The title of this article should not need explanation to God's people. It is a simple statement of what should characterize the activity of each child of God and of the Lord's church collectively in ant community. To plead for a revealed religion is to actually simplify the old statement that we should "Speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent." Revealed religion is that which is practiced by those who truly "speak as the oracles of God" and by those who "call Bible things by Bible names and do Bible things in Bible ways." This is the old, old plea that has been sounded forth from almost every pulpit in our land in which a gospel preacher stood in years gone by. It embraces the restoration plea. It is the appeal that put the sects to flight and that made the gospel preacher a menace to every denominational body in the world.
Revealed religion is the only religion worthy of the name - it is the only religion that positively has the approval of God. Revealed religion is right, not because of its popularlity but because it is authorized and sanctioned by the Lord. Revealed religion is not right because it appeals to and pleases men but because it is positively pleasing to God.
Revealed religion is that religion which not only includes all that God authorizes but which also includes no more than that. It is a demanding religion in that it requires full submission to God's will. It does not allow us to divide the Lord's commands up into classes, and to choose which we will obey and which we will ignore. On the other hand, it also demands that we recognize the limiting power of the Lord's will as that will is revealed to us in the New Testament. We have said over and over again that "If you will show us scriptural authority for something which we are not doing, we will begin immediately to practice it, and if you will show us that we are doing something for which there is no authority in the New Testament, we will quit it immediately." I still believe that is a fair statement of the attiude which should characterize every child of God, and which should motivate each church.
If that which we do is indeed a revealed religion, we must be able to prove that it is authorized by the word of God. It must be included in a direct statement or command, ,in approved, inspired example or a necessary inference. It cannot be based upon supposition, conjecture or speculation. We must be able to prove "what is acceptable unto the Lord" (Eph. 5:10). If it is a revealed religion, we must be able to say, "It is written" and then show that by command, statement, example or necessary inference the Lord has spoken to approve it. When a question arises, we must ask, "What saith the scriptures" (Rom. 4:3), and that which is thus discerned must authorize and limit our activities.
If a thing cannot be proven acceptable unto the Lord by that which "is written," then it is positively condemned bv the scripture. Paul wrote that the scripture furnishes us unto every good work (2 Tim. 3:17) and Peter wrote that we have been granted all things that pertain to life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). In I Cor. 4:6 we are forbidden to "go beyond that which is written," and in 2 John 9 we are told that "whosoever goeth onward and abideth not in the teaching of Christ, hath not God." Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would guide the Apostles into all truth (John 16:13), and so we can conclude that whatever is not revealed to us in the New Testament is not truth in the spiritual realm.
To Christians who still believe in the complete unlimited, infallible authority of the scriptures, it is a matter of very grave concern to find many brethren today who deny the necessity for authority in religious practices.
It is no longer uncommon to find brethren who contend that "we do many things for which there is no authority in the Bible." Presently we shall notice a few samples of the things about which they make such remarks, but first let it be remembered that if such should be found true, it would not justify, either those things which we do or that which we object to. In other words, if someone should find that there is no authority for singing, this would not justify the use of instrumental music in worship. To me it is not a sign of strength, wisdom or honesty to contend that we do not have authority for some things and that, therefore, we can do other unauthorized things. Rather such is a sign of weakness and insincerity.
To justify one practice for which there is no authority in the scriptures, some brethren say, "Where is the authority for a regular salary for the preacher?" But this is just an effort to dodge the issue. Those who say that know that the New Testament authorizes the church to support a preacher. Nothing is said as to whether such support is regular or irregular - that is, whether it is a stipulated sum or not. Paul said he "robed other churches, taking wages of them . . ." (2 Cor. 11 :8). He also said, "Ye sent once and again unto my necessity" (Phil. 4:16). So there is positive authority for the church to support a preacher of the gospel, and that is all we do when we give a man a regular, stipulated salary for such work, whether it be at home or in a distant place that he works.
Others say, "Where is the authoritv for a meeting house?" But the authority to assemble necessarily infers a meeting place. This must either be bought, rented, or borowed. Since the Bible does not specify, either by command, example or necessary inference which of the above methods is to be used in securing a place then, since some kind of place is authorized, we have liberty to choose our own method of securing it. The choice of method would be a matter of expediency, but the action of securing a meeting place is a matter of authority. The church could not do God's bidding without some kind of meeting place, but the details regarding such place are not specified in the Bible.
