You are on page 1of 5

The Silence of the Scriptures From a book entitled A Short History of Christianity by Stephen Tomkins I quote as follows: "The

basic difference between Zwingli and Luther was in their attitudes to the Bible. Zwingli saw it as a precise blueprint for church life. For Luther, what is not forbidden is permitted; for Zwingli, what is not permitted is forbidden." (page 141) Both Zwingli and Luther lived in the Age of Reformation often called the Protestant Reformation and both men were leading figures in its beginnings. The subject of this article is the issue that separated Luther from Zwingli, namely, the silence of the scriptures. Does the silence of the scriptures on a practice permit that practice or forbid it? This can only be answered by an appeal to the scriptures to which we will go but before doing so it would be good to make the point that many have answered this question without an appeal to scripture at all. The Roman Catholic Church is not concerned with what the scriptures say. Authority with the Catholic Church resides in the church itself, their church, not in scripture. There is no need for anyone to get mad over me saying this. It is established fact. Their church doctrine overrides scripture. Where does one find in scripture the idea of praying to dead saints just as an example? I have got time. I can wait but it is certain I will be dead before you find the passage teaching such in your New Testament. When one takes the position Luther took one cannot complain too much, and be consistent, about wild innovations in the church. If what is not forbidden is permitted then pretty much anything goes. In searching the internet I actually came upon a church site that has a "music and arts" page. The page states that this church "has a long tradition of outstanding musical worship and offers a variety of musical opportunities for those who would like to share their talents as an offering through musical worship. musicians celebrate the Lord with voice, instruments and drama." Can you imagine in your wildest imagination Peter or Paul acting in a drama performance and that in a worship service? But that is but the tip of the iceberg. Type into your Google search engine the words "experiential worship ideas" and do some research. You will be amazed. Here are some things I found that are not just ideas but things actually being done. Tattoo stations during communion where people would get a black cross put on their hand or wrist to symbolize their decision to become bondslaves of Christ, repentance windows during communion where you would write your name on a board as a confession of your sin and then have it pronounced that your sins were forgiven and your name would be erased from the board, gift flags made during worship to symbolize your desire to offer your gifts to God, and on and on it goes. The fantasies of men dreaming up ways to worship God the way that pleases and satisfies them seems to be endless, anything and everything the mind of man can imagine. As I said earlier research it on your own. But what do the scriptures teach for those desiring to know? If there was only one passage one could use to settle this debate as it relates to worship it would be for me John 4:24, "God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth."

(NKJV) It is easy to overlook a very important word in this passage, the word "must." That means neither you nor me have any choice in the matter. It is we "must." It is the only worship God will accept, that which is in spirit and truth, or else the word "must" is a word without meaning. We know what is meant when we are told we must worship in spirit and I think all are agreed about the meaning of that part of the passage. That leaves only the word truth and the question about that only revolves around the meaning of the word "truth" itself. Pilate asked the question of Jesus, "What is truth?" (John 18:38 NKJV) Had he of listened carefully to what Jesus told him just prior to his question and would have believed what Jesus said he would not have needed to ask the question. Hear Jesus in the verse just prior to verse 38, "You say rightly that I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice." (John 18:37 NKJV) Now let me ask a question about what Jesus said when he said he had come into the world to bear witness to the truth. How did he do that? Could he have done it without speech? Let me develop this thought. The Bible teaches the purpose of miracles was to confirm the word spoken that it was from God (read Mark 16:20 and Heb. 2:1-4). Jesus was once confronted by a group of Jews who demanded of him an answer to a question they had as follows: "How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly. Jesus answered them, 'I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father's name, they bear witness of Me.'" (John 10:24-25 NKJV) Jesus' works (miracles) confirmed his word that he was not only who he said he was but that he spoke words of truth. Hear Jesus again, "For I have not spoken on My own authority; but the Father who sent Me gave Me a command, what I should say and what I should speak." (John 12:49 NKJV) Jesus came into the world to bear witness to the truth but that could not be done by miracles alone without words or speech. Miracles cannot confirm words that are not spoken. Jesus' bearing witness to the truth involved both delivering truth and then confirming it via miracles. "Truth came through Jesus Christ." (John 1:17 NKJV) Whatever Jesus spoke was "truth." In prayer to the Father Jesus said in John 17:17, "Your word is truth." (NKJV) The words Jesus spoke, whatever, wherever, to whomever were truth. He spoke the words the Father had given him. To worship in truth then involves worshipping by the word of God. That means, and it seems so obvious that I do not see how men overlook it, that if there is no word from God there is no truth in matters religious. If God has not spoken on a practice how does man practice that thing, whatever it be, and say he is worshipping in truth? There is such a thing as the teachings of men. Listen to Jesus again, "Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: 'And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.' " (Matt. 15:7-9 NKJV) Paul says in Titus we are to not give heed "to Jewish fables and commandments of men who turn from the truth." (Titus 1:14 NKJV) A worship practice that does not have a precise

