Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 1, 1951
NUMBER 38, PAGE 6,9b

Opinions Among Brethren

Robert C. Welch

Denominations have promulgated the idea for a long time that each individual has the right to his own opinion. That does not limit his free moral agency however. In this nation no individual has the right to steal, but that does not mean that he has no choice in the matter. If he chooses to steal, and does it, he is guilty of crime. When man opines where God has legislated he is guilty of sin. Man cannot substitute his opinions for the things God has said, "But in vain do they worship me. Teaching as their doctrines the precepts of men." (Matt. 15:9) Not only his actions, but man's very thoughts must be subject to the teaching of Christ, "Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that is exalted against the knowledge of God, and bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ." (II Cor. 10:5)

Man is not left solely to his opinions in his private affairs. His business and his social relationships are governed by scriptural precepts. A man has no rights the opinion that he can engage in a business that is immoral in nature. Nor does he have the right to the opinion that he can engage in immoral practice in business or society. God has ruled; "Render to no man evil for evil. Take thought for things honorable in the sight of all men." (Rom. 12:17) There are many other principles in God's law which limit men in their private affairs. This one is given to illustrate the point that a man's opinions are also limited in these matters.

A Christian has no right, to press the practice of an opinion upon his brethren. If it is opinion, each of his brethren has an equal, right to the practice of other opinions. Each. Christian would have the same right to press the practice of his own peculiar opinion. That procedure culminates in division. It is possible that no group of men, even Christians, can agree on an opinion. God has ruled, "That ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfected together in the same mind and, in the same judgment." (I Cor. 1:10) It is impossible for Christians to keep that command if they insist upon carrying out their opinions. The only possible way for all to speak the same thing is for them to cease insisting upon their opinions. Every division and every denomination started with the pressing of opinions.

Does a person have the right to express an opinion on theories about which God has said nothing? Sometimes requests are made for the teacher to express his opinion about a matter when the teacher is unable to give what the Lord says. The teacher is under terrible responsibility. If he expresses his opinion not knowing what God has taught on the subject, he becomes a false teacher. Even if it be on a subject which God has not made clear, he is guilty of violating God's will. God says, "Whosoever goeth onward and abideth not in the teaching of Christ, hath not God." (II John 9) Also, "That in us ye might learn not to go beyond the things which are written." (I Cor. 4:6) To keep from violating God's law, and to keep peace among brethren according to God's law, men must refrain from expressing and pressing their opinions. They must give the scriptural teaching on matters and be content with that, in voice and in practice. If the doing of this 'thing or the holding of that tenet is only an opinion, the Christian cannot do it, or express it. Such practice and expression violates positive precepts. He should cease thinking it, for his thoughts are to be captive to the obedience of Christ.

Matters of expediency are not subject to opinion. Paul said, "All things are lawful; but not all things are expedient." (I Cor. 10:23) In this statement Paul places expedients within the things which are lawful. Nothing is expedient unless it is lawful. This statement is taken from a context which has to do with a thing which is permitted by law of God, but is not essential. God now permits the eating of all meats, but he does not command us to eat all kinds. There were occasions when Paul says that it was not expedient to eat certain meat. Thus, not even all things which are permissible or lawful are expedient. In this particular case it was not expedient to do a thing which was lawful within itself, because it harmed a brother. (I Cor. 10:32) Though expedient according to one law, it may become inexpedient because of violation of another law. Man has no right to opinion where God has made a law; matters of expediency are included under God's laws; therefore, matters of expediency are not subjects of opinion.

Specific things included under general terms are not the expedients about which Paul wrote in the preceding citations. The passages which mention expediency have to do with things which are permissible; not to acts which are commanded. God commanded Noah to build the ark of gopher wood, thus it is left neither to opinion nor expediency; it is duty in obeying the command. He could have built it of seasoned wood or green. A selection of green, or of seasoned, gopher wood would not have been the expedient about which Paul wrote. It would not have been a matter of expediency, either would have been correct, either kind would have fulfilled God's command. When God has commanded a practice and there are two ways of doing it, either way is right, unless some other law prohibits one of those ways. No Christian has the right to press his opinion that it must be done one of those ways if some other Christian objects to that way of doing it. No Christian has the right to object to one of those ways just because it is his opinion that the other way is better. If one is better than the other, God will have said so; for the Scriptures furnish the man of God "completely unto every good work. (II Tim. 5:16, 17) If there are two right ways of obeying a command of God, the Christian will be careful not to express opinion about the better of the two. He will insist upon obedience to the command and will conform to the way in which it is obeyed, that unity and peace might prevail among brethren.

Some of the things done today by brethren and churches are said to be matters of opinion by those advocating the things done. That it is opinion may, or may not, be true. But grant that it is a matter of opinion whether it be done or not. The person advocating it is violating God's law by going beyond the things written, in advocating a precept of men. Furthermore, he is violating the rule that applies to peace and harmony among brethren. He is advocating a thing which is not of faith, upon which another does not agree with him, thus they are not speaking the same thing, they are not of the same mind and judgment, and are dealing in things which lead to division.

Let every brother cease advocating opinions, especially the things he thinks to be opinion, and "Contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints." This disposition and life will promote peace among brethren, cause the world to believe in Christ, and save us in the judgment.