What I Learned from My Grandfather

WHAT I LEARNED FROM MY GRANDFATHER

By Wayne S. Walker

     [Note:  This article is a biography-tribute regarding my grandfather, Glen Workman, a little-known gospel preacher in southern Ohio.  When he passed away in 1979, I wrote nothing about him in the papers published by brethren at that time.  About fifteen years later, I finally got around to putting some information together which I presented along with four main points in a sermon to the congregation where I was laboring at the time, and the brethren really seemed to appreciate it.  This article is a result of that lesson and contains that material.  WSW]

One can learn many good things from his grandparents.  Please consider what Moses said in Exodus 10:6 regarding the plague of locusts on Egypt.  “They shall fill your houses, the houses of all your servants, and the houses of all the Egyptians—which neither your fathers nor your fathers’ fathers have seen, since the day that they were on the earth to this day.”  This indicates that God considered the knowledge of “your fathers’ fathers” important even among the people of Egypt.

I hope that everyone has as pleasant memories of his or her grandparents as I have of mine.  Of course, some have never had the privilege of knowing their grandparents, and that is unfortunate.  Several people who are grandparents have told me that having grandchildren is one of their greatest blessings.  But speaking from the standpoint of having been a grandchild, I can say that having had good grandparents is a great blessing too.  Just think of Timothy and his grandmother Lois.

Certainly the most beneficial situation is when one’s grandparents are faithful Christians.  And, except possibly for my grandfather Lawrence Walker, whom I never really ever knew because he died when I was just two years old, all of my grandparents were members of the Lord’s church.  In fact, my Grandfather Workman, my mother’s father, was a faithful gospel preacher.  Not a lot of brethren knew him.  He did not hold many evangelistic meetings.  He did not preach in large congregations with fancy buildings and huge contributions.  He did not write articles and reports for the leading brotherhood publications.  He never edited a mass circulation bulletin.  He was content to live in the country and work with a small, rural church.  But he taught me a lot of worthwhile things, and for that I am still very grateful to him.

Charles Glen Workman, called Glen by his family and friends, was born on Oct. 29, 1896, in Clay Township, somewhere between Pricetown and Buford, in Highland County, southern Ohio, the son of William Wirt and Mary Susan (Hopkins) Workman.  While still a boy, he moved with his parents and older sister Edith to the family farm which his father purchased from a relative, near East Danville (or Winkle) in Whiteoak Township, also in Highland County.  They became members of the nearby Union Chapel Church of Christ, which we would identify as a Christian Church, but which was much more conservative then than the Christian Church is today.  His education was obtained from the nearby one-room Shofner School and from Whiteoak High School in Mowrystown.  Then on Oct. 27, 1927, just two days before his 31st birthday, he was married to Mildred M. Holladay.  To this union were born four daughters—Mary Ellen Walker, my mother, now deceased; Lois Mae McMillan, also deceased; Ruth Edith (Mann) Carpenter; and Joann Bohrer.

During his early life, my grandfather made his living as a farmer, a school bus driver, and a school teacher, also did some plumbing, and pursued his hobby of carpentry.  But he was always deeply interested in spiritual matters.  He obeyed the gospel while still a young man, probably being baptized in Whiteoak Creek which ran through the family farm as well as beside the Union church building.  My grandmother was a Methodist when they married, but just three years later, through my grandfather’s influence and teaching, she too was baptized into Christ.  At one point, he served as an elder in the Union church.  However, later in life, he decided that he wanted to preach the gospel.  So he enrolled at Cincinnati Bible Seminary and studied Bible under R. C. Foster.

He began preaching at the May Hill Church of Christ near Seaman in Adams County, OH, which again we would identify as a Christian Church, on Sept. 2, 1951, and continued there through Dec. 28, 1952.  His first sermon was entitled, “Why I Preach the Gospel.”  I still have his notes on that sermon and have even used his outline before.  On Jan. 4, 1953, he, my grandmother, and my Aunt Jo moved to Deming County, KY, near Mount Olivet, where he started work with the Christian Church in the small town of Piqua (pronounced pick-way in Kentucky) and continued there through Aug. 14, 1955.  During this time, my parents lived on the Workman family farm in Highland County, and that is where they were when I was born.

When my grandfather finished his work at Piqua, KY, and moved back to his farm in Ohio, he had grown very dissatisfied with the Christian Church and so began visiting with the (non-instrumental) Park Ave. church of Christ in Hillsboro (now known as the Northside church).  After continued study and discussion, one Sunday in 1955 my grandparents went down the aisle at Park Ave., confessed their error in worshipping with the Christian Church, and became identified with the non-denominational, New Testament church of Christ.  Then on Dec. 15, 1955, Grandfather began his labor with the Mt. Zion church of Christ near Belfast southeast of Hillsboro in rural Highland County, OH, where he continued for the next eighteen years.  Interestingly enough, the May Hill church, where he began his preaching work, had resulted from a division that had occurred around the turn of the twentieth century in the Mt. Zion church where he ended his labors.

Sometime in the early 1960s, they even sold the family farm to my Aunt Jo and her husband and bought a house in Belfast so they could be nearer the church.  I should say bought the shell of a house which my grandfather, with his knowledge of carpentry, rebuilt into one of the quaintest and coziest homes that I have ever been in.  But on Dec. 24, 1971, my grandmother had a massive stroke.  After that, I did some of my first regular preaching at Mt. Zion, filling in for Grandpa whenever Grandma’s situation and needs kept him from speaking, until I left for college in Aug., 1972.  Taking care of my grandmother began to wear on my grandfather’s health (he was now 75).  Thus, in the summer or early fall of 1973, he finally gave up his work with the Mt. Zion church.  They moved into Hillsboro and once again identified with the Park Ave./Northside church, where he continued to speak occasionally as opportunities arose.

Grandpa and Grandma celebrated their golden wedding anniversary in 1977, at which time they had nineteen grandchildren and one great-grandchild (another great-grandchild was born shortly thereafter).  But late the following year Grandpa came down with a cold that just would not go away.  After several tests were run, it was confirmed in February of 1979 that he had Hodgkin’s disease.  Eventually he was taken to Jewish Hospital in Cincinnati, OH, where he died on Mar. 22, 1979, at the age of 83.  My mother, her three sisters, and I, his oldest grandson, were all present at his death.  It has been a number of years since my grandfather died, yet I still miss him and think of him often.  My grandmother, continuing to suffer the effects of her stroke, survived until her death four years later on Mar. 3, 1983.  But enough about Glen Workman’s life.  Now I want to share with you what I learned from my grandfather.

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First, my grandfather taught me to test all things by the Scriptures.  It was his love for, knowledge of, and determination to stand on the Scriptures that led him to recognize the error of the Christian Church and identify with the truth.  And that same emphasis on the Scriptures characterized all of his life and his preaching.

The Scriptures were given by inspiration for our benefit that we might know what God wants us to do (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  Thus, these Scriptures must be the standard by which we test all beliefs, teachings, and practices in religion with which we come into contact (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22, 1 John 4:1).  Only those who base their religious faith, doctrine, and activity on the doctrine found in the Scriptures can be assured of pleasing God (2 John vs. 9-11).

Second, my grandfather taught me to use wisdom in making decisions.  I firmly believe that my grandfather was a very wise man, whose wisdom was born of the maturity and experience that come with age, coupled with a firm trust in God’s word.  He always seemed to approach matters with a great deal of practical insight, common sense, and patience.  Over the years I have had preachers (and preachers’ wives) who knew Grandpa tell me that when they faced some problem or difficult decision and went to him, he encouraged them to look at all sides and not act rashly.