commandment from God (book, chapter, and verse for it) is a commandment of men, an invention of men, and is certainly not worship in truth for if it was then clearly book, chapter, and verse could be provided. Now I know many are with Luther on thisif a practice or act is not specifically forbidden then it is permitted. If he was right then truth does not matter and one can on his own authority, manmade and man given, institute worship according to one's liking. I said I would provide more than this one argument from scripture. Paul's rebuke of the Corinthians regarding the Lord's Supper provides further evidence that what is not allowed is prohibited. The Corinthians had been taught about the Lord's Supper or else they would not have been observing it in any manner, correctly or incorrectly. Furthermore, Paul comes right out and tells us they had been taught when he says, "For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you." (1 Cor. 11:23 NKJV) That is past tense. Since he had last met with them they had obviously made some changes in the way they were observing the supper. I ask the questionon whose authority did they do so? Some like to think today that little changes make no difference. Who decides how little a thing is--man or God? Now someone might object to what I have just written and say it is a bad argument for it is a subject about which there is no silence of the scripture. The scripture speaks. So it does but note the principle Paul is establishing. He is telling the Corinthians do what you are told to do in scripture via inspiration and do not make changes or additions or subtractions. To do so is to change the word of God and is to go outside of truth for one's worship. In the book of Deuteronomy we find Moses addressing the children of Israel acting as, as he was, God's spokesperson. Hear what he has to say, "You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take from it, that you may keep the commandments of the LORD your God which I command you." (Deut. 4:2 NKJV) Upon what evidence do you think that principle has changed today? Do you think that today God does not mind us adding to his word or taking away from it? I can assure you it did not change with regards to what is contained in the book of Revelation. "For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book." (Rev. 22:18-19 NKJV) If these passages do not teach one must remain inside the pages of scripture I do not know what they teach. That being the case the silence of the scriptures prohibits rather than frees one to act as he pleases. Luther was wrong; Zwingli was right. What the scriptures do not permit they prohibit. One is not free to add to scripture. We recognize the principle of silence being prohibitive in human wills and legal documents. Why do we not recognize the same principle in the last will and testament of our Lord and Savior? What was left out of that will was left out for a reason.

If a doctor writes you a prescription for drug X then you cannot use it to get drug Y. Silence has meaning. Silence prohibits and does not authorize. It is impossible to gain authority from silence. The police need a search warrant to search your home. That warrant does not give them the legal right to search your neighbor's home. Why not? Because the warrant is silent, it does not speak about your neighbor's house. You cannot have faith in silence no matter how strongly you may feel about what ought to be. Our faith must be in what is written. We cannot change what is written in the New Testament (the guide for Christians and Christ's last will and testament). If we add to it we do so without having the authority to do so and thus do so as men using man's authority, not God's. If we take away from what is written, ignoring it, then we may as well take a pair of scissors and cut it out and who would dare do that? There is a Day of Judgment when men must stand before God and tampering with his word is not something you want to do when you contemplate that fearful day. A practical application of all of this, because it is such a widespread practice, is that of the use of instrumental music in the worship. It was allowed under the Law of Moses. Why? Because there was word from God allowing it (see 2 Chron. 29:25). It is prohibited, even though commonly practiced, under the law of Christ under which we live today. Why? There is no command for it. You can only bring it into New Testament worship by adding to the words of Christ as found in your New Testament and I am not talking about only the words in red in a red letter edition. Every word of the New Testament is given by Jesus for the role of the Holy Spirit was not to initiate new teaching but to transmit the teachings of Jesus which were the teachings of the Father. Hear Jesus as he talked to his apostles. "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you." (John 16:12-15 NKJV) If one wishes to say there are harps in heaven I have no problem with that. That is another age and another time. The secular history of the church is such that it can be proven instrumental music was not used in the New Testament church for several hundreds of years after the first century. Most historians date it to the late seventh century. The Jews were a people well versed in the use of harps and other musical instruments. One must ask why Jewish Christians did not use them in the earliest years of the church. The answer is really self-evident to any who are willing to accept it. I have not exhausted my arguments in support of the belief that the silence of the scriptures is prohibitive and limits what we can do in the church and in worship but I am exhausting my word limit for an article and so I bring this to a close. Take it as you will. I need not convince you nor do you need to convince me. We both need to simply

be on God's side of the argument. I have merely stated the side I am taking. I believe it is God's side. Now you know why.