Tag Archives: Clint Defrance

Divide It Among Yourselves…

Earlier this week we published the completion of Andrew Richardson’s article answering Wayne Jackson’s attempt to make a scriptural case for individual cups in the Lord’s Supper. I speak for the staff of Christian Landmark and many, many readers (who sent their gratitude through phone calls, emails and other messages) when I say that we have the highest appreciation for the study and efforts of Brother Richardson. Little could be said to add to the case he has already built for the common cup in congregational communion. What we offer today is more of a reinforcement than an addition.

In the second part of his article, Andrew mentioned an argument made by Brother Jackson from Luke’s account of the institution of the Holy Supper in which Brother Jackson alleges there to be “vivid” and “apparent” evidence that Jesus did not mean to speak of a container when he used the term cup (poterion) but rather the contents. The article reads as follows:

That the “cup” is not the container is even more vividly depicted in Luke’s record. He states that Jesus “received a cup, and when he had given thanks, he said, Take this, and divide it among yourselves . . .” (Lk. 22:17). The Greek word for “divide” is diamerizo, which means to “divide up” or to “separate into parts” (cf. Mt. 27:35). Were the disciples to divide a container? Of course not. They were to divide the fruit of the vine, which, incidentally, most likely was facilitated by multiple containers. Frederic Godet noted: “The distribution (diamerisate) may have taken place in two ways, either by each drinking from the common cup, or by their all emptying the wine of that cup into their own. The Greek term would suit better this second view” (A Commentary on the Gospel of Luke, Edinburgh: T.&T. Clark, 1879, Vol. II, p. 289).

Before commenting on the statements by Dr. Godet, we will note some important considerations about Luke’s record of the institution of the Lord’s Supper. For a man as well read as Wayne Jackson to claim that any clear authority for individual cups in the Lord’s Supper is found in the wording Luke 22:17 borders on scholastic dishonesty. Surely Mr. Jackson is aware of the inherent controversy in Luke’s account not being a question of how the cup was divided, but how the text should be!

 “Then He took the cup, and gave thanks, and said, “Take this and divide it among yourselves; for I say to you, I will not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.” And He took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is My body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of Me.” Likewise He also took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.” (Luke 22:17-20)

Immediately, the reader will perceive some abnormalities with this passage. First of all it appears that Luke features a pretty major variation by claiming that Jesus took the cup before the loaf, however on further examination we see that He mentions the cup a second time! Most commentators suggest that the first cup is not the “cup of the Lord” but a Passover cup. This writer rejects that theory primarily because the Law of Moses gave no drink element in the Passover and it seems irreconcilable with the sinlessness of Christ that the Lord would have utilized a human addition in his keeping of the feast. (Deut. 4:2 and 5:22) Another possible interpretation is that which is suggested by brother Jackson and other “cups” advocates, however, as brother Richardson observed, brother Jackson and the churches he is affiliated with do not hold true to their own interpretation of the passage!

If this passage is teaching that Jesus commanded the disciples to pour the contents of the single cup He took into multiple or individual cups, we must understand the scene as unfolding in this way: Jesus took a single (undivided) cup of fruit of the vine, He blessed it as a single (undivided) thing and then He gave it to the disciples and commanded them to divide it among themselves, which brother Jackson alleges was done by pouring the contents into multiple or individual cups. Although, if this is how the passage is to be read, then Luke makes no mention of anyone ever drinking the grape juice! Furthermore, if this was the meaning it would still present a problem for brother Jackson in that this is not the practice of most churches of Christ that use multiple cups. For most, a janitor or deacon or some such person fills the little cups before the church service begins (thus the communicants do not divide it among themselves) and when the fruit of the vine is blessed it is not un-divided which constitutes a departure from the pattern of Christ.

The truth is well stated by brother Richardson, “Clearly, no matter how you dice it, those who observe the multi-cup tradition do not accept any significance in the pattern that Christ presented. They do not consider there to be any importance in how He did it. Simply put, they do not keep the ordinances as they are delivered, neither do they hold the traditions as they have been taught by the epistle, nor do they obey the command to all drink from one cup.”

Frederick Godet (1812-1900)

But it is not our purpose to simply restate what has already been addressed by brother Richardson. There are some further observations we would like to make regarding this validity of brother Jackson’s interpretation. Most notable is Jackson’s reference to comments by the renowned scholar Frederic Godet. The quotation from Dr. Godet (who actually takes the Passover cup position) may seem to indicate that the scholars are behind the cups position, but this is far from the truth. Why Godet felt that pouring the grape juice into cups was more likely the intended meaning of Jesus when He said “divide it among yourselves” I do not know, but he stands virtually alone in the scholarly community.

