7 - BECAUSE OF ITS OPPOSITION TO INNOVATIONS IN RELIGION
Many people do not understand why we approve of innovations in material matters, but oppose them in divine matters. According to Webster's Dictionary, an innovation is “something newly introduced; new method, custom, device, etc., a change in the way of doing things.” There are two kinds of innovations:
1. THOSE INVOLVING MAN'S ARRANGEMENTS.
2. THOSE INVOLVING DIVINE ARRANGEMENTS.
With the first, we have no objection, but with the second we do. Many innovations have been introduced into our way of life during the past few years, usually for the better. However, religion is no exception. Man has also added his touch to things divine. This should not be, and this is where the trouble arises. In Jeremiah 6:16, “Thus saith the Lord, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein.” Today, we have much the same situation. We need the “old way”, but man with all his modernism and innovations says, “We will not walk in it.” “It is too old-fashioned” Note again Isaiah 55:8-9, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Because man does not think and act like God, it is impossible for him to Know what God wants and doesn't want without going to the Bible. In Proverbs 14:12 it reads, “There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” Many times man will say, “I don't see anything wrong with this”, or “Why would it be wrong to do it this way?”
A good example of what we are talking about is recorded in 1 Samuel 15: 1-22. The gist of the incident goes like this. King Saul was commanded to go over to the land of Amalek and utterly destroy the people, and all that they possessed. After reaching the land, Saul instead of doing exactly as told, spared the best of the flocks and oxen, and even the king of the land. Behind his actions was a noble purpose, at least it would appear. But let us not forget that God commanded this man to do something, and regardless of the motives behind his actions he still has failed to do what God commanded. Will he be held responsible? Let us see: “And Saul said unto Samuel, Yea, I have obeyed the voice of the Lord, and have gone the way which the Lord sent me, and have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites. But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the chief of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice unto the Lord thy God in Gilgal. And Samuel said, Hath the Lord as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the Lord? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.” - I Sam. 15:20-22.
THE CHURCH IS A DIVINE INSTITUTION. In Matt. 16:18 we hear Jesus as He says, “And I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” The church is divine because Jesus, the Son of God, built it. Notice again in Eph. 1:20-23, “Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places...: And hath put all things under his feet and gave him to be the head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him that filleth all in all.” Since the church is a divine institution, man is prohibited from changing any feature of the divine standard. Thus, the church must use only divine names, and teach only approved doctrine.
WE DO NOT NEED CHANGES IN THE DIVINE PLAN. The idea that we need innovations today in order for the church to be successful is totally unfounded. The plan of God is adapted to the needs of all men in every age. Why should we think then, that we need a new gospel, or creed, or ordinances, or other forms of organizations? What is the matter with the old tried and true? Religion, with far too many people, has become a social thing. Subtract the social and entertaining features of religion, and many people would immediately lose interest. Hence, the excuse of modernism is that such devices are necessary for a continuation of religion. With religion this might be true, but not true of Christianity. May God help us to capture the tenor of the following verses, “Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things. And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.” - John 8:28-29.
THE RESULTS OF INNOVATIONS. Innovations, which seem harmless, bring about a gradual change. But soon with the passing of time and over a long period of years, one can see the harmful results. Every change of a feature in the New Testament church affects the structure as it was designed by God. The Jews furnish us a good example in Mark 7:7-9, “Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines, the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition.” The early Christians made the same mistake. The eventual result was the Dark Ages. However, this did not happen overnight. Finally, at the end of this long period of apostasy, such men as Alexander Campbell, Barton W. Stone, and others came crying, “Back to the Bible.” And with the help of God they began an historic journey back to spiritual Jerusalem.
THE DANGERS OF INNOVATIONS. Innovations cause a loss of respect for God, and reverence for His word. People think that if they can change one feature of the divine plan they can change another. This process continues until all respect for the Bible is lost, and then men change it at will. Innovations also increase human authority, and decrease divine authority. Innovations cause division. They divide brethren who for years worked together. And congregations that for years worked in peace are disrupted because man's devices are injected into them. Heaven only knows all the woe, heartache, tears, and harm done by these human innovations in the past few centuries. The reason we feel so keenly about this is because of the: LAW OF LIMITATION.
The law is expressed in the following passages: 2 Tim. 3:16-17,1 Peter 4:11, Gal. 1:6-9. The gist of this teaching is simply that we must accept all scripture as being given by inspiration of God. That we must speak only as the oracles of God, and that even though an angel nom heaven teaches another gospel we must reject it. No wonder the Bible opposes innovations in matters divine. We close with the words of the poet who said, “Where is thy church, 0 Saviour, where?” I heard the cry, and then I heard: “Here is my church, where men still dare to take me at-my word.”