Can We Add or Take Away from What is Written in the Bible? – Part 2

Back to the principle of the specifics of God’s ideals in Scripture excluding alternative beliefs and practices. An excellent example and illustration of this principle is to use God’s specific instructions for the ark that Noah was to build. Genesis 6:14-16,

“Make you an ark of gopher wood; you will make rooms in the ark, and you will pitch it within and without with pitch. (15) And this is how you will make it: the length of the ark three hundred cubits, the width of it fifty cubits, and the height of it thirty cubits. (16) You will make a light to the ark, and to a cubit shall you finish it upward; and you will set the door of the ark in the side thereof; with lower, second, and third stories you will make it.”

See, God’s ideal for the ark. Is there a better way to build the ark? Could man improve upon God’s design? Would anyone make the ark and use some pine wood even one piece? Would anyone not pitch the inside and the outside? Who would not meet the measurements to the cubit? Who would think of making the window larger than one cubit? Who would build more than one door on the side of the ark? Who would add or subtract a story from God’s instruction for the ark? God’s ideal ark is perfect. See, God’s ideal for the ark was clear, and it excluded all adding and taking from His instructions even without a word of warning. For further insight, also consider the specifics that God commanded for the Israelites to take Jericho (Joshua 6). How many times were the Israelites to march around the wall? What were they to do?

Let’s apply the principle of exclusion to some New Testament beliefs and practices. God wants Christians to partake of the Lord’s Supper. We know the Lord’s Supper is a meal communing with Christ and remembering His broken body by eating bread and remembering His blood of the covenant for the remission of sins by drinking the fruit of the vine (1 Cor. 11:17ff). Now, we could reason that since Christ is the Passover Lamb for Christians, then we could have lamb’s meat added to the supper. Even in our desire to do good, we would be adding to what the Creator of the Universe has established for the Lord’s Supper. We would have arrogantly concluded that the Lord’s Supper could be improved upon from what the Lord has established. If the lamb’s meat was such a good idea, then why did the fully incomprehensible mind of God not establish such from the beginning? God’s ideal is written, and His pattern excludes all alterations.

Regarding baptism, why not immerse in flower pedals, smoke and, or a mist and also do water baptism too as one baptism? One would still be baptizing correctly and the Scriptures do not say, “You shall baptize with flower pedals”, but God’s ideal is already written and it excludes alterations. Regarding prayer, why not pray to Peter or Mary and also to God? On would still pray to God, but also to others who have passed away. Why not pray with incense and candles? The Scriptures do not forbid it, but God’s ideal is already written. Regarding church government, why not have a Pope or an Archbishop over multiple congregations and follow the Scriptures in having a plural number of elders overseeing each congregation? The Scriptures do not forbid it, but God’s ideal is already written and it excludes additions. Even in our “desire to do good”, we would be adding to God’s ideals. The fully incomprehensible mind of God did not establish these mad-made alterations to His written ideals. Only in arrogance and pride, would we conclude that God’s will could be improved upon from what the Lord has established.

Considering the next subject, this is where many people leave this principle and ignore the Truth, and say to oneself, “Well, that can’t be right.” Note what the New Testament has specified regarding music for worship to God. The New Testament Scriptures have only one type of music directed to and for God. Singing is what is specifically written and nothing else. Singing is God’s ideal music (1 Cor. 14:15, Eph. 5:19, Col. 3:16, Heb. 13:15). There are no instruments, humming, whistling, or clapping in the New Testament Scriptures. Just like polygamy, instrumental music is in the Old Testament, and just like polygamy, instrumental music is not condemned by the New Testament Scriptures. Instrumental music like polygamy is no where to be supported in the New Testament while God’s ideal is readily available in the Holy Writ to be read by anyone concerning marriage and God’s music for worship. Marriage is between one man and one woman for life, and music is to be intelligible vocal music (1 Cor. 14:15). The practice of instrumental music among churches has just been made popular in the last 200 years. Before this, the founders and major teachers of denominations believed that the use of instruments to be wrong. This includes such men as Luther to Calvin to Wesley to Spurgeon. Just like God’s ideals for marriage, the Lord’s Supper, baptism, prayer, and church government exclude alterations, and so does God’s ideal for making melody by singing excludes alterations.

