Thrust Statement: One can nullify the commandments of God through his/her fossilized traditions from the church fathers.

Scripture Reading: Matthew 15:1-9; Mark 7:1-13

INTRODUCTION

Jesus rebukes the religious leaders for their hypocrisy in their so-called worship of God.  He charges them with worship that is vain through the commandments of men: “They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men (Matthew 15:9). Many Christians today hurl these words of Jesus against other believers when their practices do not coincide with their particular brand of orthodoxy. This citation of Matthew is wrenched from its context in order to justify the withdrawal of fellowship from other believers. Generally, this Scripture is alluded to in order to condemn other believers over the so-called five acts of worship, which so it is maintained that God ordained. Divisions exist within the Churches of Christ, as well as other denominations, over the exact pattern to be adhered to when Christians assemble on Sunday morning to carry out their ritualistic worship service.[1]

            Should one cite this Scripture against other believers when they do not see “eye to eye” with his/her understanding of how the five acts are to be performed on Sunday morning? Is it appropriate to quote this famous passage (15:9) against disciples of Jesus who employ mechanical instruments—drums, harps, tambourines, pianos, and so on—in their assemblies? Is it proper to employ this citation from Matthew’s Gospel to clobber any and all who dare use individual cups in the distribution of the fruit of the vine in the observance of the communion? Is it fair to cite this verse against those who allow individuals to sing solo in the assembly? Is it correct to allude to this statement of Jesus to condemn quartet singing in the Sunday morning gatherings? Should one refer to this rebuke by Jesus against followers of Jesus who use wine instead of grape juice as the drink element in the Lord’s Supper? Or, should one call forth this Scripture citation of Jesus against congregations who choose to arrange classes on Sunday mornings to teach children and individuals according to their age?

MISAPPLICATION OF MATTHEW 15:1-9

            Roy H. Lanier cites Matthew 15:9 against those whom he believes are teaching doctrinal errors. Thus, if one is not doing things the way Lanier thinks they should be observed, then he calls forth Matthew 15:9 with the following comments: “God will not accept worship. Jesus makes it clear that the worship of men are in serious doctrinal error will be vanity (Matt. 15:1-9—emphasis his).”[2] The focus of Lanier’s comments is that God will not accept one’s worship when there are serious doctrinal errors.  But Lanier is the one who determines the weightiness of the doctrinal blunders. In this article Lanier skirts around the real issues without really naming the doctrinal errors explicitly, but in another article, he cites Mark 7:1-14 (parallel to Matthew 15:1-9) to justify separation from Christians who employ the use of the instrument.[3]  One cannot find fault with his statement: “Worship has always been a serious matter to God.”[4] Is this not the reason that Jesus addresses the religious leaders about true worship? But when Lanier relies upon Jesus’ castigation of the religious leaders to condemn Christians whose practices do not coincide with his understanding, he offers no evidence to uphold his application of Mark 7:1-14. He just assumes that his application is equal to Jesus’ statement of rebuke.

            Is it reasonable to repeat the words of Jesus in the Markan or Matthean passages to ostracize other Christians who participate in the above-mentioned acts performed on Sunday mornings that do not adhere to the thinking of Lanier and other Christians? On the face of his article, there does seem credibility, but, upon closer examination, one discovers that his arguments are not logical according to context. Cedric B. Johnson offers an informative comment in this regard when he writes:

My contention is that conflicting theological positions are in part due to the fact that we all approach a text, sacred or secular, with our strong subjective biases. Even though we have a commitment to read the Bible on its own terms; and even though we want the Divine and human authors to speak for themselves, somehow we still come up with contradictory views on some issues.[5]

            Just a slight perusal of the Matthean account of Jesus’ encounter with the Pharisees and the religious leaders reveals that these individuals were guilty of nullifying one Scripture with another Scripture in order to maintain their position of neglecting their responsibilities of financial help toward their parents. Things have not changed. Today, many Christians are repeating the same type mental gymnastics the religious leaders exhibited in Jesus’ day. It is not uncommon for believers to overthrow other clear passages of Scripture that advance the notion that unity is more important than perfect agreement upon every doctrinal point (see Romans 14 and 15; 1 Corinthians 8). Just as Satan sought to cancel out one Scripture with another Scripture, so, today, Christians frequently cancel one Scripture with another (see Matthew 4:1-11).

            There is a need for a reevaluation of Matthew 15:9 in light of its context. It is possible for an interpreter to miss the intended meaning because of an incomplete understanding of the pericope (unit or section) in question. One’s interpretation of Matthew 15:1-9 is often colored by one’s preconceived ideas as to what the “commandments of God” constitute. This phrase is seized upon by many well-meaning Christians to target any interpretation of the Scriptures that does not uphold a particular party interpretation. Each isolated faction cites this same Scripture to hack to death the opposite splinter group that does not consent to the other’s ecclesiastical organization’s viewpoint. Each side wishes to shoot the other side with the word hypocrite.

This word hypocrite (uJpokrithv", &upokriths) is indiscriminately directed toward anyone who dares to hold a different view from the so-called guardians of truth. Jesus employs this word against the religious leaders for their manipulation of the text of Scripture. When one confounds the Word of God with his/her interpretation, then there is a sense in which this word hypocrite may accurately describe the one who hurls such derogatory remarks against the other. Fritz Rienecker and Cleon Rogers give a concise answer to the meaning of this word as employed by Jesus: “Hypocrite, a legalist who manipulates the law w. casuistry and hair-splitting interpretation for his own benefit.”[6] Before investigating the use of the word hypocrite by Jesus, perhaps a few examples of how this pericope (Matthew 15:1-9) is employed by the various warring factions within the Churches of Christ should shed some light on the dilemma that many Christians face in approaching differences within the community of Christ. Since this essay introduced Lanier as an example of one who has misapplied this section (15:1-9) of Jesus’ words, it is appropriate that one begin with more of an in-depth view of his handling of the text.[7]

Roy H. Lanier

            Many sincere Christians, such as Roy H. Lanier, as mentioned above, relate this passage against those who encourage a wider view of fellowship. He defends his views of banishment based upon his understanding of this much-abused text. He explains his justification for kicking out others from his sectarian group very forcefully in his comments:

