“They Had Not Done It Of A Long Time”

By P. J. Casebolt

In the days of Hezekiah, it is said of Israel and Judah with respect to the Passover feast, “. . . for they had not done it of a long time in such sort as it was written” (2 Citron. 30:5).

Both Israel and Judah had been doing some things which were intended to be acts of service, sacrifice, and worship, but not “as it was written.” Many people in the religious world never have done things according to that which is written in God’s word. Their entire system is based on the doctrines, commandments, creeds, and traditions of men, and therefore vain (Matt. 15:8, 9). Some in this system have even forsaken their own original traditions, and for the most part could not tell you what they believe or why they believe it. They have been merged into a milling mass of philosophy and social agendas which have neither point, purpose, nor identity.

But among the Lord’s people at this present time, there are those who have not served God for a long time “as it is written,” and a generation or two have never even heard what is written with respect to their worship, service, and spiritual sacrifices.

In a recent meeting with a congregation which still teaches and practices things “which become sound doctrine” (Titus 2:1), brethren from churches of Christ which have not done things “of a long time in such sort as it was written” were invited to attend, and like the invitation of Hezekiah to “all Israel and Judah,” divers accepted the invitation and came.

After a sermon on “The Unity of the Spirit,” a dialogue was initiated by the visiting brethren who had never heard things which pertained to unity among brethren, and why division exists among the people of God. I judged these men to be in their 30s or 40s, and they were sincere brethren who were willing to discuss issues which divide us, and made an effort to justify their present practices.

When one of them asked if they were not “doing a good work” by preaching the gospel through human arrangements such as sponsoring churches and elderships, I told them that this was exactly the same argument which was made to justify the human missionary societies of the last century. They had never heard of a missionary society, and wanted to know what one was. (In fact, they were sending their support for a particular TV program through two sponsoring churches.)

When I and other brethren pointed out that the digressive “Christian Church” or “Disciples of Christ” was formed from divisive efforts to bind “expediencies” and “methods” upon other brethren, these brethren conceded that they did not know why this division took place. They knew that some used mechanical instruments of music and some didn’t, but had no idea as to how, why, or even when such things transpired. They had never heard that a “good work” had to be defined, determined, and limited by the Scriptures, or a “thus saith the Lord” (2 Tim. 3:16, 17; 1 Pet. 4:11).

We cannot be held responsible for the fact that many churches of Christ have not done things “of a long time in such sort as it was written.” Preachers and elders in those churches have long since ceased to justify doctrines and practices by “book, chapter, and verse,” and have purposely kept the membership of such congregations in darkness and ignorance as to why we do not have unity in the Lord’s church. But we can be held responsible for not indoctrinating present and coming generations in those congregations which still practice things “as it is written.”

Even among what we know as conservative churches of Christ, we are neglecting to teach new converts and remind older members about such things as scriptural authority; the work, mission, organization, and worship of the church; what has caused division among God’s people in times past; and the importance of “book, chapter, and verse” preaching.

Not only are we neglecting such subjects in the local pulpits, classrooms, and in gospel meetings, we are becoming preoccupied with gimmicks, philosophy, psychology, sermons and assemblies more on the order of a TV sit-corn or talk show, and otherwise appealing to the desire to be entertained and pampered.

We have only so much time on Sundays, in mid-week classes, and gospel meetings to indoctrinate the member-ship of local congregations. If necessary, we need to “observe other seven days” (2 Chron. 30:23), in addition to our regular efforts to preach the gospel to the unbeliever and edify the believer.

Once we become negligent and fall behind in doctrinal matters, it won’t be long until we fall behind in matters of morality, and even forsake the true and living God for the gods of this world. It would be better to explain to our children why we observe divinely approved memorials, rather than try to explain why we have not observed them “of a long time.”

Guardian of Truth XL: 11 p. 24-25
June 6, 1996