Adam Clarke (although taking the Passover cup position) says of the expression ‘divide it among yourselves…’, “Pass the cup from one to another; thus the cup which Christ gave to the first person on his right hand continued to be handed from one to another, till it came to the last person on his left.”(Commentary on Luke)

Adam Clarke (1762-1832)

In the Translators Handbook on the Gospel of Luke, Swellengrebel and Reiling say, “dexamenos implies that Jesus was handed a cup. labete touto – ‘take this’, in the plural, implying that the cup will be taken by each in turn. diamerisate eis heautous – ‘distribute it among yourselves’, referring to the content of the cup, implying that each was to drink from the cup in turn.” (pp. 686)

As brother Richardson observed, many other translations, including the NASB render this phrase, “share it among yourselves…” in keeping with the observations of these scholars. In fact when Matthew recorded what we must believe was the same command, he worded it, “And when He had taken a cup and given thanks, He gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you…” (Matt. 26:27) “And they all drank from it…” (Mark 14:23)

If the Passover cup and the multiple cup explanations do not work, what shall we say of Luke’s record? Why does he mention the cup first and then again? It seems the answer is simply that Luke recorded the events without much emphasis on the sequence and the action of verse 17 actually and chronologically belongs after verse 19. This should not be too difficult to accept. Luke mentions many things out of sequence in his writings: The temptations of the Christ, (Luke 4:1-12) the Beatitudes, (Luke 6) the commands of the Jerusalem council. (Acts 15:20, 29) This was simply his writing style, but it must be taken into account when interpreting this passage.

All things considered it is the opinion of this writer that brother Jackson was inexcusably irresponsible with his handling of Luke 22:17, yet another sad example of ex post facto eisegesis, forcing a teaching into the Bible after the fact to justify a man-made innovation from the divine pattern.

–Clint Defrance, March 2012

There Is Something in A Name

By Clint De France

In most areas of life, the world certainly understands the power of a name. There are some names you could give to a business that would ensure it to be doomed to failure from the start. It wouldn’t matter the quality of the product or the service, because in business there is something in a name! If I was going to go off and get involved in politics with a name like De France I don’t know how I would fare, but there are other names that could make or break my political career, because in politics there is something in a name. People understand that.

A good name can take you places and a bad name can hold you back. That’s why people name their children Peter, James and John, and their mad dogs and mules Ahab, Judas and Lucifer. But can you imagine a mother and father naming there sweet little girl Jezebel, or naming their son Satan! I tell you that people wouldn’t take that! A few years ago a family in Pennsylvania named their new born son Adolf Hitler. An outcry ensued that eventually drew the attention of the national media.  A local bakery refused to personalize a cake for the infant- because a name means something!

If you don’t believe it, why don’t you try to go up to some fellow and call him a liar, or a thief, or a murderer and then say, “Well there’s nothing in a name!” I guarantee you he’ll teach you better! But now as clearly as people can see this in most areas of life and livelihood, when it comes to religion this notion is suddenly as far-fetched and absurd to the minds of men as you could imagine! We are told from all sides, “THERE IS NOTHING IN A NAME!”

There was a song that was very popular a few years back and I think it captures this mindset about as clear as anything: “Some people think today, if heaven you would see, you must belong to their church, or be lost eternally. But according to God’s word, what he’s still looking for, is what he finds within your heart, and not what’s over the door.” Well, although the writer claims to be holding true to the word of God, the truth is that the word of God teaches quite differently! The Bible teaches that there is more in a name when it comes to the religion of Jesus Christ than in any other area of life. The wise man Solomon said in Proverbs 22:1, “A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches…” And again in Ecclesiastes 7:1, “A good name is better than precious ointment…” It certainly seems then that Solomon thought that the name “over the door” was rather important!

When God is involved, a name takes on a greater weight and a more profound meaning than it ever did in business or politics or anything like that. Consider that while God allowed man to name the animals, God himself named man. (Gen 5:22) Throughout the Old Testament we see a continuous train of divinely appointed name changes that were all a part of God’s great plan. We think of Abram, whose name was changed to Abraham, “a friend of God,” showing that God had chosen this man’s family to be his special children. We think of Esau, whose name was changed to Edom, “Red Earth” symbolizing his materialistic choice when he sold his sacred birthright for a bowl of pottage, this name rightly suited his children, the Edomites, as they trusted in earthly alliances, the pride of their hearts and their great stone fortress of Petra, rather than the power of God.

We read of Jacob who God called ‘Israel’ after the remarkable and strange event when he prevailed over the Angel of the Lord, “the Prince that Prevails with God.” The Children of Israel cherished this name as they found that any foe they faced would fall before them when God was on their side. And surely we think of Jesus, “Jehovah is Salvation”, as the Angel told Joseph, “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins.” And the Apostles would later risk their own lives to say, “There is no other name under heaven, given among men, whereby we must be saved.”

Yes, God says, there is something in a name, and I want you to consider that if God put such effort and importance into the names of men than how much more must he have put into the name of the Church that his son purchased with his own blood, and the disciples in order to give him glory and honor! Now friends, there are a lot of names that sincere, good, decent, religious, and bible-believing people have been very proud to wear over the years, but I want to consider with the Bible for a little while today which name is really worthy in the sight of God.

The Name of the Church

There has never been an institution of any greater import, and worth any more honor and adoration on the face of the earth than the Church that Jesus built! The Bible says that Jesus loved the church so much that he gave his own life for it! (Eph. 5:25 and Acts 20:28) We further find the church is made up of all the saved people in the earth! In Ephesians 5:23-24, “For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; and He is the Savior of the body. Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything.” And thus the Church is made up of those who are saved and are subject to Christ. The church
is
Christ’s Kingdom!
And further more notice Hebrews 3:6 “but Christ as a Son over His own house, whose house we are if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm to the end.” Thus the church is the household, or the family of God! Well friends imagine what an awesome name God must have prepared for such a magnificent organization! So what is it? Well when we look into the world around us we will find that hundreds, in fact perhaps thousands of different names are applied to the church, but the Bible says that there is ONE from heaven! In Ephesians 3:14-15 we read, “For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named.”