Isolated along the fringes of the “front line,” in the warfare concerning proper fellowship, are the lonely preachers and teachers of the Midwest. Men in the states north of Oklahoma, east of the Rocky Mountains, and west of the Ohio Valley, are the ones bearing the brunt of questions of fellowship with Independent Christian Churches, since that is the area of their strongest work. . . . Typical questions I receive might include the following: (1) “Can we say the ‘instrumental brethren’ are not to be fellowshipped since God did not specify instrumental music is wrong?” (2) “Even if they are guilty of presumptuous sin, can we not fellowship them?” . . . Such questions may not include all the details of the problems that exist between the Lord’s church and the Independent Christian Churches, but they are representative of most of the principles involved . . . which Jesus said was a rejection of the commandments of God (v.9) [emphasis mine—RDB).[8] 

            One can quickly observe the subtlety in Lanier’s distinction between his distinctive religious crowd and other groups. He leaves out the Independent Christian Churches as a part of the Lord’s Church, only his odd fellowship constitutes the true Church. Lanier seems to have forgotten that his denomination is just one denomination among others that came out of the Stone/Campbell Movement.[9] The three distinct religious clusters that came out of the Stone/Campbell Movement are: (1) Churches of Christ, (2) Christians Churches, and (3) Disciples of Christ. He is typical of many Christians who apply Matthew 15:9 against other Christians. As a young preacher, back in the 60s and early 70s, I cited this Scripture against him for his use of individual cups and his participation in Sunday school (now called Bible study).

            In Lanier’s zeal to be true to God, he states, without any proof, that one’s employment of the instrument in praising God is a “heart problem, not a hermeneutical one.”[10] He discounts that there is another side to the controversy.[11] One cannot help but reflect upon the words of Paul to the Romans as one reads such a stinging castigation of someone with whom Lanier differs. Listen to Paul as he rebukes some of the Christians at Rome for their lack of toleration for different opinions:

Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters.  2 One man’s faith allows him to eat everything, but another man, whose faith is weak, eats only vegetables.  3 The man who eats everything must not look down on him who does not, and the man who does not eat everything must not condemn the man who does, for God has accepted him.  4 Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. 5 One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind (Romans 14:1-5).

Lanier’s association of the music question with the “commandments of men,” is based upon his faulty understanding of worship—a worship service with five acts to be performed in a prescribed manner.[12] He has jumped to a number of unjustified conclusions. He is skilled in his proof-texting approach to substantiate his beliefs. In fact, he wrenches Romans 16:17, Titus 3:10, and 2 John 9-11 to bolster his claims for his ungodly behavior.[13] But Lanier is not alone in this kind of reading of the text as taught by generations of interpreters. The traditions in the church make it difficult to read accurately the text. Every Christian must learn to reevaluate and reinterpret what has been handed down from generation to generation. Lanier is in danger of finding himself the prisoner of his own tradition, which is sovereign among his fellowship. The next case study is from Homer L. King, former editor of Old Paths Advocate (a one-cup and non-Sunday school journal). He, too, cites this same Scripture (Matthew 15:1-9) to justify his separation from men like Lanier.

Homer L. King

            Homer L. King  (1892-1983)[14] also cited Mark 7:7-9 to justify his break with men like Lanier.[15] King, like Lanier, relied upon 2 John 9,[16] Matthew 15:9, 13,[17] and Jeremiah 6:16[18] to rationalize separation from Christians who refused to equate King’s interpretation of the Word with the Word itself. The following chart gives the three citations that he used to justify his unbrotherly behavior:

2 John 9

Matthew 15: 9, 13

Jeremiah 6:16

Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.

They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men (v. 9).

 

“Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots (v. 13).

This is what the LORD says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, ‘We will not walk in it.’

 

King did not accept men like Lanier. Why? Well, he believed that he was not continuing in the “teaching of Christ” according to 2 John 9. Since Lanier employs individual communion cups in the Lord’s Supper, then his worship is vain because he is teaching the “commandments of men.” The acceptance of individual communion cups and Sunday school constituted “commandments of men” according to King and those associated with the Old Paths Advocate clique.  According to King, Lanier left the old paths as mentioned by Jeremiah 6:16. King forcefully argues the validity of his decision:

The above Scriptures and many others forbid any changes in matters of divine arrangement. . . . If we conform to the above law of limitation, we know that we shall have to abandon any claim to human creeds, human names for the church or its members, denominational churches, human organizations and societies to do the work of the church . . . instrumental music, Sunday schools, cups in the communion, the modern pastory system wherein the evangelist is taken out of his sphere to do the work of the elder. . . . Hence, we cannot remain or abide in the “doctrine of Christ” (2 John 9) while contending for them.[19]

            In this article, King rebukes Christians who practice the clergy system, participate in Bible colleges, sing with instrumental accompaniment, provide Sunday schools for various ages, serve grape juice in individual cups instead of one common cup, and breaks the bread into pieces instead of pinching the bread so that it remains whole. The thing that grabs one’s attention is his reference to Matthew 15:9 to defend his actions. Yet, this is the identical Scripture that Lanier also names to justify his disconnection from Christians who disagree with him. King, like Lanier, manipulates this Scripture to condemn Lanier for his involvement in the so-called “innovations,” such as individual cups and Sunday school. On the other hand, Lanier quotes this same passage to account for his split with the Christian Church.  Both men employ this passage directed against the religious leaders in Jesus’ day to rationalize their rupture of the body of Christ into warring factions.

            Lanier, as mentioned above, thinks that Christians who disagree with his interpretations have a heart problem. Yet, the one-cup and non-Sunday school Movement also thinks that its position is not a matter of hermeneutics either, but rather a heart problem for those who do not concur with its fanciful interpretations.  As one reflects upon the long-established interpretation of Matthew 15:9, one quickly discovers that the position of both men appear to be built on unverifiable arguments, that is to say, the points of view of both Lanier and King turn on assumptions rather than on a careful reading of the text. These men are not reading the wording based on Jesus’ own concerns, but rather they are reading the text established upon their personal theological urgencies. When one misunderstands the Word of God, that, in and of itself, does not indicate that the individual has a heart problem. The following letter to this author by his second cousin (one-cup and non-Sunday school) illustrates the principle also enunciated by Lanier—“heart problem.”

Mark Bailey and the Heart

            The cited letter below from Mark Bailey is not to impugn his sincerity, but rather to illustrate the mind-set of some Christians when other Christians cannot concur with their particular brand of orthodoxy. In this letter, Bailey accuses the author of this essay of dishonesty:

Dear Dallas,

I trust this letter finds you well, at least physically, for biblically your spiritual life is a shamble. My prayer is that your heart will soon be open for the simple truths of God’s word and in action will obey them. I consider speaking to you on biblical subjects almost useless because you know the truth, as well, if not better, than I do.[20]

One cannot help but wonder about his statement concerning the one he condemns—“You know the truth, as well, if not better, than I do.” If this testimonial is true, which he claims that it is, then one cannot help but wonder why Bailey does not listen more attentively to Burdette in his explanation of the Passover traditions in the first century.[21] I do not question his sincerity or the motives of his heart, but one must still seek to expound the Word of God to him more accurately.[22] Since he refuses to undertake a free examination of his long-held cherished traditions, he allows himself to participate in absurd behavior toward a fellow believer in Jesus the Messiah. He fails to recognize that interpretation allows a margin of liberty. The Movement of which he is a part becomes more and more oppressive, as it grows older, by reason of its own past.

