Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 16, 1956
NUMBER 15, PAGE 1,10b-11

Christian Unity: Conclusion (XIII.)

David Lipscomb

In the preceding chapters, we have shown clearly from the Bible, the sin of bringing into the service of God any thing resting on the opinion or judgment of men. Every thing of this character falls under the condemnation of Christ when he says, (Matt. 15):

"In vain do they worship me teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." "Every plant my heavenly Father hath not planted shall be rooted up."

Worship is deference or honor shown to a person. Every act of service to God to honor him or in deference to him, or his will as the Supreme Ruler, is worship. Then the meaning of the passage is, In vain do they serve or seek to honor me who teach for doctrine the commandments of men. Not only is the service based on the commandments of men vain, but the worship, all the worship or service offered by those who serve in the commandments of men, in ways resting on human wisdom, or human judgment, is vain. God is a jealous God, and will be worshipped and served only in his own appointments. Whenever we mix things based on the commandments of men, with the things commanded by God, we vitiate the whole service and Jesus Christ declares, the service of such is vain, not acceptable to God — offensive to him. Those who thus bring things based on the wisdom of men, into the service of God are blind leaders of the blind, both of which shall fall into the ditch.

That this is so, the Holy Spirit further shows, 1 Cor. 1:19:

"The Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness, but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For ye see your calling, brethren, How that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called. But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, 'to bring to nought things that are, that no flesh should glory in his presence."

Which clearly teaches that God himself is the great factor in the salvation of men, and vain are all efforts of man to save himself, save as he looks to God for help, and God will not help or save through ways and devices of man's wisdom. The reason is "that no flesh should glory in the presence of God." The great purpose of God is to train man to trust and obey him, to have no ways of his own, to seek to know and do the will of God even as Jesus Christ came not to do his own will but the will of him that sent him. The end to be attained is, that the will of God shall be done on earth as it is in heaven. The plan of God is to educate and train man to distrust and turn from his own wisdom and to seek and follow after the wisdom of God. Of the same purport is the thanksgiving of Jesus:

"I thank thee, 0 Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent and hast revealed them unto babes. Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight."

The wise and prudent of earth are apt to rely upon their own wisdom and have confidence in their own judgment. Wisdom or learning or prudence that thus leads men to trust in themselves, hinders their seeing the way of salvation. The man that is humble and distrustful of self, that has no ways or wisdom of his own, that is willing to hear God with fear, and do his will with simplicity of heart and trustfulness of soul, will best understand and know the way of salvation.

"To this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite heart, and that trembleth at my word." (Isa. 42:2.) "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God." (Matt. 5:3.)

He is poor in spirit, who has no ways or means of spiritual life, no wisdom or power of his own, but feeling his poverty and helplessness of spirit, is willing to accept divine help and guidance on God's own terms and to serve him in his own ways. And in his anxiety to secure the help of God, he trembles at his own word with reverence and godly fear, lest he misunderstand it, and so fail of the needed help of God.

Human learning and wisdom brought as an offering, and laid at the feet of Jesus, seeking truly to know and understand the will of God as he has revealed it, are great helps to him who brings them, to the world, and will greatly promote the honor and glory of God. When learning and wisdom, as they frequently do, excite feelings of self-sufficiency — make men wise in their own conceits, and lead them to rely upon their own wisdom and ways instead of the word and ways of God, they are a curse to their owner, a curse to the world, and a dishonor to God. The great truth running through the Bible, from the beginning of Genesis to the end of Revelation, is, man is lost, it is not in him to walk aright, that his wisdom is folly, his ways are sin, that God alone can save man, and that God's word is the revelation of God's wisdom to save. In his appointed way his presence and help alone can be found. In them his power to bless is stored, and men to secure the help and blessing of God, must, with a loyal and trusting heart, walk in the ways of God, refusing all human wisdom, ways and devices, and in them the fulness of the blessing and favor of God is found. Every act resting on human wisdom, all service in ways devised by man, breaks the connection with God, through which God's blessing and help flow to men.

All efforts to serve God in ways resting in human wisdom and in appointments not ordained by God, are but repetitions of David's effort to fight God's battles in Saul's armor. This cannot be done. God's battles can be found only in God's name, clothed with God's armor, using only the weapons forged in the armory of heaven.

"David said to the Philistine, Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a shield; but I come to thee in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom thou hast defied. This day will the Lord deliver thee into mine hand; and I will smite thee, and take thine head from thee; and I will give the carcasses of the host of the Philistines this day unto the fowls of the air, and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel. And all this assembly shall know that the Lord saveth not with sword and spear; for the battle is the Lord's, and he will give you into our hands. So David prevailed over the Philistines with a sling and with a stone, and smote the Philistine and slew him; but there was no sword in the hand of David." (1 Samuel 17:45-52.)

