Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 19, 1951
NUMBER 49, PAGE 1,15b

The Right Of Opinion

W. W. Otey, Belle Plaine, Kansas

Those who set out to restore the New Testament church in America accepted as a guiding principle: "Where the Bible speaks we will speak; where the Bible is silent we will be silent." This same truth is stated by the apostle Peter: "If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God." That truth soon proved too restrictive for ambitious, would-be leaders. They rejected it and substituted in its place: "In matters of faith, unity; in matters of opinion, liberty." Under that broad unscriptural principle a flood of innovations were brought into the church. The end result has been the establishment of another denomination.

Again there is much talking and writing about "the liberty or right of opinion." It is asserted that "Every one has the right to his opinion." On that specious and dangerous plea, a number of things are being taught and practiced that are disturbing the peace and threatening the unity of the church of the Lord.

Authority for this "right of opinion" is sought in the 14th chapter of Romans. It is doubtful if any other portion of the word of the Lord has been worse wrested from its proper application. Long years ago "let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind," was quoted in justification of infant church membership, sprinkling, and about every other denominational error. Now we hear some prominent brethren declaring, "every man has a right to his own opinion." The time is ripe for a careful examination of the scriptural application and limitation that God himself has set to every man's use of his "right of opinion," or as Paul calls it, "weak faith."

Romans 14:1-5

"But him that is weak in faith receive ye, yet not for decision of scruples. One man hath faith to eat all things: but he that is weak eateth herbs. Let not him that eateth set at nought him that eateth not; and let not him that eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him . . . One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike." (Rom. 14:1-5) Who is it that is "weak in faith?" Is it one whose faith in Jesus as the Son of God is wavering? Is it one who is weak in faith in regard to obedience to the requirements of the Lord? It is unthinkable that any one would affirm that the "weak faith" Paul here mentions has the remotest connection with or bearing on faith in Christ or facts, commands promises of the gospel. Their "weak faith," or what we often call "opinion," led them to refuse to eat meat, and to observe certain days religiously as holy to the Lord. Whether their "weak faith" was produced by applying to themselves the abolished law of Moses in regard to certain kinds of meat and the observing of days, or whether it was produced by illogical reasoning, or by both, it was not a gospel faith; it was not produced by the gospel. Paul said, "Let each be fully persuaded in his own mind" whether he would eat certain kinds of meat or refrain from eating; whether he would "observe" certain days, or regard every day alike. Such practices were and are personal, private matters and have not the least bearing on or relation to the work and worship of the church. They are left entirely out of the realm of the church assembly. Those who bind on themselves as individuals the "observance of days" and a vegetable diet are granted that liberty as individuals; and such brethren who are "weak in faith," must be accepted as brethren and not "set at nought." Undoubtedly, every one is granted the right to hold this "weak faith," or as we sometimes say, opinion.

But such must HOLD his "weak faith." No one is granted the right to press his "weak faith" on any brother, much less disturb the peace of the church with it — as will be clearly One greatly errs when he persuades himself that he is granted the right or liberty to bind it on any one else, much less to formulate his "weak faith" into practice and thrust it into the work and worship of the church. Paul settled that question for all time. "The faith (opinion) which thou hast, have to thyself before God." (Rom. 14:22) It is impossible to imagine a plainer violation of the word of the Lord than for one to stress, with tongue or pen, his "weak faith," or opinion in the assembly of the Lord, or in the general brotherhood, or to formulate it into practice, and thus disturb the peace and unity of the church of the Lord. The solemn injunction of the Holy Spirit forbids any man to impose his weak faith on any one to the disturbance of peace among brethren. "The faith which thou hast, have to thyself" makes it a personal, private matter. So long as a man holds this character of faith to himself, it cannot disturb the peace of the church, and will not necessarily injure the one holding it. When brethren "have this faith" to themselves, they must be received as brethren in all maters of the preaching and practice plainly commanded by the Lord.

But when brethren will not "have their weak faith to themselves" but persistently press it to the disturbance of the church, then there is not a word in all the New Testament that they shall be "received" and permitted to destroy the peace and unity of the church.

"Weak" Faith Vs. Gospel Faith

Bear in mind that "weak faith" is not produced by the plain teaching of the Lord, but comes by misapplication of the scriptures or by illogical reasoning or by both. The faith produced by the gospel is bound on every child of God, and governs them in their personal life and public assembly. Brethren who are weak in faith are granted the liberty to bind themselves in certain matters that are personal and private in character, but are not permitted to bind such matters on their brethren. Had this scripture been obeyed, the restored church of the Lord would have remained in unity and peace until this day. The plain violation of this truth occurred when men "weak in faith" (having a faith not produced by the gospel) formulated their weak faith into practice, and then forced this practice into and onto the church. If brethren today would be content to hold their "weak faith" in the private, personal character it ought to have, and cease to stress it with tongue and pen, disturbances would end, and peace would reign within the church. Not a single matter of those so seriously disturbing the peace of the church today is based on any command or example in the New Testament.

By misapplying scripture and illogical reasoning, men may come to believe that they can introduce instrumental music into the worship of the church, and may preach the gospel through a missionary society. These things come not of faith produced by the word of God; they are not taught in the New Testament.

Brethren may reason themselves into a faith that the Christ will return to the earth, set up a kingdom here, and reign on the earth for a thousand years. This is not a gospel faith, and it is only produced by a long and involved series of human speculations and reasonings. Even its advocates frankly admit that even if such might happen in the future, it does not add a single duty in our present service of the Lord, and proposes no new hope except a vague idea of being permitted to sit on some earthly throne, and rule people then on the earth. If the guess should possibly prove true, it does not change our present duty one whit—as its advocates are free to admit. Let such brethren obey the injunction of the Holy Spirit: "The faith which thou hast, have it to thyself before God."

(More next week)