And this is good advice for anyone at almost any time and place.  Certainly God wants His people to be characterized by wisdom in the lives which they lead (Ephesians 5:15-17).  Especially in our relationships with the people of this world, among whom we are to be an influence for good, we need to walk wisely in both deed and word (Colossians 4:5-6).  Of course, we are all going to make some mistakes at times, but in every situation that we face, we need to be constantly looking to God for the wisdom that is from above so that we can treat others right, be righteous examples, and accomplish as much good while doing as little harm as possible (James 1:5, 3:17-18).

Third, my grandfather taught me to think for myself.  Through the years my grandfather heard a number of different gospel preachers, listened to several debates, read some of the papers published by brethren, consulted various commentaries and religious books, and in general did whatever he could to learn what other people were saying.  But he never followed anyone or anything slavishly.  He obtained whatever good he felt he could and discarded anything he believed was not beneficial.  And since he knew that I wanted and planned to preach, this was something that he was always trying to instill in me.

The fact that something has been around long enough for it to become a “tradition” does not necessarily make it wrong, but we always need to make sure that we are not simply following the traditions of mere men (Matthew 15:7-9).  In fact, while we certainly can and should learn from what men have said and done, we should never put our trust in fallible mortals because even the best of them can let us down (1 Corinthians 4:6).  Therefore, like the Bereans, we must never accept what anyone says just because of who says it, but study for ourselves to make sure that it is in harmony with God’s will (Acts 17:11-12).

Finally, my grandfather taught me to be able to disagree without being disagreeable.  In the course of our discussions on various topics, I found that my grandfather and I disagreed about some things.  While he was opposed to instrumental music in the worship of the church, he felt that a Christian could sing hymns to the accompaniment of an instrument outside the assembly, whereas I do not believe that one can.  We also had differences of opinion on certain aspects of the divorce and remarriage issue.  But the point is that we could disagree on these subjects and even express our disagreements as we discussed them, yet still not be mean or ugly about it.

On the one hand, we must recognize that there are many issues facing God’s people, some from without and some from within, the preaching and practicing of which involve folks in soul-damning error, and which we must, publicly and forcefully, oppose (Romans 16:17-18).  On the other hand, there are issues which involve only personal conscience and application, or beliefs which, even if wrong, a person may hold as a matter of private conviction without actually teaching error or practicing sin.  Paul dealt with some principles governing these types of situations in Romans 14:1-6, 19, 22-23.  And even when we find circumstances where we must strongly oppose someone whom we believe to be in error to the point that we cannot have fellowship with him, there is still never any occasion to be unkind, nasty, and malicious in our treatment of him (Ephesians 4:31, Colossians 3:8).

Usually when we hear the term “pioneer preacher,” we think of such individuals as Thomas and Alexander Campbell, Walter Scott, Barton W. Stone, and “Raccoon” John Smith, who in this country pioneered the way out of denominationalism back to the Bible.  Or we may picture such colorful characters as Jefferson Davis Tant, Joe S. Warlick, W. Curtis Porter, or W. W. Otey, who proclaimed the gospel so forcefully among the pioneers as they moved west.  My grandfather was not a pioneer preacher in either of these senses, but he helped pioneer our family to know and obey God’s word.  Something for which every Christian can and should be grateful is the good influence in his life of his family or at least those who have taught him the way of the Lord and provided a good example.  Therefore, I thought that I would share with our readers, by way of illustration, some things that I learned from my grandfather.

—taken from Faith and Facts; January, 1994; Vol. 22, No. 1; pp. 56-61

A Wonderful Legacy

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A WONDERFUL LEGACY

By Wayne S. Walker

     While doing some random Internet surfing earlier this year, imagine my surprise when I came across the following note by Harold Savely, a gospel preacher then of Nashville, Tennessee, in The Gospel Guardian, August 2, 1956 (I was about two and a half at the time).

     Thanks to Bordeaux for time off for the Hillsboro, Ohio meeting. The church there is small (18 members), and overshadowed by digression. Our efforts resulted in one baptism and two to identify with the congregation. It was nice to be associated with faithful members there who treated me with no better hospitality to be found anywhere.

     While at Hillsboro, I had a wonderful visit in the home of Brother Glenn Workman, who recently left the Christian Church and preaches in the county. A man of no little experience, 59 years old, he gave me the following reasons as to why he left the Digressives. The Christian Church is distinguished with: (1) A diminishing authority of elders over the congregations. This is brought about by a “board of deacons and elders” jointly running affairs of the church. Since deacons are in majority, they exercise control of the churches. (2) Rise of Ladies’ Aids. He found them harder to remove, once established, than a piano. (3) Rise of entertainments and recreations palmed off as work of the church. He saw that if people had to be entertained to get, they had to be entertained to keep. (4) Rise of institutional problems within the church; such as encampments, colleges, homes, missionary societies, etc. Colleges, for instance, trains and sends out preachers in return for more funds from the churches. (5) Fruits of instrumental music always causes a warfare within. Feuds come over the size, type, cost of instrument, who shall play it, whether it is played at the Lord’s Supper, prayer, etc. Change of arguments to defend its practice led him to study to see its condemnation. (6) Leaving God’s way of raising money for every conceivable scheme, even to hiring professional outside money raising institutions to do the work for them. He lamented that the Gospel Advocate is becoming like the Christian Standard! “Non-hobbyist” brethren ought to take notice.

Hillsboro, OH, is my hometown, and Glen Workman was my grandfather who in 1956 left the Christian Church and began preaching with the Mt. Zion church of Christ located out in the countryside of Highland County, Ohio, south of Hillsboro near the town of Belfast, where he continued until his retirement in late 1973.  He lived from 1896 to 1979.

—in Search for Truth; Oct. 9, 2016; Vol. VIII, No. 10; p. 1

Mildred H. Workman

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MILDRED WORKMAN

By Wayne S. Walker

     [Note:  When my Grandmother Workman died in 1983, I wrote an article about her passing which appeared in the April 7, 1983, edition of Guardian of Truth (Vol. XXVII, No. 7; pp. 26-27).  Although placed in the “Obituaries” section, it was not intended so much to be a eulogy of her life as it was a reflection on her passing.  It may have been published previously in the church bulletin at Medina, OH, where I was then located, and is based on the remarks I made while preaching her funeral.  WSW.]

On March 3, 1983, one of the sweetest and loveliest ladies on earth, Mrs. Mildred Holladay Workman, my own maternal grandmother, passed away in her sleep.  Two days later she would have been 76 years old.  Although she was a stroke victim and had suffered the effects of that for over ten years, she was doing relatively well at the time of her passing.  Grandmother meant a great deal to me.  During the time that I was growing up, she and my grandfather were a constant source of help, encouragement, and affection to me, their oldest grandson, and I will always appreciate that very much.

However, the purpose of this article is not so much to talk about her.  She was a faithful Christian, and that is all that needs to be said about her life.  She was raised in a Methodist home, but there was a time when she heard the gospel of Christ and believed it, repented of her sins, confessed her faith in Jesus as Lord, and was baptized into Christ for the remission of her sins.  And though her later years were spent in a nursing home, she continued steadfast.   Until the last couple of months of her life when she was afflicted by an additional painful illness, she attended worship services on Sundays every time she was able.

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     Her life speaks for itself.   But there are several things which we can learn from her death.  In Ecclesiastes 7:2, Solomon wrote, “It is better to go to the house of mourning, than to go to the house of feasting: for that is the end of all men; and the living will lay it to heart.”  What lessons are there for us in the house of mourning as we grieve for a lost loved one?

We can learn about the very nature of life itself.  God is the ultimate source of all life.  James 1:17 says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variableness or shadow of turning.”  Even though it cannot be explained by scientists, we believe that when we are conceived God breathes into our nostrils the breath of life just as He did for Adam in Genesis 2:7.  Yet, when one who is near and dear to us passes away, especially when it is rather sudden, we are reminded of what James wrote in James 4:14, “Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow.  For what is your life?  It is even a vapour that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.”  This earthly life is so frail and fragile.