            One must not confuse an honest mistake of the heart with rebellion against God. This confusion has sent Christian communities into a tailspin. This author is eternally grateful to Carl Ketcherside who first brought this concept of distinction between rebellions and an honest mistake of  the heart to his attention. He says with clear insight: “Men can be mistaken without being malicious. They can fail to understand without falling away from Jesus.”[23] Once more, Ketcherside seems to address correctly the dilemma of both Lanier and King when he writes: “All of them want to respect the authority of our Lord, but both groups confuse their interpretations with the Scriptures, and argue for the authority of their opinions as Scripture.”[24]

            It should be obvious to all Christians that when Christians disagree on the many issues that divide, the question is not that of the heart, but rather of hermeneutics.  When Christians hold opposing views, “they,” in the words of Ketcherside, “have not deserted Jesus. They have not fallen away from the faith. They have not defected from the Christian walk.”[25] The words of Leroy Garrett also cut away all the underbrush that camouflages so much of one’s hermeneutics and go right to the heart of the problem:

People tire of our equating our understanding of the Word of God with the word of God itself. This is to say that we must distinguish between revelation and interpretation. Revelation is what God has given us in Scripture. Interpretation is what we conclude the Scriptures to mean. One is divine, the other is human.[26]

COMMANDMENTS OF MEN

            Any belief system that does not coincide with certain views as set forth by a particular party is looked upon as “commandments (rules) of men.” Matthew 15:9 is utilized by many sincere believers, as stated earlier, to advocate the matching error that the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law were guilty of in setting aside one Scripture with another Scripture. Each Christian community should reexamine Jesus’ encounter with the religious leaders in order to determine more accurately the focal point of emphasis.[27] It is not uncommon for religious leaders today to invalidate the effectiveness of God’s Word by not keeping in mind the oneness of Scripture. The principle that the Reformers advanced is still true—Scripture interprets Scripture. Interpreters of the Word revoke one passage with another passage. The principles of the Reformation must always continue, that is, there must always be the principle of reexamination in order to rectify and correct erroneous interpretations placed upon God’s Word. The sovereignty of a tradition is often the result of a polluted source of other traditions. One must be careful of any Reformation Movement that claims absolute power over souls. 

            As stated earlier, one’s explanation of Matthew 15:9 is often colored by his/her preconceived ideas as to what constitutes the “commandments of men.”[28] The “commandments of men” are often associated with the following, even though the various groups can never properly identify what is and what is not the commandment(s) of God versus what is and what is not the commandments of men in dealing with a particular practice, for example: (1) church cooperation or non-church cooperation, (2) long hair on women or cut hair [some maintain that a woman cannot even cut the dead-ends off her hair], (3) women wearing a head covering in the assembly [artificial veil—usually a doily] or uncut hair, which, according to some, is the veil, (4) one common cup or individual cups,[29] (5) Sunday school or non-Sunday school,[30] (6) wine in the Lord’s Supper or grape juice in the Lord’s Supper, (7) solo or congregational singing or both,[31] (8) singing acappella or with instrumental accompaniment, (9) no divorce for any reason—not even adultery or fornication, (10) breaking the communion bread versus pinching the bread, and so on. This list that many Christians append to the “commandments of men” are innumerable—left only to the imagination of men.[32]

MATTHEW 15:1-9 IN LIGHT OF ITS CONTEXT

            Both Matthew and Mark record the hostilities of the Pharisees and teachers of the Law against Jesus. Douglas Hare captures the very essence of the conflict between Jesus and the religious leaders in his concise statement: “He challenged his challengers by subordinating ritual observance to ethical behavior.”[33]  The religious leaders questioned Jesus about the conduct of His disciples, which violated their long-held traditions. But Jesus responded by calling attention to their flagrant disregard of the fifth commandment in the Decalogue.  They violated God’s Commandment for their traditions. Mark recorded this stinging rebuke from Jesus against the religious leaders unethical conduct: “You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men” (Mark 7:8).

            When Christians apply Matthew 15:1-9 and Mark 7:1-13 to other Christians who do not give their blessings or consent to a sleight-of-the-hand in handling the Scriptures as carelessly as the religious leaders did, then the manipulators are just as guilty of manipulating the Scriptures to uphold their traditions as were the ones whom Jesus hauled over the coals.   At the time of this confrontation Jesus was in Gennesaret (Matthew 14:34), which was sixty-five miles from Jerusalem. These leaders were so hostile to the Messiah that they were willing to travel such a long distance in order to confront him for not binding the tradition of the Elders upon his disciples. The leaders did

not waste any time upon their arrival to question Him: “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!” (15:2).[34]

The Traditions of the Elders

These traditions were regarded as equally binding as the Word of God. In the time of Christ, the teachers of the law—also called scribes—instilled into their children the interpretation of the law as handed down by the famous rabbis. Eventually, the traditions became so enormous that Rabbi Jehuda committed the “tradition of the elders” to writing in 200 CE. This compilation of the traditions became known as the Mishnah, a word formed from a verb meaning “to repeat.” This massive work contains the traditions that predate Christ about 200 years up to 200 years after Christ’s birth. In time, it became apparent that such an enormous work needed to be interpreted, so a commentary was written to explain the traditions, which today is known as the Gemara, which word is derived from a verb meaning “to complete.” Eventually these two works—Mishnah and Gemara—were combined and became known as the Talmud, which word is related to the verb meaning “to teach.”[35]

            The Pharisees and scribes (teachers of the Law) questioned Jesus about the tradition of the elders concerning the washing of the hands, but Jesus questioned them about their disregard for God’s Law:

Matthew 15:1-2

Matthew 15:3-6

Then some Pharisees and teachers of the law came to Jesus from Jerusalem and asked,  2 “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? They don’t wash their hands before they eat!”

Jesus replied, “And why do you break the command of God for the sake of your tradition?  4 For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’  5 But you say that if a man says to his father or mother, ‘Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is a gift devoted to God,’ 6 he is not to ‘honor his father’ with it. Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition.  

