Speaking where the bible speaks, and silent where the bible is silent.

One of the characteristics of the churches of Christ which strike our visitors as different and unusual is the fact that we do not have a piano, organ, or any other kind of mechanical instrument of music in our worship. Some appreciate the difference, some do not, and some wonder why not.

When visitors learn that our reason for not having mechanical instruments of music in worship is doctrinal, frequently they react negatively. When a sermon is heard condemning the use of mechanical instruments of music in worship, some judgmentally condemn us for “judging” others and “judge” us to be extremely narrow-minded and misinformed.

Misconceptions Why We Oppose Instruments Of Music In Worship

Some people who are aware that we do not use mechanical instruments of music in worship do not understand why we have chosen not to use them. Here are some misconceptions which people have: (1) We have a personal distaste for instrumental music in worship. Actually, most of us like to hear songs sung with mechanical instruments of music and some among us are very talented musicians. (2) We think singing with instrumental accompaniment is better. Our reasons are not based on personal opinion and judgment. (3) Our objection to mechanical instruments of music is a cultural objection, much like the Amish objection to driving automobiles. Our objections are not related to our culture. (4) We cannot afford a piano. Most congregations among us can easily afford a piano or organ. (5) We do not have anyone qualified to play the piano. In most congregations with which I have had contact, someone among them has the ability to play the piano or organ. Hence, the conceptions which some have of why we object to mechanical instruments in our worship are inaccurate.

So, why do we oppose mechanical instruments of music in worship?

Divine Worship Is Revealed From God

God has never left man to grope in the dark to find the kind of worship which pleases Him. Instead, God has given man a divine revelation to show men the kind of morality, family life, and worship which pleases Him. This is demonstrated for us very early in the Scriptures.

God revealed the kind of worship which men were to offer when they left the Garden of Eden. The Scriptures relate, “By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain. . . ” (Heb. 11:4). One can walk by faith only when he moves in obedience to God’s divine revelation (Rom. 10:17). Therefore, Abel offered unto God the kind of sacrifice which God commanded. In contrast, Cain offered a sacrifice to God with which God was not pleased, and He rejected it (Gen. 4:4-5). This biblical account demonstrates that not all worship pleases God; the only worship which pleases God is that which is offered in compliance with God’s divine revelation.

Another incident which demonstrates that worship must be offered according to the revelation which God has given to us is found in 1 Kings 12:13. God had revealed to Moses on Mt. Sinai the kind of worship which His people were to offer to Him (see Exodus-Deuteronomy). About 500 years later, the kingdom of Israel divided into two nations-Israel and Judah. King Jeroboam of Israel was afraid that the worship in Jerusalem would draw men back to Judah. Consequently, he established an alternate form of worship in Bethel and Dan. He changed the worship place from Jerusalem to Bethel and Dan; he used idols in their worship; he used men from every tribe for priests rather than using only Levites; he changed the date of the holy day (1 Kgs. 12:25-33). The Scriptures say, “This thing became a sin” (1 Kin. 12:30). God had revealed the kind of worship which should be offered to God; when they departed from it, they were guilty of sin and their worship was unacceptable.

The New Testament reinforces these same facts. Jesus taught that worship had to be offered according to the pattern which God revealed for it to be acceptable to God. When the Pharisees made “washing of hands” a religious ceremony, Jesus condemned their practice saying, “This people draws near unto me with their mouth, and honors me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matt. 15:8-9). There is nothing morally wrong with washing one’s hands before eating. However, to make it an act of worship to God was to render worship useless. Anything which is introduced into worship on the authority of man will nullify one’s worship. This applies not only to acts of worship but also the additions of days of worship (Acts 20:7).

Paul described a kind of worship as “will worship” (Col. 2:23). Will worship is a worship devised by man, according to man’s perception of what is good. Men subjected themselves to ordinances such as, “Touch not; taste not; handle not” –ordinances from men, not from God (Col. 2:22). This worship is useless. It honors and glorifies the men who invented, devised, and willed it. Rather than glorifying God, it dishonors Him.

The warnings of Scripture emphasize the need for man to content himself with obeying what God’s word has commanded and revealed. The punishment of hell will come upon those who step outside the boundaries of God’s word in their worship. Notice the following warnings:

“Whosoever transgresses and abides not in the doctrine of Christ, has not God. He that abides in the doctrine of Christ, he has both the Father and the Son” (2 Jn. 9).

