Must not make laws for God

You all know that I am fighting strongly against liberalism. But do you also know that legalism, what some of you are doing, is just as wrong and is, in fact, the seed that produces liberalism? Look for a moment at our history, where this all came from.

In 1807 Thomas Campbell specified in the “Declaration and Address” the correct procedure for following God’s laws and avoiding extremes. He said that although inferences and deductions may truly be called the will of God, yet they are not formally binding upon Christians farther than they perceive the connection and evidently see that they are so. He and other pioneers were on solid ground, recognizing that what one infers from scripture is his own understanding or opinion, and may or may not be accurate. What is expressly stated in scripture is absolute and must be respected.

The restoration movement stood on this platform and thus was a valid restorer of  “the ancient order of things,” until 1889 when Daniel Sommer introduced a sharp turn off course to the “right.” At Sand Creek, Illinois he presented his “Address and declaration,” reversed to Campbell’s thesis, to 5,000 or more brethren. Where as brethren had embracd the motto “We speak where the Bible speaks and are silent where the Bible is silent,” Sommer presumed to speak on things not spoken to in the Bible. He listed several things, a church treasury, Sunday school classes, instrumental music, located preacher, etc. He said that because the Bible did not speak to these expressly that they are “innovations.” He said of those who practice them, “We cannot and will not regard them as brethren.”

David Lipscomb rejected the idea that these should be matters of fellowship but many leading brethren lined up with Sommer and the church was led into a division, with a majority going legalistic. After that numerous other “issues” were mishandled in a similar way and several divisions occurred. In the 1950s and 60s Thomas Warren became a strong promoter of legalism, basing its defense mainly on Aristotelian “logic.” The Spiritual Sword published many articles affirming “The authority of inferences” and calling for divisions on the basis of inferences and deductions.

Opposition to this began to arise from many different quarters and finally grew into the full fledged liberalism of today, which is essentially an acceptance of the standard concepts of denominational evangelicalism. This is an over reaction. The original opposition against the binding of inferences and human deductions as law was justified. But in our time it has grown into opposition against all laws, including God’s expressly stated laws. The message they now preach is that “God’s covenant is a covenant of grace, not a covenant of laws.” From this perspective they preach that salvation comes before obedience to the Gospel commands, that “there is nothng you can do to be saved,” that “salvation is not a matter of being right,” etc. They advocate accepting all of the various kinds of churches as our brothers and sisters in Christ.

The original seed of the problem is legalism. From that seed grows the stem that eventually flowers into liberalism. The tragic part is that God’s written word says that either of these will destroy your soul. Jesus said, “In vain they worship me, teaching for doctrine the commandments of men.” (Mat. 15:9) He said that in the judgment He will say to those who practice lawlessness, “I never knew you, depart from me…” (Mat. 7:22-23) So human commands are vain, worthless, and lawlessness is eternally fatal. This is why we must not make laws for God and we must not pervert or reject the laws He has given us. Heb.8:10-12 specifies a covenant of laws and of mercy. The laws are a condition for the mercy. Let’s keep them.


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