Authority In Matters of Religion – Part 3

Is The Silence Of The Scripture Significant?

Psalm 119:105-112

105Your word is a lamp to my feet  And a light to my path. 106I have sworn and confirmed that I will keep Your righteous judgments. 107I am afflicted very much; revive me, O Lord, according to Your word. 108Accept, I pray, the freewill offerings of my mouth, O Lord, and teach me Your judgments. 109My life is continually in my hand, yet I do not forget Your law. 110The wicked have laid a snare for me, yet I have not strayed from Your precepts. 111Your testimonies I have taken as a heritage forever, for they are the rejoicing of my heart. 112I have inclined my heart to perform Your statutes forever, to the very end.


What a wonderful attitude the Psalmist shows towards the word of God.  May our attitude ever be the same.


In 1809 Thomas Campbell in urging men to give up their distinctive creeds which continues to divide the religious world  even in our day, utter the words:  Where the Scriptures speak we will speak and where the scriptures are silent we are silent  

Memoirs of Alexander Campbell 

by Dr Robert Richardson  Page 236


We deem the declaration to be a scriptural principle and therefore used it in our verbiage of the following admonition: “Let us speak where the Bible speaks, and be silent where the Bible is silent.”


There doesn’t appear to be any controversial about speaking where the Bible speaks, for we read : 1 Pet 4:11  11If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God.  Most religious bodies recognize the necessity of heeding— Express statements,  or commands that God has given. The difficulty that continues to divide the religious world today has arisen over the significance of the silence of the scripture. Is silence  permissive  or prohibitive?


Some argue that silence allows for doing anything which is unmentioned. This question most commonly arises in connection with the use of the instrumental music in worship. 


The argument of those who would use the instrument in worship is “Where Has God Prohibited Its Use?   We hear often,  "The Bible doesn't say,  don't use an instrument."

This morning "The significance of  silence of the Scriptures". I began with this question. Are the silence of the scriptures binding, and if so when?  Answer:  Silence is only significant  when God has  specifically spoken on a certain. Our altering what He has said in any fashion is disobedience as much as a failure to what He says..


I began with this example from ordinary life. I appeal to your common senses. We all eat out from time to time. In most cases the waitress brings us s menu, we order what suits our taste,  and then the waitress will bring to our table what we have ordered.

At times though, she may get the order mixed up and we get something we did not order. We explain  "My order is wrong, I ordered,  a hamburger, not a hotdog". She would not say in return, “you did not say you didn’t want a hotdog!”


When I take the menu and specifically state what I want .  (item #5 please) the law of silence prevents the waitress from bringing me something other. She cannot effectively respond by saying, "you did not say not to bring the # 7 luncheon special.”       


You sent your child to the store, with specific instructions,   When we specify what is to be done, the law of silence prevents other than that from being acceptable.  We all understand the principle and rely upon it for our daily communication with one another.


Turning to the Bible in Hebrews 8:4 it is said that Christ could not be a priest on earth. The law of Moses specified priests were to come out of the tribe of Levi whereas our Lord sprang out of Judah “of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning the priesthood” (Heb. 7:14).


The reasoning here is not that God specifically prohibited priests out of the tribe of Judah, but rather the scriptures were silent or did not authorize the priesthood out of Judah.


To say that Moses “spake nothing” (Hebrews 7:14) means that he was silent.  Consequently, Jesus could not be a priest on earth. He was a priest after the order of Melchisedec, which was a superior priesthood. The author of Hebrews proves his point by appealing to the silence of the scriptures.


Therefore, it is a valid form of argumentation to rely upon the silence of the scriptures in proving that a practice is unauthorized.   I stated last week that one of the most important verses regarding authority is found in Colossians 3:17.  Hear it again.   “17And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”


That this scripture was intended to be comprehensive is set forth in at least three ways.

First it says “whatever you do” — Secondly it embraces “word or deed and third,  it admonishes that we “do all in the name of the Lord Jesus   The expression “in the name” according to J Henry Thayer signifies “to do a thing by one’s command or authority,  acting on his behalf, promoting his cause   page 447

 If we are to do all “in His name by His authority”  this would contradict the notion that we may teach and do anything we like as long as the Bible doesn’t outright condemn our doing so.


There are several passages from the Bible that enunciate  the principle, that we are not to: add or take away from what God has spoken to us:  First look at the words of   Deuteronomy 4:2


2Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish from it, that ye may keep the commandments of Jehovah your God which I command you..   To diminish from the God’s word is to take away something He has spoken, but to add to His word is to alter and speak which He has not....