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     Also, we learn about death, because when life ceases, death takes place.  James 2:26 tells us, “The body without the spirit is dead.”  According to Ecclesiastes 12:9, the body returns to the dust whence it came and the spirit to the control of God who gave it.  For many, such as my grandmother, death is a welcome relief from pain and suffering.  And for all Christians, it is the opportunity to do what Paul desired to do in Philippians 1:12, “to depart, and to be with Christ, which is far better.”  Yet death is also referred to as an enemy of mankind (1 Corinthians 15:25-26).  It is not an enemy to deceased believers for they are in a far better place.  Rather, it is an enemy to those left behind because it separates us from our loved ones.  This sense of loss which our Savior saw at the tomb of Lazarus was the reason why “Jesus wept” in John 11:35.  Even though He knew full well that He would raise His friend from the dead again, He sorrowed with those who suffered grief.  However, according to Hebrews 2:14-15, Jesus came “that through death, he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.”  Because of this, we can say with David, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me” (Psalm 23:4).

Then, we learn about hope, because the death and resurrection of Jesus bring hope.  Christians have many blessings in this life (Ephesians 1:3).  One of these is loving brethren to comfort us in times of trial and tribulation (1 Thessalonians 4:18).  Another is what 1 Peter 3:3-4 calls “a living hope” of “an inheritance incorruptible, undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you.”  Through trust in God and confidence in His word, we know that by faith in Christ and obedience to His will, we can be reunited in a place where we shall never have to worry about being parted again.  For this reason, Paul referred to it as a “blessed hope” in Titus 2:11-14, and 2 Peter 3:13 says, “We, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth” where all this will take place.  May God grant us the strength to live in such a way as to love, serve, and please Him, that we might also have this hope by which we can   be saved, as Paul wrote in Romans 8:24.

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     My grandmother was preceded in death by her beloved husband, Glen Workman who was a gospel preacher for many years.  Many friends and brethren have offered their condolences and sorrow.  Yet, we do not sorrow “as others which have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13).  Certainly death is not a time for frivolity or gaiety, and there is nothing wrong with mourning—it is entirely natural for such an occasion.  But at the same time, we can be “rejoicing in hope” (Romans 12:12) because of the promises of Jesus Christ.

The unknown poet expressed this hope so well when he wrote:

That sweetest, dearest tie that binds

Our glowing hearts in one,

That sacred hope that tunes our minds

To harmony divine:

It is the hope, the blissful hope,

That Jesus’ grace has given,

The hope when days and years are passed

We all shall meet in heaven.

It is my prayer that all of us may conduct our lives in such a way so that we can be found acceptable in God’s sight, as Grandmother always sought to do, and when it comes our time to follow her in death that we might have the same joyful expectation that she did.

—taken from Guardian of Truth; April 7, 1983; Vol. XXVII, No. 7; pp. 26-27

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Church Music in the Bible No. 2

CHURCH MUSIC IN THE BIBLE NO. 2

By Wayne S. Walker

     Some people get upset when a gospel preacher presents a sermon or writes an article on instrumental music in worship.  I once knew a person, a member of the Lord’s church no less, who was all put out because a fellow used a whole sermon to oppose using the instrument in worship.  Certainly we should not become hobby-riders on this or any other subject, but even though the division between the Christian Church and churches of Christ is past, there is still a need to teach on instrumental music in worship.  First of all, denominational friends who visit our services frequently ask why we have no piano, and every child of God should be ready and able to give an answer.  Secondly, there are some brethren (and I’m not talking about new converts but a growing number of preachers) who no longer believe that instrumental music in worship is wrong.  They may say that it is unwise, inexpedient, or against our tradition, but they will not affirm that it is sinful.  And third, we need to teach our children what the Bible has to say about church music lest they grow up and fail to recognize the truth.

References to music in the Bible

     The first reference in the Bible to music is in Genesis 4:21 where Moses wrote that Jubal was the father of all that handle the harp and the organ (flute).  This would seem to indicate that he was the inventor of many of the instruments used before the flood.  The first reference to music in regards to the Hebrew people is in Exodus 15:1 and 20.  Following their deliverance from their Egyptian pursuers, the Israelites under Moses’s leadership sang a song of praise to God.  After this, Miriam and the women praised God with timbrels (a type of musical instrument) and dances.  We know from various passages (e.g., 1 Chronicles 23:1-5, Psalm 150:3-5) that instrumental music was used in temple worship from David’s time, but historians tell us that it was not used in synagogue worship.  This answers the quibble of some that the Jews on Pentecost when the church was established grew up using instruments in worship and would not have known how to praise God otherwise.

So we see that the majority of references in the Old Testament to music are to instrumental.  Under the law of Moses, God apparently did permit it in worship.  But all New Testament musical references for worship by Christians are to singing.  Read Matthew 26:30, Mark 14:26, Acts 16:25, Romans 15:9, 1 Corinthians 14:15, Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16, Hebrews 2:12, and James 5:13 (a previous article dealt with Revelation 14:1-3 and 15:1-3).  Notice that all these passages mention only singing or vocal music, and none of them says anything about playing on a mechanical instrument of music.  This silence alone is very significant and should cause us to tread very carefully.

Music in the early church

       The period from about A.D. 33 to 100 is referred to as the “Apostolic Period.”  “We have seen that at the very beginning of the Christian period the Church eschewed all use of instruments in its services” (Theodore M. Finney, A History of Music, 1947).   “Since no instruments were allowed in the church the art of choral music had the monopoly for fifteen hundred years after the beginning of Christianity” (Ruth Pushee, Music in the Religious Service, 1938).  “The music of the early Christian churches was entirely vocal, with little regard for instruments of any kind.  In fact, the early church fathers, such as Clement of Alexandria, St. Chrysostom, St. Ambrose, St. Augustine, strongly denounced the use of instruments with sacred singing” (Kenneth W. Osbeck, The Ministry of Music, 1961).   “Although Josephus tells of the wonderful effects produced in the temple by the use of instruments, the first Christians were of too spiritual fibre to substitute lifeless instruments for or to use them to accompany the human voice.  Clement of Alexandria severely condemns the use of instruments” (The Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 10, p. 651).

The period from about A.D. 100 to 250 is often called the “Post-Apostolic Period.”  “Here we have the first mention of musical instruments in the Psalms.  It is to be observed that the early fathers almost with one accord protest against their use in churches; as they are forbidden in the Eastern church to this day, where yet, by the consent of all, the singing is infinitely superior to anything that can be heard in the West” (John Mason Neale, 1818-1866).  “The use of singing with instrumental music was not received in the Christian churches as it was among the Jews in their infant state, but only the use of plain song” (Justin Martyr, A.D. 100-167).  “Only one instrument do we use, namely, the word of peace wherewith we honor God, no longer the old psaltery, trumpet, drum, and flute” (Clement of Alexandria, A.D. 170-220).

Even of a little later period, say from A. D. 250 to 400, the German Lutheran church historian Johann Lorenz von Mosheim (1693-1755) informs us, “The Christian worship consisted in hymns, prayers, the reading of the Scriptures, a discourse addressed to the people, and concluded with the celebration of the Lord’s Supper.”  He makes no mention of anyone playing on a mechanical instrument of music.  “All early Christian music was vocal” (Nich Rossi and Sadie Rafferty in Music Through the Centuries, 1963).  “The Christians in early Rome sang their hymns entirely unaccompanied.  They possessed no instruments, in fact musical instruments were in bad repute with them….The  custom of singing without accompaniment, or a capella, was retained for centuries in the Catholic Church” (Grace G. Wiln, A History of Music, 1930).

