|Volume 23 Number 2 February 2021
Ronald D. Reeves
The ideal congregation maintains faithfulness in doctrine, worship and life. John commented forcefully upon these. Regarding doctrine, he said, “Whosoever transgresseth and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God…” (2 John 1:9). Regarding worship, he penned, “God is a spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and truth” (John 4:24). Regarding life, he transcribed, “…be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life” (Revelation 2:10). Thus, we see that the people of God must maintain faithfulness in these matters. To do otherwise constitutes a course that robs us of our present spiritual security and our future celestial inheritance. May we always have the courage to seek out the Lord’s will in all matters wherein He has spoken, as well as to demonstrate the fortitude to live and teach accordingly. Motivation to this end is realized in the observation that doctrine communicates divine principles of truth, while worship regulates our personal relationship with deity, and our course of life will determine our eternal destiny. Lives guided by these observations and principles truly have the hope promised to mankind in the Word of our gracious God.
Liberal, Conservative or Biblical?
Brian R. Kenyon
Immediately after Jesus promised to build His church, He told Peter, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:19). Lest someone misunderstand this verse to indicate Peter had some kind of supremacy in the church, note that all the apostles were given this instruction about “binding” and “loosing” (Matthew 18:18). Most English translations do not clearly express the true force of the verb tense and meaning. The New American Standard does well by translating, “…whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.” This translation indicates that the apostles were only to “bind” and “loose” what God had already “bound” and “loosed.” It has never been the case that the apostles “bound” and “loosed,” then God ratified it in Heaven. Rather, no apostle, no preacher, no elder, no deacon, no one has the right to “bind” or “loose” anything that God has not already “bound” or “loosed”! May God grant us wisdom in properly ascertaining what God has truly bound and loosed!
When it comes to religion, the terms “liberal” and “conservative” can take on various meanings, depending on the context. For example, in late nineteenth and early twentieth century theological circles, a “liberal” referred to one who held to the view of inspiration that says the Bible merely contains the Word of God; thus, some of the Bible is not actually the Word of God. That is, within the Bible one can find the Word of God through reflection and meditation. This view, of course, is false because it would mean humans subjectively decide which parts of the Bible are actually the words of God and which parts are not. It would also be different for each individual, depending on his “reflection and meditation.”
When the term “liberal” or “conservative” is used in our religious culture, different things may come to mind. For example, those who labeled themselves “conservative” (while others may refer to them as “non-institutional” or “anti”) might think a congregation like the one of which we are members is “liberal” because we support orphans from the church treasury. However, some church members might reserve the term “liberal” only for those who allow such things as mechanical instruments in worship or women preachers in mixed assemblies. This can sometimes be confusing, but there is a better way in using Bible terminology to describe both extremes.
Sometimes what people call “conservatism” (or “non-institutionalism” or “anti-ism”) may simply be defined as that which binds where God has loosed. This, of course, is sinful. Examples of this can be found in the New Testament. Paul spoke of those who were “forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from foods which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth,” and he referred to such teachings as “deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons, speaking lies in hypocrisy” (1 Timothy 4:1-3). Any dietary distinctions of the Old Law have been done away in Christ (Leviticus 11:4; cf., Acts 10:9-16; Colossians 2:13-14). This, of course, does not mean a person has to eat “meat” (KJV). People are acceptable to God whether they eat only vegetables or include meat in their diets (Romans 14:1-4). While there are occasions that call for the abstinence of meat (1 Corinthians 8:13), to say it is always sinful to eat meat is sin because it binds what God has loosed. The same is also true about marriage. There are occasions when it is best for scripturally eligible couples not to marry (such as during the “present distress” of 1 Corinthians 7:26, 28). However, even during those occasions, Paul said it was not sinful to marry (1 Corinthians 7:2, 9, 28, 36). Some religions forbid marriage for scripturally eligible couples, which, of course, is sinful because it is binding what God has loosed! There are some today who take their judgments on such matters as supporting missionaries or orphans and bind them as if they were God’s exclusive pattern. However, if God has not bound those judgments, those who make such a test of fellowship sinfully bind where God has loosed.
Sometimes, what people call “liberalism” may simply be defined as that which loosens what God has bound. This also, of course, is sinful. This is exactly what Satan convinced Eve to do in the Garden. Indeed, Satan changed God’s “you shall surely die” (Genesis 2:17) into “You will not surely die” (Genesis 3:4), and even before he added that “not,” he faked an expression of surprise and changed God’s “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat” (Genesis 2:16) into “You shall not eat of every tree of the garden” (Genesis 3:1). In the end, Satan convinced Eve to loose what God had bound, inducing her to eat the fruit (Genesis 3:6). Loosening where God has bound can also be summarized in 2 John 9, “Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God.” Generally, the verb “transgress” means to go beyond the boundaries God has set. Certainly, this includes compromising His commands. When people loose God’s authority to sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs to Him (Ephesians 5:19) into using mechanical instruments in worship, they have loosed what God has bound! When people loosen God’s mandate, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man” (1 Timothy 2:12; cf., 1 Corinthians 14:37) into allowing women preachers, they have loosened what God has bound!
Let’s Just Be “Biblical”
There is a better way! God neither wants His people to loose what He has bound nor to bind what He has loosed! Rather, we need to just stick to the premise God told the apostles. “Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 18:18). The children of God ought to only bind and loose as God directs. Then, we will be neither “liberal” nor “conservative” but simply “biblical”! Can we get any better than simply following God’s Word, without addition or subtraction?