Next read Deuteronomy 12:32

32Whatever I command you, be careful to observe it; you shall not add to it nor take away from it.”    Again Proverbs 30:6

6Do not add to His words, Lest He rebuke you, and you be  found a liar.     And this significant verse found in 2 John 9


9Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son.    The word transgress is a translation of the Greek word pro ago meaning to go beyond what is written.  


Read as well the fearful warning Revelation 22:18-19 the last message of God to man...

18For I testify to everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: If anyone adds to these things, God will add to him the plagues that are written in this book; 19and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the Book of Life, from the holy city, and from the things which are written in this book.


Let us study now, an example of one presuming  to speak and worship where God was silent.   In 2 Chronicles chapter  26,  we have the story of a young boy¾       King Uzziah, who was very successful in establishing himself as a powerful king. 


But he violated God's law of silence when he usurped the priestly role and attempted to serve as a priest himself.  Hear the account ¾  Verse 16:

16But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction: for he transgressed against the LORD his God, and went into the temple of the LORD to burn incense upon the altar of incense.


But there were men of courage present who observed the actions of king Uzziah.  Notice their words to him:


18And they withstood Uzziah the king, and said unto him, It appertaineth not unto thee, Uzziah, to burn incense unto the LORD, but to the priests the sons of Aaron, that are consecrated to burn incense: go out of the sanctuary; for thou hast trespassed; neither shall it be for thine honour from the LORD God.  


Uzziah, who had a censer in his hand ready to burn incense, became very angry.  And while he was raging at the priests in their presence before the incense altar in the LORD’s temple, leprosy broke out on his forehead.


Azariah the chief priest and all the other priests looking at him,  saw that he had leprosy on his forehead, and they hurried him out. Indeed, he himself,  was eager to leave because the LORD had afflicted him. As a result of his sin,  King Uzziah had leprosy until the day he died.  He lived in a separate house—leprous, and excluded from the temple of the LORD. Jotham his son had charge of the palace and governed the people of the land.


God condemned the false worship of Uzziah not with a "Don't You Do It" but  because of His silence.  That is, God had nowhere given a king permission to serve in the office of a priest, The law of Moses specified the priests who were Levites were to serve in this official capacity. Here is the law of silence :

Whatever has not been appointed by God is to be rejected. “


The two sons of Aaron , Nadab and Abihu were duly authorized to serve in the example given in Leviticus chapter 10. Because of God's decree, under the old covenant, only Aaron and his descendants could serve as priests. Aaron had four sons: Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar  Exodus 6:22.


From among the millions of descendants of Abraham, they were chosen to be priests of God.  What a privilege! Aaron's two oldest sons, Nadab and Abihu, accompanied Aaron, Moses and the seventy elders when they climbed the mountain to meet with God. Turn to  Exodus 24:1-3


1And he said unto Moses, Come up unto the LORD, thou, and Aaron, Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel; and worship ye afar off. 2And Moses alone shall come near the LORD: but they shall not come nigh; neither shall the people go up with him. 3And Moses came and told the people all the words of the LORD, and all the judgments: and all the people answered with one voice, and said, All the words which the LORD hath said will we do


Aaron and his sons were dedicated as priests, their dedication lasted seven days. On the eighth day they offered sacrifices for the people God accepted their sacrifices:  Now we read beginning  in Leviticus chapter 9, verses 23-24.


23And Moses and Aaron went into the tabernacle of the congregation, and came out, and blessed the people: and the glory of the LORD appeared unto all the people. 24And there came a fire out from before the LORD, and consumed upon the altar the burnt offering and the fat: which when all the people saw, they shouted, and fell on their faces.


How thrilling this must have been for the people to witness the presence of God Himself, but then something dreadful happened. We begin reading in the next chapter of Leviticus, chapter 10: verse 1


1And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not. 2And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD. 3Then Moses said unto Aaron, This is it that the LORD spake, saying, I will be sanctified in them that come nigh me, and before all the people I will be glorified. And Aaron held his peace.


What was the great sin of Nadab and Abihu? Did they do something immoral? No! They were duly appointed priests. They used the proper censers that were acceptable in proper worship. They offered incense which was right.  Yet, what they did was profane, and was unholy. Why?  -Because they did what God had not commanded them do! When they worshipped as God commanded, “as God had specifically stated” their worship was dedicated and acceptable to God.