Part 2

We have noticed the importance the Divine has placed on names throughout the history of His interaction with humanity. Continuing we want to look at some of the names that are commonly applied to the church in search of the one that is given from heaven. (Eph. 3:14-15)

The Names of Men

It is very common today to see churches claiming to be the Lord’s church that wear the names of men. Now we will grant that most of the time these are men who have accomplished great things: Martin Luther, John Wesley, even Alexander Campbell as well as many others. But as great as these men may have been, are their names worthy of being applied to the Church that Jesus built? Notice if you will 1 Corinthians 1:10-13:

“Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you. Now I say this, that each of you says, “I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Cephas,” or “I am of Christ.” Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?

It seems that in the Corinth church there were some who were not unlike many folks today; they rallied around their favorite preacher and even called themselves after his name. Now some say that Paul is condemning any group of disciples who call themselves after Christ. Actually, quite the contrary, the credentials that disqualify Paul, Peter, and Apollos (were you baptized in the name of/was he crucified for you) are met by Christ and no one else and that means that no man, no preacher, no
APOSTLE is the
worthy name
, only Jesus Christ! The sad truth is that most of these organizations who seek to honor men by stamping their name on the church really are doing a great dishonor to those men according to their own words! Did you know that?

Alexander Campbell hated the term “Campbellism” with such a passion that he wrote of it saying, “it is a nickname of reproach invented and adopted by those whose views, feelings and desires are all sectarian; who cannot conceive of Christianity in any other light than an ism.”

Martin Luther also, I am quite sure would have no gratitude toward anyone for giving the church his name. He is recorded as having paraphrased Paul saying:

“I pray you leave my name alone and call not yourselves Lutherans, but Christians. Who is Luther? My doctrine is not mine! I have not been crucified for anyone. St. Paul would not let anyone call themselves after Paul, nor of Peter, but of Christ. How then does it befit me, a miserable bag of dust and ashes, to give my name to the children of God? Cease, my dear friends, to cling to these party names and distinctions: away with all, and let us call ourselves only Christians after Him from whom our doctrine comes.” – The Life of Luther, by Stork, p. 289.

Thus we see that when the church wears men’s names it not only displeases God, but the men themselves!

Roman Catholic

One of the largest groups of professed believers and followers of Christ designates their organization as, “The Roman Catholic Church.” But even as popular, historic, and accepted as this name is by many good and honest people, I believe that it falls short of being the name worthy of the Church that Jesus built.

The first major problem with it is that it isn’t in the Bible! You can read from the founding of the Church in Acts 2 on through the book of Revelation and never once find the name ‘Roman Catholic’ in God’s Word. That is enough to conclude that it is without divine authority.

The second great problem that I find with this name is that is represents an unscriptural ideal. I have no problem with the term catholic, which means universal, although it is not a sufficient name for the Church.
It is true that the church is universal, it is a borderless kingdom, but when one says that the church is Roman Catholic he is insinuating that the headquarters of the global church is in Rome, and the Bible doesn’t teach that. The Bible teaches that Christ, not the Pope, is the head of the church, (Eph. 5:23) and Heaven, not Rome, is the headquarters of the Church! (Acts 2:34-36)

 

Baptist

The group of professed Bible-believing people in America today called Southern Baptists, which represents only a portion of the great whole of Baptists, claims a membership of 16,247,736! The point being that there are a lot of people just in America today who associate themselves with the church called, “Baptist.” But, if the Bible teaches us anything it is that the crowd isn’t always right. Only the scripture can tell us for sure if the name Baptist is the right name for the Church to wear.

This name is a little different than the name Roman Catholic because you can find it in the Bible, but I am afraid it still falls short of being the name God has given to the Church. The only person we read of being called a Baptist is John the Baptist, (actually the “immerser”) and he wasn’t a member of the Church! I know that some people say that he was, so we will take the time to notice some reasons why John the Baptist could not have been a member of the Church.

First notice Matthew 14:10, “So he sent and had John beheaded in prison.” This passage marks the death of John, but two chapters later Jesus says, “I will build my church…” (16:18) The church hadn’t been established yet when John died, so he could not have been in the church. Notice further, Matthew 11:11 where Jesus says, “Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”

Now why would it be said that a great man like John was “less” than the least in the kingdom? Because John died before the kingdom was established, he was never in it, therefore the least in the Church was greater than John! Since John was not a member of the Church then we must conclude that no member of the Church was ever called a Baptist and no church was ever called a Baptist church, thus it is not a scriptural name! Consider how Jesus must feel when men wear that name, instead of his name. In John 3:29-30 John the Baptist said:

“He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease.”

How would you feel if your wife wore your best man’s name? How do you think Jesus feels? Before we move on from this I would like to notice a quote from one of the most respected Baptist scholars of all time, the late Charles Spurgeon,

“I say of the Baptist name, let it perish, but let Christ’s name last forever. I look forward with pleasure, to the day when there will not be a Baptist living. I hope they will soon be gone. I hope the Baptist name will soon perish, but let Christ’s name endure forever.” – Spurgeon Memorial Library, Vol. 1, p. 168.