“For I testify unto every man that hears the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book” (Rev. 22:18-19).

Other Scriptures such as Galatians 1:8-9, 1 Timothy 1:3 cf; 4:1-3 and others could be cited. All of them warn of the dangers of failing to do what God has commanded and doing things which He has not commanded. All of them urge Christians to walk within the revelation of God’s word given to us through the inspired apostles and prophets.

The Kind Of Music Which God Accepts

Having learned the importance of confining our worship to what the Bible has revealed, we now need to learn what kind of worship pleases God. From the outset, we recognize that the kind of worship which pleases God must be revealed in the New Testament. All Christians understand that a return to the animal sacrifices of the Old Testament would be a rejection of the all-sufficient atonement of the blood of Christ. Therefore, the kind of worship which Christians are to offer must be learned from the New Testament.

Our study of the kind of worship which pleases God is limited to the kind of music which pleases God. Here are the New Testament passages which discuss the music of the saints:

“And when they had sung an hymn, they went out into the mount of Olives” (Matt. 26:30; cf. Mk. 14:26).

“But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns unto God. . .” (Acts 16:25).

“Therefore will I give praise unto you among the Gentiles, and sing unto your name” (Rom. 15:9).

“I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also” (1 Cor. 14:15).

“. . . speaking one to another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Eph. 5:19).

“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly; in all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts unto God” (Col. 3:16).

I will declare thy name unto my brethren, in the midst of the congregation will I sing your praise” (Heb. 2:12).

“Is any among you suffering? Let him pray. Is any cheerful? Let him sing psalms” (Jam. 5:13).

Conclusion: These are all of the New Testament passages which refer to the music used by the disciples in their worship to God. The things which impress us about their worship in song are that (1) it was congregational and (2) it was vocal. The early church knew nothing about special singing groups to entertain them in worship. The early church did not use mechanical instruments of music in worship. As the apostle Paul wrote, “…That in us ye might learn not to go beyond the things which are written…” (1 Cor 4:6).  And again he wrote, “And whatever you 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). This is what it means to worship God “in spirit and in truth” (Jn 4:22-24).

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Do Baptists believe that a person is baptized “Into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?” Listen to this: On page 12 of J. M. Pendleton’s “Church Manual For Baptist Churches” (published by the Broadman Press, Nashville, Tenn.) we read, “Regeneration, repentance, and faith are private matters between God and the soul. They involve internal piety, but of this piety there must be an external manifestation. This manifestation is made in baptism. The penitent, regenerate believer is baptized into the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. There is a visible, symbolic expression of a new relationship to the three persons of the Godhead — a relationship entered into in repentance, faith, and regeneration.” This simply says that the relationship of being into the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit is “entered into in repentance, faith and regeneration,” which come before baptism, and that baptism is only a “visible, symbolic expression” of this new relationship. Hence we are forced to conclude that according to Baptist Doctrine that Baptists baptize a person whom they believe is already “into the name of the Father, and of the Holy Spirit.”

However, the Bible teaches that we are baptized into this relationship, hence we reach the relationship when we are baptized, and not before as Baptists teach. I realize that when Baptists baptize a person they say, “I baptize you into the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,” but in the alight of the above, they do not do what they say they do, nor do they believe that they do what they say they are doing, for they believe that the person being baptized is already “into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”

My Baptist friend, if you do not believe that, then you should renounce Baptist Doctrine, and leave the Baptist Church for they do believe it, and you are standing for it and lending your support to it as long as you are a member of the Baptist Church. Be honest with your own soul. There is a judgment day coming!

Baptist Baptism Puts One Into The Baptist Church

This is evident from a few quotations from the Church Manual. On page 12 we read, “The ceremonial qualification for church membership. This qualification is baptism.” Again, on page 14, “This shows baptism to be prerequisite to church-membership.” Again on pages 17 and 18 under the caption “How Members are Received” we read, “In accordance with the first way (experience and baptism), persons wishing to unite with a church give an account of the dealings of God with their souls, and state the `reason of the hope that is in them;’ where upon, if in the judgment of the church recognized as candidates for baptism, with the understanding that when baptized they will be entitled to all the rights and privileges of membership.” This is further evidenced by the fact that simply being baptized does not qualify one to become a member of the Baptist Church, but only those who receive Baptist baptism — by the hands of an ordained Baptist preacher by the authority of a Baptist Church. (Pages 64 and 65 of the Church Manual.)

