Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 18, 1962
NUMBER 36, PAGE 1,12-14

Restoration Of The Ancient Order --- (No. 3)

M. C. Kurfees

The Remedy For The Present Situation

According to the projected plan, this is the concluding article in the present series. In the preceding articles, it has certainly been demonstrated, as far as it is possible to demonstrate things by an appeal to the facts of history, that the tendency among men in the religious realm to compromise with error, on the one hand, and to form human creeds or confessions of faith, on the other hand, have, in all ages, been the cause and the prolific source of strife, division, and partyism, among the followers of Christ. This puts the present religious situation in the world in a most significant and unenviable light. It is an accepted axiom in the philosophical world that cause and effect are so related that, if we remove the cause, the effect will cease. Moreover, it is a recognized principle in all the thinking world that the same cause, operating under the same circumstances, will always and everywhere produce the same effect. These are demonstrated facts and are so recognized in all departments of human thought and action. In the medical world, physicians act on this principle in all their dealings with disease, and hence they strive, in all cases, to prescribe and apply such remedies as will remove the cause, knowing that the effect — the disease — will then cease. The same principle holds good in all other departments of human activity. It is true in economics; it is true in general business; and it is true in religion.

Hence, we are now face to face with the logical and inevitable conclusion which follows from the premises thus for submitted, namely, that, if we will remove the cause of strife, division, and partyism among Christians, then all strife, division, and partyism among them will cease. This conclusion is practically axiomatic. But if compromising with error or yielding to any sort of departure from the word of God is the cause in question, it follows, as clearly as a mathematical demonstration, that, if all the professed followers of Christ will preach and practice, in all cases, the Word of God without addition, without subtraction, and without modification, then they will of course all preach and practice the same thing and will all be one, In such a case, there simply cannot be any division among them. It would be utterly impossible to produce it. Hence, I now lay down the following proposition to be demonstrated and defended in this concluding article:

The One And Only Proper Basis Of Union Among The Followers Of Christ, Which Is The Divine Basis, Is Simply The Word Of God — A "Thus Saith The Lord" — In All Things.

First of all, the preacher's inspired charge as delivered by the Apostle Paul to the young Evangelist, Timothy is in exact line with this proposition and requires strict and unvarying adherence to it. That charge, which was not only given directly to Timothy, but was given indirectly to all other preachers and teachers of religion under the reign of Christ, is in the following clear, graphic, and solemn words: "I charge thee in the sight of God, and of Christ Jesus, who shall judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom, preach the word." (2 Tim. 4:1, 2) Let the reader carefully note and seriously ponder that charge in its every word. It does not tell the preacher to preach his opinions and speculations about the word, nor the opinions and speculations of anybody else about the word, but to "preach the word." That is, of course, on any Biblical subject, say what "the word" says on it, say all that "the word" says on it, and stop when and where "the word" stops. That is preaching the word; and whenever and wherever anyone dares to ignore that charge either by adding to or taking from "the word," then it becomes our solemn duty to show that "the word" itself explicitly forbids both. God said through Moses: "Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish from it." (Deut. 4:2) "What thing soever I command you, that shall ye observe to do; thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it." (Deut. 12:32) And in the closing book of the New Testament, He says: "I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto them, God shall add unto him the plagues which are written in this book; and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the tree of life, and out of the holy city, which are written in this book." (Rev. 22:18, 19)

Here it should be carefully observed that the solemn injunction expressed in these passages applies not merely to the books in which it is recorded, but to all the other books which are a part of the word of God. It is distinctly forbidden to add to or to take from any part of that word. No matter what the Biblical subject under consideration at any time may be, let the preacher or other religious teacher say precisely what "the word" says on that subject, say all that "the word" says on it, and stop there. If it be a subject on which the word of God is silent, let man be silent on it also in all his religious teachings.

