May a Creed Be Considered Expedient?

In the struggle for independence, our forefathers pledged “life, fortune and sacred honor.” They did so as an expedient way to bring about “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” This lead to a country founded on freedom never before known. We treasure these freedoms that brave men and women died to obtain. But long before this nation came into existence, Jesus said, “you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free…if the Son makes you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:32, 36). There can never be real political freedom without spiritual freedom, and Jesus knew it. The really strange thing, to this writer, is that some people, having been set free, unaware of what they are doing, go back into slavery.

“…therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery” (Gal 5:1). Some of the Christians in Galatia were trying to go back to the law of Moses, from which the death of Jesus had set them free (Gal. 3:19-29). By going back to the old law, they were cutting themselves off from Christ and His blessings: “You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace” (Gal 5:4). I would feel very confident in stating that leaving Christ was not their intent, but that, in effect, was the result. Christ promised them freedom, but they, by going back to the old law, refused it.

Religious Division Looks For Expedient Way Out

Rom 6:18 tells us, Jesus came that we might be “freed from sin.” He did this by His death onCreeds are supposed to be expedient the cross (Rom. 5:6-10). Jesus not only makes us free from the guilt of past sins; He also makes us free from the practice of sin as we follow His will. That is why Paul wrote, “Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death” (Rom 8:1-2). But there is another freedom that was important to Jesus, and it should be important to us also. That is the freedom from man’s creeds.

At the time Jesus lived, Jewish religion was divided into “sects” (what we would call denominations today). There was the sect of the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Herodians, the Essenes and probably others. Each of these had their own particular beliefs, which were different from the others. For example, the Sadducees did not believe in spirits, neither angels nor the resurrection from the dead (Acts 23:8). In order to record all their conclusions and have them available to help others follow what they believed, Jewish scribes put their beliefs into what they called “The Talmud.” It contained much of the Old Testament scripture along with commentary of the learned lawyers (doctors of the law) (Lk. 5:17). It all seemed very innocent. They believed certain things, so they wrote them down. On the surface, that seems simple and harmless enough. But it became a disaster.

An Expedient Way?

The Jews were always looking for a reason to discredit Jesus because of what He taught. On one occasion they observed His disciples eating with “unwashed (impure, NASV) hands” (Mark 7:2). They criticized Jesus by saying, “Why do Your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat their bread with impure hands?” (Mark 7:5). The law didn’t require a Jew to wash his hands before eating. But their “creed” did. Regardless of their reasoning, they were legislating where God had not.

Jesus response came from the prophet Isaiah. “Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written: ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far away from me. But in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’ Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men” (Mark 7:6-8). Was there anything wrong with washing their hands before eating? Of course not! But there was a great deal wrong with taking what seemed a good idea, and making a law or rule of it, and requiring others to follow it. That is precisely what the Jews were trying to do.

Looking for Unity

I don’t believe there is any question that the Jews, when they made their creed, were sincere in trying to help people understand God’s will, at least in the beginning. But there was an inherent flaw in their reasoning, and in the reasoning of all whom would make a creed today. They seek to place the thoughts and ideas of man on the same level with God’s word. Even if their intentions were good, their explanation of what God meant could not take the place of what God said. In that same sense, every creed of man falls into the same category as that of the Jews. They “make void” the word of God.

In the late 18th century and the beginning of the 19th, there began a movement in this country among people in many different denominations to find a basis for unity. The conclusion; the principle thing separating believers in Christ were the creeds written by men. Each denomination had its own, different from the creeds of the others. Barton W. Stone, Alexander Campbell, John Smith, Walter Scott and dozens of other men like them, felt it was necessary to “go back to the Bible.” Some of these, in their zeal to explain their new beliefs, put them into creeds! Fortunately, they quickly saw the error of that and determined the Bible alone would govern them. The decision was made that no man-made set of rules, or creed, would be allowed.

We fail to learn from the past, and thus we see the same thing happening in churches across the land. What we see is peopleThe End Justifies The Means Is Not Expedient expressing their views as to how worship services should be run or what they believe and expecting those meeting with them to abide by these “creeds.” However, the concept that the end justifies the means is a concept most people operate under. As with the past creeds, it is done with the assumption that doing it this way is an expedient. While, as with past creeds, the things these creeds contain may not, in and of themselves be wrong. But, it is a problem of making law where God has not.

