Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 29, 1954

"Stand Still -- Go Forward"

Felix W. Tarbet. San Pablo. California

Two commandments, in close proximity to each other, were given to the children of Israel in Exodus 14. In verse 13 Moses commanded them to "stand still" and in verse 15 God, through Moses, commanded them to "go forward." There is no conflict between these commands. When Moses said: "Stand still" he had reached the end of his instructions from Jehovah up to that time. He knew that he was to be God's instrument in delivering them from their bondage in Egypt, but he did not know what to do next. He had, in following instructions from Jehovah, led the Israelites into a precarious position. They were hemmed in by the sea, the mountain, and Pharaoh's army. He had no further instructions from Jehovah. For him to have directed the Israelites to go in any direction would have been presumptuous. He trusted Jehovah, and knew that He would "provide a way of escape." Since he did not know what that way was, he could only exhort the people not to be afraid and command them to "stand still, and see the salvation of Jehovah." It was then that Jehovah told him to tell the people to "go forward." Moses and the people waited for their marching orders. When they received the command to "go forward" they did so and were miraculously prospered in their journey. They were freed from their enemies that they were to see no more.

Paul said that the "things written aforetime were written for our learning." (Rom. 15:4)

Stand Still

This Old Testament story should remind us that when we come to the end of our instructions it is time to stop — it is time to "stand still." "Now these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes; that in us ye might learn not to go beyond the things which are written; that no one of you be puffed up for the one against the other. For who maketh thee to differ? and what hast thou that thou did not receive? but if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory as if thou hadst not received it? (1 Cor. 4:6, 7) If when we come to the end of our instructions, we would stop, "stand still" and not "go beyond the things which are written," we would not have all of the present day differences in which brethren are "puffed up for the one against the other." John wrote, "Whosoever goeth onward and abideth not in the teaching of Christ, hath not God: but he that abideth in the teaching, the same hath both the Father and the Son." (2 John 9) This passage shows conclusively that when we have come to the end of our instructions we must stop. We must "stand still."

Instrumental Music

The New Testament teaches us to sing. (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16) We are to offer as a sacrifice of praise the fruit of our lips. (Heb. 13:15) When we do this we please the Lord, but when we have come to the end of our instructions we must stop. If we have done everything that we possibly can to do this rightly we must not go beyond and do something else because we have not satisfied ourselves in the matter of music. We must "stand still."

Benevolent Societies

The New Testament says that "Pure religion and undefiled before our God and Father is this, to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world." (James 1:27) "So then, as we have opportunity, let us work that which is good toward all men, and especially toward them that are of the household of faith." (Gal. 6:10) The only institution which the Lord recognizes through which we can do these good works is the church. "Unto him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus unto all generations forever and ever." (Eph. 3:21) If the time ever comes (?) that we have done all the good works that we can in the Lord's appointed way — but we are still leaving much undone — it is time to stop — "stand still." If we go on to establish institutions other than the church for these works, we are "going beyond that which is written."

Educational Societies

Just as the church is the Lord's benevolent society, so it is the Lord's educational society. The church can and should do benevolent work; the church can and should teach God's word. But there is no authority for the church to organize a separate society for the performance of either. The Christian can and should patronize brethren in business, whenever possible, whether their business be selling merchandise or secular education. But the only spiritual educational institution approved by the word of God is the church. When the church has gone as far as it can in teaching the word of God — it is time to stop — "stand still." We must not "go onward and abide not in the teaching of Christ" by establishing substitute organ nations.

Missionary Societies

The church is the Lord's "missionary society. It is the "pillar and ground of the truth." (1 Tim. 3:15) When the church has done all that it can to preach the word — when we have carried out all of our instructions — it is time to stop — "stand still." If we go beyond and establish "brotherhood" agencies to do this most important work we "have not God." If we merge the efforts of the individual congregations into a powerful human institution, even though that human institution may pose as an individual congregation, we are guilty of presumptuous sin. It is time to "stand still," if we have done all that we can without these human institutions.

Go Forward

Our greatest trouble today, however, is that we have made little effort to "go forward" in the Lord's appointed way. Too many of us have been "playing" at living the Christian life. Too mar y congregations have been willing to just exist in their own communities with poor singing, with doing as little as possible for the needy, with poorly trained preachers and teachers, and without reaching out with the gospel of Christ. This has been the cause of many well meaning brethren turning to innovations and institutionalism. They are zealous, they want to get things done, they cannot stand inactivity. They feel that we must "go forward" in some direction, so they have started going in all directions. They have a "zeal for God, but not according to knowledge."

