November 1, 1986 Issue
by Jimmie C. Smith

    People everywhere are in need of either an introducer or a reminder as to how to deal with what has often been called "the silence of the Scriptures".

    Sometimes God uses a very explicit "thou shalt not". Rom 13:8-9 "Owe no man anything, but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself."

    But, if the Bible did not restrict otherwise it would be as big as the world. I think as we progress, you can't help but see God's law of exclusion. When God specifies a certain thing it excludes all other types of that item, example; gopher wood excluded oak, vocal music excluded instrumental, one assembly excluded classification in Bible Classes, and one cup excludes individual cups.

    No place could this better shown than in Lev 10:1-2, as they did not violate a stated prohibition but simply did not respect what it excluded, the silence of the statement. In simpler words you will come to appreciate and understand "When God says what a thing is, he does not have to say what it is not".

    This subject played a very significant part in the Restoration Movement. The familiar motto was: "Let us call Bible things by Bible names, and let us do Bible things in Bible ways...Let us speak where the Bible speaks, and be silent where it is silent."

    Early on in the Restoration Movement there became a group unhappy with the motto of the "silence of the scriptures" and the divisions that have occurred generally have been over this issue. Those unhappy with this have taught that where the Bible is silent we are free to act, and thus we soon had the Missionary Society; instruments of music; multiple cups and loaves; and Bible classes with Women Teachers, ad infinitum!

    It is interesting to observe that this matter of the authority of the Silence of the Scriptures played an important role long before the Restoration Movement. Ulrich Zwingli who lived from 1848-1931 made a distinct contribution to the Reformation Movement (ultimately to the Restoration Movement), being committed to the principle of having Bible authority for what we do in religion.

    In fact, the difference between Zwingli and Luther was on this very point. Luther thought you could have in religious practices for which there was no strict prohibition. Of Zwingli we read, "He devoutly believed in the absolute authority of the Scriptures, affirming that what they did not expressly authorize is forbidden in worship."

Stating the Principle

    "And whatsoever ye do, in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him" (Col 3:17). Regardless of our teaching or practice. it must come under the shelter of "doing all in the name of the Lord Jesus." Just as "in the name of the law" refers to the authority vested in a person as an instrument of the law, so "in the name of Jesus" refers to "the authority of Jesus."

    We hear much today from those who do not respect the silence of Scrip, about expediency. Concerning ‘expediency', I just wish to say that first of all a thing must be shown to be scriptural before it can be considered expedient. We must "...walk by faith.." (2 Cor 5:7) and that by which we must walk comes by "hearing...the word of God" (Rom 10:17). If I cannot find an item in the word of God, then I cannot do it by faith, which is a requirement to be "well pleasing" unto God (Heb 11:6).

    This principle is found also in Num 22:18. 2 Jno. 9-11 "Whosoever goeth onward and abideth not in the teaching of Christ, hath not God: he that abideth in the teaching of Christ hath both the Father and the Son..."

    In Acts 15:7-9 we find how the early church being bothered by circumcision handled the situation. This is found in vs. 24; "Forasmuch as we have heard that certain who went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls; to whom we gave no commandment."

    At one time God did command circumcision, but now under the new covenant he had not given any such legislation. Since there is no such legislation, the "silence of the Scriptures" must be respected.

    In Heb 1:5,13 we have the supremacy of Christ over Moses being introduced. Here in chapter one he addresses himself to the matter of showing that Christ was superior to the angels. The Jews had respect for angels and they even played a part in the giving of the law (Gal 3:19). However, he speaks of Christ and says, "For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my son, This day have I begotten thee?" and "...sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool?"

    The author argued from the silence of God the supremacy of Christ.

    In Heb 7:13-14 still discussing the supremacy of the Christian system over the old Mosaic system and now dealing with the Melchizedek priest hood's being superior to that of the Levitical one, he says; "For he of whom these things are said belongeth to another tribe, from which no man hath given attendance at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord hath sprung out of Judah; as to which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priests."

    He builds his argument upon the silence of the Scriptures. The Kings came from Judah; the priests from Levi. He builds his argument of the supremacy of the Melchizedek priest hood upon the silence of the Scriptures.

Respect Illustrated

    Living as we are in the days of "fast food service" everyone surely can appreciate this illustration. Suppose I go into one of these places and tell the lady that I want a hamburger with mayonnaise and tomato. She brings me a hamburger, I bite into it, and know something is wrong. I open it up and find onions, mustard and sauerkraut. I take it back to the counter and tell her she made a mistake. He said "No sir, I did not make a mistake." I say, "Lady, I ordered a hamburger with tomato and mayonnaise and I got one with mustard, onions and sauerkraut on it." She replies; "Sir, you did not tell me "not" to put onions, mustard and sauerkraut on it."

    If we do not respect the silence, I would have no grounds to complain. Then too, I would have to name every single item for her "not" to put on it and if I omitted one, she could have the freedom to put that on it. Why can't we see that Biblically?

    Lev 10:1-2 we have the story of the sons of Aaron "...who took each of them his censer, and put fire therein, and laid incense thereon, and offered strange fire before Jehovah, which he had not commanded them."

    The silence of the Scriptures is so strong here that they speak of it in terms of "which he had not commanded them." Their terrible fate is recorded in vs. 2.

    We respect the silence of the Scriptures. "In those days there was no king in Israel: every man did that which was right in his own eyes" (Judges 17:6; cf 21:25). If there were no king, then this would be our situation, i.e. "Every man would be doing that which is right in his own eyes." However, we today do have a king, therefore, we must do that which is right in his eyes. Never let us begin by saying, "Where does the Bible say we can't have/do it?" First, ask what is specified and respect the silence of the Scriptures.

    In the "Spring 1986" issue of  "One Body", a paper which espouses the union between the digressive liberal Churches of Christ and the so-called ‘conservative' element of the Christian Church, brother Dwaine Dunning writes a scathing article against the respect for the silence of the Scriptures and blames those who respect such for the existing divisions in the church, affirming on p. 19 that God "has not told us to forbid the uncommanded!" Well Rev 22:18-19 and I Pet 4:11 seems to me to come mighty close!

    On page 20 brother Dunning said; "For if it is right to forbid instrumental music as ‘uncommanded and therefore forbidden', it is equally right and consistent to forbid each and every tool of Christian service which is equally uncommanded. Herald of Truth radio and television programs, for example, are not only commanded--they are suspiciously like a missionary society. The Bible does not provide for orphanages or homes for the aged. The Lord's Supper should be observed exactly as it was established; hence unleavened rather than leavened bread, wine rather than grape juice, one cup rather than many cups, and let the vessel have a handle so it is clearly a ‘cup' and not a chalice or goblet. Let there be but one loaf, and let it be brought to the table unbroken, so as to fulfill the ‘specification'."

    It is quite obvious that those who reject the arguments that what is ‘specified' prohibits the ‘unspecified' still know what the Bible generally says about a subject, which in effect finds them rejecting the Bible. How ever, I differ with brother Dunning when he says wine was instituted instead of grape juice.

    When Uzza was killed in the transportation of the Ark of the Covenant, David assessed it; "For because ye did it not at the first, The Lord our God made a breach upon us, for that we sought him not after the due order." The "Specified" is the "Due Order"!

    If the Church is going to be saved from apostasy, it will be done by serving our God "after the due order!"

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