We hear many expressions in the modern world such as, “Join the church of your choice,” “It does not make any difference which church you belong to,” “One church is as good as another,” “The church will not save you,” and other like expressions. With all due respect to all concerned, the Lord Jesus Christ, the apostles with their co-laborers, and the Holy Spirit did not make any such revelation in the New Testament. Therefore, as we have no God-given authority for such teaching, these fall under the heading of “doctrines and commandments of men.”
Almost 2,000 years ago, Jesus verified this prophecy concerning the traditions of men: “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth 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).
How then can a responsible person desiring to become a citizen of the kingdom of God, which is the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, do so? Men and women are born into the church, or kingdom, by obeying the gospel of Jesus Christ. “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). After being born into the family of our earthly parents, we do not have to join it. Neither do those who are born of water and the Spirit have to join God’s family. They become members at birth.
In the spotlight of God’s word, we would consider it very foolish if Adam had talked of “selecting the wife of his choice” when it is written: “And the rib, which the Lord God had taken from man, made he a woman, and brought her unto the man” (Gen. 2:22). Again, we find when the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph, he said,
Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name Jesus; for he shall save his people from their sins (Matt. 1:20-21).
Now, who would be willing to say that the angel of the Lord told Joseph to take the wife of his choice to become the mother of Jesus, the Son of God, the Saviour of mankind, regardless of who she was or what name she wore? Yet multiplied thousands of people talk freely about “joining the church of their choice,” when the same Jesus who was born of the virgin Mary said, “Upon this rock I will build my church [not churches, plural]; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matt. 16:18).
Many people, no doubt, wonder why we do not use organs, pianos, violins, guitars, and brass bands in worship. We are commanded to worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). Jesus Christ is the head of the body, the church (Col. 1:18). The Holy Spirit Who came to teach the apostles all things and to bring to their remembrance all that Jesus had said to them (John 14:26) did not teach them or bring to their remembrance anything concerning the use of mechanical instruments of music in worship.
They were not used by Christ, the apostles, or Christians of New Testament times. Their use is not taught in the New Testament by precept or example. Are they used by faith? No! “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17) and they are not found in God’s word for us today.
But many people offer the following “argument” for their use: “Where does the Bible say not to use them in worship?” In Genesis 6:14, God commanded Noah, “Make thee an ark of gopher wood.” The Lord did not tell Noah not to use oak, pine, maple, or cedar. The wood God specified eliminated the use of all other kinds of wood. In the New Testament, we are commanded to sing, using the heart as the instrument with which to praise the Lord. “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Eph. 5:19). Now, if the specified use of gopher wood in the construction of the ark eliminated the use of all other kinds of wood, the specified use of the heart eliminates the use of all other kinds of instruments with which we are to make melody in worshiping the Lord.
Many people today wonder why we partake of the Lord’s Supper every Sunday, or every first day of the week. In the Old Testament we find that God commanded the Israelites to “remember the sabbath [seventh] day to keep it holy” (Ex. 20:8). He did not say, “the first Sabbath in every third month” or “the second Sabbath in every sixth month,” but to “remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy.” Now, we know that those Jews understood God to mean every Sabbath day in every week of the year. The Lord Jesus Christ was raised on the first day of the week (Matt. 28:1). The church of the Lord was established on the first day of the week—the first Pentecost following Christ’s resurrection (Acts 2), and the early disciples came together on the first day of the week to break bread (Acts 20:7). As every week has its first day and the early disciples continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine, and fellowship and in breaking of bread and of prayers, why should we not do the same things, as the Lord has given us no authority to change His word?
Then others probably ask, “Why do you not take up collections every night during meetings, have ice-cream parties, box suppers, or car washes and the like in order to raise money to carry on the Lord’s work?” These things are not taught or commanded in the New Testament. Paul said our money is to be given as a free will offering in our first day of the week assembly. “Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come” (1 Cor. 16:1-2).
All authority for acceptable worship to God must be authorized in the New Testament or He will not accept it.