This particular tradition, so it appears, is based upon the command of God to Aaron and his sons concerning the washing of hands before performing their duties in the Tabernacle:

17 Then the LORD said to Moses, 18 “Make a bronze basin, with its bronze stand, for washing. Place it between the Tent of Meeting and the altar, and put water in it.  19 Aaron and his sons are to wash their hands and feet with water from it.  20 Whenever they enter the Tent of Meeting, they shall wash with water so that they will not die. Also, when they approach the altar to minister by presenting an offering made to the LORD by fire, 21 they shall wash their hands and feet so that they will not die. This is to be a lasting ordinance for Aaron and his descendants for the generations to come” (Exodus 30:17-21).

This command had nothing to do with the washing of hands for the ordinary Israelite, but this instruction concerned the priests officiating at the Tabernacle.  In the time of Jesus, one senses an intense desire on the part of the Israelites to maintain holiness, but this yearning resulted in exaggerated emphasis upon rituals to the neglect of that which really mattered with God. William Hendriksen has correctly observed that the religious leaders “substituted mere legalism for true piety, outward conformity to the tradition for the attitude of heart and mind, and torturing scrupulosity for glad obedience.”[36] Jesus calls the Pharisees and teachers of the Law hypocrites for their neglect of the weightier matters of the Law and for their scrupulosity for the traditions of the elders.

Hypocrite: Play Acting

            As mentioned above, the English word hypocrite is a transliteration[37] of the Greek word uJpokrithv" (&upokriths). F. W. Albright and C. S. Mann reject the traditional rendering hypocrite as play-acting.[38]  These two scholars prefer the word shysters,[39] and their assessment of this confrontation between Jesus and the religious leaders is full of insight. Both men paint a vivid description of this scene:

Here at vii 5 there is enough of the pejorative sense to indicate Jesus’ impatience with the legalism which is aware only of failure of observance in others. At xv 7 we have elected to use the colloquialism “shyster!” which connotes a total disregard for the purpose of the Law while ostensibly paying reverence to it. The incident which provoked Jesus’ exclamation in xxii 18 seemed again to demand “You casuists!” for here the aim of a supposedly harmless question was to bring a charge of lawlessness against him.[40]

“You casuists” captures the essence of what Jesus felt about these leaders.  Again, Albright and Mann further illuminate this word hypocrite:

We may even carry the sense a step further and speak of someone as “hypercritical,” intending to convey the idea that a person is given to fine, hairsplitting distinction, but we do not at the same time accuse such a person of  “being a hypocrite” in our modern sense. We suggest only that his faculty of discernment is carried too far for ordinary purposes.[41]

Dave Miller

This hairsplitting tendency is not just a phenomenal that occurred in the first century, but, even today, one observes the same kind of hairsplitting that the religious leaders engaged in. For instance, Dave Miller, Director of the Brown Trail School of Preaching in Bedford, Texas, is distressed about “handclapping” in the so-called worship service.[42] Not only does he object to this behavior in the assembly, but he also objects to the practice of handclapping after baptism.[43] For Miller, one’s emotions must be contained inwardly. One cannot help but wonder if Miller would have rebuked the eunuch for rejoicing after his baptism. Listen to Luke as he records the excitement on the part of the eunuch following his baptism:

The eunuch asked Philip, “Tell me, please, who is the prophet talking about, himself or someone else?”  35 Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus. 36 As they traveled along the road, they came to some water and the eunuch said, “Look, here is water. Why shouldn’t I be baptized?”  38 And he gave orders to stop the chariot. Then both Philip and the eunuch went down into the water and Philip baptized him.  39 When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord suddenly took Philip away, and the eunuch did not see him again, but went on his way rejoicing (Acts 8:34-39).

            This accusation against Miller may seem overstated; nevertheless, just a perusal of his tirade against handclapping demonstrates that this allegation against him is not an understatement. The following extract from Miller’s article explains the indictment:

Handclapping is occurring in our assemblies in two forms. First, some clap in rhythm to their worship in song. . . . Striking the hand together while singing is no more acceptable to God than striking the hands on a drum while singing. Handclapping is simply a “natural” from of “mechanical” instrumental music. . . . Handclapping is also taking place in the form of applause—usually after a baptism or during a sermon.[44]

The result of his complaint is a number of statements that have little or nothing in their favor to sustain his condemnation of handclapping. He assumes that God condemns such behavior, but he presents no evidence to uphold his conclusions. He offers his objections without sound arguments from Holy Scripture. Not only is Miller enraged about “handclapping,” but he also wages war against solo singing in the assembly:

But the New Testament is extremely clear on the matter. Singing is to be congregational, i.e., the entire church participating together in the singing (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). Paul’s reference to “each one has a psalm” (1 Cor. 14:26 is a reference, not to solos, but most likely to inspired human writers who provided the infant church with suitable psalms, hymns and spiritual songs. No authority exists for solos and choirs in the assembly (emphasis mine—RDB).[45]

            In this essay, he attacks drama, the Lord’s Supper on other days than Sundays, and the dedication of babies. This dedication of babies is not the same as infant baptism. He also objects to female worship leaders who wait on the Lord’s Table, sings solos, direct choirs, read Scripture, and lead prayer.[46]  What is Miller’s proof for rejecting solo singing, which, according to certain Christians, is a “commandment of men,” not a “commandment of God.” Miller refutes solo singing with the words “most likely,” and then assumes that the “most likely” had reference to “inspired human writers.”  With the flick of a pen, Miller assigns the practices of generations to the trash heap of history. In his entire inferno against solo singing, he produces no concrete evidence to uphold his views. For one to be true to the text, one must interpret the text as it is given, not interpret with an unnatural meaning in order to make a text conform to the “traditions” of a self-styled ecclesiastical organization—his group—as the citadel of all truth.

The theme of the journal[47] in which Miller’s article appeared is: “The Church at the Crossroads.” This entire issue is dealing with what these men consider to be the “commandments of men.” In fact, two of the last four authors in this special issue make reference to Jesus’ encounter with the religious leaders.[48]  All of the articles in this special issue are peppered with Scripture. But just simply citing the Word of God does not, in and of itself, prove anything. One must rightly divide the Word of God. 