If instrumental music was not part of the early church, when was it introduced?

     “In the Greek Church the organ never came into use.  But after the eighth century it became more and more common in the Latin Church; not, however, without opposition from the side of the monks.  Its misuse, however, raised so great an opposition to it, that, but for Emperor Ferdinand, it would probably have been abolished by the Council of Trent.  The Reformed Church discarded it; and though the Church of Basel very early reintroduced it, it was in other places admitted only sparingly, and after long hesitation” (Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, p. 1702).  This plainly shows that it was not used in the first few centuries of the church but was added later and, therefore, was not of apostolic authority.

“Pope Vitalian is related to have first introduced organs into some of the churches of Western Europe, about 670; but the earliest trustworthy account is that of the one sent as a present by the Greek emperor, Constantine Copronymus, to Pepin, king of the Franks, in 755” (The American Encyclopedia, Vol. 12, p.  688).  “The organ is said to have been first introduced into church music by Pope Vitalian  I in 666.  In 757, a great organ was sent as a present to Pepin by the Byzantine emperor, Constantine Copronymus, and placed in the church of St. Corneille at Compeigne.  Soon after Charlemagne’s time, organs became common” (Chamber’s Encyclopedia, Vol. 7, p. 112).

Why, then, was instrumental music introduced into worship?  The answer to this is not precisely known, but there are several possible reasons.  One may have been to keep the pagan-minded converts happy by incorporating elements of their heathen religion into the church.  The Catholics have been doing this for ages.  Another may have been to spruce up the music of the church and make it more pleasing to entertainment-seeking worshippers.  Or it could have been done to draw bigger crowds and perhaps thereby to get more members.  But you can rest assured that instrumental music never found its way into the worship of the church because someone read about it in God’s pattern for the worship of His church as revealed in the New Testament and decided that it was right.

Testimony of church leaders

     Most religious denominations today use instruments of music in their worship.  But what most members of these organizations do not know is that many of the founders, early leaders, and scholars of their churches were opposed to the instrument in worship, or at least admitted that it is not of divine authority.  Take, for example, the Catholic Church.  “Our church does not use musical instruments, as harps and psalteries, to praise God withal, that she may not seem to Judaize….Instrumental music as well as singing is mentioned in the Old Testament, but the church has accepted only singing on account of its ethical value; instruments were rejected” (Thomas Aquinas, 1225-1274).  “What does the apostle mean by ‘in your hearts’?  He means that no one should think to please God by bellowing, or by modulated neighing, or by the organs which now blast in our churches….Let us sing as Christ did with His disciples and as Paul and Silas did in prison….Chants…mass…the primitive church had none of this, nor organs” (Desiderius Erasmus, 1466-1536, commenting on Ephesians 5:19).

As mentioned in quotations previously, the Eastern Orthodox Church (Greek, Russian, etc.) does not use musical instruments in worship.  “The execution of Byzantine church music by instruments, or even the accompaniment of sacred chanting by instruments, was ruled out by the Eastern Fathers as being incompatible with the pure, solemn, spiritual character of the religion of Christ.  The Fathers of the church, in accordance with the example of psalmodizing of our Savior and the holy Apostles, established that only vocal music be used in the churches and forbade instrumental music as being secular and hedonic, and in general as evoking pleasure without spiritual value” (G. I. Papadopoulos, A Historical Survey of Byzantine Ecclesiastical Music, 1904).  There are also some Protestant denominations, such as the Reformed Presbyterian, most Primitive Baptists, Conservative Mennonites, Amish, and Plymouth Brethren, which believe that instrumental music in worship is wrong.

Did you know that while Martin Luther apparently made allowances for the instrument he was not an advocate of it?  “Luther considers organs among the ensigns of Baal” (Heinrich Eckard, a German theologian who argued in favor of instrumental music against Calvin).  “There is no reason to suppose that Luther had any interest in the organ.  His voluminous writings scarcely mention the instrument, and when he does, he treats it almost with scorn” (Dr. Edwin Liemohn, who in 1937 founded the choir of Wartburg College, Waverly, IA, and was its first music director).  “The organ too had made its way into the service despite opposition….Even Luther was less than sure about its use” (Conrad J, Bergendoff, 1895–1997, a Lutheran theologian and historian who was the fifth president of Augustana College in Rock Island, IL).  As for the Episcopalian Church (originally the Church of England), two of the best Anglican scholars wrote concerning Ephesians 5:19, “When you meet, let your enjoyment consist not in fullness of wine, but fullness of spirit; let your songs be, not the drinking songs of heathen feasts, but psalms and hymns; and their accompaniment, not the music of the lyre, but the melody of the heart; while you sing them to the praise, not of Bacchus or Venus, but of the Lord Jesus Christ” (W. J. Coneybeare and J. S. Howson, The Life and Epistles of St. Paul).

The Presbyterian-Reformed tradition’s best known champion was John Calvin, who wrote, “Musical instruments in celebrating the praises of God would be no more suitable than the burning of incense, the lighting of lamps, and the restoration of the other shadows of the law.  The Papists, therefore, have foolishly borrowed this, as well as many other things from the Jews.  Men who are fond of outward pomp may delight in that noise; but the simplicity which God recommends to us by the apostles is far more pleasing to Him.”  John Gireardeau, a Presbyterian scholar and professor at Columbia Theological Seminary, said, “The church, although lapsing more and more into deflection from the truth and into a corruption of apostolic practice, had not instrumental music for 1,200 years (that is, it was not in general use before this time)….The Calvinist Reformed church ejected it from its services as an element of Popery, even the Church of England having come very nigh to its extrusion from her worship….It is heresy in the sphere of worship.”  And one other famous Presbyterian, the commentator Albert Barnes, noted, “Psallo…is used in the New Testament only in Rom. 15:9 and 1 Cor. 14:15, where it is translated sing; in James 5:13, where it is rendered sing psalms; and in the place before us.  The idea here is that of singing in the heart, or praising God from the heart” (comments on Ephesians 5:19).

So far as the Baptists are concerned, A. T. Robertson, a Southern Baptist Greek scholar, wrote, “The word (psalleto) originally meant to play on a stringed instrument…but it comes to be used also for singing with the voice and heart (Eph. 5:19, 1 Cor. 14:15), making melody with the heart also to the Lord” (Word Pictures in the New Testament).  One of the most outstanding Baptists of all time, Charles Haddon Spurgeon of the Metropolitan Tabernacle of London, England, said, “Men need all the help they can get to stir them up to praise.  This is the lesson to be gathered from the use of musical instruments under the old dispensation.  Israel was at school, and used childish things to help her learn, but in these days, when Jesus gives us spiritual manhood, we can make melody without strings and pipes….We do not need them; they would hinder than help our praise….What a degradation to supplant the intelligent song of the whole congregation by the theatrical prettiness of a quartet, the refined niceties of a choir, or the blowing off of wind from inanimate bellows and pipes!  We might as well pray by machinery as praise by it” (Treasury of David).

Even during what some refer to as “the restoration of the church” in this country, many of those to whom our Christian Church friends look with pride were opposed to instrumental music in worship.  “So to those who have no real devotion or spirituality in them, and whose animal nature flags under the oppression of church service, I think that instrumental music would be not only a desideratum, but an essential pre-requisite to fire up their souls even to animal devotion.  But I presume to all spiritually minded Christians, such aids would be as a cow-bell in a concert” (Alexander Campbell, Millennial Harbinger; Fourth Series, Vol. I., No. 10; October, 1851; pp. 581-582).  “And if any man who is a preacher believes that the apostle teaches the use of instrumental music in the church by enjoining the singing of psalms, he is one of those smatterers in Greek who can believe anything that he wishes to believe.  When the wish is father of the thought, correct exegesis is like water on a duck’s back” (J. W. McGarvey; Biblical Criticism, p. 116).