Only by intelligible singing does one worship in spirit and in mind as the Spirit condemned preaching, praying, and singing in unknown languages (1 Cor. 14). Note what is written about making melody by singing also excludes rhythmic body percussion of feet stomping, patting, snapping, hand-clapping, and so on along with other non-intelligible vocal music like humming and whistling. If Paul by the Spirit excluded the use of unknown languages for being meaningless worship, how much more are meaningless vocal sounds and musical instruments including body percussion excluded from New Testament music?

There Scriptures undoubtedly affirm that principle of exclusion. A true irony in not accepting the principle of exclusion is when one does not accept the principle of exclusion by the principle of exclusion. Since according to those rejecting the principle, the Bible is silent regarding the principle, therefore it is excluded. See the contradiction. How could the Bible being silent exclude the principle that excludes things for which it is silent? Again according to many, the Bible does not exclude other practices not mentioned in the Scriptures, therefore this principle is excluded being not mentioned in the Bible. The contradiction is clear. Again, since according to them, the Bible gives no authority for the Bible to exclude extra-Biblical practices, so the Bible excluding extra-Biblical is excluded being extra-Biblical practice. What a confusing and contradicting belief!

Lets “learn not to go beyond the things which are written” (1 Cor 4:6).

May we continue to walk in the light, so that Christ’s blood will continue to cleanse us of all sin (1 John 1:7).

About Scott J. Shifferd

Minister, church of Christ in Jacksonville, FL. Husband and father of four. Email: ScottJon82[at]yahoo.com
This entry was posted in Bible, Christian, Church of Christ and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Can We Add or Take Away from What is Written in the Bible? – Part 2

  1. jonhyz says:

    Hi Scott, thanks for your reply again.

    When I referred to the “context of church”, I was referring to the acts of worship when the body of Christ gathers (i.e. church).

    I agree with you about the translations. Certainly the word worship has also been taken to mean the ‘public acts of worship’ i.e. the “worship service”.

    I can also agree with you that not all acts are “good” or “bad”, there are “neutral” acts (such as sport), however, I am of the opinion that in being excellent in sports to glorify God – Tim Tebow comes to mind, is in itself an act of worship. Perhaps not purely for the purpose of recreation, but even exercise and keeping the temple of God fit is an act of worship.

    Okay, will go and try to digest the “law of exclusion”.

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  2. I’ll specify again about worship that it is every good deed (Heb. 13:16) done with reverence and awe (Heb. 12:28). Every good deed can be found in the Scriptures (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Worship is not bound to the Assembly or any assembly of the Church (1 Thess. 5:17). Every good deed throughout life is worship, but not every breath or blink of the eye is worship. Fishing is not worship, but giving the fishes to the hungry is worship. I don’t understand what you mean by “context of the church”.

    Though the denominations may have amalgamated Greek words into “worship” and a some other English terms. I believe this is the result of the loose work of translators who should consistently transliterate every Greek word into its closest equivalent, so the English terms will take on their Biblical meanings. Each of the 6 Greek words translated “worship” should be translated better. Three should never be translated “worship” (threiskeia (no verb form), eusebo (reverence toward man), leitourgio (public officiating)). Latreuo/Latreia is exactly as you said “priestly service/worship”. Eusebeo is veneration. Proskuneo is the most general from temple worship to prostrating and praise, and it is the most general and closest to the archaic English and English dictionary to worship. It should be the only word translated “worship”. See Vine’s Word Studies too. Your concept of “worship” does not change the Christian life from the specifics of God’s instruction of the Assembly.

    Numerous Greek words does not forbid specifics of worship, but specifics to one’s personal English definition of worship. We must still keep the commands of God regarding all of the 6 words that are translated worship and all the specifics included or we are subtracting from God’s word. All because there are different understandings of baptism does not negate that there are Biblical baptisms that must be practiced.

    I must add to your thoughts. Giving your body as a sacrifice is not saying that blinking eyes and sneezing are acts of worship. Romans 12:2 defines the sacrifice of being transformed in mind apart from the world. God only accepts pure and holy sacrifices which we must make our lives to be pleasing to Him.

    “Or would you say that we only bring our offering during the assembly, or other church-related activities (hence not all of life)?” We bring our offering all the time especially in death. This is not “all of life” worship, but every good deeds throughout life. I refuse to accept any sport as worship, but the good practiced in those sports is worship.

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  3. jonhyz says:

    Thank you very much for taking the time to reply. I am primarily trying to understand different theological standpoints and am not seeking to prove anyone right/wrong.