David Hester

Another author who espouses the same type of philosophy that Dave Miller champions is David Hester, minister for the Church of Christ.[49]  O. B. Porterfield, editor of The Seibles Road Church of Christ Bulletin, published an article by Hester in which Hester bemoans the fairness of a religious journal called Ensign, published by Pat Kilpatrick in Huntsville, AL.[50]  To illustrate the chicanery of Scripture citations without reference to context can be found in Hester’s objection to my essay on Romans 16:17.[51] He responded to my article and then I responded to his article, but in his final response, he replied with a silly argument, apparently without thinking about what he was saying, by grasping for a straw to maintain his sectarian position on Romans 16:17. Listen to Hester as he sets forth an argument that is as full of holes as is a sieve:

Romans 16:17-18 is still in our Bibles, and will be until the Lord comes again. We need to read it, and heed it. As a Gospel preacher, I will give an account of what I have preached at the day of judgment. I will also give an account of whether I have been faithful in striving for unity, and not division.[52]

My essay on Romans 16:17 that he objects to so strenuously never denies that Romans 16:17-18 is a part of God’s Holy Word. Yes, in the words of Hester, it will continue to be there “until the Lord comes again.” But that is not the issue. The question is whether Christians, within certain sectarian groups within the Churches of Christ, have interpreted this passage in light of its context? Hester seems to think that just surface reading is all that is necessary for a correct understanding of the Word. Does one need to examine the intent of the author? The author may say one thing and mean something else. For instance, one may read from this same letter about kissing: “Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ send greetings” (Romans 16:16). Does this Scripture need interpretation? Does Hester demand this act of kissing as a part of the Christian community today? Yes, it is in the Bible and will continue to be in the Bible until Jesus comes. For one to simply cite a Scripture does not tell the whole story. For example, consider the following Scriptures:

Matthew 5:39

Matthew 5:42

But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.

Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.

 

John 13:12-17

1 Corinthians 16:20

When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. “Do you understand what I have done for you?” he asked them.  13 “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am.  14 Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.  15 I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you.  16 I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.  17 Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them.

All the brothers here send you greetings.

            Yes, Matthew 5:39 is in the Bible, but does Jesus say that if one hits you in the head with a baseball bat—the left side—and you survive, then you are to stand up and let him/her have one more shot? The answer is no! It is also true that Matthew 5:42 is in the Bible, but does Jesus say that one cannot refuse someone if he/she wishes to borrow money? Again, one can say that John 13:15 is in the Bible, but does Jesus mean that Christians must continue to wash the feet of His saints? Once again, one can say that 1 Corinthians 16:20 is also in the Bible, but does Paul mean that Christians must go around kissing one another today?

            Before leaving Hester’s illogical mind, perhaps, another illustration will demonstrate the ridiculousness of his argument in which he seeks to do away with my arguments according to the context. For example, the Temptation of Jesus in the wilderness is a classic example to refute the irrational argument of Hester. Satan confronted Jesus with citations from Scripture, but Jesus corrected Satan’s attempt to nullify one Scripture with another Scripture. Satan says:

6 “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: ”‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone’” (Matthew 4:6).  

Satan cited Psalms 91:11-12 to give validity to his request. But, on the other hand, Jesus also responded by citing Scripture: “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test’ (Matthew 4:7). Jesus cited Deuteronomy 6:16 to counter act the request of Satan. But one can almost hear the conversation between Jesus and Satan now—Satan says, “Well, Jesus, Psalms 91:11-12 is still in the Bible and will continue to be there until the end of the ages.” If Satan had followed the logic of Hester, then this logic would have been the proper response.  It is not uncommon for many Christians to commit the same fallacy as Satan did in the citation of Scripture. It is not sufficient to just quote a passage, but one must seek to understand the intent of the author, not what the interpreter wishes him to say.

On the one hand, it is not uncommon for many individuals to fail to ask what a certain text means. On the other hand, what many Christians are concerned about is, How do I answer my opposition? Why do people often times find things that are not in the text? Perhaps, this finding is simply “monkey-see-monkey-do” mentality. One must always be conscious that he/she does not have a mechanistic or tape-recorder mentality. It is because of this tape-recorder mentality that even the Promise Keepers are included in the “commandments of men.”  For example, Jodie Boren, one of the writers for Seibles Road Church of Christ Bulletin, cites Matthew 15:9 to give credence to his complaints against many within the Churches of Christ that are accepting the “unity in diversity” concept among the promise keepers.[53]

            There are approximately twenty-five or more divisions just within the Churches of Christ. Each fellowship considers itself the “true church.” Thus, whatever one particular church believes, then if another church does not agree with its oddities in interpretation, then that fellowship is following the “commandments of men,” not the commandments of God. Each one wants to assign the word hypocrite to any and all dissents. But in the light of the context, from which censure is drawn, one must examine carefully to determine the mind-set of the religious leaders in their attempt to circumvent the fifth commandment of God for the sake of their traditions. The subject of “corban” entered this picture of condemnation of the part of Jesus.

CORBAN AS A GIFT TO GOD

            The religious leaders used “corban” as justification for setting aside God’s fifth commandment in the Decalogue. As noted above, there is a contrast between the “traditions of the elders” and the “commandments of God.” Jesus accuses the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law for setting aside the instructions of God toward one’s parents in order to uphold the oral traditions of men. In this encounter, Jesus calls attention to the fifth Commandment, which reads: “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you” (Exodus 20:12). But the hairsplitting champions of orthodoxy sought to circumvent the legislation of God found in Exodus through their oral traditions. Their method in accomplishing this negation of God’s Commandment was extremely crafty.  In fact, Mark’s Gospel, in revealing this encounter, says: “How ingeniously you get round the commandment of God in order to preserve your own tradition!” (Mark 7:9).[54] How did the religious leaders get around this Commandment of God? Well, the teachers of the Law appealed to the “Corban Vow” to justify their actions for their total disregard for their financial obligation toward their parents. Listen once more to Jesus’ response to their flagrant violation of this sacred Commandment:

11 But you say that if a man says to his father or mother: ‘Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is Corban’ (that is, a gift devoted to God), 12 then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother.  13 Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that” (7:11-13). 

