Are we at liberty to do as we please when God’s Word is silent? Most seem to think so for they act where God did not act and they command where God did not command. What does God’s Word say about speaking in the silence of God?
Take note of this verse: “For it is evident that our Lord hath sprung out of Judah; as to which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priests” (Heb. 7:14). Moses spake nothing about priests being permitted from the tribe of Judah. God neither allowed it nor prohibited it. He said nothing at all. What do we do about a case like this? When the Bible is silent about a matter, shall we presume to do as we please or shall we shun the muted matter?
We are not left to guess about what is right. When God said nothing relative to priests from the tribe of Judah, Jesus could have served in the Temple if he wanted to if the silence of scripture gives consent. But notice Hebrews 8:4: Now if Jesus “were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, seeing there are those who offer the gifts according to the law.” It is clear, then, that when God specifically mentioned Levi as the priesthood tribe and said nothing about others, they were prohibited from functioning as such.
It is this “prohibition of silence” that is taught in 1 Cor. 4:6, where we find, “that . . . ye might learn not to go beyond the things which are written”. That which is “written”, the holy scriptures, provide everything we need for life and godliness “that the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work” (2 Pet. 1:3 f; 2 Tim. 3:16-17).
Where the scriptures stop, our practice should stop. We are not allowed to do anything in worship or service to God which He has not called for. We are to do what God teaches by his Word; not what He has not taught. However, observe what man has done:
Jesus condemned the Pharisees for washing hands as a religious act (Mark 7:1-13). It was being done in the absence of any command of God for it. Their error was in directing to God an act which He had not specifically authorized. Washing hands is good in man’s eyes, but such action was going beyond what was written in God’s eyes (Deut. 29:29).
Burning Incense As Worship
There is nothing morally wrong with burning incense in man’s eyes. As a service to God, however, it constitutes “going beyond. what is written.”
Sprinkling or Christening
Countless babies are sprinkled with water as a religious act each year in spite of the fact that without any scriptural basis for it. The bible speaks nothing of it one way or the other. It seems good in man’s eyes, but God’s silence deems it wrong to do. In the case of sprinkling of babies, God’s word contradicts it. In order to be baptized one has to first hear and understand the gospel. Secondly, they must believe and then confess their belief. Thirdly, they must repent of their sins. Then, and only then can one be baptized. All these things an infant cannot accomplish before baptism. If the Catholics are deeming sprinkling as baptism, then their doctrine is condemned by God’s perquisites for baptism.
Mechanical Instrumental Music in Worship
God tells us to “sing” in the New Testament, but is silent about instrumental music. Just as silent as He was about priests in Judah (Col. 3:16). To teach that such is right is to teach what God has not taught. It is affirming that “silence gives consent,” which is not true. Mechanical instruments are not wrong as such, and neither is washing hands, but as service to God they are unauthorized, not permitted, and therefore sinful. “ 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).
Societies, Guilds, & Man Made Institutions
The Lord specified only one organization for his saints to function in when doing the work of the Lord, the congregation (Acts 14:23 ff; Phil. 1:1; Rom. 16:16). He is just as SILENT about HUMANLY DEVISED ORGANIZATIONS as He was about priests from the tribe of Judah-of which institutions Christ spake nothing concerning their existence. And just as He specified the tribe of Levi, He specified the organization in which the ‘Spirit guided’ apostles established: the local congregation. Missionary societies, Orphan Homes, Colleges, and Hospitals are not even faintly hinted at in scripture and thus “Go beyond that which is written.” Some of the benevolent and medical, and educational societies, have their place, just as does washing hands, incense and organs, but their place is not in the church as service to God. When they become “church institutions” doing the churches’ work and financed by churches, they are unauthorized, not permitted and sinful.
God specified the work of elders to “the flock which is among you” (1 Pet. 5:1-4 f; Acts 20:28) . When such supervision is broadened to include region-wide and nationwide programs requiring financing of many churches, it is “going beyond what is written.” Scripture mentions NO case of churches pooling their resources under one eldership to do a general work for all. Secondly, the scripture gave no instance where the church beyond its infancy went without elders. Eldership by committee is not mentioned in the bible. Using unqualified men to lord over the work of the church is contrary to sound doctrine. Elders were appointed in every church (Acts 14:23). There was no provision for any church to not have elders to rule over the members of the local church (Heb13:7,17).
Conclusion: We must respect what God has said. Let us also respect, just as reverently, what God has NOT said. “If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God” (1 Pet 4:11). To do more or less than they which God commanded is a mortal sin, and will condemn one to eternal damnation (Rev 22:18,19).