Conclusion

     I do not use these historical quotations as authority, nor as conclusive proof of my contention that instrumental music in worship is unscriptural.  I merely cite them as corroborating evidence.  The New Testament specifies singing in worship and is absolutely silent about instruments in the church.  History shows us that they were not used in the apostolic church and that great religious men of all ages have opposed them.  With all this information against them, why would anyone want to place his soul in jeopardy by using mechanical instruments in worship to God?

Due to the fact that many of my sources were secondary, I was not able to document fully each of the quotations, although I did my best to verify their accuracy.  Also space did not allow me to give complete credit for every single source.  However, I am much indebted for information to the following:  Roland Worth, “Instrumental Music in Religious History,” The Preceptor magazine, Sept. and Oct., 1976, Vol. 25, Nos. 11-12; Earl E. Robertson, “Instrumental Music in Worship,” Truth Magazine, Feb. 7, 14, Mar. 3, 10, 1077, Vol. 21, Nos. 7-10; M. C. Kurfees, Walking by Faith: Origin of Instrumental Music in Christian Worship; William S. Irvine, “Instrumental Music” (tract); and bulletin articles by John Gerrard and Irvin Himmel.

—taken from The Gospel Guardian; Vol. XXIX, No. 12; June 15, 1977; pp. 14-17

Church Music in the Bible No. 1

CHURCH MUSIC IN THE BIBLE NO. 1

By Wayne S. Walker

     One of the most noticeable differences between the Lord’s church, commonly referred to as the church of Christ, and the majority of denominational churches is the lack of mechanical instruments of music in worship.  I have heard people call us the “no music church.”  I have even heard some of our own members try to tell others why “we don’t have music.”  Statements like these are misleading because we do have music; however, it is vocal, not instrumental.  That music was a part of the worship of the apostolic church may be seen from passages such as 1 Corinthians 14:15.  In that verse, Paul includes singing, along with prayer, as he attempts to regulate how the Corinthians were to conduct their assemblies.  Let’s examine what the Bible has to say about church music.

I. Charges Made Against Us:

Reasons why others think that we do not use a piano, but which are wrong

     I read a newspaper column some years ago in which Billy Graham said that those who do not use instruments in worship have no joy in their religion.  This is false.  Through faith and obedience (Ephesians 2:8, 1 Peter 1:22) we have all spiritual blessings including forgiveness of sins (Ephesians 1:3, 7).  Therefore, Christians should be a happy people (Acts 8:39, Philippians 4:4).  One way in which this happiness is to find expression is in singing (James 5:13).  The question is not a matter of joy but of what God has said about how we are to express our joy in our worship.

Someone says, “It is only your tradition.”  In psychology this would be known as “sociological environmental determinism.”  The idea is that since instrumental music was used in pubs and brothels, and since it is found in false religious groups which we oppose, we have established the custom of not using it.  But if this were the only reason we object to it, we would stand condemned because Jesus taught that to preach mere human tradition as truth is wrong (Matthew 15:3-9).

Someone else may reason, “They must believe that all instrumental music itself is wrong; or they dislike it; or they personally prefer vocal.”  No, many Christians play instruments at home, in school, and even professionally.  And if I were in the business of establishing a church of my own, I would most certainly include them because I like that kind of music.  But Jesus built His church, and He has all authority in it as its Head (Matthew 16:18, 28:18; Ephesians 1:22-23).  In our worship, we must do what He says and not what we happen to prefer.

Another replies, “You probably cannot afford it.”  I can remember once as a child when one of my friends in school found out that we didn’t have instrumental music in worship of the church where we attended, he told me that he would pray for us that we could raise the money to buy a piano.  But if instrumental music in worship were right, and if we really wanted it badly enough, we would find a way to get it.

When all else fails, it is a common reaction to attack the person rather than the issue.  “Oh, you’re just a bunch of narrow-minded, prejudiced cranks and fanatics who want to be different from everybody else and revel in being unpopular.”  Not so.  From Acts 2:47 we learn that the early church had “favor with all the people.”  We would like that too, but there is something more important.  Peter said, “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).  And when it comes to being “narrow-minded,” Jesus said that the way to heaven is narrow (Matthew 7:13-14).  I want to be just as narrow as the Bible is.

II. The Real Reason:

Well, then, why do we not use instrumental music in our worship?

     The basic, primary, fundamental reason is that there is no divine authority for it.  The New Testament authorizes us to sing (Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16).  It says nothing about playing.  Acts 20:27 tells us to preach the whole counsel of God, meaning that we cannot do anything less than what God says.  On the other hand, 1 Corinthians 2:2 says that we are to preach nothing save Christ and Him crucified, indicating that we cannot do anything more.  In fact, we cannot change the word of God in any way (Galatians 1:6-9).  Adding to, subtracting from, or otherwise tampering with God’s will is wrong (Revelation 22:18-19).  Thus we try to do exactly what the Bible directs.  Those who would add playing to God’s commands to sing and so change the divine pattern for church music stand under the condemnation of these passages.

We need to understand the Biblical principle of silence.  In Hebrews 7:13-14, the writer points out God’s demand that the Jewish priests come from the tribe of Levi.  God was silent about priests from any other tribe.  The necessary conclusion which followed was that God did not want priests from the other tribes, or He would have said so.  He did not have to say, “Thou shalt not have a priest from Judah, etc.”  When God specified Levi, that automatically prohibited all the others.  Another example is Noah and the ark in Genesis 6:14.  God told Noah to build the ark out of gopher wood.  He said nothing about pine, oak, maple, or cedar.  He did not have to say, “Thou shalt not use ash, elm, birch, or beech.”  By specifying gopher, He necessarily excluded everything else.

In the New Testament we can examine the communion service.  In 1 Corinthians 11:23-25, Paul wrote that Jesus authorized the unleavened bread and the fruit of the vine used in the Passover for the Lord’s supper.  Christ didn’t say anything about other foods or drinks on the table.  He did not have to say, “Thou shalt not use cake, doughnuts, or biscuits and coffee, tea, or milk.”  He specified unleavened bread and the cup (grape juice), thus revealing that such was His will and nothing else.

In 2 Corinthians 5:7 we are told to walk by faith and not by sight.  Romans 10:17 tells us that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.  Therefore, to walk by faith, we must walk according to God’s word and not go beyond what it teaches.  “Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God.  He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son” (2 John v. 9).  Since God tells us to sing, and since the New Testament is silent about playing on an instrument, we cannot use instrumental music in worship and walk by faith.  Such is a transgression of God’s will.

III. Objections Raised:

Answering arguments which are used to defend instrumental music

     “David used it.”  Yes, he did (2 Chronicles 29:25-28).  But remember that the Old Testament has been removed as a source of authority (Hebrews 8:6-13, 10:9).  Besides, David also had concubines (1 Chronicles 3:1-9), danced before the Lord (2 Samuel 6:14-16)—both evidently with God’s permission, and participated in the Passover observance, animal sacrifices, and other Old Testament requirements.  The fact that David did something proves nothing.  But if someone today returns to the old law for even one practice, he must take it all, and in so doing he has fallen from grace (Galatians 5:3-4).

“There will be instrumental music at the second coming and in heaven (I Thessalonians 4:16, Revelation 14:1-3).”  First of all, remember that the book of Revelation is figurative in nature, written in signs and symbols (Revelation 1:1).  Just read Revelation 14:1-3 carefully.  Verse 3 says that they sang a new song.  The “sound of harpists playing their harps” simply symbolizes the beautiful nature of this heavenly music.  John also heard a voice as many waters and great thunder.  If there will be real instruments in heaven, will there also be real waterfalls and thunderstorms?  And even if these were literal instruments of music, what will occur at the second coming and in heave is not necessarily what Christ has authorized for the worship of the church here on earth.