            What does Corban mean? Corban can mean that which is dedicated to God. The religious leaders manipulated the teachings of God through the word corban. The English word corban is a transliteration of the Greek word korba'n (korban). And the Greek word is a transliteration of the Hebrew word  /B*r+q* (q(rb*n), which means “gift” in both languages. Mark translates the word korban as gift (dw'ron, dwron). Alan McNeile points out that “Koban” . . . that which is brought near as an offering . . . and frequently in the Targums[55], is not transliterated in the LXX,[56] but rendered dw'ron, dwron.”[57] This concept of “gift” is fully worked out by William Hendriksen:

The Pharisees and scribes were telling the children that there was a way to get around the heavy burden of having to bestow honor upon their parents by supporting them. If either father or mother, noticing that a son had something which was needed by the parent, asked for it, all that was necessary was for this son to say, “It’s dwran (a gift)” or “q(rb*n (an offering),” Mark 7:11. Either way, whether the son uses the Greek word dwran or the Hebrew q(rb*n, he is really saying, “It is consecrated to God,” and by making this assertion or exclamation he, according to Pharisaic teaching based on tradition, had released himself from the obligation of honoring his parents—here “father” as also representing the mother—by helping them in their particular need.[58]

            The religious leaders could take a scribal regulation to wipe out one of the Ten Commandments. Even today, a cursory glance of the religious journals within the Churches of Christ reveals how the traditions of bishop editors, powerful preachers, and domineering elders have made annulled, through centuries of fossilized traditions. Paul addresses the spirit of toleration in his epistles to Rome and Corinth. For example, Romans 14 and 15 and 1 Corinthians 8 are made null and void through the careless treatment of Matthew 15:9. The phrase “commandments of men” would be more applicable to Roy Lanier, Homer King, Dave Miller, David Hester, and O. B. Porterfield than to the individuals they condemned with their citation from Matthew 15:9.  These Scriptures (Romans 14 & 15, 1 Corinthians 8) are canceled through the careless treatment of Matthew 15:9. The following chart is given in order to facilitate the ease of identification of Paul’s instructions to Rome and Corinth. 

BOOK OF ROMANS

Romans 14:1

Romans 14:4

Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters.

Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.

 

Romans 14:5

Romans 14:19

One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind.

Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.

 

Romans 15:1

Romans 15:7

We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves.

Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.

 

BOOK OF FIRST CORINTHIANS

 

1 Corinthians 8:1-3

 

1 Corinthians 8:4-7

Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that we all possess knowledge. Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.  2 The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know.  3 But the man who loves God is known by God.

So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that an idol is nothing at all in the world and that there is no God but one.  5 For even if there are so-called gods, whether in heaven or on earth (as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”),  6 yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live.

7 But not everyone knows this.

 

1 Corinthians 8:9-11

1 Corinthians 8:12-13

Be careful, however, that the exercise of your freedom does not become a stumbling block to the weak.  10 For if anyone with a weak conscience sees you who have this knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, won’t he be emboldened to eat what has been sacrificed to idols?  11 So this weak brother, for whom Christ died, is destroyed by your knowledge.

When you sin against your brothers in this way and wound their weak conscience, you sin against Christ.  13 Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall.

            Many well-meaning Christians violate these admonitions from the Holy Spirit. Christians circumvent these instructions through advancing the notion that perfect vision is required before one can extend the right hand of fellowship. But this practice of 20/20 vision did not exist in the first century church and neither does it exist today. Individuals are to receive others in the same way that the Lord has received them to the glory of God. How has God received His people today? Is it not with “warts and all”? Does not God receive individuals with imperfection in their knowledge as well as shortcomings in their lives?[59] Jesus, too, dealt with “dullness” in understanding among His disciples. For instance, on one occasion, Jesus says to the apostles,

“Are you still so dull?” Jesus asked them.  17 “Don’t you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body?  18 But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart, and these make a man ‘unclean.’  19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander.  20 These are what make a man ‘unclean’; but eating with unwashed hands does not make him ‘unclean’” (Matthew 15:16-20)

On another occasion concerning bread, Jesus again calls attention to their lack of understanding the obvious:

5 When they went across the lake, the disciples forgot to take bread.  6 “Be careful,” Jesus said to them. “Be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.” 7 They discussed this among themselves and said, “It is because we didn’t bring any bread.” 8 Aware of their discussion, Jesus asked, “You of little faith, why are you talking among yourselves about having no bread?  9 Do you still not understand? Don’t you remember the five loaves for the five thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered?  10 Or the seven loaves for the four thousand, and how many basketfuls you gathered?  11 How is it you don’t understand that I was not talking to you about bread? But be on your guard against the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”  12 Then they understood that he was not telling them to guard against the yeast used in bread, but against the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees (Matthew 16:5-12).

            Are Christians today in fellowship with Christians in error? All Christians are in error on some point. No one has 20/20 vision. Is truth true? Is error error? Yes! But one must keep in mind that even though all truth is true, nevertheless, all truth is not essential to one’s salvation, if so, then no one could be saved. What about error? All error is error, but not all error will condemn one’s soul, if so, then no one could be saved. The community of God is fractured and splintered over something that the Bible is totally silent about, namely, a worship service with its five ritualistic acts performed in a certain manner. As a young preacher boy, my uncle—E.H. Miller—taught me that the commandments of men had to do with the following:

One could add many other items to the above list; it all depends on which group that one meets with today as to what constitutes the “commandments of men.” William Barclay captures the very heart of the matter when he writes: “They had come to prefer their own man-made ingenuities to the great simplicities of the Law of God.”[60] Again, Barclay paints a rather dismal picture of the religious leaders’ concept of worship:

To the Scribes and Pharisees worship was ritual, ceremonial law; to Jesus worship was the clean heart and the loving life. Here is the clash. And that clash still exists. What is worship? Even today there are many who would say that worship is not worship unless it is carried out by a priest ordained in a certain succession, in a building consecrated in a certain way, and from a liturgy laid down by a certain Church. And all these things are externals.

One of the greatest definitions of worship ever laid down was laid down by William Temple: “To worship is to quicken the conscience by the holiness of God, to feed the mind with the truth of God, to purge the imagination by the beauty of God, to open the heart to the love of God, to devote the will to the purpose of God.” We must have a care lest we stand aghast at the apparent blindness of the Scribes and the Pharisees, lest we are shocked by their insistence on outward ceremonial, and at the same time be ourselves guilty of the same fault in our own way. Religion can never be founded on any ceremonies or ritual; religion must always be founded on personal relationships between man and God.[61]

            The Churches of Christ today are also divided over ritual ceremony, namely, five-acts.[62] Even today, it appears, so it seems to me, that Christians are more concerned over ritual than they are over right ethical conduct. Jesus’ citation of Isaiah (739 BCE) is just as apropos today as it was seventeen hundred years ago. Again, one must go back to the context of Mark 7:1-7 to gain the crux of what the controversy was all about. Listen once more to Jesus as he issues His stinging rebuke:

He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written”: ‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. 7 They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men.’  8 You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men” (Mark 7:6-8).

Jesus’ quoting from the Book of Isaiah struck the heart of the religious leaders to the quick. Even today, this citation from Isaiah should still flash like neon lights upon the Christian community.  This was a cutting censure to religious leaders. In this citation from Isaiah, one quickly discovers that this rebuke is just as appropriate today as it was almost three thousand years ago.  To set the stage for the context of Matthew 15:9, one must observe the conflict that Matthew sets forth in leading up to and after Matthew 15:9.