I say to Mr. Spurgeon, AMEN. In the next article we will continue our investigation of the right name for the church to wear.

So we have observed some of the names that men have given to the church and saw many of the most popular fall into condemnation when examined with the scripture. Now we want to look at a few more in search of the one that is given from heaven. (Eph. 3:14-15)

Part 3 Party Names, the Scourge of Sectarianism

Many religious institutions bear names that reflect a particular doctrinal distinction that they hold which separates them from other denominations. For instance, Baptists are so called, not actually because John the Immerser is called a Baptist in some translations, but because they believe in adult believer’s baptism by immersion only. This was an after the face defense.

Oxford Holy Club

Doctrinal distinctives that characterize a certain sect have been the most common source of religious names throughout history. The name Methodist originated when John and Charles Wesley became part of the so-called ‘Holy Club’ of Oxford, a group of no more than twenty to twenty-five like-minded friends who believed that repentance from worldliness and holy living were necessary for salvation. This group became known as ‘The Methodists’ because of the methodical approach to spirituality of its members. The group became larger and grew until it formed its own, more evangelical Church with the ideas of Wesley at its head. The name ‘Methodist’ has stuck to this day.

The full name of the Methodist Church is ‘Methodist Episcopal’. The name ‘Episcopal’ which denominates another protestant group is in reference to a particular view of church government and organization–that being that ‘bishops’ (the Greek word episkopoi) are an office superior to ‘elders’ who govern over the churches of a city or region. The Methodist Episcopal church agrees with this, but also adheres to the unique teachings of John Wesley and others.

There is a similar history in the name ‘Presbyterian’ Church. Again the reference in the name ‘Presbyterian’ is to the view of government and organization that the denomination holds, being that ‘elders’ are over congregations and that two classifications of ‘elder’ (teaching and ruling) exist.

‘Pentecostals’ are so called because they believe that the beginning of the Church and the ideal of Christianity is found on the first Pentecost after the resurrection of Christ (Acts 2). ‘Adventists’ are so named because they believe in the second personal, visible coming of Christ. ‘Seventh-Day Adventists’ derive their name from their belief that worship is to be done on the Sabbath. ‘Congregationalists’ are so called because they believe in the total independency and autonomy of congregations. ‘Holiness’ churches are so called because they believe that holiness in Christian living is essential for salvation.

There are ‘General’ Baptists who believe that the atoning death of Christ was for all mankind in general, whosoever will receive it, and there are ‘Particular’ Baptists who believe it was for only elect individuals. We could go on and on. Some of these names refer to false, man-made doctrines and would obviously be wrong for that reason, but others refer to true doctrines of Christianity. What would be wrong with wearing the name of a doctrine of truth? Each of these names would be insufficient because they describe only one part of the doctrine of Christ. It is not enough to accept only one part, and neither is it enough to be called after only one part. We must look for a name that encapsulates all of these doctrines in one!

Another kind of name that is not uncommon, and (like the aforementioned) is the product of sectarianism and division, is to call a church after a convention or association of churches  (i.e. Southern Baptist, Missouri Synod, American Baptist Association.) The error of this is that no such associations or conventions existed in the early church. Each congregation was independent and all faithful churches where in fellowship with each other as brethren.

Christian Church?

Some have suggested that the name of the Church should be ‘Christian.’ But while I cherish and respect the name Christian in its proper application, I do not believe that it is the name of the church. The church does not belong to its members and so to call the church after its members as a possessive is incorrect and disrespectful to the true owner. Moses Lard put it about as simply as anyone ever could I think by saying that the Christian Church is “not scriptural and never will be” because there is simply no bible for designating the church that way.

Does the Church Universal have a Name?

The church universal is called by many names from ‘Bride of Christ’ to ‘House of God’. But as an invisible institution with no earthly structure or organization, there is no one name that is applied to the church universal. When it comes to what we should call the church we must look to the congregational level.

Church of Christ or Church of God?

There are many who contest that the name should be the ‘church of God’ seeing as this term is used 11 times in the New Testament. But I think it is important to consider even more closely the relation of each member of the Godhead to the church in order to conclude what the Bible writers are trying to communicate in this terminology. We understand that God is a “Triune Being, three in Persons, one in purpose.” So which part of the God head does the church belong to? Is it the church of the Father? Or perhaps is it the church of the Holy Spirit? Well, let us allow the scriptures to answer that question.

Notice first Acts 20:28:

“Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.”

Now, which member of the Godhead purchased the church with His own blood? Which one of the three came to earth in the flesh and died on the cross for our sins? The Father? No. The Holy Spirit? No. Only Jesus Christ, the Son. And so when Paul spoke of the Church of God, as a possessive, he seems to have been speaking of God the Son.

This is evident in other passages as well. In Matthew 16:18 Jesus said, “Upon this rock I will build MY CHURCH…” It is the Church that belongs to Jesus Christ. You remember that when Jesus gave the commission unto the building up of His Church, He stated that “all power and all authority” had been given to Him by the Father.

Notice what the Apostle Paul says over in 1 Corinthians 15:20-24:

“But now Christ is risen from the dead, and has become the first fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ all shall be made alive. But each one in his own order: Christ the first fruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming. Then comes the end, when He delivers the kingdom to God the Father, when He puts an end to all rule and all authority and power.”