This is the identical position which the inspired apostle Paul calls upon all Christians to occupy When incipient denominationalism in the way of different parties made its first appearance in the church of God at Corinth, he entered his solemn protest in the following pointed words: "I beseech you, brethren, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you." (1 Cor. 1:10) Thus, he not only made his solemn plea "through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" who had fervently prayed that His followers might "all be one" (John 17:21), but, in order to secure this happy result, he made the equally solemn demand that they "all speak the same thing," and this can never be done except by all saying exactly what God in His word says on a subject, nothing more and nothing less.

Here perhaps some one may ask: "If the word is silent on a thing as, for example, infant baptism, must the preacher be silent on it when some one advocates it?" No, not so far as opposition to it is concerned, but he should promptly and pointedly oppose it on the ground that God, as we have seen, distinctly forbids any addition to His word. Such opposition to what is not in the word of God is preaching that word precisely as is advocating what is in it, because the word of God requires the one precisely as it requires the other. There is not a solitary command for, or example of, infant baptism in all the word of God. It originated in the opinions and speculations of men, and no matter when nor where it comes up, we cannot be true to the word of God without speaking out in opposition to the practice if there be an opportunity to do so.

Again, some one may ask: "Since men do not all see alike or have the same opinions on certain religious subjects, how is union, in such a case, possible?" It is possible by every man preaching "the word" and keeping his opinions strictly and always to himself, as the Bible distinctly requires. We have already seen that the preacher's inspired charge is to "preach the word," not his opinions nor the opinions of anybody else. Paul distinctly tells Christians what to do with their opinions in religion. In the case of eating certain meats where some Christians had scruples against it, he says: "The faith which thou hast, have thou to thyself before God." (Rom. 14:22) There it is in plain and specific words, clearly and distinctly showing what the preacher is to do with his opinions. He is not to be teaching, preaching, and parading them among the people at all, but always and everywhere to keep them to himself "before God." No harm can ever come of opinions where that most vital and important command is carefully and strictly obeyed. In fact, strict obedience to it would be the grand panacea against all strife, all confusion, and all division among the people of God. They are not divided over what is in the Bible, but over what is not in it; not over what the Bible says, but over what it does not say; not over the word of God, but over the opinions and speculations of men.

Again, some things are partially recorded in the word of God, or merely referred to therein, which are not fully revealed or explained in that word; and in their vain attempt to explain such things, men give their opinions, some giving one opinion and others another, and thus different parties and divisions are soon created. Of course if God refers to a thing in one part of His word without explaining it there, but explains it in another part of His word, it is not only our right but our duty to give that explanation; but if God has referred to a thing in His word, but has given no explanation of it, why should man attempt to explain it? Is not the fact that God has left a thing a certain way the best of all proof that He wanted it left that way? Why should not man leave it where God has left it? And why, in such a case, should man attempt to add anything to it? Have we not already seen that God clearly and solemnly forbids any such addition to His word? Man should neither add to, take from, nor in any way modify anything that God has said. This divine charge, as we have seen, is to "preach the word," and hence, this is the one and only proper course to pursue in dealing with anything and everything mentioned in the word of God whether it be the pre-natal existence of Christ, the birth of Christ, the life of Christ, the death of Christ, the resurrection of Christ, the ascension of Christ, the second coming of Christ, faith, repentance, confession, baptism, remission of sins, the Lord's Supper, the first day of the week, visiting the sick, or any other subject treated of anywhere in all the word of God. Preachers and all other religious teachers should say on any one or all of these things what the word of God says on them, all that it says on them, and stop when and where it stops. Why not? This is exactly what the word of God requires, for, in addition to the preacher's inspired charge, already noted, the same inspired Apostle Paul distinctly says: "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." (1 Cor. 4:6) Is not that statement plain and significant? Does it not distinctly say that we are "not to go beyond the things which are written?" Then, listen also to the beloved Apostle John: "Whosoever goeth onward and abideth not in the teaching of Christ, hath not God; he that abideth in the teaching, the same hath both the Father and the Son." (2 John 9) Thus, in these passages, Christians are not only positively forbidden to go beyond the word of God in teaching the Bible, but I do not see how language could more plainly, and pointedly, and specifically forbid their doing so; and yet, in spite of these plain and pointed inhibitions, that is exactly what they often do.

