By Clark C. Buzbee
“These people draw near to Me with their mouth, and honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men” (Matt. 15:8-9). Isaiah first said it, and Jesus quoted it, making application of it to those who had nullified the word of God by what they “said” when compared with what they “did.”
The application of this Scripture is very simple. When we honor God’s commandment with our mouth but practice something else, we are guilty of sin in that we make null and void the word of God. There are several Scriptures that relate to this sin, and there are numerous Bible examples of those who were guilty of this sin.
This article will deal with specific examples of this sin as it is practiced today. As noted in the title of this article, this is a common sin in the denominational world. It is also true that some of my own brethren in the Lord in this area have failed to keep what they say consistent with what they do; therefore their flagrant inconsistency will be pointed out in these studies also.
We must teach the truth (Jn. 8:32; 17:17), and our practice must be consistent with that truth (Matt. 23:1-3). Otherwise, we will be eternally separated from God (Matt. 7:21-23). With these facts in mind, all of us should be able to see the importance of striving to keep our activities consistent with God’s word!
An example of an individual who “said” that he had “done” the will of God when in fact he had not, is found in 1 Samuel 15. Saul said, “I have performed the commandment of the Lord,” but the noise of the animals was compelling evidence to the contrary. The bleating of the sheep and the lowing of the oxen stood in district contrast to what Saul was saying.
Likewise, today, the “noise” of what some are doing stands in sharp contrast to what they are saying.
The Scriptures Are Complete
The words used to express it may be different, but most religious people who may be called “conservative” claim to believe the Bible to be a “complete rule of faith and practice.” Therefore it is common for preachers to say, “The scriptures are complete and contain everything necessary for us to please God in this life and live in eternity with Him.”
2 Timothy 3:16-17, Jude 3, and 2 Peter 1:1-3 certainly establish the truthfulness of the above statement. The Bible is complete! It does furnish everything necessary for us to please God!
When we “say” this, we are also saying that God concluded his revelation with the giving of the New Testament. We must therefore reject all claims to any “new” revelation today. This is where “lip service” enters the picture.
While claiming to believe the Bible to be God’s complete revelation to mankind, many preachers (without so much as a blush) are constantly claiming that “God spoke to my heart and said” thus and so. Just a few days ago I heard a “preacher” say, “The Lord said to me, there is someone watching today who . . .” Then he continued by saying, “The Lord spoke to me, and told me to tell that person . . .” Such claims as this to direct communication with God, and God telling these various preachers what to say and do have become all too common.
These men are either self-deluded or outright deceivers, or both! They “say” they believe the Bible is complete, but what they are claiming and doing speak to the contrary! I would walk twenty miles, barefoot, to hear these men explain why we are to heed the things they claim God has said to them, and not listen to the claims of men like Joseph Smith who “said” that God spoke to him!
Every single one of these people who “claim” God has spoken to them are much like the prophets of whom God spoke when he said in Jeremiah 23:21, “I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran. I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied.”
Saul said, “I have done what the Lord said.” Samuel said, “What is all that noise I hear?” Men say, “I believe the Bible is complete.” We need to ask, “What are all those claims to current revelation I hear?”
The scribes and Pharisees said they honored their parents, but what they did was disregard the needs of their parents (Matt. 15:1-9). They, by a deceitful “explanation” of God’s commandement, taught that you did not actually have to honor your father and mother.
Let us focus on the Bible fact that each local church of Christ is to be independent and autonomous. Some brethren say they believe this, but what they have done compares to the noise of thousands of sheep and oxen!
What is meant by the term “autonomy”? I once read what I believe is an excellent description of this Bible principle. There were six points. A congregation of God’s people is authorized by God to: (1) control its own resources; (2) control its own work and worship (within the doctrine of Christ); (3) manage its own affairs; (4) exercise congregational discipline; (5) provide for its own; and (6) govern itself in matters of judgment. All of the above are to be done under the oversight of a plurality of elders when and if men are qualified (scripturally).
In the New Testament each congregation was indeed independent and autonomous. No congregation was ever authorized by God to become involved in the affairs of another congregation. God limited the oversight of a group of elders to the local church of which they are a part. There is no Bible authority for elders of one congregation to exercise oversight of another congregation; there is no authoritry for them to control the resources of another congregation; there is no authority for them to own and control the property of another congregation; there is no authority for them to transfer ownership of that property to a third congregation; and there is no authority for that congregation to sell the property and thereby force the church meeting on the property to leave their place of assembly.
But, all of this was done, and it was done by those who say that they believe in the independence and autonomy of each local church. No wonder Jesus said, “These people . . . honor Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me” (Matt. 15:8)”
I would walk twenty miles, barefoot, to hear someone try to scripturally “justify” such control and “oversight” of elders. I would walk a second twenty miles, still barefoot, to hear a preacher seek to give Bible authority for a church to receive and dispose of another congregation’s property!
Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 6, pp. 163-164
March 19, 1992