Until the end of time when Jesus delivers the kingdom up to God, the kingdom belongs to Christ. Oh what a perfect, awesome and worthier name the Apostle Paul ascribes to congregations of God’s children in Romans 16:16 when he says, “the churches of Christ salute you.”

The Name of the Members

One final point of consideration is of the name that individuals in the church should wear. I first want to stress that it is not ‘church of Christ!’ We are not called ‘church of Christ people.’ The statement, ‘I am church of Christ’ is not only grammatically improper but it is altogether unscriptural!

When we speak this way we are calling the church universal by a term that insinuates she is just another fraction (denomination) of the Christian world. This is terribly destructive! In years past one of the hardest fought battles was to reclaim the name Christian and Christian only. Biblically speaking the only Christians are those who are in the Lord’s Church and if you are in the Lord’s Church you need not say, ‘I am church of Christ or I am a Church of Christ Christian.’ Just say ‘I am a Christian.’ If the world asks, ‘What kind?’ then a wonderful opportunity has been presented to share the truth.

There are many descriptive terms given in the Bible like ‘disciple’ (meaning a follower), ‘saint’ (meaning a sanctified person), ‘brethren’ (meaning members of the same family), ‘children of God’ (meaning offspring of the father), but these are not proper names.

The Prophet Isaiah had given three great prophetic statements regarding a new name that God was going to give to His people.

“The Gentiles shall see your righteousness, and all kings your glory. You shall be called by a new name, which the mouth of the LORD will name… You shall leave your name as a curse to My chosen; For the Lord GOD will slay you, and call His servants by another name… Even to them I will give in My house and within My walls a place and a name better than that of sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting name that shall not be cut off.” (Isaiah 62:5; 65:15; 56:5)

The prophet speaks of a ‘new’ ‘everlasting’ name that would be given by God after the Jewish system had ended and “the Gentiles saw righteousness.” (or were converted.) That occurred in Acts 10 with the conversion of Cornelius and his household, and in the very next chapter the Bible says: “And the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.” (Acts 11:26)  Many scholars say that the word “called” here used has special reference to a divine calling. Certainly there is no other name than Christian which better fits these prophecies and can better describe what we are in our relationship to Jesus Christ.

The Apostle Paul expressed his approval of this name and his great desire to see it applied to all men over there in Acts 26:27-29 where the Bible says:

“Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian.”And Paul said, “I would to God that not only you, but also all who hear me today, might become both almost and altogether such as I am, except for these chains.”

In 1 Peter 4:16 the Apostle Peter exhorted that we “glorify God” in the name Christian. I attest to you there is no other name by which we can give Him the glory. There are some today who would try to minimize the name Christian! Liberal scholars claim that it originated with the heathen as a form of derision, but surely the scriptures we have thus far noticed demonstrate that this precious name is not only divinely approved, but in fact it is of divine origin!

But now we might mention in closing that James, in the words of our text warned how the conduct of the men and women he was writing to allowed that “worthy name” to be blasphemed. Is that you today? If you call yourself a Christian, but have not obeyed the Gospel, then it is! You take the Lord’s name in vain every day that you call yourself one of His children. I can call myself Bob Smith all day long, but I am still Clint De France, and until you are born again, you cannot truly wear the name Christian. Maybe you are a Christian, but your conduct and your lifestyle drags that name through the dirt, people know that you are a member of the church of Christ, and you have brought reproach on him by your ungodly living!

Thank God for the wonderful fellowship He has given us with Him as individuals and churches to wear the precious name of Christ. Let us all cherish that treasure.

A Friend of God

(by Clint Defrance)
 

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Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar? Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect? And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.” And he was called the friend of God. You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only. James 2:21-24

Eating and Drinking to the Glory of God

A Familiar Battle

There is a battle raging in the Reformed Churches of America today. It is a battle over interpreting the Bible and understanding the authority of God in our lives. This will of course sound familiar to those of us in the churches of Christ; it is a matter which we have been discussing for many years and seems to face each new generation with equal fervor.

It is the opinion of this writer that studying the controversy in the Reformed Churches may help us to understand the questions and concerns some have. Most of us, even preachers and teachers, will not necessarily be familiar with terms such as normative principle and regulative principle; however, the ideas these terms represent are concepts with which we will all be very familiar.

Is the Bible intended to regulate our theology (what we believe) only? Or does it also regulate our methodology (what we do)? This is the general question that Reformed churches are currently debating. The conservative churches hold to the traditional view known as: the Regulative Principle.(1)

Dr. Matthew McMahon

That is, God has regulated what is acceptable worship and only by the direction of the Scripture can this be determined. The basis of the argument is that man can only know as much about God as is revealed in the scripture; thus, to offer worship to God without biblical direction would be will-worship (Col. 2:23), or of the same family as the idolatry of Roman Catholicism. Dr. C. Matthew McMahon worded it this way: “It should be seen as appropriate at that house of God be ordered by God’s rules.” (2)

It is suggested then, that Biblical authority, either explicit or implicit, is required if anything is acceptable for the use of the church. The alternative, the conservatives suggest, allows “sinful men to dictate the means by which {they} approach God.”(3)