Another suggestion along this line is that, "We don't have authority for individual communion glasses." But we do have authority to "drink the cup of the Lord" (I Cor. 11:27). The fruit of the vine must be contained in something, and what we do when we eat and drink at the Lord's table is a matter of authority, but what we use as we do so is a matter of expediency. We cannot do the will of the Lord without drinking of the fruit of the vine, but the use of one or of many containers has nothing to do with that which is lawful, but is a matter of human wisdom.
It seems that the real difficulty with regard to revealed and unrevealed things is a failure to recognize the limiting, as well as the authorizing, power of divine positive law. An example of this difficulty is seen in all editorial by brother Reuel Lemmons in the FIRM FOUNDATION, Sept. 9, 1958. I quote the following:
"There are some things that are right. They are right because God's word says they are right. It would be impossible to determine right from wrong if God had not established by his very word the rightness of some things and the wrongness of others. The things that are light should be done at all costs.
"There are other things that are wrong. They are wrong not because human wisdom says they are wrong, or because custom decres it thus, but because God's word says they are wrong. They would not be wrong if God's word had not thus labeled them. These things must be abstained from at all costs.
"Then there is a great in-between field. It is the field of expediency . . ."
By those things, said in the above to be right, I suppose brother Lemmons refers to such things as baptism, the Lord's supper, etc. By those things declared wrong he evidently means such things as eating blood, making a feast with the Lord's supper, etc. Those statements are excellent and deserve attention and respect. However, it is shocking to see that brother Lemmons declares that whatever is riot declared to be right or wrong by the scriptures, is in the realm of expediency. The real battleground for truth and righteousness has been omitted. He has forgotten the limitations imposed upon us by divine positive law. By the rule brother Lemmons gave above we could not possibly object to mechanical music in worship, to Thursday night communion or to two wives for each Christian man. If God's word which authorizes us to sing does not limit us to singing; if the scripture which authorizes us to eat at the Lord's table each First Day of the week does not limit us to eating it on that day alone; if the Bible authority for a man to have one wife does not limit him to one wife only, then anything can be done which is not forbidden by a specific negative command. Surely brother Lemmons did not mean to open the door so widely. I have asked him, several weeks ago, in private communication, to correct the wrong impression his words would leave, and again I beg him so to do. I earnestly hope that he and others like him will not abandon the very principle upon which revealed religion is based.
In the same editorial brother Lemmons says, "We are of the persuasion that the Law of God allows a great many things under extenuating circumstances . . . There are doubtless occasions where the church, for good and sufficient local reasons, might make a contribution to most any private enterprise." But what could be a "good and sufficient local reason" for anything which is unauthorized? By the same reasoning we could suppose that, "for good and sufficient local rea-sons~l we might occasionally sprinkle water upon people and call it baptism, we might drink cider instead of the fruit of the vine or we might eat of the bread and drink of the cup late Saturday and go fishing on the Lord's Dav.
Judging from the last paragraph of the editorial to which we have referred, I conclude that it was intended as an opposition to support of the college from the church treasury. However, the arguments presented actually justify such use of the funds of the church except when it is inexpedient, for if the church can give to the colleges once for any reason, they can do so regularly if the same reason still exists. The fact of the matter is, that, with authority the church can never, under any circumstances contribute funds from its treasury to any private enterprise. Whenever it does so it ceases to practice a completely revealed religion.
Wherever one goes, and without regard to what it is to which he objects, someone is sure to say, "What's wrong with it," or "Where is the verse of scripture that forbids it?" 'I'his is exactly the same dodge that has been used by the advocates of mechanical music for a hundred years. The real significance of this attitude is seen when we recognize that, while some use this argument to try to justify support of the world's needy from the church treasury and support of various human benevolent institutions also from the treasury, the same argument is being used by some others today to show that we at least cannot oppose Thursday night communion, mechanical music in worship and support of the colleges from the church treasury. And so, it is that we see funds going today from the church treasury to secular schools and we see other similar drifts away from the revealed religion defined and authorized by God's word.
Again I beg, for a revealed religion. Let us not be deceived by the promotional schemes of men which would lead us from truth to error. God has authorized all that is pleasing to him, and besides that if we will only do so we will be kept completely busy doing that which is revealed. No person or church need go beyond the authority of the New Testament to be kept entirely busy in service to Christ. That which the Lord reveals may not have the glamor presented in the "think big," and "get the church on the march" pleas of visionary and zealous brethren, but if we will do what God authorizes, and be limited thereby, we will not only be doing what the Lord wants us to do, but we will need no further outlet for our funds, our energies or our abilities.
Truth Magazine III:4, pp. 4-5, 24