Biblical Baptism Puts On Into Christ

The apostle Paul wrote the Galatians, “For you are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.” (Gal. 3:26-27). The same apostle wrote the Romans, “Know you not, that so many of us were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death. Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father even so we also should walk in newness of life.” (Rom. 6:3-4). Baptists claim that a person is in Christ before and without baptism. Hence, Baptists do not baptize a person into Christ as the Bible teaches, therefore, they do not administer biblical baptism.

Biblical Baptism Is In The Name Of Christ

Actually, Baptists do not baptize “in the name of Christ.” “In the name of” means “by one’s command and authority.” On page 65 of the Baptist Church Manual “a proper administrator” is defined as “a person who has received from a church authority to baptize.” In other words, the Baptist preacher gets his authority to baptize from a (Baptist) Church, hence “by the authority of” the Baptist Church, or “in the name of the ___ Baptist Church.” Biblical baptism is by the command and authority of Christ, or “in the name of Christ.” (Acts 2:38 ff; Acts 10:48; Acts 19:5).

My Baptist friend, if you would follow Jesus, you should do as the twelve men in Ephesus, who upon learning that their baptism was, among other things, not in the name of Christ, “were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 19:1-5).

Biblical Baptism Is For The Remission Of Sins

Baptist baptize people whom they claim have already received remission of sins. “There is an actual, a real remission of sins when we believe in Christ — there is a declarative, formal symbolic remission in baptism.” (Baptist Church Manual, page 13). The Bible plainly states that baptism is “For the remission of sins (Acts 2:38) or to “wash away sins” (Acts 22:16).

Baptist administer baptism only on a confession that one is already saved. (See quotation above from the Baptist Manual on “How Members are Received”). Baptists believe and teach that a person is saved “when he believes in Christ” (Baptist Church Manual, p 13, given above), hence, “He that believes shall be saved.” The Lord Jesus said, “He that believes AND is baptized shall be saved.” (Mk 16:16). The apostle Peter said, “… baptism does also now save us.” (1 Pet. 3:21).

How Baptists Are Made

Another interesting point is how one becomes a Baptist. This is clearly outlined in the quotation already given from pages 17 and 18 of the Baptist Church Manual. First, a person must tell his experience and state that he is saved. Whereupon, if the Baptist Church thinks that his experience is genuine and that he is actually saved, they vote to recognize him as a candidate for baptism and after baptism into their membership. Hence the steps are: (1) confess that you are saved. (2) Be voted on. (3) Receive Baptist baptism. The vote determines at least three things (1) Whether the Baptist Church thinks you are saved or not. (2) Authorizes your baptism. (3) To receive you as a member of the Baptist Church after baptism. The scriptures tells us that only Jesus adds one to the church after one has obeyed the gospel of Christ. (Acts 2:37-47).

Is Baptist Baptism Acceptable?

Many in Baptist Churches do not know what the Baptists teach on baptism, and when they learn, they want to renounce this error which they have embraced, and for which they stand as a member of the Baptist Church. Many immediately confess their faith in Jesus Christ and are baptized for the remission of sins, but some do not want to be “baptized again” because, they contend, they were baptized “for the remission of sins.” When it is pointed out that Baptists do not baptize “for the remission of sins,” they argue that they believed in their own heart that they were baptized “to be saved” or “for the remission of sins” and therefore they were baptized for that purpose regardless of what the Baptist preacher said or believed. This could be true, but I doubt that a person who has just confessed “I believe that God for Christ’s sake has pardoned my sins” really believes that he is being baptized “to be saved” or “for the remission of sins.” He either lied to the Baptist Church when he made his confession, or else he believed no such thing. Either one, it seems to be, would disqualify him for baptism. If he lied to the Baptist Church, he had not repented; and if he did not lie to them, then he believed that he was saved before he was baptized, therefore, that his sins were already remitted, or else, he didn’t know what he was doing. Let it be remembered that one cannot get into the Baptist Church without first confessing that he is already saved, and then being voted on to see if the Baptist Church judges you to “have passed from death unto life” — to already be saved.

Conclusion: We have seen that Baptists do not baptize “into the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit,” that they do not baptize “into Christ,” that they do not baptize “in the name of Christ,” that they do not baptize “for the remission of sins” or to be saved, therefore Baptist baptism is not scriptural baptism.