There are four basic arguments put forth to defend this view from the Scripture. The first is the sovereignty of God. God alone
has
the right
to determine what
is or
is not an
acceptable method of offering
Him worship
, honor and praise and he may require or refuse whatever he wishes (Ex. 20:4-6; Gen. 4:1-5). The second argument comes from the fact that, according to Biblical history,
human inventions in worship have always tended to replace what God ordained (i.e. 2 King 16:10-18). MacMahon observes, “This tendency is illustrated in evangelical churches today where mundane or silly announcements, special music, testimony times, mime, puppet shows, liturgical dance and Christian movies either completely replace or severely restrict the ordained parts of worship. These or other traditions of men, for instance, often leave only 20 minutes for preaching.”(4)

Argument three is that to add to the worship, just as to take away, from that which God instituted challenges the claims of the Bible that it is the all-sufficient instructor for what is a “good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). Fourthly, the argument is made (to those who only want to accept “explicit” teachings) that the Bible explicitly condemns worshiping God without scriptural authority (Leviticus 10:1-3; Deuteronomy 17:3; Deuteronomy 4:2; Deuteronomy 12:29-32; Joshua 1:7; 23:6-8; Matthew 15:8-13; Colossians 2:20-23).

No doubt, those reading this who are members of the churches of Christ will be impressed at how familiar this sounds. But just as we (in the Lord’s Church) are hearing voices of dissention, not all in the Reformed tradition are satisfied with this approach. Puritan preacher Samuel Waldron observed why the regulative principle can sometimes be a “hard pill to swallow”:

“It seems that one of the major intellectual stumbling blocks which hinders men from embracing the Regulative Principle is that it involves the idea that the church and its worship is ordered in a regulated way different from the rest of life. In the rest of life God gives men the great precepts and general principles of his word and within the bounds of these directions allows them to order their lives as seems best to them. He does not give them minute directions as to how they shall build their houses or pursue their secular vocations. The Regulative principle, on the other hand, involves a limitation on human initiative in freedom not characteristic of the rest of life. It clearly assumes that there is a distinction between the way the church and its worship is to be ordered and the way the rest of human society and conduct is to be ordered. Thus, the Regulative Principle is liable to strike many as oppressive, peculiar, and, therefore, suspiciously out of accord with God’s dealings with mankind and the rest of life.” (5)

Mark Driscoll

Mark Driscoll, Senior Pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington agrees. In his book Religion Saves: and Nine Other Misconceptions, he addressed the Regulative Principle from the negative side and says that in an internet poll taken my his church, this was found to be the most popular question among the 343,000 who were polled. Driscoll, for reasons we will notice in a moment rejects the regulative principle for the normative principle (6) which he defines as, “Corporate church worship services must include all the elements which Scripture commands, and may include others so long as they are not prohibited by Scripture.” (7)

We will consider his primary arguments for this.

First, Driscoll has a rather “unorthodox” definition of worship. He describes worship as a state of being saved, “…glorifying God the Father through the mediatorship of God the Son, by the indwelling power of God, the Spirit.” (8)

Because of this, Driscoll suggests that there is no substantial difference between changing a diaper and the church observing the Lord’s Supper.

M. Driscoll, founding 'pastor' of the Mars Hill church

As he puts it, “in one sense, all of life is worship, and what bothers me is when worship is reduced to an event, a meeting, one hour a Sunday, or a form of music. It’s much bigger and broader than that.” Thus, his chief objection to the regulative principle is that it draws too much of a distinction between “church life” (my term not his –CED) and the everyday life of a Christian.

Secondly, Driscoll quotes D. A. Carson as saying that “We have no detailed first century evidence of an entire Christian service… the New Testament documents do not themselves provide a model service of church.” And John Frame as saying, “We know very little of the church’s liturgy in the first century.”(9)

His point being that since there is no careful outlining of the structure (beginning with opening announcements and ending in a dismissal) then it is unrealistic to demand Bible authority for all we do in worship. Driscoll criticizes that when faced with a practice that they cannot find scripture for, but want to justify, the advocates of the Regulative Principle “conveniently say that it is implied by other teachings.” Driscoll says that if consistently followed, the Regulative principle would lead us to abandon seating (which he says did not enter Christian worship until the fourteenth century), electricity, song books, sound systems, church buildings and any number of other such things.

Thirdly, Driscoll suggests that the regulative principle leads to “legalism” and making up extreme rules. His example was that in Old Reformed churches, the belief is held that only the Psalms should be sung in worship. Driscoll suggests that the better alternative is that all of life, in and out of the assembled church is governed by the normative principle; as long as we do what God commands and avoid what God condemns, we are given freedom in everything else.

Some Observations

As I have read volumes of material on both sides of this debate I have made some observations. First and foremost, I think it is refreshing to know that the people of the world are asking these questions, and we should be prepared to give them a scriptural and true answer.

I think that most of us in the churches of Christ would agree with everything that was said by the proponents of the regulative principle; in fact, as I read their articles I had to remind myself a few times that they were Presbyterians. Yet there is also something to be said for Mark Driscoll’s criticism. Today, in the denominational community as well as in the Lord’s Church, there is a radical and altogether unscriptural attitude about the scope of God’s Authority in our lives. Many people seem to be of the attitude that their Christian life begins at 10:30 every Sunday Morning and ends a couple of hours later.

