Tommy Thornhill

People sometimes notice that congregations in this area, wearing the name “church of Christ” differ from each other in several areas. Some use one cup in serving the Lord’s Supper, other groups use multiple cups. Some places have classrooms where different age groups can meet at the same time. Some may even encourage women preachers and/or elders. These differences prompt people to ask questions that need to be answered. Where is the authority for the congregation to use multiple cups in serving the Lord’s Supper? Where is the authority for the congregation to have multiple classes going on at the same time in the church building? Why doesn’t the church have women preachers and/or elders? Why does the church oppose mechanical music in worship?

These are valid questions that deserve an answer. So, for the few issues of this paper I am planning to write some articles to explain why I believe a congregation of God’s people has Bible authority to use multiple cups in serving the Lord’s Supper; why a congregation can divide and have several Bible classes conducted at the same time in the same meeting location; why there is no scriptural authority for women being preachers and or elders and why I believe using mechanical musical instruments in worship is unscriptural.

Let me first point out why I believe it is important to learn what the Bible teaches on these matters. From the beginning of my preaching years until the present time I have always believed and taught that in religious matters one must have Bible authority for everything taught and practiced by the local congregation. Three scriptures continually come to mind in stating this point. One is Col.3:17 which teaches, “And whatever you do in word and deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him” In the context this admonition applies both to the individual and to the congregation. A second passage is 1.Cor.4:6 where we are told, “Now these things brethren, I have figuratively transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other.” A third passage is found in 1.Pet.4:11“If any man speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God …” These passages and others that could be given all teach that we must seek authority from God’s word in everything we do and teach, whether as individual Christians or as a part of a local congregation.

Today, I believe there is too much assuming and asserting going around in the religious world, and not enough proving by the word of God. Some even go as far as to say we do not need book, chapter and verse (a” thus says the Lord”) for many of the things we teach and practice. After all, they say. “it the spirit, not the letter of the law that counts.”

I don’t agree. If one says he believes the Bible to be God’s inspired, authoritative word, consistency demands of him that he seek divine authority for the things he believes, teaches and practices. He must go to the word of God and establish (not assume) divine authority, “a thus says the Lord” if you wish for all he says and does. If there is no scripture (oracle) to back up what one says about a subject then you can be sure it comes from man and not from God, and it is not to be trusted. Someone has well stated, “error gives no proof, nor seeks it.” Those seeking the truth will always turn “to the law and to the testimony” Isa.8:20, and once truth is discovered one will always be ready to give an answer for the things he believes, teaches and practices.     

As I begin let me note some principles that will help guide me in this planned series. They were stated by a preacher of the 19th century, Benjamin Franklin (not the historic philosopher involved in the founding of this country). Benjamin Franklin was a gospel preacher during what is often referred to as the Restoration Movement. He died in 1879.

Found in a collection of his writings, named “Book of Gems,” He wrote “There is nothing more important for individuals or bodies of people than clearly defined and well settled principles. To stand the test and be of any importance to the world the principles of an individual or a body of people must be correct, and of vital importance. They should also be clearly defined, well understood and constantly kept in view.”

On one occasion after a discussion with a ME (Methodist Episcopal) preacher he asked the man, “If a man will take the scriptures, read them, believe them, and do what they require, will he not be a Christian? With an air of surprise, the man answered, “No! He must have something more than that.” Franklin was perplexed, so he asked, “What more could there be than the scriptures require? If there is something more than the scriptures require, how did man find it out? And still further, what is it? If it is not required in scripture, how does any man know what is required of him?”

After the incident, Franklin then made some further observations setting forth the following principles that have stood the test of time, and still apply today. In the next issue I will give the principles Franklin made and then begin answering the questions mentioned at the beginning of this article.

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