God's battles cannot be fought with inventions and devices of men or by human skill and wisdom.

The world is in ruin. Man is a sinner, lost and hopeless. God alone can save. Christ Jesus proposes to save through his servants, through his church. He will work through his church and his people only as they are faithful and true to him, as they will trust him and walk in his ways, drink into his Spirit, use his appointed instrumentalities, eschewing everything that human wisdom proposes or human skill devises. Only then will God work in and through them.

"Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure." (Phil. 2:12-13.)

By obeying him with fear and trembling, fear lest we fail to hear his word, trembling lest we add to his service something he has not required, we work out our salvation. When we thus obey him, fearing and trembling lest we fail to do what he has required, or presumptuously go beyond to serve him in ways not ordained by him, in ways resting on human wisdom, and on the commandments of men, then

"'God works in us both to will and to do, of his good pleasure."

When God works in and through us, we work effectually, our work prevails to save us and our fellow-men and to honor and glorify God. But vain is all our labor, futile our mightiest efforts, foolish and misleading our wisest 'schemes, false our highest hopes, when God does not work with us. And he will not work with us, save when we work in his own ways and appointments.

"Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain." (Psalm 127:1.)

Without God's blessing and help all labor is vain. Nine-tenths of the labor done now to save men, is vain, or worse than vain, positively harmful because not done in a way the Lord can bless. One-tenth of the labor now done would result in a hundred-fold more of benefit and blessing than all that is done, if done in a manner that God could bless. God cannot bless when done in our own ways.

"Whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus." ('Col. 3:17.)

And when we pursue our own ways God leaves us to eat the fruit of our own doing and accomplish our own ruin.

To save the world, Christ requires his people to be one through the truth, as he and his Father are one. The world in unbelief, in sin, going down to hell, calls strongly, tenderly to the children of God, to be one, that the world may believe that Jesus is the 'Son of God, that it may be saved. The children of God can never be one by introducing human opinions, practices based on human judgment, institutions, organizations, and ways and works based on the commandments of men. They all bring division and gender strife. There is but one pathway to union among God's people, but one rule that can make us one in Christ Jesus, that can bring salvation to the world. That is, let each one lay aside all opinions, ways, inventions, devices, practices, organizations and creeds, confessions and formularies of faith, names and manner of work, save those plainly presented and clearly required in the New Testament. Let all determine to do nothing in religion, save that plainly taught in the scriptures of truth, let no one ask his brother to accept anything that God has not required, but to faithfully do just what he has required, and let all do this in the way approved by God. This will reduce all religious worship and service to its original Divine simplicity and purity, and will restore to it, its original efficacy and power to save. In this simplicity and purity, and perfect harmony with the will of God, it will secure the richest blessing, and the constant presence and help of God. God will dwell with us, and work through us, we will be blessed, our fellow-men be saved and God be glorified. Who would not gladly lay aside every opinion and preference, and work and way of human wisdom, and every practice based on opinion, to bring about an end so desirable, so fruitful in good to men and honor to God?

But he who introduces or maintains any practice, any service, any organization or method of work or worship, based on opinion or human judgment, introduces that which leads to division and strife, and separates man from God. "Faith unites men to God and one another. Opinion severs them from God and one another, and is the occasion of endless strife and bitterness." In the language of Mr. Campbell,

"Opinionism has ever been the harbinger of schism, the forerunner of all discord and vain jangling. It has, indeed, been the plague of Christendom." "It is itself the very spirit of discord, the soul of the sectary, and the demon of all religious persecution. Its name is legion, the first born of Satan, and its brood are emulation, strife, wrath, sedition, treason, heresy. All the contentions and strifes, all the sects and parties in Christendom are as certainly and indisputably the effects of opinionism as the love of money is the root of all evil."

Unity must come before the world believes in Christ as the Son of God. It can come only when every man rejects all opinions in religion, all walk together by the same rule. We thus maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

He who introduces or maintains practices based on human judgment antagonizes the prayer of the Savior, that his people may be one, fights against God, defiles and weakens the church, and works for the destruction of mat. They who reject all service or methods of service, based on human wisdom, and walk only in the ways approved by Christ and his holy apostles, work together with Christ Jesus, that the people of God may be one through the truth, as Christ and his Father are one, that the world may be saved and God honored.

The End