The Greek word psallo and its related forms are supposed to include using an instrument when they are found in New Testament passages concerning church music.  It is true that at one time the term meant to pluck something—like a hair, a bow, or a string.  But all New Testament scholars agree that by the first century it had come to mean “sing a hymn; celebrate praise to God in song”—without regard to any instrumental accompaniment.  Furthermore, in Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16, the object of the action of psallo is not a harp string but the human heart.  Whatever the word means, it is done in the heart and not on a mechanical instrument.  In addition, every reputable translator has always rendered it “sing” or “make melody” with no indication about playing on an instrument.  Also, if psallo did mean play an instrument, then everyone would have to play since it is a collective verb that we do “to one another” in these passages.  And it would be a necessity; we could not obey the passages and do without it, yet I know of no one who will admit that.  Finally, since psallo originally meant to pluck, it is doubtful that a piano could be used since we do not actually pluck its strings, and an organ would be totally unsuitable since no plucking is involved whatsoever.

Is instrumental music an aid or an expedient to singing, like songbooks and pitch pipes?  To be expedient, a thing must first be proved to be lawful, and it cannot change the command or add to it in any way (1 Corinthians 6:12).  We do not prove something lawful merely because we claim that it is “expedient.”  Even though we may use songbooks and pitch pipes, we are still only doing exactly what God said—singing.  We are not singing AND songbooking or singing AND pitchpiping.  But to bring in an instrument changes the music from purely vocal to instrumental accompaniment, and thus adds playing, a different kind of music, to singing.  And after all, it really isn’t an aid anyway.  One purpose of singing is to teach and admonish one another, and a mechanical instrument can do neither.

When all other arguments have been answered, the proponents of instrumental music in worship will often ask, “But God didn’t say, ‘Thou shalt not use instrumental music in worship;’ where does the Bible say that it is wrong?”  We have already discussed this point, but let me re-emphasize it with a story.  A mother sent her boy to the store with a $5.00 bill, asked him to get a $2.50 jar of peanut butter for some cookies that she was going to bake, and told him to bring back the change.  He arrived at the market and bought the peanut butter.  But he saw some chocolate drops that looked really good for $2.50, and he said to himself, “Mother likes chocolate drops as well as peanut butter cookies, so I’ll get some of them too.”  When he returned home, his mother asked for the peanut butter and the change.  He proudly handed her the chocolate drops, but she said, “Son, I didn’t tell you to get chocolate drops.”  The boy replied, “Yes, but you didn’t say not to.”  He received a whipping anyway.

Where did God say, “Thou shalt not use hamburger and cola in the Lord’s supper”?  Where does the Bible say that fried chicken and lemonade on the Lord’s table are wrong?  Or where is the passage which specifically teaches that it is sinful to dance in the assembly or to burn incense in worship?  In order to please God, we must learn to act only as the Father has commanded (Matthew 7:21-23), to speak only as the oracles of God (1 Peter 4:11), and not to presume to go where God has not spoken.  “Now these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes; that in us ye might learn not to go beyond the things which are written; that no one of you be puffed up for the one against the other” (1 Corinthians 4:6, ASV).

There are other reasons given for having instrumental music in worship.  “Since we have liberty in Christ, we ought to be free to use it.”  But we cannot use our liberty as a cloak for disobedience (1 Peter 2:16).  “To object to it is to bind where God has not bound.”  But God has bound singing or vocal music, and we must also be careful not to loose where God has not loosed (Matthew 18:18).  “We use it because it pleases the worshippers; it’s entertaining, and we like the sound of it.  Paul asked if we are trying to please men or God (Galatians 1:10).  “I think it is all right; I don’t see anything wrong with it.”  Solomon wrote, “There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs 14:12).

Those of us who oppose instrumental music in worship are sometimes accused of judging.  “Judge not, that ye be not judged” (Matthew 7:1).  It is not our desire to judge the motives of people, but we are exhorted to “judge righteous judgment” (John 7:24).  “You preach too much on instrumental music and not enough on real soul-damning sins like atheism, drunkenness, and adultery.”  I doubt that this charge is true; it just seems that way to some.  We do preach on these other things, and maybe we need to teach some more than we do.  But even if the charge were true, it would not mean that we should quit preaching on instrumental music, nor would it give license for anyone to use it for worship in the absence of God’s authorization.  “Whosoever shall keep the whole law, yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:10).  If one is right about atheism, drunkenness, and adultery, yet is wrong about music in worship, he is still wrong.

“If we have a piano at home, why not in the church?”  In 1 Corinthians 7 and Ephesians 5, Paul tells husbands and wives what they may do at home, but it would not be proper for them to do some of those things in church!  In fact, Paul makes a very plain distinction between what may be done in the home and in the church (1 Corinthians 11:22).  “But some people have a God-given talent to play the piano, and we should use that talent in the worship.”  Some men have a great talent to grill hamburgers, and some women have a great talent to bake cherry pies; should we not use that talent in the Lord’s supper?  And what about the stripper who used her “God-given talent” in a Dallas, Texas, Unitarian Church?  The use of whatever talents we may have must be governed by the authority of Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16-17).  There are many other arguments we could cite, but like those above, none of them are based on Scripture.

I am not saying that everyone who believes that instrumental music in worship might be permissible under certain circumstances, or is not completely convinced that it is wrong, is necessarily lost.  There is a difference between what one may believe as a personal opinion and what he practices.  There are probably a lot of Christians—especially new converts—who worship regularly and are in fellowship with faithful New Testament churches of Christ but who have not made up their minds yet concerning instrumental music in worship.  If they are willing to remain part of a congregation without the instrument, work with those who oppose it, and not be contentious about it, I see no problem in accepting them as brethren.  But those who actively teach and practice the use of instrumental music in worship are in error and need to repent, correct their lives, and start following God’s way.  If a person truly loves Christ, he will want to do what the Lord says without quibbling, arguing, making excuses, or trying to get around God’s laws.  We must do exactly what Jesus wants—no more and no less—to please Him.  This is certainly true with regard to church music.

—taken from The Gospel Guardian; Vol. XXIX, No. 11; June 1, 1977; pp. 12-16

In the Days of Noah

IN THE DAYS OF NOAH

(Genesis 6:1-22)

By Wayne S. Walker

     The area in which I live, about 66 miles east from the mighty Mississippi River, is known for its share of floods.  In recent memory, there has been extensive flooding in 2008, 1993, and 1986.  Also, anyone familiar with American history has probably heard of the great Johnstown Flood of Pennsylvania in 1889, which killed some 2,209 people.  However, the greatest flood ever in the history of this earth took places in the days of Noah as recorded in Genesis 6:1-22.

First, we read about Noah’s world in verses 1-7:  “Now it came to pass, when men began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them, that the sons of God saw the daughters of men, that they were beautiful; and they took wives for themselves of all whom they chose.  And the Lord said, ‘My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.’ There were giants on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men and they bore children to them. Those were the mighty men who were of old, men of renown. Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.  And the Lord was sorry that He had made man on the earth, and He was grieved in His heart.  So the Lord said, ‘I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, creeping thing and birds of the air, for I am sorry that I have made them.’”