Let me plead with you, my friend, to consider these things carefully. They deal with the most important thing in the world to you — the eternal salvation of your soul. Have you accepted man’s imitation of God’s commandment? Won’t you surrender your rebellious will to the will of the Lord in being baptized as the scriptures command?

The church of Christ is the church that you read about in the Bible. We became Christians, children of God just as people did in New Testament days. As members of the Lord’s body, the church, and without joining any denominational group, we meet together and worship God as the New Testament teaches. We are, therefore, Christians, and Christians only. We teach what the Bible teaches. We do not add to or subtract from the Holy Word of God (1 Cor 4:6 f; Gal 1:6-9; 1 Pet 4:11; Rev 22:18,19). We call Bible things by Bible names, do Bible things in Bible ways, and require a “thus saith the Lord” in all we say and do religiously (Col 3:17).

Look Unto Jesus

Jesus Christ is the “author and finisher of our faith” (Heb. 12:2). An author is “one who leads.” A finisher is one who is “a completer, finisher, one who brings any idea or enterprise to its full and perfect consummation.” The Hebrew writer tells us to “look to Jesus the author and finisher of our faith.”

We need to look to Jesus to be encouraged by His greatness and motivated by His example. Jesus came into this world and lived a perfect life. By looking to the example of Jesus we can be more pleasing unto God.

Too many Christians are following the examples of the world in conduct, in speech, in dress, and in manner of life. The child of God needs to take a long look at his life and see if he is following the example of Jesus or the example of ungodliness found in the world. Too many are following the world. The gospel is often hindered in areas because of the moral lives of members.

A great many people in the world want to look to Jesus for salvation, but they do not want to follow His example of how to live. By following Jesus we will not only start on the road toward heaven, but we will finish the road and inherit an eternity with God.

One example Jesus left us was that of compassion. Jesus was a compassionate person. He wept at the death of Lazarus (Jn 11:33-36). Jesus showed us that even though there is life beyond the grave there is still sorrow for loved ones left behind. Jesus also showed his compassion when He saw the multitudes as sheep without a shepherd (Matt. 9:36). We need to be able to feel with people when they have sorrow. We also need to train our eyes to be like Jesus, and be able to see that the world is lost and needs Jesus to lead them. When more Christians can look at the world and have compassion on lost souls, we will have more Christians who will be teaching others.

Jesus also left us an example of obedience. Jesus was an obedient son. “Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered” (Heb. 5:8). We need to realize that obedience to God is essential. Not only did Jesus show obedience, but He taught obedience. Jesus taught that there was more to being pleasing to God than just saying that a person believed (Matt. 7:21). Many people today will obey God as long as what God wants them to do is what they want to do. When there is a conflict between their will and God’s will, they follow their will. This is a religion of convenience instead of conviction. To be pleasing unto God we must obey all of God’s laws. Half obedience and partial obedience is not obedience at all.

Jesus desired to put God first. When Jesus went to the temple at age 12, Luke records that Jesus was missing from His family as they journeyed toward home. They later found Him in the temple asking and answering questions concerning the law. When Jesus’s parents asked Him what He was doing”‘ He told them “I must be about my Father’s business” (Lk 2:491). Throughout the life of Jesus, He put first things first. He taught that it is essential for us to put God first. “But seek you first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matt. 6:33). Many today put the wrong things first. Frequently, members vacation in places where they do not have opportunities to worship. To them a vacation is more important than worship. Others skip services to attend school functions, parties, and other social gatherings. Many work so many hours that they do not have any time to do any work for the Lord. All of us need to arrange our lives where God is first and all other things take their proper place. We need to remember the words of Jesus, “No man can serve two masters: for either he will hate the one, and love the other, or else he will hold to the one, and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon (wealth)” (Matt. 6:24). Who are you serving? Who are you putting first? It’s the one you are hoping to please. If you want to be saved, look unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith!

Did you ever hear anyone talk about an irresistible force and an immovable object colliding with one another? No one seems to know what will happen, and yet everyone knows that something has to give. We may run automobiles into stone walls and one or both give way. One or the other is not going to be as impregnable as we had thought it would be. So it is concerning the gospel of Christ and the people of the religious world with whom it comes in contact.

