Pearls From Proverbs

Irvin Himmel
Decatur, Alabama

Lasting Landmarks

Remove not the ancient landmark, which they fathers have set (Prov. 22:28).

In ancient times there were no instruments for accurately measuring and surveying land. Transits, levels, steel tapes, sight rods, etc. came much later. There were no court house records to show the precise boundaries of parcels of land. There were no official and carefully marked out surveyor's stakes hidden in the ground. Stones were used to mark the boundaries of a piece of property, and in many cases these stone landmarks could be moved rather easily.

Removal of boundary stones was forbidden in Babylon, Assyria, Egypt, Greece, and Rome. It was an act of dishonesty to secretly move the termini and thereby extend one's field.

The law of Moses stated, "Thou shalt not remove they neighbor's landmark, which they of old time have set in thine inheritance, which thou shalt inherit in the land that the Lord they God giveth thee to possess it" (Deut. 19:14). The man was accursed who removed his neighbor's landmark (Deut. 27:18). Whatever may have been used to mark the boundaries of private property when the land was divided, future generations were to respect the ancient boundary markers.

Witnesses to Rights

Landmarks were witnesses to the property rights of each man. Some in Bible times were dishonest and trampled others under foot. Job once said, "Some remove the landmarks; they violently take away flocks. . . " (Job 24:2).

We should respect the rights of others. We have ample freedom in our own realm without infringing on others. Social order demands respect for the rights of other people. "Nothing is more necessary for the maintenance of social order than that each individual in the state should know the limits that the just claims of others put upon his liberty" (W.F. Adeney).

Some Spiritual Landmarks

There are fixed spiritual truths, religious landmarks dating back to apostolic days, which should not be moved. These are part of the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3).

(1) Baptism. Christ made baptism a condition of salvation (Mk. 16:15,16). The apostles so understood it and preached it (Acts 2:38; 10:48). Baptism is a likeness of the burial and resurrection of Christ (Rom. 6:3-5). Through baptism, an act of faith, the body of Christ is entered (1 Cor. 12:13).

Some have attempted to move this great landmark. They want it in the church as an ordinance to be kept by people who are already saved. Herschel H. Hobbs says, "The New Testament church as two ordinances: baptism and the Lord's supper." He sees baptism as a symbol of the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, but he argues that it "also typifies the Christian's death to his old life, its burial, and his resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ. . . " (What Baptists Believe, pp. 82,83). This clearly moves the landmark from a condition of the remission of sins to a symbolic act following the remission of sins.

(2) Lord's Supper. Christ appointed the breaking of bread and drinking of the fruit of the vine in remembrance of His body and blood (Matt. 26:26-29). The Jerusalem disciples continued steadfastly in this (Acts 2:42). The first day of the week was the time for keeping this memorial (Acts 20:7).

The landmark of weekly observance of the Lord's supper has been moved by many religious people. They prefer monthly, or perhaps quarterly, breaking of bread.

(3) Respect for authority. God teaches us through His word that we should honor and revere His will. He is the Almighty. He has given all authority, in heaven and on earth, to His Son (Matt. 28:18). The apostles were chosen by Christ to make known the gospel. They taught men to respect the name of Jesus Christ. Also, in human relationships there must be respect for authority. "But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God" (1 Cor. 11:3). The wife is to submit to her husband and reverence him as her head (Eph. 5:22-24,33). Children are to respect their parents (Eph. 6:1-3). All are obligated to submit to civil rulers (Rom. 13:1-7).

Here is an ancient landmark that has been removed. In modern society there are many who do not respect authority. This removal of a landmark fixed by God's decree is the underlying cause of many problems.

(4) Congregational independence. All Christians are dependent on Christ. Local churches in the first century were not arranged in synods, conferences, or by a diocesan plan. They functioned independently of each other. Elders were ordained "in every church" (Acts 14:23). There were no "super" elderships empowered to oversee "area wide" or "brotherhood wide" projects. Each church had its own bishops and deacons (Phil. 1:1).

The landmark of congregational independence has been removed from the thinking of many religionists. They prefer bigger "parcels" than the New Testament sets up by its teaching.

(5) Love. Jesus said, "By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another" (John 13:35). But the landmark of love has been moved so that it is not recognized today as that which distinguishes Christ's disciples!

Beloved, let us have the spiritual landmarks right where they were placed by inspired men., The boundaries which God has set are for our good.

Guardian of Truth XXX: 22, pp. 686, 698
November 20, 1986