CONFLICT IN THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW

A perusal of conflict within the Gospel of Matthew should set the stage for a correct application of Matthew 15:9. The leaders that Jesus addressed did have a heart problem. These individuals were corrupt through and through. In fact, Matthew begins his Gospel with the religious leaders of John the Baptist and concludes his Gospel with Jesus’ warning against these same leaders (Matthew 23). The entire Gospel of Matthew is a book of conflict with the religious leaders from beginning to end.[63]

John the Baptist

This combat in Gennesaret is preceded with John the Baptist’s ministry in the desert area of Judea (3:1). John, too, confronts the religious leaders for their scandalous nature:

Many of the Pharisees and Sadducees came to the place where John was baptizing people. When John saw them, he said, “You are all snakes! Who warned you to run away from God’s coming punishment? 8 Do the things that show you really have changed your hearts and lives (Matthew 3:7-8, NCV).

Jesus the Messiah

These are the same leaders that Jesus also encountered. The Pharisees and teachers of the Law possessed an external religion, not one that is internal. Following John’s encounter with the Pharisees and the Sadducees, Matthew records Jesus’ warning about these individuals whose lives were lived out of harmony with the will of God. Listen to Jesus as he forewarns his disciples: “I tell you that if you are no more obedient than the teachers of the law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (5:20, NCV). Following Jesus’ castigation of the religious leaders, Matthew follows this up with another clash between Jesus and the religious leaders in which the teachers of the Law go out of control when Jesus heals a paralytic and assures him that his sins are forgiven:

Jesus stepped into a boat, crossed over and came to his own town.  2 Some men brought to him a paralytic, lying on a mat. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven.” 3 At this, some of the teachers of the law said to themselves, “This fellow is blaspheming!” 4 Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts?  5 Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’?  6 But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins....” Then he said to the paralytic, “Get up, take your mat and go home.”  7 And the man got up and went home.  8 When the crowd saw this, they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to men (9:1-7).

            “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts,” said Jesus. Again, one is immediately confronted with another encounter with the religious leaders. Matthew’s Gospel is riddled with resistance from the leaders of Israel. This time, it is not over the healing of a paralytic (9:1-7), but rather it is over the eating of grain on the Sabbath by His disciples (12:1-8). Once more, Jesus goes right to the heart of the matter:

At that time Jesus went through the grainfields on the Sabbath. His disciples were hungry and began to pick some heads of grain and eat them.  2 When the Pharisees saw this, they said to him, “Look! Your disciples are doing what is unlawful on the Sabbath.” 3 He answered, “Haven’t you read what David did when he and his companions were hungry?  4 He entered the house of God, and he and his companions ate the consecrated bread—which was not lawful for them to do, but only for the priests.  5 Or haven’t you read in the Law that on the Sabbath the priests in the temple desecrate the day and yet are innocent?  6 I tell you that one greater than the temple is here.  7 If you had known what these words mean, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the innocent.  8 For the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath” (12:1-8).

            Matthew sets the tone for the head-on-collision between Jesus and the religious leaders in Matthew 15:1-9 through the various conflicts between Him and the leaders of Israel. This text should not be separated from what precedes. Just a casual reading of the Gospel of Matthew reveals the condition of the hearts of the leaders. To arrive at a correct diagnosis of the words of Jesus in Matthew 15:9, one must analyze the Scriptures that disseminates God’s attitude toward religion that consist in external regulations rather than one’s personal relationship to God and to man. The teaching in Matthew 15:1-9 is that not all the outward rituals in the world can compensate for a heart that is full of self-love, harshness, and ill-will toward other believers

CONCLUSION

John the Baptist begins his ministry with a strong rebuke of the religious leaders (3:7-12). Jesus begins His ministry with an analysis of the teachings of the religious leaders (Pharisees) (5:20) and ends His ministry with a scathing rebuke and condemnation to the leaders of Israel (23:1-39). Even though this author believes that Roy H. Lanier, the late Homer King (1892-1993),[64] Mark Bailey, and the late E. H. Miller (1909-1989) are/were wrong in their misapplication of Matthew 15:1-9, still one cannot apply this Scripture citation against them in its totality. Their attitude is not on par with the men whom Jesus condemned—a heart problem.  Nevertheless, there is an aspect of this passage that is applicable. One cannot apply an application of this pericope (unit or section) to other Christians who cannot, in good conscious, adhere to their odd interpretations of so many Scriptures.  These men, in essence, make void the commandments of God through their own fossilized traditions, which may be called the commandments of men.

The “commandments of men” that Jesus addressed had nothing to do with the issues that currently plague the Churches of Christ. Nevertheless, of the twenty-five or more divisions within the Churches of Christ, each one has its own set of the “commandments of men”, which in effect nullify God’s commands in Romans 14 & 15 and 1 Corinthians 8. The Churches of Christ need to reexamine the principles of interpretation. I fear that because of the belief in the verbal inspiration of the Scriptures, which is true, Christians often bring a very wooden interpretation to it. But one’s belief in the Bible as the Word of God does not allow individuals to ride roughshod over the consciences of other Christians. The one Scripture that might be applicable to these brethren, as mentioned above, is from the Book of Titus. Paul informs Titus that since God has put our lives together, there are certain things that Christians should do and should not do. Listen to Paul as he instructs Titus about a divisive spirit:

Remind the people to respect the government and be law-abiding, always ready to lend a helping hand. No insults, no fights. God’s people should be bighearted and courteous. It wasn’t so long ago that we ourselves were stupid and stubborn, dupes of sin, ordered every which way by our glands, going around with a chip on our shoulder, hated and hating back. But when God, our kind and loving Savior God, stepped in, he saved us from all that. It was all his doing; we had nothing to do with it. He gave us a good bath, and we came out of it new people, washed inside and out by the Holy Spirit. Our Savior Jesus poured out new life so generously. God’s gift has restored our relationship with him and given us back our lives. And there’s more life to come—an eternity of life! You can count on this. I want you to put your foot down. Take a firm stand on these matters so that those who have put their trust in God will concentrate on the essentials that are good for everyone. Stay away from mindless, pointless quarreling over genealogies and fine print in the law code. That gets you nowhere. Warn a quarrelsome person once or twice, but then be done with him. It’s obvious that such a person is out of line, rebellious against God. By persisting in divisiveness he cuts himself off (Titus 3:1-10).[65]

            This instruction from Paul to Titus is the same instructions that Paul calls attention to in the very end of his epistle to the Romans (see Romans 16:17). This passage follows on the heel of his warning about forcing other believers into conformity to one’s own conclusions—whether right or wrong in his opinions.[66]  Christians must guard against a slavish imitation of any part of the past without regard to the conditions and circumstances, which prevailed at the time. One’s belief of the past is the practice of a so-called worship service with five ordained rituals to be performed on Sunday morning in order for worship to be in spirit and in truth. The concept of a worship service with five ritualistic acts is totally lacking in both books (Titus and Romans). When one’s ethical conduct is not in harmony with the teachings of Jesus, then one’s worship of God is in useless.  One must present his/her body as a living sacrifice to God. Paul writes to the Romans:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God—this is your spiritual act of worship.  2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will (Romans 12:1-2).