Contrary to the thought of many people, the gospel itself is a dynamic force. In fact, in some senses it is an irresistible force. Paul talked about its force labeling it as “power of God unto salvation”. (Rom. 1:16) This power will break down all sin and unrighteousness and bridge the gap between man and God, bringing man into an acceptable position before God. Maybe to some it seems senseless, but without pie suppers and pony rides and even without missionary and benevolent societies, the gospel alone can make men pleasing to the God of heaven.

The only trouble is that there are some people who desire to be immovable objects. Remember in Old Testament history when Pharaoh hardened his heart against God, and refused to let the Children of Israel go? He thought he was an immovable object. Remember the Jewish nation in the days of John the baptist and Jesus Christ and how they put both John and Christ to death in order to preserve their arrangement of things? They thought they were an immovable object.

The interesting thing is to notice what happened to these “immovable objects.~’ Pharaoh lost Israel and a good army too. The Jews, in putting Christ to death, lost a home in heaven (unless they repented) and some forty years later they lost an entire political system on earth.

When men begin to tamper with God’s arrangements, they lose their immovability. Men think they will not be moved, but Paul said that this person needs to “take heed, lest you fall” (1 Cor. 10:12). There are so many in this category going about daily thinking that they are set in their ways, and nothing and no one will move them.

Denominational people preach their false doctrines never stopping to think that God is going to put a stop to it. (Gal. 1:6-10) The sad part of it is that many of our own brethren are not much better. Some will preach their sermons on love, peace, and “antis,” and go on not willing to allow anything the gospel has to say to move them to change their minds and conform them to the irresistible word of God. It is not just in institutionalism, either. We preach to our young ladies about their dress. Do you think it does any good? Why, they think they are immovable objects, and yet, they go right ahead and wear their godless apparel anyway. Not only wear it, but parade up and down the streets and football fields in it. Our young men are not far behind. Civil law means nothing to many of them. We preach obedience to civil codes, but they think they are immovable objects.

My plea is to allow the gospel to move you. Be immovable for it (1 Cor. 15:58) and do not stand in opposition to it. If you do not allow it to move you now, it will move you in the last day into eternal damnation (Jn 12:48 f; 2 Thess 1:7-9).

When people base their decisions on lies, they make bad choices, which ends up destroying the lives of others. Moreover, lies conceal the truth, which may lead to injustice for both the guilty and innocent.

The sin of lying contradicts the very character of God. The Bible teaches that God cannot lie (Tit 1:2 f; Heb 6:18); it is against His very nature to advance that which is false. However, Jesus says that Satan is the father of lies (John 8:44). Therefore, to lie is to choose not to be like God, but to imitate the character of Satan. Proverbs 6:19 says lying is among the things that God hates. It is no wonder that one of the ten commandments is, You shall not bear false witness (Ex 20:16).

The Bible acknowledges different categories of lies, but never once teaches that any lie is less significantly damning than another. The little white lie is equally condemning as perjury, though, the consequences may not be entirely the same. John writes in Revelation 21:8 “But the fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone: which is the second death.” John certainly didn’t discriminate on what kind of liars would be lost; he simply said, ALL LIARS, which implies all kind of lies, both great or small.

Christians must be people who speak truth. Ephesians 4:25 says, “Wherefore, putting away falsehood, speak truth each one with his neighbor: for we are members one of another.” The context of Ephesians four tells us that speaking truth is part of what it means to be a new creation in Christ; it is at the heart of being a Christian. Colossians 3:9 parallels Ephesians; “Lie not one to another, seeing that you have put off the old man with his deeds.”

For the Christian who is striving to follow Jesus’ teaching, it is a simple matter of observing Jesus’ teaching on this subject. In Matthew 5:37 Jesus said, “But let your communication be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these comes of evil”. James echoes Jesus comments in James 5:12 “But above all things, my brethren, swear not, neither by heaven, neither by the earth, neither by any other oath: but let your yea be yea; and your nay, nay; lest ye fall into condemnation.” The Jewish people had turned oath taking into another way of lying. Such was forbidden by Jesus and by implication, lying as well.

Sometimes it is hard to tell the truth. People don’t always want to hear it because it exposes the darkness in their lives, and people love darkness better than light (Jn 3:19). As Christians, we are obliged to tell the truth in love (Eph 4:15) and we speak truth because we do love (1 Cor 13:6). Let us do so and be people who love truth regardless the consequences of speaking it, and let us never be involved in the sin of lying nor upholding the lies of others.