There is no basis upon which to conclude that angels were cohabiting with human women and producing giants.  In Matthew 22.30, Jesus said, “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels of God in heaven.”  This implies that angels do not engage in sexual intercourse.   Certainly, the text says that there were giants, but they were not necessarily the product of angel-human unions.  These “giants” are also referred to as “men of renown,” so they could have been giants metaphorically in the sense of being notable leaders or having great strength.  Even if they were giants physically, the fact is that human genetics allows that some people are simply larger than others.  Just consider the Watusi of East Africa as compared to their neighbors the Pygmies.

The term “sons of God” can sometimes refer to angels as it seems likely in Job 1:6, where we read, “Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the Lord, and Satan also came among them.”  However, here it most likely refers to the godly line of Seth who married daughters of man from the ungodly line of Cain and became corrupted.  Some have used this example to teach that it is a sin for a Christian to marry a non-Christian.   This is a question which has been much debated, but one thing is for sure.  It is always best for one who wants to be a faithful Christian to marry one who is a faithful Christian.  “A wife is bound by law as long as her husband lives; but if her husband dies, she is at liberty to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 7:39).

In any event, the main point of this passage is that all mankind, even the godly line, became corrupted by sin.  This illustrates the point made by Paul in Romans 3:23 as he writes, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.”  And in the days of Noah, God promised to punish those who lived in wickedness, just as He promises now that all who persist in sin today will be punished.  “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23).

Second, however, in contrast to the evil world we read about Noah’s character in verses 8-12:  “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.  This is the genealogy of Noah. Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations. Noah walked with God.  And Noah begot three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth. The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence.  So God looked upon the earth, and indeed it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth.”  Noah found favor with God.  Why?

The text says that he was just.  The word “just” means righteous.  Of course, none of us is perfectly righteous (Romans 3:9-10).  However, the general idea of being just or righteous is that of doing what is right in the sight of God.  “Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous: (1 John 3.7).  The opposite of righteousness is unrighteousness, doing what is not right in the sight of God, which is sin.  “All unrighteousness is sin, and there is sin not leading to death” (1 John 5.17).  While the world around him was characterized by wickedness and evil, Noah was noted for his aim to do what is right before God.

The text also says that Noah was perfect.  The word “perfect” does not necessarily mean absolutely sinless, since all responsible human beings, including Noah, have sinned.  Rather, it suggests being complete before God by being blameless.  In Genesis 17.1, we read “When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the Lord appeared to Abram and said to him, ‘I am Almighty God; walk before Me and be blameless.’”  The word “blameless” here is the same one translated “perfect” in Genesis 6:9 and is rendered “perfect” in the old King James Version.  Strong’s Concordance gives several terms like “without blemish,” “without spot,” “undefiled,” and “upright” to explain its meaning.  God would not command Abram to be something that it was impossible for him to be.  The Lord also tells us to be perfect in this sense. “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect” (Matthew 5.48).

And finally, the text says that Noah walked with God.  The same thing is said of Noah’s ancestor Enoch.  “Enoch lived sixty-five years, and begot Methuselah.  After he begot Methuselah, Enoch walked with God three hundred years, and had sons and daughters.  So all the days of Enoch were three hundred and sixty-five years.  And Enoch walked with God; and he was not, for God took him” (Genesis 5.21-24).  The Hebrew writer shows that this means that Enoch lived by faith and thus pleased God (Hebrews 11:5).  In other words, both Enoch and Noah served God faithfully.  We also are told to please God by walking in the light (1 John 1:5-7).

Third, we read about Noah’s instructions in verses 13-21:  “And God said to Noah, ‘The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with violence through them; and behold, I will destroy them with the earth.  Make yourself an ark of gopherwood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and outside with pitch.  And this is how you shall make it: The length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, its width fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits.  You shall make a window for the ark, and you shall finish it to a cubit from above; and set the door of the ark in its side. You shall make it with lower, second, and third decks.  And behold, I Myself am bringing floodwaters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life; everything that is on the earth shall die.  But I will establish My covenant with you; and you shall go into the ark—you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you.  And of every living thing of all flesh you shall bring two of every sort into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female.  Of the birds after their kind, of animals after their kind, and of every creeping thing of the earth after its kind, two of every kind will come to you to keep them alive.  And you shall take for yourself of all food that is eaten, and you shall gather it to yourself; and it shall be food for you and for them.’”

We are told that God spoke to Noah.  How did He do this?  We do not know exactly, other than it must have apparently been in some kind of direct fashion.  However, the Bible teaches that God does not so speak today as He did to Noah and the other patriarchs.  “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds” (Hebrews 1:1-2).  How does God speak to us by His Son?  “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).

However, since God does speak to us in the Scripture, which is His written word, we need to have the same attitude toward what He tells us that Noah did toward what God told Him.  “By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith” (Hebrews 11:7).  Noah was warned to prepare for the flood and told exactly how to do it.  We are likewise warned to prepare for the second coming of Christ and also told precisely how to do so.

“Knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.’  For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water.  But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.  But, beloved, do not forget this one thing, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.  The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.  But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up.  Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat?  Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (2 Peter 3:3-13).

Fourth, we read about Noah’s obedience in verse 22:  “Thus Noah did; according to all that God commanded him, so he did.”  While there is no doubt that Noah was saved by God’s grace, we must remember that the saving of his household was also the result of Noah’s own obedience in preparing the ark.  The apostle Peter draws an important comparison.  “Who formerly were disobedient, when once the Divine longsuffering waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight souls, were saved through water.  There is also an antitype which now saves us—baptism (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1Peter 3:20-21).

Jesus taught about the importance of obedience to God.   “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).  It is not enough to know God’s will or even to talk about it.  We must do what He says.  “If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them” (John 13:17; cf. John 14:15, 15:14).  And Jesus does not require of us anything that He Himself was not willing to do.  “Though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered.  And having been perfected, He became the author of eternal salvation to all who obey Him” (Hebrews 5:8-9; cf. Philippians 2:5-8).

Paul also taught about the necessity of obedience in God’s plan for our salvation.  “But God be thanked that though you were slaves of sin, yet you obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine to which you were delivered.  And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness” (Romans 6:17-18).  Like Jesus, Paul did not demand that people do something that He was unwilling to do.  “Therefore, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision” (Acts 26:19).  One specific instance of his obedience is seen in that when He saw Jesus on the road to Damascus, he was told “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do” (Acts 9:6).  He did, and according to his own later account, a man named Ananias came and told him what he must do.  “And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:16).  What was Paul’s response?  “Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized” (Acts 9:18).

What happens to those who do not obey God?  What do you think would have happened to Noah if he had not obeyed?  The fact is that we do not know for sure because he did obey, but it is not unreasonable to conclude that if he had not followed God’s instructions, he and his family would not have been spared.  In any event, God has plainly revealed what will happen to those who do not obey Him.  “And to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.  These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power” (2 Thessalonians 1:7-9).

In conclusion, Noah is frequently mentioned in the New Testament.  Consider these two others, besides the ones mentioned previously.  “But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matthew 24:37).  “And did not spare the ancient world, but saved Noah, one of eight people, a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly” (2 Peter 2:5).  Apparently, the Lord has many important lessons for us to learn from “the days of Noah.”  One of them most certainly is that just as God destroyed the earth with a flood in the days of Noah, so He has promised that He shall destroy the earth by fire when the Lord returns.  However, just as Noah obeyed God and saved himself and his household, so God offers us His grace that we might obey His will and be saved.