A most vivid illustration of this fact is found in the division and strife that have come in some of the churches in recent years over speculation on unfulfilled prophecies and other Biblical utterances. When these speculations started in Louisville, Kentucky, a few years ago, I made an earnest and vigorous effort to impress upon their principal leaders that, if the said speculations were not checked, they would be certain to lead to strife and division. I assured him that, so far as I was concerned, such opinions would not interfere with our fellowship and cooperation with each other in the Lord's work, provided he would keep them to himself "before God," as the inspired Apostle in Rom. 14:22 distinctly requires, but that I could not cooperate with any one in teaching and upholding such opinions. We must teach the word of God, and not the opinions of men. Assuredly the division and strife that have followed the propagation of the latter in this case most truly and vividly illustrate the wisdom of the inspired advice.

Moreover, the opinion entertained by the meat-eating man mentioned in Romans 14 was harmless in itself, and Paul conceded that it was; yet when, on account of the convictions of others, the teaching of that opinion was causing division and strife in the body of Christ, Paul said to its advocates: "The faith which thou hast, have thou to thyself before God." (Rom. 14:22) That is, they could innocently hold such views, but could not, under the circumstances, innocently teach them. How much more readily, then, should men thus deal with their opinions when others not only believe their propagation to be inexpedient under certain circumstances, but believe the opinions to be wrong in themselves and subversive of New Testament teaching? No mortal man is ever justified in making division in the body of Christ, except by advocating a thing which God requires when others oppose it, or by opposing a thing which God does not require when others advocate it. There are two ways of making division in that body, one of them right and the other wrong. The right way is by advocating something, like baptism or the Lord's Supper, which God requires; and the wrong way is by advocating something, like infant baptism, or instrumental music in Christian worship, which God does not require. Hence, the inspired record states the case thus: "I beseech you, brethren, mark them that are causing the division and occasions of stumbling, contrary to the doctrine which ye learned, and turn away from them; for they that are such serve not our Lord Christ, but their own belly; and by their smooth and fair speech they beguile the hearts of the innocent." (Rom. 16: 17, 18) The Lord Himself says: "Think ye that I am come to give peace in the earth? I tell you, Nay, but rather division." (Luke 12:51) The way He causes division is by urging upon men the will of God, some accepting that will and others rejecting it; and thus, and thus alone, should His followers ever cause division. When they cause it otherwise, as in teaching the opinions and speculations of men on any subject, they are causing it "contrary to the doctrine which" is taught by God's word, and the faithful are commanded to "mark them .... and turn away from them."

There is another luminous and pointed passage which explicitly confirms the position here set forth and renders it absolutely impregnable against all attack. It is in these significant words: "The secret things belong unto Jehovah our God; but the things that are revealed belong unto us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this life." (Dent. 29:29) The vital and far-reaching doctrine of this great passage has been ignored to the detriment of the cause of religion. Let us carefully analyze and note its facts. The reader will observe that it divides things into two classes: (I) "The secret things." (2) "The things that are revealed." Then, it makes two distinct declarations of fact: (1) That "the secret things belong unto Jehovah our God." (2) That "the things that are revealed belong to us." Hence, according to God's own decision in the case, outside of "the things that are revealed" on religious subjects, nothing belongs to man, and he is, therefore, out of his place when he is attempting to teach or explain them. They are among "the secret things" of God which are not revealed. The Hebrew term for "reveal" in this passage means "to make naked, to uncover, disclose," and it is correctly rendered by the term "reveal." The latter term is from the Latin velum, meaning a "covering," "curtain," or "veil," and with the prefix "re" denotes uncovering or taking off the veil; that is, God uncovers in His word certain things which would otherwise be unknown to man, and it is these "uncovered" or "revealed" things alone which "belongs to" man, and which, therefore, he is to preach or teach. On this passage Adam Clarke makes the following sensible comment:

What God has thought proper to reveal, He has revealed; what He has revealed is essential to the well-being of man, and this revelation is intended, not for the present time merely, nor for one people, but for all succeeding generations. The things which he has not revealed concern not man, but God alone, and are, therefore, not to be inquired after.