Let us look at what determines a thing to be expedient

In order for a thing to be expedient it must be lawful.

The apostle Paul wrote, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything” (1 Cor 6:12). Later on in the same letter he says, “All things are lawful, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful, but not all things edify” (1 Cor 10:23). In these passages Paul teaches expediency must come within the realm of that which is lawful. If something is not within the scope of that which is authorized; if there is no precept, approved example, or logical conclusion in the scripture to authorize the practice, it has no Divine authority.

For a thing to be expedient it cannot be specified.

When God specifies there is no choice but to obey or disobey. In matters specified, faith demands obedience. Expediency in human wisdom involves the right of choice within the realm of those things included in what God has authorized. To go beyond that which is specified or offer a substitute is to add to what God has said instead of aiding obedience to His word.

For a thing to be expedient, it must edify.

Paul understood this (1 Cor 10:23-33; 14:26 ). If something is a matter of choice or expediency (human wisdom or judgment) and its practice would tear down and destroy what God would have built up by creating disunity, dissension and division in the body of Christ, it is sinful and wrong. If God commands it, we must  do it no matter what the consequences. But if it is non-essential (God having left the choice to human wisdom) and we demand or enforce that which destroys the peace and unity of God’s children, we sin. All of the seeming good we might accomplish by such a course would not overcome the wrong done by it.

A thing must not offend the conscience of a brother if it is to be expedient.

Paul wrote, “Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God” (1 Cor 10:32). We are taught to forgo a matter of personal liberty instead of leading a brother to sin. He sins by violating his conscience in partaking in that which he believes to be wrong (1 Cor. 8:7-13). If a method of doing something in the Lord’s church is a matter of expediency, we cannot force upon the consciences of others those things which our judgment may approve but which are contrary to their understanding and which, appear to them to be wrong or sinful without sinning ourselves.

An addition to God’s word or a substitution for God’s way is not an expedient.

Remember, an expedient must first be lawful. Every addition or substitution is relying upon human wisdom, and as such is unlawful. Such is not a matter of expediency, but is transgression of God’s will. Expediency involves the right of choice within the realm of that which is authorized in the New Testament. It is not a course of authority within itself.

If we apply this test to creeds, regardless of their purpose, we will find they do not pass the test. Therefore let us abandon every creed and simply rely on the Bible for our direction in our service to God.

Editors Note: Some of the information as to establishing expediencies is taken from “Walking By Faith,” by Roy Cogdill.

See Also:

What is Truth

Whose Responsibility is it?

Marriage Vows or What God Joined Together

or What God Joined Together

Marriage and the marriage vows are something that should never be taken lightly. What happens when two people come together under the idea of marriage? They stand before a man to recite wedding vows to each other. But, what does this mean? Consider if you will, the words both the male and female make: “Will you take this woman/man to be your lawfully wedded wife/husband, to live together in holy matrimony? Will you love her/him, comfort her/him, honor her/him, and keep her/him in sickness and in health…, forsaking all others for as long as you both shall live? Will you take to yourself to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, and to love and cherish each other till death do you part?”

Your Marriage Vows are before God, do you mean it?

When two people repeat their wedding vows, those involved in that marriage make this promise to each other and to God. They promise they will be together forever. However, far too many times, this is far from the truth. Separations occur and eventually divorce comes (annulments included).  But what is divorce? Obtaining a divorce is a legal (by man’s standards) dissolution of a marriage. It is a ceasing, a breaking of promises, to let go, or to release from bonds that terminates a marriage. But what is ceasing? However, what are things that break in divorce? Could we say that we are breaking two hearts in a marriage or breaking a family into jagged pieces? But what are we letting go? Could it be the bond that was first made on the wedding day between each other and between God? But, why the release?

Did not Jesus say to the Pharisees who came tempting Him with questions on divorce that, “…a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (Matt. 19:5)? Two lives join into one. Therefore, the bond of husband and wife is stronger than that between children and parents. And, to be as one means that they are to be the only ones together. Yet, if this is true, then what comes in between them? It should be said that when something comes in between the one flesh, it must be a painful experience seeing as how pain always comes when something is inserted between flesh. With a marriage, this insertion is planned and cannot happen by accident and once it is between flesh, it separates it and divorce is seen shortly down the road.

