Walking By Faith—not By Fables
One of the axiomatic principles of all Christian obedience is that the Christian "walks by faith." He has accepted without reservation the complete authority of God's Word; the Bible is the final court of all appeals. What is not taught therein can be no part of his Christian duty and service; what is taught therein is binding and obligatory.
It is because of a failure to follow this principle to its full implications that we have religious confusion and division in the world today. This is the dividing line, the mark of distinction, the one inevitable and infallible line of demarcation between the church of Christ and the religious denominations of the time. For everywhere and under all circumstances, the churches of Christ will be found "walking by faith."
In Becoming A Christian
The principle has many applications. —One of the most obvious is in the matter of primary obedience—those actions of both mind and body by which one turns from the service of Satan to the service of Christ. Common practice is for one desiring to become a Christian to make a public "profession of faith" or to "accept Christ" by a mental assent of some sort. But in words as clear and unmistakable as an architect's blue-print the Holy Spirit has outlined the process by which one becomes a Christian. He has set forth, step by step, the total change that takes place in a man's thinking, his emotions, his will, and his physical surroundings. He has indicated not by one or two examples, but by many thousands, precisely what course is to be followed when a man becomes a true Christian. There has been no variation, no deviation from this pattern. Surely every honest soul who studies the Bible will recognize how sharp and how definite are the outlines of the gospel plan of salvation: (1) belief in Christ, (2) repentance from every sin, (3) confession of faith in Christ, and (4) baptism by a burial in water. This is God's plan; when one follows it he shows his complete faith in God, his willingness to accept God's way. Then, and only then, is one truly walking by faith.
In Christian Worship
It is equally true in the realm of Christian worship that God has revealed precisely what He desires. He has not left man free to choose and determine and work out according to his own tastes and preferences what he shall do. But in simple language and common words He has shown both by precept and example what things will be acceptable.
Many zealous people, desiring to serve God but not fully understanding the principle of "walking by faith," have felt free to introduce into their worship every artifice and device that appeals to the emotional or esthetic nature of man. They have burned incense, lighted candles, counted beads, played on musical instruments, danced in rhythmic movements, dipped their fingers in "holy water" and crossed themselves, and added innumerable other features and innovations to the simple spiritual worship as set forth in the Bible. They have followed after the "fables" of which Paul warned, and have not walked by faith in so doing. Since "faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God," (Rom. 10:47) it is impossible to worship God by faith unless there is a clear scriptural precept, precedent, or necessary implication of such an act of worship.
The Work Of The Church
This identical principle of "walking by faith" must be adhered to in all the work the church does, benevolent, evangelistic, or educational—the edifying of her members. It may appear many times that God's ways are antiquated and unrealistic. Our modern methods and organizational efficiency may be, to us at least, obviously more desirable. But we must remember that it is God's work we are doing, not ours; and God's plan, not ours, must be followed. Whether we realize it or not, God had a purpose and a reason for what he has ordered.
In the missionary Work of the church particularly, it seems to many that God has simply given no plan; he has not indicated one way or the other what he desires. Since "the world is the field," and since the Great Commission is given to the "church universal," then that church has perfect liberty to devise whatever plan and whatever organization may seem most effective in getting the job done. Such was the dangerous and disastrous thinking that launched the Missionary Societies of the last century; such is the inevitable consequence when men depart from the eternal principle of "walking by faith."
In the work of the churches, there is no justification for any kind of organization (or "cooperation") for which we do not have a definite scriptural authority—either by way of precept, approved example, or necessary inference. We can reason, analyze, compare, and argue about it interminably, but that is the simple truth of the matter. Every kind of missionary work, and every kind of church "cooperation" being practiced among churches of Christ today for which we have authority by a precept, an approved example, or a necessary inference should be encouraged, pushed, promoted, and extended. Every work for which such authority cannot be found should be stopped at once and repented of by all concerned in it.