—taken from Expository Files; August, 2016; Vol. 23, No. 8; pp. 9-15

Two Arguments for “Homosexual Marriage” Answered

TWO ARGUMENTS FOR “HOMOSEXUAL MARRIAGE” ANSWERED

By Wayne S. Walker

  Although the United States Supreme Court has supposedly spoken on the concept of “homosexual marriage,” it is an issue that has not gone away.  One of the arguments made by supporters of homosexuality and proponents of the oxymoronic idea of homosexual marriage is that “Jesus never said anything against ‘gays.’”  The implication of this assertion is that if Jesus Himself never said anything specific against homosexuals, then He must approve of them or at least accept them as they are.  Of course, even if the assertion were true, it is quite obvious that the conclusion doesn’t necessarily follow.  Jesus never said anything against rapists.  You will search the Gospels in vain to find any statement made by Jesus which specifically condemns rapists.  Does this mean that He approves of them and accepts them as they are?  Uh, no.  Rape is always wrong, and those who commit it are in sin.  Period!

But is it true that Jesus never said anything against “gays”?  While Jesus may have never used the word “gay” or “homosexual,” He did make at least one statement which directly relates to the subject.  In answering a question, He said, “Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’?” (Matthew 19:4-5).   I know that in this politically correct day it is considered bigoted and homophobic to say this, but the fact is that Jesus plainly believed that marriage, along with all the sexual privileges which God intended only for marriage, is between a man and a woman, not man with man or woman with woman.  Now, that’s what Jesus Himself said!

Furthermore, the Bible, which is the revelation to mankind of God through Jesus Christ, says, “For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature.  Likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust for one another, men with men committing what is shameful, and receiving in themselves the penalty of their error which was due” (Romans 1:26-27).  But wait, someone says, that’s what Paul wrote, not what Jesus said.  Well, consider this.  “If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 14:37).   It may not be in “red letters,” but if it’s something written by an inspired apostle of Jesus Christ in Scripture, it is the commandment of the Lord Himself.  So whatever Paul says about homosexuality is what Jesus says.  And Paul said that it is “against nature,” “shameful,” and an “error.”

Here’s where the rubber meets the road.  Do these people really believe the Bible in the first place?  The clear answer is no.  So why do they even use the Bible to try and prove their point to begin with?  If they believed it, they wouldn’t be arguing FOR what the Bible teaches AGAINST.  And the Bible definitely teaches against homosexuality.  “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10, emphasis mine, WSW).  According to Paul, practicing homosexuals are numbered among the unrighteous and in that state will not inherit the kingdom of heaven.  They can be forgiven and saved (v. 11), but they must quit engaging in the sinful behavior.

Now, you may have heard about the new “version” (actually a perversion) of the Bible which simply removes all negative statements about homosexuality.  It’s called “The Queen James Bible” (I’m not making this up, folks).  But this just goes to illustrate Peter’s observation about “untaught and unstable people [who] twist [the Scriptures] to their own destruction” (2 Peter 3:16).  We can rest assured based on Bible teaching that Jesus condemns homosexuality, just as He condemns fornication and adultery.  So, “What Would Jesus Do?”  As a result of what Jesus actually did, I think that we can reasonably conclude that Jesus would tell the homosexuals, “Unless you repent you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3), and “Go and sin no more” (John 8:11).  That’s what Jesus said about homosexuality.

Another of the arguments often made by those who promote moral and social change away from God’s standards in the matter of so-called “homosexual marriage,” is that “you conservative traditionalists are in the minority.”  It is claimed that more and more people are “coming around” to support “homosexual marriage” rights, according to polls.  I am not so sure that this is really true since polls can be skewed to obtain desired results.  But it is true that people do change positions.  Recently, a prominent “conservative” U. S. Senator who had always opposed “homosexual marriage” before found out that his son is “gay” and now supports it.  How convenient!  And whatever gains are made in support of “homosexual marriage” simply show how effective the radical homosexual rights proponents have been in using public schools, entertainment, and the mass media to pound their message into young skulls full of mush and brainwash our youth.

However, even if it could be proven that those of us who believe that true marriage can be defined as involving only a man and a woman are in the minority, that would not bother me one bit, because of what Jesus said.   “Enter by the narrow gate; for wide is the gate and broad is the way that leads to destruction, and there are many who go in by it.  Because narrow is the gate and difficult is the way which leads to life, and there are few who find it” (Matthew 7:13-14).  God’s moral standards are not dependent on majority opinion and are not subject to popular vote, executive orders, Congressional action, or Supreme Court decisions.  Men may change the laws to suit their own whims and fancies, but Jesus also said, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away” (Matthew 24:35).  In fact, He reminded us, “He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him—the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day” (John 12:48).

I think about the days of Noah.  He, his wife, his sons, and their wives were certainly in a minority.  He had 120 years to build the ark (Genesis 6:3, 13-14, 22).  During that time, he was “a preacher of righteousness” (2 Peter 2:5).  I can just imagine the kind of response that he received.  “Noah, this God who you claim is going to flood the earth is so old-fashioned.  Yes, people used to believe in Him, but not any longer.  We’ve progressed beyond all that myth and superstition nowadays.”  But Noah just kept on building and preaching while the people kept on mocking and scoffing, “eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away…” (Matthew 24:38-39).  They couldn’t say that they weren’t warned (Hebrews 11:7).  The majority, “the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water” (2 Peter 3:6).  But the minority, “a few, that is eight souls, were saved” (1 Peter 3:20).  No wonder modernists deny the flood—it stands in stark judgment against them.

I also think of the Israelites in Egyptian bondage.  The kingdom of Egypt was the largest and most powerful world empire of its time, and while the Hebrew people grew so that the Egyptians were afraid of them, Israel was still in the definite minority.  Think of the kind of power that the Pharaoh had over the Israelites.  Although the effort wasn’t successful, he passed laws that commanded the Hebrews to kill (abort?) their male babies, and he was able to reduce them to a state of slavery in making bricks to build his cities.  And we know his response when God sent Moses to tell him to let the people go.  “Who is the LORD, that I should obey His voice to let Israel go?  I do not know the LORD, nor will I let Israel go” (Exodus 5:2).   However, the very Lord at whom Pharaoh sneered and jeered used the Ten Plagues to show how powerless the Egyptian idols really were and to bring the greatest nation at that day to its knees so that it did end up letting Israel go.  Then when Pharaoh changed his mind and chased after the Hebrews, He brought the Israelites to safety and destroyed the Egyptian armies (Exodus 14:5-31).  The minority overcame and became a great nation.

And then I think of the Christians in the ancient Roman Empire.  We read the book of Acts and marvel at the rapid and widespread growth of the early church, but the saints were still a vast minority in the Roman Empire and subject to intense persecution as Satan tried to use the full forces of Rome to stamp out the church.  We see the beginnings of this persecution in Acts and references to it in the epistles, but we find its fullblown power described figuratively in the book of Revelation.  I can just hear the unbelievers of that day.  “Oh, you Christians are just a small, weak minority.  You’ll never amount to much of anything but eventually just wither away.”  Well, we know what happened.  In spite of the rabid persecution, Christianity continued to grow until it became first a legal and then finally the official religion of Rome.   And to make matters even more interesting, it was this formerly-despised church, admittedly apostate by then, which kept alive the learning and advancements of Graeco-Roman culture during the Dark Ages following the fall of Rome until they could be rediscovered during the Renaissance and Reformation.  For the benefit of Western Civilization, the minority became the majority.

No, being in the minority does not bother me at all, so long as I know that I am right with God.  I stand in pretty good company, along with Noah, Moses, and Paul.  It has been said that God and one man make a majority.  The world may laugh, jeer, mock, and scorn at God’s people and God’s ways as it, through its wisdom, does not know God (1 Corinthians 1:21).  The evidence that God’s word is truth is clear, and as long as I stick with it, I can be assured that what I believe is true.  And with that knowledge, and the hope that it gives me, I can say with Isaac Watts, “Should earth against my soul engage, And fiery darts be hurled, Then I can smile at Satan’s rage And face a frowning world.”

—taken from Faith and Facts; January, 2016; Volume 43, Number 1; pp. 77-83