"Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is" (Eph. 5:17). There must be scriptural authority for everything we believe, teach and practice. This is true because "We walk by faith, not by sight" (2 Cor. 5:17). Faith is produced as a result of hearing the word of God. (Rom. 10:17). Scriptural authority-the will of the Lord-, therefore, is determined by command, approved apostolic example or necessary inference derived from the command or apostolic example.
To illustrate: we have a command for the observance of the Lord's supper: "This do in remembrance of me" (I Cor. 11:25). However, for the time of its observance no command can be found, but an approved example teaches us when we should assemble to obey the command of Jesus. Note: "And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread . . ." (Acts 20:7). For the frequency of its observance it is necessarily inferred that we are to meet upon the first day of every week, since when God commanded in Exodus 20:8: "Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy," the people understood that as regularly as the seventh day arrived, they were to keep it holy. "The first day of the week to break bread" means therefore, every "first day" as regularly as it arrives.
Let us always be sure that we call find book, chapter and verse for everything that we propose for the church to do. We should be willing and able to cite scriptural authority for every practice of the church, "Proving what is acceptable unto the Lord" (Eph. 5:10), is the attitude that should characterize each of us. No one, therefore, should say, "Where is the scripture that forbids it?" because we should rather point up the command, approved example or necessary inference authorizing the particular practice under question. When scriptural authority is shown for doing it, that settles the matter. But, so long as scriptural authority for doing a certain thing is lacking, we are definitely opposed to the unscriptural and anti-scriptural practice.
To illustrate the foregoing paragraph: should someone argue that it is alright to have the Lord's supper on Thursday night because the Lord has not said, "thou shalt not," we would readily point out that we have an approved apostolic example of the church at Troas meeting upon the first day of the week to break bread (Acts 20:7) and that this is our scriptural authority for doing so today. Too, if some were to advocate the use of mechanical instruments of music in the worship of the church on the ground that the Bible does not say we shouldn't use them, we would likewise point up the positive teaching of the scriptures. We would cite Hebrews 2:12 which says, "In the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee," and other related verses that authorize us to sing ( Eph. 5 :19; Co. 3:16), and to praise Him with the fruit of our lips ( Heb. 13:15). Then we would request of our friends book, chapter and verse for their practice. We would press them for their scriptural authority. Of course, they could not produce it because it is not taught in "the will of the Lord."
Application of Principles to Present Problems
Those that introduce various projects into the work of the church have the obligation to cite the word of God that authorizes their practice. For example, where is the scriptural authority for churches contributing from their treasuries to, human organizations like schools and colleges operated by our brethren? Where does the will of God authorize a congregation to sponsor a kindergarten and charge a tuition fee? Where is the book, chapter and verse that authorizes the church contributing from the treasury to an orphan home corporation? Where is the scriptural authority for churches contributing to a hospital corporation?
Although we have repeatedly asked for the word of God that authorizes such, no one has ever produced it. Some will say relative to benevolent work, "The Bible says that we are to take care of orphans but it doesn't say how. Yes, the Bible doesn't teach how (methods) the work is to be done but it does teach who is to do it and which organization is to function in the work!
The Will of God
The will of God is:
- Relatives are to take care of their own. I Tim. 5:4, 8, 16.
- Individuals have a responsibility to assist. James 1:27; Gal. 6:10; Heb. 6:10; Rom. 12:10, 13; Matt. 25:31-40.
- The local church can help. I Tim. 5:16; Acts 6:1-6.
Note: it doesn't say how, but the scriptures teach which organization is to do this work: namely, the church, not a human organization! Within the framework of the local church, the Jerusalem congregation did her own work of caring for the needy. (Acts 2:41-47; 4:32-35; 6:1-6; 11:27-30). Why should we not today take care of all the work of the Lord as in New Testament times? The Jerusalem church did not, nor did any other New Testament church ever build and maintain a benevolent society, a human organization with a board of directors, which was separate and apart from the local church. Such modern practices are as foreign to the apostolic church as instrumental music in worship and the burning of incense. Since we follow the teaching of the scriptures in worship, why not also in work?
4. Churches can cooperate by sending contributions to the church in need to establish equality (2 Cor. 8:13, 14) and to enable her to do her own work of caring for those for whom that local church is responsible. (I Cor. 16:1-4; Rom. 15:25-31; 2 Cor., chapters 8 & 9 ) .
The above is what I believe to be the will of God relative to "the work of the ministry" (Eph. 4:12). If this is not the pattern (Heb. 8:5) then what is? Let us "not go beyond the things which are written" ( I Cor. 4:6 ASV) for "whosoever trangresseth (goes onward ASV), and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God" (2 John 9).