By Phil T. Arnold
The above title emphasizes the plea of the restoration movement and is the foundation of our religious heritage. Yet, I am fearful that at times, in places, and among some of us, this plea is no longer being heralded nor practiced.
Lip service is still given to the fact that “we believe the Bible to be the word of God.” Yet, in our quest to preach only “positive Christianity” (?) and “peace, when there is no peace” (Jer. 6:14), we have lost our distinctive plea to “speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where the Bible is silent.” In our efforts to embrace all, rather than rebuke the erring, and conform rather than be transformed, we have lost distinction as God’s people in the midst of other religious people. Thus, there is ever a need to go back to the Bible, to speak as the oracles of God (1 Pet. 4:11), to stress fundamental Bible doctrine (Heb. 5:12; 6:1), and to require a “thus saith the Lord” for all that we do or say (Col. 3:17). That need has perhaps never been any greater than it is today.
How many there are in the church today who fail to realize the distinctive biblical nature of the church They often view the church as a building or simply another denomination. While we would expect this to be the case among our more liberal brethren who long ago abandoned the cry to follow the pattern, there are those without a biblical concept of the church who fill our pews as well. Our separation from denominations and our liberal brethren, and our distinctive practices appear to them to be more a matter of tradition or personal preference than Bible authority.
Why not use an instrument of music in worship? Why not make contributions to man-created institutions out of the church treasury? Why not assign the benevolent and social responsibilities of the individual to the church? Why limit our fellowship only to those we know to be practicing truth? The answer to these questions and more appears to them to be an “issue of opinion rather than revelation.”
I do not wish to seem to be an alarmist, but we appear to have a new “…generation … who (does) not know the Lord nor the work which He (has) done” (Judg. 2:10). Many today know little of the battles of the past that were fought in order that today they might have an opportunity to worship and serve God free of human teachings, traditions, and practices. While not every battle fought in times past to maintain the distinctive, divine purity of the church must necessarily be rehashed, the principles involved, if true, must continue to be reemphasized. Even then we would do well to consider the specifics involved in these battles because history does truly repeat itself as evidenced by the new (?) problems concerning instrumental music, Calvinism, unity in diversity, etc.
This is not a plea to contend for our tradition nor rely upon our history as authority. Instead, this is a plea to go back to the Bible for our concept of the church, for our directions for living, for the authority for whatever we do in word or deed. For “whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son” (2 John 9). Let us follow the noble example set before us by the Bereans when “they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11).
The “Back To The Bible” plea is a plea to return to the all-sufficiency of Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Pet. 1:3) that we might have the unity for which our Lord prayed (John 17:20-21). It is a plea to let the Bible guide our private, daily lives (Rom. 12:1-2) that we might humble ourselves before its Author (Jas. 4:6-7). It is a plea to return to the power to change lives and save souls (Rom. 1:16, 17) that we might lay claim to the hope of eternal life promised by God (Tit. 1:2; Matt. 7:21).
In the words of our Lord through the prophet Jeremiah we beseech you, “Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk, in it; then you will find rest for your souls” (Jer. 6:16).
Guardian of Truth XLI: 17 p. 5
September 4, 1997