Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 15, 1962
NUMBER 40, PAGE 1,12-13

Difficult Bible Passages --- (No.3)

Cecil B. Douthitt, Fort Smith, Arkansas

Expedient: Its New Testament Usage

English dictionaries define words according to their present usage. Lexicographers do not create definitions. In their dictionaries they only reflect the meaning of words as they are used today. Many Bible words are used in modern speech in senses in which they were never used in the Bible. Therefore, the English dictionary definition of a word may not be its New Testament meaning at all.

Church, baptize, pastor, saint, and many other words are used today in senses in which they were never used in the New Testament. Therefore, the dictionary definition of these words may confuse rather than help in understanding their New Testament meaning. The opinion that one can be saved outside of the church is held widely because so many people do not know the New Testament meaning of the word church. They only know its meaning as used in every day language and as shown in the English dictionary.

In modern parlance the word "expedient" is used with reference to things that are a matter of choice; optional; elective; not compulsory. But it is not so used in the New Testament. According to New Testament usage, if a thing is expedient, it is as binding and compulsory as divine command or direct order. It is never used with reference to one "method" out of many, any one of which would be permissible.

The word "expedient" is a translation of the Greek word "sumphero" which appears sixteen times in the Greek Testament, and is translated "expedient" seven times in the King James Version and eight times in the American Standard Version; but in none of its sixteen appearances is it ever used relative to anything optional or elective.

The eight passages in which the word 'expedient" appears in the A.S.V. are presented here:

Matt. 19:9, 10. "And he that marrieth her when she is put away committeth adultery. The disciples say unto him, If the case of the man is so with his wife, it is not expedient to marry."

If a man commits adultery in marrying a woman who was "put away" by a former husband, it is not expedient to marry her; it is expedient not to marry her; that is, he is forbidden to marry her.

John 11:50. "It is expedient for you that one man should die for the people."

John 18:14. "Now Caiaphas was he that gave council to the Jews, that it was expedient that one man should die for the people."

The death of Jesus was necessary and indispensable for the salvation of souls; it was not possible for that cup to pass and for some other "method" to be employed in saving the lost. It was God's immutable will for it to be done that way. It was expedient, and that does not mean that some other way or method would have been permissible.

John 16:7. "It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you."

Was his going away just one out of many ways whereby he could send the Comforter unto them? Was it just a method which he chose because it happened to be the most convenient way to send the Comforter? His going away was "expedient," it was essential and indispensable; it was the only way to make possible the coming of the Comforter.

1 Cor. 6:12. "All things are lawful for me; but not all things are expedient."

1 Cor. 10:23. "All things are lawful; but not all things are expedient."

Paul knew that an idol was nothing, and eating meat sacrificed to an Idol was optional with him. His eating would make him neither better nor worse. However, under certain circumstances it would be expedient for him not to eat such meat. When it became expedient for him to refrain from eating it, the thing ceased to be a matter of choice. If he had eaten when it was expedient for him not to eat, he would have sinned "against the brethren" and "against Christ." (1 Cor. 8:12) "Expedient" did not mean "optional" to Paul.

2 Cor. 12:1. "I must needs glory, though it is not expedient."

It was not expedient or mandatory for Paul to glory, but because of disparagement of adversaries he chose to do so. If his glorying had been expedient, it would not have been a matter of choice; he would have been compelled to glory.

2 Cor. 8:10. "And herein I give my judgment: for this is expedient for you who were the first to make a beginning a year ago, not only to do, but also to will."

It was God's will for Paul to write these things to the church at Corinth, and it was his will for the Corinthians to fulfill their promise and supply the needs of the saints in Jerusalem. These things were not in the realm of the optional; they were in the realm of expediency; they were required; they were binding.

To say that things optional (such as methods of teaching or methods of travel in obedience to the command to "go," or the hour in which the church should come together for worship on Lord's Day) are "expediencies," is to give the word "expedient" a meaning which was not employed in New Testament usage. In obedience to the command to "go," a method of travel can be an expedient only when there is no other possible way to "go."

Church — Ekklesia: New Testament Meaning And Usage

"Church" is a translation of the Greek word "ekklesia."

"Ekkesia" is composed of two Greek words: "ek", meaning out; "kaleo," meaning to call.

"Ekklesia" appears 115 times in the New Testament, and is translated "church" 112 times, and assembly three times. Its literal meaning is called out people or group.

1. To whom applied. In the New Testament the word is applied to:

a. All of God's people on earth — that is, all who have been called out of Satan's kingdom into the kingdom of Christ. (Matt. 16:18; 1 Cor. 12:28; Eph. 1:22; 5:25; and other passages.)

b. One or more companies of Christians in particular localities. (1 Cor. 1:2; Acts 9:31; Gal. 1:2; and other passages.)

c. The congregation of Israelites under the Old Covenant. (Acts 7:38)

d. A public meeting without respect to religious affiliations. (Acts 19:32, 39, 41; in these three verses the word "ekklesia" is translated assembly and has no reference to a religious group.)