These people find no inconsistency or hypocrisy in writing on their Facebook that they love Jesus and love to worship His name, but also that their favorite movie is, “The Hangover,” while posting some half-naked pictures of themselves at a drunken keg party with profane expletives declaring what a great night it turned into. It may well be that the Regulative Principle leaves the impression that God is Lord of the Church Building, but not of the bedroom or the movie theater. We will consider this more in a moment. It may also be that some seek to justify certain modern amenities (like electricity or sound systems) in a way that strains the muscles of reason, and furthermore, there have perhaps been those who have tried to use this principle to bind things of their own invention.

What was their sin?

The second problem for Driscoll is in his definition of worship. Neither the Old nor New Testament, regardless of what Carson, Frame or anyone else says, does not describe worship as an unceasing state of being. In Genesis 22:5 Abraham tells his servants that he and his son are going “yonder to worship.” If worship is an unceasing state of being then such terminology wouldn’t make sense. Again in Joshua 5:14 the Bible says that when Joshua realized that he was standing in the presence of Jehovah, “he fell to the earth and worshiped.” What does this mean if Joshua was in a constant state of worshiping God? The language clearly indicates that worship was an action that had a beginning and an end. The same concept is seen in the New Testament. In Acts 24:11 the Bible says that Paul went to Jerusalem “for to worship.” In John 4:24 Jesus makes it clear that in the New Covenant it is not a matter a specific location but the New Testament is equally clear that there are certain actions and situations that put us into the presence of God in a special way. As true as it is that the right actions with the wrong attitude cannot be called “true worship” it is also true that the wrong actions with the best of intentions cannot be called “true worship” either.

This brings up a vital matter. The Bible, from start to finish delineates between two areas of human experience on this earth: the holy and the common. In Exodus 3, when Moses drew near the burning bush he was told that he stood on “holy ground.” What did this mean? What separated this ground from the other places Moses had stood? The answer is in verse 6: “Moreover he said, I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God.” What made this holy ground was that it brought Moses into the presence of God.

Consider also the structure of the Tabernacle. The closer one got to the Ark of the Covenant the holier the place became until eventually it was called the Holiest of All, or the Most Holy Place. The sin of Belshazzar was that he took holy items from them temple and used them as if they were common. One of the most common rebukes of the great Prophet Ezekiel to his people was their failure to make this distinction.

“Her priests have violated my law, and have profaned mine holy things: they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they shewed difference between the unclean and the clean, and have hid their eyes from my sabbaths, and I am profaned among them.” (Ezek. 22:26) (10)

The distinction is also seen in the New Testament. Mark Driscoll despises the difference that seems to be placed between “the church gathered and the church scattered” and yet, the Bible places such a difference. In the assembly of the church it is forbidden to eat any meal other than the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor. 11:20); but in our private homes we are free to eat anything that does not put us at odds with the other teachings of God word (v. 22). In the assembly of the church women are forbidden to speak (1 Cor. 14:34) but no such prohibition exists outside the service, unless in their speech they violate another teaching of the Bible. The same observation could be made about several of the commands given in 1 Cor. 14. What is the difference between these things? It is more than just that one is in a group and one is not. The Bible teaches that when the church gathers together it is the “house of God” (1 Tim. 3:15). This is to say that the assembly is a holier place than other times in our life. Some may not like that distinction, and what it implies, but the Bible teaches it. There are some areas of our life that deal more with the things of God and they are more sacred. In fact, the very idea that brushing your teeth or changing a baby’s diaper is the same kind of action as observing the Lord’s Supper is nothing less than blasphemy.

All of this considered, I must agree with Driscoll that the idea of God being unconcerned and His word un-authoritative in any area of our live is both ungodly and unscriptural. Colossians 3:17 says, “And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.” Now what the Apostle Paul here suggests is that Jesus Christ is the Lord of a Christians life to such a degree that there is not a word we should speak or a deed we should do that is outside of the authority of God. The Apostle Paul echoed the sentiments in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.”

There are two vital phrases in the aforementioned passages. “In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ” does not simply mean that we say his name while we do things; it means that we act and speak within the authority of His word (Acts 3:6), just as today we use the phrase, “Stop in the name of the Law!” Furthermore the phrase “do all to the glory of God” does not simply refer to some subjective, philosophical concept of personal motive. The Apostle Peter said in 1 Peter 4:11,

“If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion forever and ever. Amen.”

Thus, in order for something to bring glory to God it must be according the oracles of His revelation and what his word has supplied. In other words, there is no part of our life where God does not reign as the supreme authority if we are living as the Bible dictates.

Another Way of Looking at the Issue

My final analysis of the controversy is that both views contain notable issues. If the regulative principle is applied to both the holy and the common areas of one’s life, then you run the risk of one demanding explicit or implicit authority (book, chapter and verse, as it were) for every action and word. Mark Driscoll voiced this concern with a comical hypothetical:

“You don’t wake up in the morning acting like a regulativist. You don’t wake up in the morning and say, “Okay, I need to brush my teeth. Where is that in the Bible? It’s not in there. I was hoping I could brush my teeth, but I can’t. Well I guess I’ll have breakfast. Well, the Bible doesn’t say breakfast. It says to eat, but it doesn’t say when. Is it okay to eat in the morning? I’d better pray about this. Okay. I gotta put pants. Uh‑oh, pants aren’t in the Bible. Oh no. This is gonna be a bad day.” (11)

I do not quote this to be offensive to those who uphold the Regulative principle, but simply to articulate a very real concern of the common man. While this presents a problem to the regulativists, it presents an equal problem to the normativists. As we have seen, this implies an idea that God has simply given a list of general rules that are applied based on social norms, even though it does not fit with the Bible teaching about holy things, such as worship and the work of the church.