Marriage Vows Combine Two as One

Jesus said, “So they are no longer two, but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate” (Matt. 19:6). Now, what could be so forceful that it could separate flesh? Perhaps a friend? Maybe they just drive each other crazy. Perhaps they are just not compatible. Jesus again speaking said to the Pharisees, “whoever divorces his wife, except for immorality (fornication), and marries another woman commits adultery” (Matt. 19:9).

What is fornication? It is illicit sexual intercourse. It is sexual intercourse whether it is with a man, woman, homosexual, lesbian, animal, etc. Jesus said that for this reason only can one divorce. Why? It is because sexual intercourse breaks the one flesh into two. Also, because there is a foreign flesh attempting to rip part of the flesh from the rest. It is because it breaks the covenant relationship between man and woman. In addition, it breaks the covenant relationship with God because once you are in a marriage, you are commanded by God to keep it (Rom. 7:2).

Men can attempt to justify this by saying that the laws of the land permit other actions. Well, so did the laws of the land in Jesus’ day (Matt. 19:1-9). But just because it is a law of the land, does not give us a right to violate God’s law. The apostles, which were led directly by the Holy Spirit said, “. . . We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29). Therefore, if God defines what a marriage is and what it is not and defines the reason to end a marriage, we must obey God rather than man for only God can dissolve a marriage.

Divorce Means Ignoring Your Promise to God

Divorce that comes outside of fornication, happens when men forget God (Rom. 1:18-32), when they forget His word (Psa. 119:11), and when they want to do what is right in their own eyes (Judges 17:6). May we each do the will of the Father (Matt. 7:21-23).

What The World Needs Now Is Love

What The world needs

The year was 1965. Many today are too young to remember, but it was a time upheaval in the country. The Vietnam war was raging, but very unpopular. Other forces were at work also to create a climate of unrest and even distrust. It would seem, what the world needed was love.

Hal David, in considering many of these, wrote a song entitled “What the World Needs Now Is Love.” The world is and was in need of love. And the apostle Paul give us a very good description much going on, even today, it seems those words ring just as true. While many would have us believe love is not necessary but there is not a person who does not need love and who does not need to love others.

Thoughts on Love

The story is told about a little old man who sold small boxes made of cement which, according to his claim, contained something that could mend all family hurts and broken hearts. Some laughed claiming he a shyster; however, those who purchased one of his small cement boxes for a small price found a small piece of paper inside. On the paper was written the word: LOVE. Indeed, love is the cure for family hurts and broken hearts.

Jesus wrote: “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:35). Peter wrote, “love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:8). These passages tell us, we must have and we must show our love.

Henry Van Dyke wrote: “Love is not getting but giving; not a wild dream of pleasure and a madness of pleasure and a madness of desire—oh, no—love is not that! It is goodness and honor, and peace and pure living–yes, love is that and is the best thing in the world, and the thing that lives the longest.”

The apostle Paul stated this about love: “But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:13); i.e. there is nothing greater in the world than love! So, let us consider HOW Paul describes love in this chapter.

Characteristics of Love

Love is patient. Love is patient because love has a long-fuse and has the ability of self-restraint (Gal 5:23).

Love is kind. Our attitudes and actions will show kindness to others (Matt 7:12; Eph 4:32).

Love envies no one. However,love delights in the others welfare and happiness (Phil 2:4).

Love is never boastful. Real love does not contain one’s boasting of self; i.e. about one’s greatness, because love respects and regards others with high esteem (Phil 2:3).

Love is not conceited. It is love that keeps the individual from being stuck on his own importance. Why? Because love sees others as important too. When self-centered we can never please God (1 Cor 8:1-2).

Love is not rude. Rather love is gentle which is the opposite of rudeness. Love is swift to hear, slow to speak, and treats others as God commands (Jas 1:19).

Love is not selfish. Agape love is not interested in what one can get but giving what is best for others. Another way to look at this point is, one who loves does not promote his own interest (1 Cor 10:24).

More Characteristics of Love

Love is not quick to take offense. No “chips on one’s shoulder.” Not quickly angered and moved to wrath, but calmness.

Love thinks no evil. One does not keep a score of another’s wrongs nor imputes the motives of another. Love is not an arbitrary love (cf. Matt. 7:1).

