 6:14; 8:11).