By Lloyd P. Atherton
Does the above question have a familiar ring to it? Of course it does. It is frequently used by denominationalists in an attempt to maintain and sustain such unscriptural practices as sprinkling or pouring as a substitute for baptism, mechanical instrumental music in worship to God, etc. Apparently this is a better argument(?) than many of us have supposed for we hear this question propounded by many professed Christians. It is appalling to hear a child of God ask, “Where does the Bible say not to . . . ?” with regard to social drinking, mixed bathing, the use of tobacco, dancing, immodest attire, ad infinitum. But what prompts such a question, anyway?
Let me suggest that it is a failure to strive to be perfect in Christ. Jesus commanded, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect” (Matt. 5:48). Paul advised the church at Colosse of Epaphras’ prayer “that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God” (Col. 4:12). Hence we see that Christians are to be perfect.
But what is involved in being perfect? W. E. Vine, in his Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, Vol. 3, pp. 173-174, defines “perfect” as “having reached its end, finished, complete, perfect.” As it relates to persons Vine says, “(a) full grown, of full age, adult, mature; (b) complete”. Thus we are not talking about sinless perfection. Christ only was perfect in that sense (confer 1 Pet. 2:22; Heb. 4:15). A Christian cannot claim to live above sin for “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1 Jn. 1:8). Being perfect involves spiritual growth and maturity; coming to completeness in Christ. When one obeys the gospel, he must “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby” (1 Pet. 2:2). We are to “grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18a). A very real, and I might add, critical problem in the lives of far too many professed Christians is a failure to grow to maturity and completeness. Although many have obeyed the “first principles,” they have not done anything further to promote growth and development. Having merely gone through a form of obedience with a consequent failure to feed upon and drink from God’s word, they are suffering from spiritual malnutrition and retardation.
The Hebrew writer dealt with this very problem. Notice it: “For when for the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. For every one that useth milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness; for he is a babe. But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Heb. 5:12-14). This is a good commentary on the condition of so many in the church today. Many need to be retaught the first principles. They are spiritual infants. They are not able to discern (differentiate) between good and evil because of a failure to exercise their senses. Notice that those who are able to eat strong meat are said to be “of full age.” This is from the same Greek word that is translated “perfect” in Matt. 5:48 and in Col. 4:12. (Contextually, in Matt. 5:48 Jesus is saying that our love must be perfect or complete, even as the Father’s love is complete; in Col. 4:12, reference is to maturity-see Vine’s definition above). Again we see the problem demonstrated; brethren who are not striving to be perfect (mature, full grown and complete) in Christ as required by God.
Concerning our question “where does the Bible say not to . . . ?”, the Lord did not list everything that was good and everything that was evil. No book could contain such. Imagine the difficulty and confusion that would have existed for first and second century man, etc., if the Lard had included in the Bible every specific evil that applies to twentieth century man, so many of which would have been unknown to the earlier centuries, and vice versa. The Lord laid down principles which must govern the lives of Christians. This requires us to exercise our senses. Unfortunately, far too many do not want to be governed and/or are opposed to spiritual exercise (with the possible exception being that of jumping to conclusions). Being carnally minded and not minding the things of the spirit, they are calling good evil and evil good. When challenged concerning their involvement in activities condemned by Bible principles, the major thrust of their defense is the timeworn question, “Well, where does the Bible say not to . . . ?” Isaiah had to deal with this problem in his day. Consider what he had to say. “Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isa. 5:20-emph. mine, lpa). According to the apostle Paul in Romans 8:6-9, if we are in the flesh we cannot please God. If we do not possess the spirit of Christ we are none of his regardless of what we may think or what we may claim!
Let each of us be full grown, of full age, adult, mature, complete, in. Christ Jesus. Let us be new creatures in Christ (Cf. Eph. 4:17-25). Let us mortify, or put to death, the deeds of the flesh, the old man with his deeds, and put on the new man (Cf. Col. 3:5-10). After primary obedience to the gospel, let us strive to walk in “newness of life” (Rom. 6:4). God’s word reveals that our character must be transformed. What we are must be different from what we were. Our nature must be consistent with the nature of Christ. When we appropriate the truths of God’s word unto ourselves, our character will be changed from the carnal man to the spiritual man. As a consequence our conduct, our doing will be changed. We will seek to follow Christ in all things. We will submit our will to the will of Him who died for us. We will not seek to justify our practices by what the Bible does not say, but rather, we will learn and apply these Bible principles to our lives so as to be in harmony with God’s will as revealed in His word, whether it be precept or principle. Brethren, let us be perfect!
Truth Magazine XIX: 46, pp. 727-728
October 2, 1975