In life we are called upon to make many decisions. Some of these are routine, physical actions such as stopping for a red light or eating when we are hungry. Some of our decisions are judgment calls on matters of significant importance: selecting a mate for marriage, choosing a vocation, investing money for future security, preparing for retirement. Each must “make up his own mind” on these issues. The freedom (and responsibility) we have in these areas are often “assumed” in religious matters. Many feel that each of us are at liberty to decide what is right or wrong on moral issues or for religious practices. A study of the Scriptures indicates this is not man’s right – God has given us the direction and we are to recognize his regulations.

How are we to decide moral issues? Is it right or is it wrong to lie? to steal? to kill? to commit adultery? What process do you usually hear used to decide these maters? “It seems to me. . . ” or “I think. . . ” are common expressions in such discussions. Using this process, changes can result in standards of morality. Within the past generation a classic example of this process has occurred.

Sixty years ago, most “everyone” condemned homosexuality. Anyone who practiced homosexual relations were considered an abomination to God. The practice was so generally condemned that violators were discharged from the army, removed from government posts, fired from businesses, and otherwise rejected and ostracized by society. Although some of this rejection still exists, we see the practice defended now as “an alternate lifestyle.” Practitioners have “come out of the closet” and openly parade for gay rights. Many churches have given open acceptance for the practice and gay churches exist in many cities. Society has declared them to be as normal as heterosexuals. They are allowed to be preachers, school teachers, government officials, parents, and even given in marriage. Sodom and Gomorrah means nothing to this society!

What standard should we use to govern our lives in religious or moral issues? A look at the Bible shows that the inspired writers recognized “the Scriptures” as the standard. In Romans 1 and 2, Paul reasons that both the Gentiles and the Jews stood condemned because they had left God and his Word. No appeal was made to Paul’s own feelings or to how society felt about these issues. (Actually, “society” would have approved the common practices which Paul condemned.)

On another occasion Paul reflects the attitude toward God’s revelation which should characterize all of us. In 1 Timothy 5:18, while discussing the support of elders who gave their time and efforts to the teaching of the word, he says, “For the scripture saith, You  shall not muzzle the ox when he treads out the corn. And, the laborer is worthy of his hire.” Note the appeal made by the inspired apostle: “For the scripture saith . . .”

What should we recognize as authority today for our moral code or for our religious practices? God’s Word, the Scriptures, are the proper source, and we should be careful not to substitute the judgments of men with the commandments of God (Matt 15:7-9). How I feel or how you feel may be of interest, but only what God says is right! Yes, let God be true and every man a liar; as it is written, That you may be justified in your sayings, and might overcome when you are judged” (Rom 3:4).

When discussing forgiveness, do we have the ability to punish the person who wronged us? Oftentimes, when making the case for the ability to forgive with conditions, we quote Bible verses where God’s forgiveness included a punishment. It is true, there are examples of God forgiving and then punishing those He forgave. We find an example of this in the Old Testament when God forgave the Israelites, but still punished them to wander in the wilderness for 40 years.
Leviticus 19:18: “You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against the sons of your own people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord”.
While this statement is true, God does not give us the authority to punish someone we forgive. There are many reasons for this, with the most obvious reason being, we cannot judge someone’s heart. If we could properly judge someone’s heart, we could be trusted to understand his or her motive and true intentions. There are two key difference between God and us; He judges the heart and all of His actions focus on saving souls. Our punishments are based on preconceived notions and the desire for self-aggrandizement. We do not like being wronged and believe an apology is the least someone could do to earn our forgiveness.
Romans 12:17-21: “Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good”.
Christians are not encouraged to punish the actions of others. Instead, they are commanded to leave the wrath to God. James explains why, as the wrath of man does not bring about the righteousness of God (Jam 1:20). Even if someone only required an apology to forgive another… are they not seeking to avenge their mistreatment? Whether the person apologizes or not, Scripture makes is very clear we are to treat everyone (friend or foe) with love. The Apostle Paul states, any action completed without love does not benefit us (1 Cor 13:3). We are to forgive others in love, because God loves and forgives us of much more. If we require some form of penitence, how did we determine what was required? By compelling an apology, can we be certain someone has repented? Since repentance is a change in one’s heart and mind, only God is able to determine matters of the heart (Jer 17:9-10). We can only judge by outward appearance, which is unreliable because we are judging based on our personal dispositions (1 Sam 16:7). We must rely on God’s vengeance and not our own.

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