Colossians 3:17 makes it clear that what we do in religion must have the authority of heaven or it cannot be done with God’s approval. For that cause faithful Christians sing (without mechanical instruments) partake of the Lord’s Supper on the first day of the week, give of their means on that day; they pray and hear the Word of God preached in their worship service. Those things are authorized by explicit or implied statements or by authoritative accounts of action in the New Testament. Christians also live moral lives as described by Scripture.
It is of no recent origin, in fact it goes back to the reformation period, that some have attempted to make the claim that if the Bible does not specifically exclude something in the worship service, then such an act may be done with the approval of heaven. There are consequences to such a doctrine that are repulsive to God and to those who seek to please Him. In the first place, if one can act in religion (including in worship) without Biblical authority then it necessarily implies that man, not God is the real authority. If not, why not?
We know that cannot be the case, because it is vanity to call upon the Lord and not do what He says (Luke 6:46). It also cannot be the case, because we shall be judged by the words of Christ (John 12:48). If man can be his own authority, determining for self what pleases God, then pray tell why is it the case (Rom. 14:12) that men will give account of themselves to God? He would not have to do that if he did not have to have God’s authority for what he does in religion and life.
Another consequence of the doctrine is that there are no limits at all. That may sound like alarmism to some, and they would claim that no one would actually go so far as to do ridiculous things in the worship service. We have from time to time pointed out that if there is no authority for our observance of the Lord’s Supper, for instance, that nothing would keep men from replacing the bread and the fruit of the vine with Coca Cola and hamburgers. Some have said, “Don’t be ridiculous, no one would do that.” Yet, we have heard in the past of at least one congregation doing that very thing. Today, some are claiming that the Lord’s Supper is nothing more than a common meal, thus the soda waters and hamburgers may just be on the rise. Without the authority of God for what is done in worship or other aspects of our religious work and service to God, then anything goes. That is the very reason instrumental music and the missionary society rose their heads in the first place during the restoration movement.
In the third place, if it is accepted that one does not have to have authority for what is done in religion it will eventually expand to setting aside the restriction that God has made against certain things, claiming that sin isn’t really sin and will lead to personal moral decay. That is already in progress in so much as some are beginning to accept those who are engaged in the sin of sodomy. According to a Harding undergraduate student from Memphis there was an active sodomy/straight group at Harding University in 2011. Many probably do not know it, but A Capella Chorus is very sympathetic to sodomy, and believes the time has come for the church to “reassess the matter.” Both Old and New Testaments expose such behavior as sin, but as the above illustrations show, some are beginning to question that, and are embracing those actively engaged in such lewdness. “The Bible does not say not to” eventually leads to, “We don’t care that the Bible does not authorize it, or even if it condemns it, we’ll do what we want to.” Many have not only reached that line, but in fact have crossed over it with all the arrogance against God that people could possibly possess.
The consequences of the attitude and doctrine of, if the Bible does not explicitly condemn it, we can do it are many, and eventually lead men to the conclusion that there is no authority needed for anything believed or practiced in religion or morality. That attitude finally leads to the idea that there is no authority for anything at all beyond what an individual or group of individuals chooses to do.