When they worshipped God by doing something that He had NOT spoken concerning their doing that, their actions were profane. Their sacrifice was unholy, it was NOT acceptable to God. True worship is an expression of submission and respect for God.


By offering a sacrifice that God had not commanded, Nadab and Abihu demonstrated arrogance and presumption before God. They did what they wanted to do instead of abiding by what God told them to do. Had God forbidden them to do what they did? Not specifically.  But God has always made it clear that people are to worship him according to His word, and not according to their own ideas. 


Nadab and Abihu died without having children (Numbers 3:4). But they have a multitude of spiritual children! In our time millions of people continue to worship God as did Nadab and Abihu,  not by violating a positive command of God, but by doing that which He has commanded not. Please read Leviticus 10:1-2 again. 


1And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not. 2And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD.


The account does not say, that God had commanded them not to, but that He had commanded them not.  God had not spoken,  He had not commanded them to do what they did.   Nadab and Abihu were condemned because they offered a fire unto the Lord that was unauthorized and forbidden by the silence of God.  According to Leviticus 16:12-13 coals for the fire were to be taken from the altar. 


Let’s make the lesson applicable ¾  The Law of silence in the New Testament. Christians are to observe all that Christ has commanded (not what he has not commanded). (Col. 3:17) We are to worship God in spirit and in truth  John 4:24, and the only way to know how to do this is to discover what He authorizes in His word.


Baptism by Immersion.   In the New Testement, penitent believers were commanded to be immersed. Regarding the sprinkling of infants, Jesus said nothing. If other passages authorized infant sprinkling, the command to immerse believers would not prohibit this act, but this is not the case. When Jesus authorized immersion, He by silence prohibited sprinkling.


In the matter of the Lord's Supper, he New Testament authorizes the use of the fruit of the vine and unleavened bread as the elements of the Lord's Supper Matthew 26:26-29; 1 Corinthians 11 .  Neither Jesus nor the apostles indicate that other elements would not be accepted.


Shall I take the Lord’s table and make it suit my taste?  Shall I add peanut butter and jelly to the taste-less bread?  Or shall I use coffee instead of the fruit of the vine,  remember  God did  not say DON’T use peanut butter or coffee?


 Music in Worship. Should we worship God with instruments of music when we sing? The NT authorizes vocal music but relative to the use of instrumental music in worship, it says nothing.  Some argue that this silence actually gives permission for their use and that God is not concerned whether we use instrumental music in worship or not;


However, we must respect the silence of Scripture regarding the kind of music we are to have in worship. The relevant passages concerning music in worship in the NT are in:


Matthew 26:30  when they had sung an hymn.” James 5:13

13Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.  Others Ephesians 5:18-19; Acts 16:25; 1 Corinthians 14:15; Romans 15:9 and Hebrews 2:12. Col. 3:16-17 all authorize singing, in our worship.


16Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.


Where is the word from God, to authorize playing any instrument in our worship today? The only kind of music the scripture  authorizes is singing—not the playing of instruments.


There is a greater question here than just the use or non-use of a piano or other instrument; it is: are we going to respect the silence of Scripture with regards to how we worship God? To use instruments in worship is to say, "where the Bible speaks, we will speak, but where the Bible is silent, we will continue to speak." 


Other Common Sense Applications.

Imagine all the possibilities for change in worship and Christian living if we operated on the principle, "it is OK as long as the Bible does not say it is not OK"!


Remember this, the Bible makes sense, not nonsense! When you interpret the Bible, if you find yourself acting differently than when you interpret some other ordinary statement of truth, then recognize that you need to change the way you approach the Scriptures.


Conclusion : When the children of Israel were wandering through the wilderness toward the Land of Promise, we find an interesting event recorded in        Exodus 13:21-22.


"And Jehovah went before them by day in a pillar of cloud, to lead them the way, and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; that they might go by day and by night: the pillar of cloud by day, and the pillar of fire by night, departed not from before the people."


The apostle Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:11, "Now these things happened unto them by way of example: and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages are come."


We must follow our pillar and fire the word of God read again the following scriptures:  Psalm 119:105;  Deut 4:2; Prov 30:6  

Let us be guided by what God says, not what God has not spoken about.


Can we help you further in your studies?


Ron Cope Minister churches of Christ


phone:  (678)617-9658

May God bless you in your study of His word.