Inspired writers could apply appropriately the word 'ekklesia" to the people of God because in a figurative sense they had been called out of the world — out of the kingdom of darkness. (Col. 1:13; 1 Pet 2:9; John 5:19; 17:16)

The Israelites were called "ekkinsia" because they had been called out of Egypt. The mob in Ephesus was ailed "ekklesia" because it had been called out by Demetrius. (Acts 19:24-41)

Modifiers Of The Word "Church"

In the New Testament descriptive adjectives were used freely with the word "church" to show the sense in which it was being used. The expression, "the church of God which is at Corinth" appears hi 1 Cor. 1:2. The clause, "which is at Corinth," restricts the meaning of the word in this passage to a company in Corinth and excludes all others. The phrase, "of God," limits the meaning of the word as here used to a group of God's people and excludes all other bodies or assemblies that might be in Corinth. By thus modifying the word 'church" with this clause and phrase, Paul makes it clear that in his use of the word in this passage he does not refer to all Christians everywhere, or to any institution, assembly, body or gathering that is not "of God," though such should be found in the city of Corinth.

In his use of the pronoun "my" in Matt. 16:18, Jesus makes it clear that he referred to his own kingdom, and not to the congregation of Israelites in the wilderness, nor to any church or "called out" assembly of human origin.

By the phrase "of Christ," in Rom. 16:16, the Romans could understand they were being saluted by congregations of Christians as distinguished from all other "called-out" assemblies throughout the world.

Other descriptive terms were used:

a. "Of the living God." (I Tim. 3:15)

b. "In the wilderness." (Acts 7:38)

c. "Of the Thessalonians." (1 Them. 1:1)

d. "Of the Saints." (I Cor. 14:33)

e. "Of God." (1 Cor. 1:2)

f. "Of the Gentiles." (Rom. 16:4)

g. "Of Christ." (Rom. 16:16)

These descriptive terms do not make different names out of the word they modify; they all modify the same name, "church." That is, the expressions, "churches of the Gentiles," and "churches of Christ," in Rom. 16:4, 16, are not two names; it is one name, "churches," with two different modifiers.

Christian — A Name Divinely Given

"Thou shalt be called by a new name, which the the mouth of Jehovah shall name." (Isaiah 62:2) Jehovah called his people by a new name in Acts 11:26. "The disciples were called Christians first in Antioch."

The Greek word, "chrematizo," translated were called in Acts 11:26, appear's nine times in the Greek Testament and means called of God, or divinely called, as clearly shown in all the other passages in which it occurs:

1. It is translated "warned of God" four times: Matt. 2:12. "And being warned of God in a dream." Matt. 2:22. "And being warned of God in a dream." Acts 10:22. "Was warned of God by a holy angel" Heb. 11:7. "Noah, being warned of God."

2. It is translated "admonished of God" one time. Heb. 8:5. "Moses was admonished of God."

3. It is translated "reveal" one time.

Luke 2:26. "And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Spirit."

4. It is translated "speak" in Heb. 12:25. God did all the speaking in this verse, but through different agents.

5. Twice it is translated "call." Rom. 7: 3. "She shall be called an adulteress."

Acts 11:26. "And the disciples were called Christians first in Antioch."

These passages show that God does the calling when the word "chrematizo" is used. Therefore, the disciples were called Christians by Jehovah.

It includes all that other names connote. A Christian is a disciple, ever learning more and more of the Christ, the great teacher; a brother in the family of God; a saint, always reflecting the purity of Christ in thought, word and deed. Every duty implied by other names is borne in the name Christian.

Paul confessed he was a Christian, and tried to persuade Agrippa to become a Christian. In this name Peter told the brethren to glorify God.

May the words church and Christian scripturally be used as adjectives? Is it scripturally right to make the word Christian a part of the name of an institution?

Amos 6:1-6. David's Invention

"Woe to them....that invent for themselves instruments of music, like David." This is a protest against instrumental music in worship in the Mosaic dispensation.

During the days of the law of Moses God tolerated polygamy, divorce and re-marriage, the kingly government and instrumental music in worship, though he was never pleased with any of these things. He registered a protest against them all. (See 1 Sam. 8; Matt. 19:3-9; Amos 6:1-6)

David's invention was the introduction of instrumental music into the worship of God. Whatever these people of Amos 6:1-6 did regarding instruments of music they did it like David. If there was nothing wrong in what David did, would God pronounce a woe upon a people for doing something like David did it? He would not, unless he gave David the right to do something which others under the law had no right to do.

If the Lord should say, "Woe to them who are baptized like the twelve men of Ephesus," (Acts 19:1-5) all immediately would conclude that God was not pleased with the baptism of the twelve men at Ephesus. However, if someone should say, "Woe to them who are baptized like the Jews of Acts 2," all would know that the statement is totally false, because all know that God did authorize that kind of baptism, and that he was pleased with it. Therefore, we know that God was not pleased with what David did. The people of Amos 6:1-6 were guilty of many other sins. But God did not say that they were doing these other things like David. Therefore, these other things had nothing whatever to do with David's invention.

The timbrel, the dance, stringed instruments, heavenly planets, inanimate objects of the earth and "everything that hath breath" mentioned in connection with the praise of Jehovah in the Psalms are figurative expressions declaring the universality of praise of which Jehovah is worthy. All animals of field and forest have breath, but Psalm 150 does not teach that they should be introduced into the worship of God.