Love does not gloat over the misfortunes of others. True love never gloats when hearing a wrong in another’s life; i.e. it finds no Pleasure in gossip (cf. Romans 1:32).

Love delights in the truth. Love “buys the truth and sells it not” (Proverbs 23:23), because of its value of giving freedom (John 8:32).

Love believes all things. Therefore, love accepts all of God’s truths and believes the best about others.

Love hopes all things. Love hopes all that things will go well for others, because love cares.

Love endures all things. Love can enable one to bear up under, sustains, and does not murmur. Regardless how others treat us, we will not stop loving them. In other words, love is steadfast. In New Testament times, the word “endure” described a soldier holding or keeping his ground in the worst of battle.

Conclusion

Love never fails. Consider in your personal life the number of things, which no longer remain with you because they are temporary. But Love lasts forever.

Love is the greatest. We say this about love because that is what God says, “The greatest of these is love” (1 Corinthians 13:1 3). Consider loves influence for good and happiness; yet having the power to benefit self, others, and to overcome evil. However, we are commanded, “follow after love” (1 Corinthians 14:1).

Celsus, who was an early critic of Christianity, said: “These Christians love each other even before they are acquainted.” This gives meaning to: “By this shall all men know you are My disciples, if you have love one to another” (John 13:35). What the world needs now is love.

Are You Listening?

Several years ago, I was at a truck stop in Las Vegas, NV and woke up not feeling well.

After attending to necessities, I walked into the restaurant and took a seat at one of the tables. In just a few moments, a server passed by on her way to another table. She did speak though. She said, “How are you this morning?” My response was “terrible” because as I have said, I did not feel well.

Without slowing down, she continued heading to the next table. However, she did respond to my comment. She said, “That’s good.” In her defense, she did come by later and question what I had said and apologized for her response.

However, the above story illustrates the fact many times, people aren’t really listening. Either they’ve already made up their minds what they’re going to say, or they’re not truly interested in what someone else is saying. Amazingly, even those who claim to be students of the Bible are guilty of this. Yet, the Bible has a lot to say about listening. Consider these passages.

Wisdom personified as a woman calls for people to listen to her advice. She said, “Now then, my sons, listen to me And do not depart from the words of my mouth” (Prov. 5:7).

Solomon advises young people to listen to their parents’ counsel. “A wise son accepts his father’s discipline, But a scoffer does not listen to rebuke” (Prov. 13:1).

Repeatedly in the Old Testament, God speaks to his people through the prophets, begging them to listen to his instructions and warnings. “Listen to Me, O house of Jacob, And all the remnant of the house of Israel, You who have been borne by Me from birth And have been carried from the womb” (Isa. 46:3).

God very forcefully made it clear that Jesus was now the authority to which one is to listen: “…This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well-pleased; listen to Him” (Matt. 17:5)!

Jesus often began his sermons or parables with an instruction to listen. “After He called the crowd to Him again, He began saying to them, ‘Listen to Me, all of you, and understand’” (Mark 7:14).

In the letters written to the churches in Revelation 2-3, Jesus said, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches”.

James said that we should be “quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” (James 1:19). Unfortunately, the reverse is usually true. We’re usually slow to listen and quick to speak which directly impacts our anger. So many situations and feelings of frustration and anger could be avoided by just listening.

When it comes to our relationship with others, it’s critical we show them enough respect to listen to them. They have something to say, and they’re important. Paul advised that we consider others better than ourselves (Phil. 2:3-4), and that includes listening to what they have to say.

Many arguments are based upon misunderstanding; therefore, it pays to listen. By listening, we can come to understand the other person. It may be that you thought one thing, but the other person said something else. Listening gives insight into the other person and will prevent many misunderstandings and poor judgments.

Listening also helps to control emotions. Being quiet and hearing the other person can help in keeping your anger in check. Move and speak slowly and deliberately instead of giving in to the heat of passion.

And when it comes to our relationship with God, it’s critical that we listen with the intention of acting upon his instructions. At the end of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives an analogy of listen with the intent of obeying or listening without hearing (Matt. 7:24-27).

It does us no good if we hear what Jesus says but don’t obey.

Listening is a lost art among many. May it not be the case with us.