Ephraim’s Idols: The Divine Authority of the One Book

By Ron Halbrook

All other books are of value only as they lead back to “the Book. ” Our commentaries and our libraries are merely efforts to grasp the breadth and depth of the revelation of the Book. It is the authority to which church, reason, religious experience, and tradition must submit. He who does not abide in the teaching has not God (2 Jn. 9).

Jack P. Lewis made these excellent remarks in a lesson on We may as well add one more which brother Lewis did not the “Inspiration and Authority of the Bible” (Harding mention. College Lectures 1972, pp. 90-122).

He further explained that such “matters of worship and service” as “instrumental music in worship, incense in worship, dedicating babies, and missionary societies” are excluded from God’s will because not authorized by “a direct command, an approved example, or ground for a necessary inference.” But such matters as “the doctrine of `Guardian Angels,’ of the rapture, of how orphan children should be cared for, of the type of materials out of which people can study in Bible classes” fall “in the area of opinion” dependent upon “inference and deduction” rather than upon “the explicit statement of Scripture.” Of course, the reference to “how orphan children should be cared for” means whether the church may build and maintain human institutions separate from the church for various phases of its benevolent work. Whatever the benevolent scope of the church may be, how suggests incidental methods and is misleading. The question is who: the church or another organization?

Suppose we add to his latter list “how musical worship may be offered (with or without mechanical instruments), how reverence and meditation may be expedited (incense), how families may demonstrate their dedication to the ideal of raising godly children (dedicating babies), and how churches may spread the gospel (missionary societies).” Brother Lewis would object that these are not mere methods of doing the thing commanded, but are violations of and intrusions upon the thing actually commanded. The command to “sing” excludes another kind of music that of playing mechanical instruments. The chart illustrates this principle:

The Command Excludes
To Sing Playing Instruments
To Baptize Believers Baptizing Babies
For the Church to Propagate Truth Church Support of Human Institutions (Missionary Society)
For the Church to Care for Its Needy Church Support of Human Institutions (Benevolent Organizations – Clinics, Hospitals, Orphanages, Etc.)
We may as well add one more letter which brother Lewis did not mention.
For the Church to Edify the Saints Church Support of Human Institutions (Edification Organizations – Colleges)

Harding Graduate School, in which Lewis teaches, seeks and accepts church donations to edify young people and to to prepare preachers. In addition, Harding College functions as a missionary society by taking church funds and sending out preachers to convert the lost and build up churches! (For details, see ad on back page of Gospel Advocate, 24 June 1976) As illustrated on chart below.*

The real issue is, Has the Lord made His church adequate to its mission? In assigning the church its mission, did He provide the church with its own organization or leave the church to devise organizations? Shall the-church oversee and control its own work, or make donations to human organizations which oversee and control the work to be done? Whether in spreading the gospel, edifying the saints, or caring for the church’s needy, the issue is not how in terms of specific methods but who in terms of organization. The constant proliferation of organizations as appendages to the church in every field of its endeavor is an insult to God’s revealed plan in the Bible and a disgrace to the people proposing to follow it to the exclusion of all else. These human institutions drawing their financial life’s blood from the churches are idolatrous impositions upon the authority and all-sufficiency of the New Testament plan for the church of God. Such organizations have no place among a people claiming to speak where the Bible speaks and to be silent where the Bible is silent; to call Bible things by Bible names; to do Bible things in Bible ways; to plea for unity on the basis of the revealed truth of God; to proclaim Christ as the only head with the Bible as the only rule of faith and practice; and to speak as the oracles of God by giving Book, Chapter, and Verse for every religious practice.

Will someone object, “But where does the Bible say not to – Look how much good we are doing – I don’t see anything wrong with it – Some of our best preachers approve . . . .”? As brother Lewis himself so well said: The Bible is “the authority to which church, reason, religious experience, and tradition must submit. He who does not abide in the teaching has not God (2 Jn. 9).” How heartbreaking that Ephraim is joined to idols! Oh that they might be put away and God’s people stand together as a mighty army for the truth – for the Divine Authority of One Book.

Advanced Bible Class Lessons

Brother Roy C. Cogdill’s Book by Book through the New Testament is being widely used. It is especially suitable for classes ranging from high school level to adult levels. Special issues of Truth Magazine have been adapted and reprinted in workbook form. Good interest has been shown by requests for this material in advance of its actual printing and there has been a good response after the printing as well. I have enjoyed teaching the one on Romans. The new one on Worldliness fills a pressing need and a number of brethren have expressed their enthusiasm about this important material. Billy Moore’s workbooks on Authority and Unity are excellent choices. Use Truth Magazine Bookstore’s toll-free phone number to obtain any of these and to find out what else is available in advanced Bible class materials.

* Harding College receives church donations and functions to (1) supply preachers to churches, (2) arrange for student preacher’s programs of work under elderships of churches, (3) locate unevangelized areas for churches, and (4) send preachers to such areas for churches.



Truth Magazine XXIV: 9, pp. 153-155
February 28, 1980