Now, in the light of that inspired declaration, let us here ask with the most solemn reverence: How could the infinite and omniscient God Himself make the fact plainer that man is not to tamper with anything in religion concerning either the past, the present, or the future which is not revealed in the Bible? No matter whether it be unfulfilled prophecy, either in the Old Testament or in the New, or anything else which is not yet revealed, it is among "the secret things" which "belong unto Jehovah our God," and man should let it alone and preach and teach what is "revealed." For example, at the outbreak of the World War, the speculators on unfulfilled prophecy seemed to regard the unprecedented international cataclysm of internecine strife as the signal for them to tell the people about things which, according to their opinion, were soon to transpire, and particularly the second coming of the Lord. But, instead of indulging in such speculations, what a fine opportunity they had simply to "preach the word," as the Lord requires, and to leave the Lord himself to look after the things which had not yet been revealed! This is exactly what they should have done then, and it is exactly what preachers and all other teachers of religion should do at all times and under all circumstances. "Jehovah our God" will take care of the things which are not "revealed." They "belong unto" Him.

Finally, as a fitting and impressive close to this discussion, the illustrious example of Moses is here introduced. The divine law required the children of Israel to keep the Passover in the first month of the year, and God issued orders to Moses and Aaron on the subject in these solemn words: "This month shall be unto you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year to you. Speak unto all the congregation of Israel, saying, In the tenth day of this month they shall take to them every man a lamb according to their fathers' houses, a- lamb for a household; and if the household be too little for a lamb, then shall he and his neighbor next unto his house take one according to the number of the souls.... Ye shall keep it until the fourteenth day of the same month; and the whole assembly of the congregation of Israel shall kill it at even." (Ex. 12:2-6) This was God's law on the subject, and in the ninth chapter of the Book of Numbers we learn that the children of Israel were "in the wilderness of Sinai" and there kept the Passover as required by the law; but the record further informs us that "there were certain men, who were unclean by reason of the dead body of a man, so that they could not keep the Passover on that day; and they came before Moses and before Aaron on that day, and those men said unto him, We are unclean by reason of the dead body of a man; wherefore are we kept back that we may offer the oblation of Jehovah in its appointed season among the children of Israel?" This is a most vital and significant case. They wanted to know whether they might not keep the Passover on some other day; but there was nothing revealed about keeping it on any other day, and Moses had a fine opportunity to give them his opinion on a point on which God had not spoken; but, instead of doing that, he said: "Stay ye, that I may hear what Jehovah will command concerning you." (Num. 9:1-8) The record informs us that Jehovah authorized him to allow such persons to keep the Passover "in the second month." (Verses 9-12) Let the reader carefully note the fact that Moses declined to give them anything at all on the subject until something was revealed by the Lord. Referring to such examples in the Old Testament, the New Testament distinctly says: "Whatsoever things were written afore-time were written for our learning." (Rom. 15:4) Hence, to all inquirers after truth, the faithful teacher of God's word today will say: "Stay ye, that I may hear what Jehovah will command concerning you." And whatever Jehovah says on the subject in hand, such a teacher will promptly give it; but if Jehovah says nothing on it, such a teacher will give nothing.

This course is always and everywhere infallibly safe, because it strictly adheres to the preacher's inspired charge; and those teachers who faithfully follow it may rest assured that, in spite of all the discouragements they may encounter, their labors will contribute to the ultimate triumph of the truth. God is with them, and that fact guarantees their triumph over wrong. In the words of James Russell LowelI, the American poet, written in 1844 and entitled "The Present Crisis," but always and everywhere applicable to the ceaseless conflict between truth and error:

Careless seems the great Avenger,

History's pages but record;

One death-grapple in the darkness

'Twixt old systems and the Word;

Truth forever on the scaffold,

Wrong forever on the throne —

Yet that scaffold sways the future.

And, behind the dim unknown, Standen] God within the shadow,

Keeping watch above His own.