When their institutions are questioned they demand that critics produce something better. The Lord's way is better if we will only work the Lord's way. If the Lord, in his wisdom, could not devise a workable plan, who is man that he can presume to do better?


In the matter of singing let us "go forward." Let each of the churches have a study of what constitutes scriptural singing. Let us have drills in singing, and song leader training. One of the most telling and convincing arguments against instrumental music in the worship is good singing without it.


Let us not neglect the opportunities that we have of helping the needy. Individual Christians should take special care that none of their household becomes charges of the church. Read the instructions concerning "widows indeed" in 1 Timothy 5 and remember especially verse 8, which reads, "But if any provideth not for his own household, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an unbeliever." A man's "own household" includes more than just the widows. I sincerely believe that the principle taught in this passage would require that I provide for a near relative's orphaned children rather than let them become charges of the church.

When disaster strikes, we should individually and collectively do all that we can to relieve the afflicted. We must be tender-hearted, compassionate, loving and helpful. Too many times, like the priest and the Levite in the story of the Good Samaritan, we "pass by on the other side" rather than to stop and lend a helping hand. Too many times, we will allow a homeless child to fall into the hands of the Catholic Church instead of taking it into OUR own homes, or sacrificing a little to help a child remain with his mother. We are often content to take a child from its mother in her hour of distress; place it in an orphan home; donate a pittance to its support, and forget about it. We think it the duty of the institution to do the worrying about the child. We have built the orphan homes etc., as substitutes for the burdens that we ought to bear. They are built upon our negligence and unwillingness to "go forward" in the work that we ought to be doing.


Each congregation should vigorously conduct a program of training for all of its members. Bible school teachers, personal workers, elders, deacons, and preachers should be trained by the churches. Even if it were scriptural to turn the spiritual training over to the institutions there are many members of the church who do not have the opportunity to attend them. These need to be trained in the word of the Lord as well as those who get the institutional training. Let us "go forward" in the edification of the church — let us see that the prophecy is fulfilled which says, "And they shall all (emphasis mine) be taught of God." If each congregation will cease to depend upon the Christian colleges and fulfill its own responsibility in the matter of Christian training, the cause of Christ will really "go forward."


When the United Christian Missionary Society was being formed and brethren objected, we were dubbed "antis." We were accused of being against "missionary' work. Time has vindicated us. Our work and progress at home and abroad has outstripped the "progressives." WE were not content to merely fight the digressive movement but we toiled and sacrificed to advance the cause of them kingdom scripturally. Now, when another digression in methods of preaching the Word threatens, we must not be content to oppose "centralized control" and huge "brotherhood" enterprises. We must all "go forward" concurrently. If we will be as courageous and vigorous and zealous in seeing that the whole creation hears the gospel as we should be, it will not be long before all of these digressive schemes become obsolete. The gospel was preached to "every creature under heaven," (Col. 1:23 KJV) without all of our modern machinery, in one generation. It could be done again.


When Nehemiah was rebuilding Jerusalem the enemy did all within its power to stop his work. Through the wisdom given him by Jehovah, Nehemiah ordered half of the servants to stand guard with spears, shields, bows and coats of mail. He ordered the other half to work; but even as they worked they were to have their swords in one hand and their burdens in the other. There were guardians and there were workers, but even the workers were guardians too. (Neh. 4:15-20) Were those ancient servants so busy "fighting" and "guarding" that they had no time to "go forward" with the work? The answer is found in Nehemiah 6:15: "So the wall was finished in . . . . fifty two days. And it came to pass, when all our enemies heard thereof, that all the nations that were about us feared, and were much cast down in their own eyes; for they perceived that this work was wrought of our God." Let us, today, guard the truth. Let us not be dismayed at being called "keepers of the orthodoxy." Let us insist on "standing still" when we have come to the end of our instructions; but let us also "go forward." Let us work with all our might. Those servants in Nehemiah's day made great progress because "the people had a mind to work." (Neh. 4:6) We, too, can make real progress forward by walking in the way pointed out to us by the word of God.