Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
July 24, 1958

No Vision

Richard E. Donley, Garnerville, New York

Not long ago, I visited a gospel meeting that was being conducted by one of the "promoting" churches. The preacher introduced the elders to the audience, and commended them as men of vision. These brethren are trying to beg a million dollars to build a church building, so I suppose it is proper to call them, "Visionaries." Whether they can be called men of vision, in the scriptural sense, is a different matter.

It has often happened that some visionary preacher in trying to arouse elders to follow their imagination instead of the word of God has quoted Proverbs 29:18 which reads, "Where there is no vision the people perish." A careful examination of this text will convince any honest man that it does not give approval to men following their imagination, but rather reproves such. In old times, God spoke in diverse manners. (Hebrews 1:1.) The revelation of truth was made in different ways, but one term defined the whole field of revelation. That term is "Vision." The book of Isaiah is introduced in these words, "The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem." In the days of Eli the word of God was precious (scarce) "There was no open vision." (I Samuel 3:1.) The whole prophecy of Isaiah is called, "The vision of Isaiah." (I Chronicles 32:32.) These quotations can be multiplied, but this should be sufficient.

The Bible also uses "Vision" in a bad sense. For instance, "Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the Lord." (Jeremiah 23:16.) The vision that comes from man's own heart is in reality just his imagination, and against that men of God are constantly at war. "Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ." (I Corinthians 10:4.) The vision of God (his revelation) restrains man's vision (his imagination.) The two are opposed one to another, and are constantly of war. Consider Proverbs 29:18 in the American Standard Version, "Where there is no vision, the people cast off restraint; but he that keepeth the law, happy is he." He that keepeth the law is the one who is governed by vision: God's vision. He who is governed by the imagination of his own heart may properly be called a "Visionary": one given to fanciful or impractical schemes. He can not properly be called a man of vision.

Those who follow the vision of God are governed in their actions, and their very thoughts, by God's word. It exercises a restraint on them. It brings their very thoughts into obedience to Christ. This can not be until man's imagination is cast down. There are two sources from whence religious teaching comes: God's revelation, or man's imagination. When the latter is passed from one man to another it is called the doctrines of men. (Matthew 15:9.) To be governed by such is to worship God in vain. Jesus Christ is King in his kingdom. He requires obedience of his subjects: obedience that begins in the heart. To reject the authority of the Bible (God's vision,) and turn to the doctrines of men (the vision of their own hearts), is to reject the authority of Christ the king. There is almost an infinite number of ways in which this can be illustrated.

It is common for religious teachers to say that one can be baptized by having a few drops of water sprinkled on his head. The source of this teaching is man's imagination. The Bible says that we are buried by baptism. (Romans 6:4.) When one is sprinkled, he submits to the authority of man and not to Christ.

Man's imagination says that one church is as good as another. The Bible says that the church of the Lord was purchased by the blood of Christ. (Acts 20:28.) On this point, and many others, Christians are pretty well in agreement; but on other things some do not agree. Whenever we do not agree, at least one of us is following the imagination of his own heart. The one way to achieve unity is to cast down imaginations.

The New Testament tells us about the church of Christ. It tells us how to become members of it; what its work is; how it is to be organized; and of what its worship is to consist It has become rather common for men to imagine that the scriptural pattern of organization is inadequate to do the work that God wants the church to do. We submit that to join two churches together in any organic sense is to violate the New Testament pattern of organization. We further submit that no church has a right to turn its funds over to another church that the second church may do the work of the first church. Every church has a responsibility for preaching the gospel. It can not meet that responsibility by sending its funds to another church to spend for it. When elders contribute funds that have been contributed into the treasury of the church in which they are elders to a human institution, for any purpose at all, they turn from the authority of Christ to the doctrines of men.

We hear that in some parts of the country there is division among Christians over Benevolent Societies, church operated Missionary Societies, etc. It seems that some are also trying to force the churches into the recreation business. There is just one cure for such troubles, the word of God. We have read pleas that the issues that are troubling the churches should not be introduced into the Northeast. To that proposal I say a hearty, Amen. But the one way to avoid introducing the issues is to just not introduce the practices. When unscriptural practices are introduced those who follow the Bible have no choice but to oppose. It is required of every gospel preacher that he be at warfare against imaginations and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God,