By Bobby Holmes
J.W. McGarvey died in 1991 at the age of 82. He was the author of several commentaries and other works on Bible subjects. He was recognized as a Bible scholar far and wide. He lived in a critical period of the church’s history – a period when the church was being divided over the introduction of instrumental music and missionary societies. Like all human beings he was capable of mistakes; some of them he recognized, some of them he probably did not. On one occasion he gave this advice:
You are on the right road, and whatever you do, don’t let anyone persuade you that you can successfully combat error by fellowshipping it and going along with it. I have tried. I believed at the start that was the only way to do it. I’ve never held membership in a congregation that used instrumental music. I have, however, accepted invitations to preach without distinctions between churches that used it and churches that didn’t. I’ve gone along with their papers and magazines and things of that sort. During all these years I have taught the truth as the New Testament teaches it to every young preacher who passed through the College of the Bible. Yet, I do not know of more than six of them who are preaching the truth today. It won’t work.
As already noted, McGarvey lived at a time when churches were being divided over the introduction of instrumental music. The disturbance was not caused by those who opposed the introduction of the instrument. The disturbance was caused by those who introduced the instrument. Note what McGarvey said that he learned. He had tried to “go along with” those who were “for” the instrument even though he personally did not agree with it. About such action as “going along,” he said, “it won’t work. ” You can’t “go along” with something when it is unscriptural: it must be opposed.
Someone has said that those who will not learn from history are destined to repeat its mistakes. How true this is today. The church is being disturbed about human institutions tied to the church treasury. Today, as in McGarvey’s day, the disturbance is not caused by those who oppose the introduction of these human institutions. Today, as then, the disturbance is caused by those who introduce them. They must bear the stigma of “dividing the church. ” But just as in McGarvey’s day, so it is today. There are people who do not believe that such human institutions tied to the church are scriptural and yet they attend churches that either support such or else support preachers who teach that the support of such is scriptural . . . like McGarvey, they are “going along.” Others think that we ought not to object and that it is best to just “go along.” Like McGarvey, at the start I (they) believed that was the only way to do it. To those who are attending such congregations, who are just “going along with it,” listen to what this man learned! “It won’t work!” There is but one remedy for error. Teach against it. Actively oppose it. Error will not die out; it must be fought out; it must be taught out.
But we do not want to take the word of any uninspired man as the rule of faith and practice. Let us suggest some reasons given in the Bible to show that “going along with it” won’t work.
(1) In 2 John 9- 10 the apostle tells us: “Whosoever goeth onward and abides not in the teaching of Christ, hath not God . . . . If any one cometh unto you, and bring not this teaching (the teaching of Christ – bh) receive him not into your house, and give him no greeting (or bid him Godspeed, AV) for he that biddeth him Godspeed is partaker of his evil deeds.” This verse shows plainly that a person is forbidden to teach anything that Christ has not authorized. But it shows that we cannot encourage, endorse, or support financially, morally or vocally what Christ has not authorized. Why? We are partakers of the evil deeds. We become just as guilty as he is. He is wrong for what he teaches, but those who support and endorse him are equally at fault.
(2) “A man that is a heretic after a first and second admonition reject,” says the inspired apostle Paul in Titus 3:10. A heretic is a man who chooses his opinion and substitutes it for truth. Some of those who are advocating the church support of human institutions admit that this is not a matter of faith to them. Well, if it is not a matter of faith, it must be opinion . . . and it is one they have chosen. Those who oppose such church support of human institutions do not do so as a matter of “opinion” but as a matter of conscience, and faith. It is not an “opinion” with them. Now those who have chosen their “opinions” have done so to the dividing of the church. This verse says they are not to be “gone along with.” They are to be admonished, once, even twice. But “after a first and second admonition reject.” No, we can’t just “go along with such” and remain true to God and keep the church pure.
These are just two of several reasons that could be given to show that McGarvey had scriptural basis for urging people to oppose error and not to just “go along with it.” And then he had the personal experience of having tried to go along. To those of you who read these lines and are in churches which support either financially or morally human institutions from the Lord’s treasury, learn a lesson from the Scriptures and history. “It won’t work.” (Adapted from Bible Bulwarks, Feb. 1965.)
Guardian of Truth XXXV: 18, p. 561
September 19, 1991