Editorial Left-overs: Apology to Christian Church

By Connie W. Adams

At the Nashville Jubilee this summer, Rubel Shelly read a statement in which he apologized to the Christian Church for the division over the instrument of music in worship. Simultaneously, that statement was read before a convention of the Christian Church and received with great celebration. Division was caused congregation by congregation when the instrument was forced in over the protest of sincere Christians who could not worship with it without violating their consciences. Much controversy in the journals and in public debates explored the scriptural authority (or lack of it). When all was said and done, no divine authority had been found for it and the only real justification for it was, “I like it and I intend to have it, whether you like it or not.” It was granted by all that singing in public worship was authorized in the New Testament. So any division was not because of that. The instrument was the bone of contention. So important was it to the advocates for its use that they preferred it to the fellowship of their brethren. Church property was high jacked in various places over the country and devout brethren were forced to leave and start over in the school house, or court house, or a store front somewhere. And for this an apology is due? Rubel Shelly does not speak for me. He does not even speak for a large number of the institutional folks. You can expect papers like The Spiritual Sword and Firm Foundation to roast Shelly for his presumption.

Meanwhile, Paul said “Speaking to yourselves in psalms, hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your hearts to the Lord” (Eph. 5:19). “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to to the Lord” (Col. 3:16). “Saying, I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the church will I sing praise unto thee” (Heb. 2:12). What does the New Testament say about instrumental music in worship? Absolutely nothing. If God said nothing, and we say something, then we have acted without authority and gone beyond the teaching of Christ (2 John 9).

All of this is a good lesson in what happens when men start drifting to the left. Men like Shelly are not just out in left field, they have run plumb out of the stadium.

Lucado on Baptism

One of the speakers at the Nashville Jubilee was the popular writer Max Lucado. The Nashville press gave considerable coverage to the controversy among Nashville churches of Christ over the Jubilee. Lucado was inter-viewed by a local television personality and questioned about baptism. The interviewer said something to the effect that churches of Christ have taught that baptism is essential to salvation and asked if that meant those who were not baptized were lost. Lucado hemmed and hawed and finally took the Baptist position that baptism in an outward sign of an inward grace. No wonder. I heard a radio sermon of Lucado which he delivered from San Antonio, Texas in which he asked the audience to pray the sinner’s prayer and claim their salvation, right then and then write him and let him know. He said he would send them some literature and urge them to find a good church and to be baptized, not to be saved, but because they already were. And this is the gentleman whose books line the shelves of the libraries of more and more preachers these days. Chapters from his popular books are being outlined and used for sermons in local work and in meetings. “Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone” (Hos. 4:17).

Do What You Promise

“When you make a vow to God, do not delay to pay it; For he has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you have vowed. It is bettern not to vow than to vow and not pay” (Eccl. 5:4-5). Some folks are short on commitments. Their word means nothing. This is especially evident in terms of the vows made in entering marriage. Amid flowers and finery, in the presence of family, friends and before God, two people will promise to love each other and live together “in sickness and health, for better or worse” “til death do us part.” Then five or ten years later, none of that means anything. One or the other falls “out of love,” finds someone else, or just decides that marriage was a big mistake. Some simply say “I just don’t want to be married anymore.”

Now folks, listen carefully. Marriage is a lifetime commitment (Rom. 7:1-4). It is entered by deliberate choice, at least in our culture. You made vows. You gave your word. You made a commitment. Does that not mean anything at all? God considers the one who breaks a vow a “fool.” Look at Ecclesiastes 5:4 again. Don’t promise what you do not intend to deliver. Marriage is an honorable vow. There are foolish vows like having your tongue pulled out by the roots and your bowels cut asunder and scattered to the four winds if you should repeat MAH HA BONE to anyone who is not a lodge brother. Anyone who vows not to obey the gospel to please a parent has made a vow in opposition to the express will of God. But marriage is ordained of God and declared by him to be honorable in all. His divine law regulates it. To violate such a commitment is to frustrate the divine purpose of God for the human race. Those who cheat on their spouses, divorce their mates without scriptural cause, glide in and out of marriages are liars. They made vows which they would not pay. God shall call all of these to account in the judgment.

Guardian of Truth XLI: 21 p. 3-4
November 6, 1997