I believe that the answer is a change in terminology. Regulative and normative doesn’t quite express it thoroughly enough. I suggest that the better terms, the more concise terms if you will, are generic and specific. There is not a great deal of difference, but enough I think. When one approaches the Bible as a book that communicates authority through generic and specific commands, statements and examples, I believe that the issue becomes much clearer. There will be logical conclusions (inferences), some necessary and some possible, that must be drawn from these teachings. These will help us establish what is required and what is permitted, but as a whole this is God’s way of communicating authority, both in the holy and in the common. Now, as was the case in the Old Testament, we may expect to find instruction in the holy much more specific, but with some generics; and instruction in the common much more generic but with some specifics. An example can be seen in the use of the Lord’s money (church treasury) verses the use of our private funds in our personal lives. Below is a chart comparing the Bible pattern in these two areas:

Church Funds

Personal Funds

1 Cor. 16:1-2 (Needy Saints)

(Thriftiness)

1 Cor. 9 (Evangelists)

(Charitableness)

1 Tim. 5:3-16 (Widows)

(Not Greedy)

1 Tim. 5:17-18 (Elders)

James 1:18(Widows/Orphans)

The stark contrast in these passages can be easily perceived. One will notice that while both are under the authority of God, the use of the church funds (holy money, if you will) is regulated with much greater specificity while those scriptures that instruct individual Christians on the use of their personal funds (common money) are almost entirely generic principles.

In the opinion of this writer, this view of Biblical authority and interpretation makes for a much more consistent and reasonable understanding of the issue; one that respects the authority of God over the whole of our lives while also respecting the nature of the New Testament.(12)

I believe in the regulative principle. The Bible is too clear in its teaching about the spiritual blindness of man without the Bible to come to any other conclusion. (Jer. 10:23; Isa. 55:8-9; Prov. 14:12) If a man has any hope of pleasing God it is only going to be by following the instruction of the Bible. Furthermore, the teaching of God’s Word is very clear that our lives are under the authority of God and there is no time of the day, no place we may go and nothing we may do that would free us from that responsibility.

It seems to me that one of the miraculous literary characteristics of the Bible is that, although written thousands of years ago, its instruction for living has been perfectly and meticulously worded to offer the perfect blend of generics and specifics that assure us that in any time and any culture the Bible will never become outdated. Regardless of what advancements may be made in technology, politics, fashion or any other “social norm” the Bible will be all sufficient to lay out the boundaries of the will of God and “walking therein” we can worship, work, live, eat and drink to the glory of God.

—Clint Defrance, cdefrance87@yahoo.com

Notes:

1 Definition – this terminology developed out of the Calvinistic Reformation. It is defined in the Westminster Confession in the following terms: “The light of nature showeth that there is a God, who hath lordship and sovereignty over all, is good, and doth good unto all, and is therefore to be feared, loved, praised, called upon, trusted in, and served, with all the heart, and with all the soul, and with all the might.[1] But the acceptable way of worshiping the true God is instituted by himself, and so limited by his own revealed will, that he may not be worshiped according to the imaginations and devices of men, or the suggestions of Satan, under any visible representation, or any other way not prescribed in the Holy Scripture.” (Westminster Confession; Chapter 21; Paragraph 1)

2 The Regulative Principle in Worship by Dr. C. Matthew MacMahon p.2

3 Ibid. p. 3

4 Ibid. p. 4

5 Ibid. p. 1

6 This is the view of Lutherans, Anglicans, Catholics and Methodists.

7 Transcript of sermon – The Regulative Principle at www.marshillchurch.org

8 Ibid.

9 Ibid.

10 In our modern culture we use the word profane very differently from the Biblical use. It does not refer to using obscene language, but rather it refers to earthiness or commonality. What made it wicked for Esau to be a profane man (Heb. 12:4) was not that he did earthy things (i.e. hunt and enjoy lentils) but that he put those things in a higher position than the things of God (holy things).

11 Driscoll; ibid.

12 “First, we must remember that the New Testament is a spiritual law. While Moses’ law was characterized by specifics as found in “thou shalt, thou shalt not,” Christ’s law is characterized by spiritual guidelines. The Old, written on tablets of stone, pales in comparison to the New as written on the heart (Jer. 31:31, 2 Cor. 3:3). New Testament law, while including some specific prohibitions and commands, is exceedingly manifested with principles and examples that aptly apply to people of all times and races-not just the ancient nation of Israel. By looking at the Godly principles set forth in the New Covenant we can determine the rightfulness and expediency of any item in question. This point has far too often been overlooked by those who would seek to justify some activity not specifically mentioned in Holy Writ.” Mike Criswell “Dancing” Christian’s Expositor; March 1994