    My current pursuit is trying to understand “worship”, so I’ll stick to that =) From what you say, your definition of “worship” involves strictly only the commands in scripture that God has given us to give Him glory, within the context of the church?

    My difficulty lies in the fact that “worship” has no equivalent Greek, or Hebrew translation, and hence it is difficult to qualify any biblical specific regarding “worship”. Rather, it is a concept amalgation of different Greek & Hebrew words.

    For example, reading Romans 12:1-2, “reasonable act of service/worship” can be said to involve our bodies, and not particularly restrictive to the Assembly, or related activities. The Greek is “latriea”, with the OT equivalent “abad”, so one might argue, although in the OT, “abad” refers strictly to the service of the priests in the temple, Paul may have extended the concept to any act involving our living bodies.

    Or would you say that we only bring our offering during the assembly, or other church-related activities (hence not all of life)?

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  4. Let me know if I can clarify anything.

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  5. Jonhyz,

    Whether you agree or not, this discussion would be to the benefit of readers.

    I am convinced that worship is every good deed according to Hebrews 13:16. See my article “Is Benevolence Worship to God?” (http://tinyurl.com/crpxjf). My conviction is yes, benevolence is worship. This includes bowing down and every good deed of a sacrificial life. Romans 12:1 shows that we must offer our lives as sacrifice which is worship, but this does not mean that all of life is worship which is an absurdity.

    What is acceptable worship? It is every good deed according to the Scriptures’ instructions, but this does not allow anything in the Assembly of Christ. If the 2 Tim. 3:16-17 is right that the Scriptures contain every good work, then every act of the Assembly is clear and presented in the Scriptures. These are the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11), teaching includes prophesying and reading (1 Cor. 4:17, 7:17, 14:1-40), singing (1 Cor. 14:15), prayer (1 Cor. 14:15, and giving unto the collection (1 Cor. 16:1-3). These are the same five acts found in Acts 2. The only irregular act is disciplining a so-called brother (1 Cor. 5).

    Worship includes the Assembly, but worship is not just the Assembly. The Assembly of Christ is the place of the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11) where all the congregation gathers (1 Cor. 14:23). Though speaking in foreign languages was a spiritual gift given by God to evangelize, Paul makes it clear that such must be excluded if not interpreted in the Assembly (1 Cor. 14). Paul also by the Holy Spirit makes the point that the Assembly is a time of edification of the mind, which is the principle that excludes foreign languages and multiple simultaneous speakers in the Assembly (1 Cor. 14). There is certainly an order to the Assembly that we must do (1 Cor. 14:40).

    Concerning specifics, the specifics for Assembly are mostly presented above. Transportation is clearly cultural and there are no commands/specifics for mode of travel. There are specifics for worship (John 4:23-24), and there are specifics for the Assembly (1 Cor. 11, 14). Any specifics that God commands excludes alternatives, because we seek not to add or subtract from God’s complete Word. Even those specific examples that define a command exclude alterations. For example, water is not commanded for baptism in Jesus’ name, but baptism in Jesus’ name is defined by Peter’s reference to it including water in Acts 10:47. Therefore, changing baptism in Jesus’ name is wrong.

    If any Apostles were alive and laid hands on some members, then we should have prophesying in the Assembly. I also find that though the Romans would have obeyed the commands of Christ and practiced the Assembly, they did not have spiritual gifts when Paul wrote them (Rom. 1:11), so prophesying is that necessary since it is a form of vocal teaching. Though I might have a gift from God to juggle, play a sport, act, or play an instrument, these things must be able to edify and essentially have no place in the Assembly. I find that nothing else edifies the mind and the spirit like those things mentioned that the Church did in the Scriptures.

    God bless.

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  6. jonhyz says:

    hi Scott,

    trying to wrap my head around this. forwarded from plainfaith.wordpress.com.

    my question would be – how do you determine what is acceptable worship? would it include mandatory exercising of spiritual gifts as Paul so clearly describes in 1 Cor? how would you even define “worship”? Romans 12:1-2 (service to God) or John 4 (bowing down in submission)?

    also, how does one determine what are specifics and what are not? for example, the use of cars or buses for transport as opposed to riding a donkey or walking by foot (with sandals). the natural extension of which would result in a lifestyle similar to the amish, which i believe you are not since you are using a computer.

    i see that we will probably not converge in our views, but i appreciate you taking time to read my comment.

    peace,
    jonhyz

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