When one does not present his/her body as a living sacrifice, then one’s worship of God is in vain. If one does not obey the Gospel, that is to say, if one does not bring his/her life into conformity to the Sermon on the Mount, then one’s worship is abortive.

In concluding this essay, the following Scripture (Matthew 12:1-8) is cited again in order to reinforce what God is concerned about. Eugene Peterson captures the heart of this pericope as he translates:

One Sabbath, Jesus was strolling with his disciples through a field of ripe grain. Hungry, the disciples were pulling off the heads of grain and munching on them. Some Pharisees reported them to Jesus: “Your disciples are breaking the Sabbath rules!” Jesus said, “Really? Didn’t you ever read what David and his companions did when they were hungry, how they entered the sanctuary and ate fresh bread off the altar, bread that no one but priests were allowed to eat? And didn’t you ever read in God’s Law that priests carrying out their Temple duties break Sabbath rules all the time and it’s not held against them? “There is far more at stake here than religion. If you had any idea what this Scripture meant—‘I prefer a flexible heart to an inflexible ritual’—you wouldn’t be nitpicking like this. The Son of Man is no lackey to the Sabbath; he’s in charge”[67]

 

 



[1] For an examination of oddities in pattern theology, see Dallas Burdette, “Oddities in Pattern Theology” [ON-LINE]. Available from http://www.freedominchrist.net [accessed 16 February 2001], located under SERMONS AND ESSAYS, then under WORSHIP.

[2] Roy H. Lanier, “How Important Is Doctrine,” in The Spiritual Sword 28, no. 1 (October 1996): 39.

[3] Roy H. Lanier, “Difficult Queries About Fellowship (Part 1),” in The Restorer 10, no. 9/10 (September/October 1990): 14-15.

[4] Ibid., 14.

[5] Cedric B. Johnson, Psychology of Biblical Interpretation (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1983), 42.

[6] Fritz Rienecker and Cleon Rogers, Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1980), 45.

[7] For a detailed analysis of the religious leaders called hypocrites, see Dallas Burdette, “The Political Powers of the Pharisees and Their Oral Tradition [ON-LINE]. Available from http://www.freedominchrist.net [accessed 16 February 2001), located under SERMONS AND ESSAYS and then under ELDERS. See also Dallas Burdette, “ A Literary Analysis of the Gospel of Matthew” [ON-LINE]. Available from http://www.freedominchrist.net (accessed 16 February 2001), located under BIBLICAL STUDIES and then under GOSPEL OF MATTHEW for a comprehensive study of the religious leaders and Jesus.

[8] Roy H. Lanier, “Difficult Queries About Fellowship,” part 1, The Restorer 10, no. 9/10 (September/October 1990): 14-15.

[9] The Stone/Campbell Movement was born on the American frontier in the first half of the nineteenth century.

[10] Ibid., 15.

[11] See Dallas Burdette, “God Is A Lover of Music: Psalm 150” [ON-LINE]. Available from http://www.freedominchrist.net [accessed 16 February 2001], located under BIBLICAL STUDIES and then under the subheading PSALMS. This study, in addition to illustrating that God is the motive behind instrumental music, exposes the fallacies in the arguments set forth to condemn something that God commanded.

[12] A detailed study of the subject of the philosophy of worship consisting of “five acts” is analyzed by this author on his website. See Dallas Burdette, “Sunday Morning Worship—Five Acts?” [ON-LINE]. Available from http://www.freedominchrist.net [accessed 16 February 2001], located under SERMONS AND ESSAYS and then under the subheading WORSHIP.  See also “Congregational Worship and Division,” Ibid.

[13] See Roy H. Lanier, “Difficult Queries About Fellowship,” The Restorer, 15. For an examination of Romans 16:17 and 2 John 9-11, see Dallas Burdette, “Watch Out For Those Who Cause Division” [ON-LINE]. Available from http://www.freedominchrist.net [accessed 16 February 2001], located under BIBLICAL STUDIES and then under the subheading ROMANS (57 CE). See also, Dallas Burdette, “Doctrine of Christ in 2 John 9”  [ON-LINE]. Available from http://www.freedominchrist.net [accessed 16 February 2001], located under BIBLICAL STUDIES and then under SECOND JOHN.

[14] See “Homer L. King 1892-1983,” Old Paths Advocate LV, no. 9 (September 1, 1983): 1-12 for a tribute to this great Christian man. See also Dallas Burdette, “A Brief History of the One-Cup and Non-Sunday School Movement [ON-LINE]. Available from http://www.freedominchrist.net [accessed 16 February 2001], located under SERMONS AND ESSAYS and then under LORD’S SUPPER for a detailed explanation of this odd movement and the role that King played in this misguided movement. This author knew and heard Homer L. King preach. He sought to do the will of God, but he, like so many other godly men, never really understood what it was all about.

[15] See Homer A. King, Old  Paths Pulpit: A Book of 33 Sermons and Essays (Missouri: Old Paths Advocate, 1945), 137, 140.

[16] Ibid., 140.

[17] Ibid., 135.

[18] Ibid., 133.

[19] Ibid., 140.

[20] Personal letter to Dallas Burdette (11 May 1990) from Mark Bailey in Burdette’s Special Collection located at Southern Christian University Library, Montgomery, AL.

[21] See Dallas Burdette, “Passover Traditions in the First Century” [ON-LINE]. Available from http://www.freedominchrist.net [accessed 16 February 2001], located under SERMONS AND ESSAYS and then under the LORD’S SUPPER.

[22] See Dallas Burdette, “How to Read the Word of God More Accurately” [ON-LINE]. Available from www.freedominchrist.net [accessed 16 February 2001], located under SERMONS AND ESSAYS and then under HERMENEUTICS.

[23] Carl Ketcherside, “Analysis of Apostasy,” Mission Messenger 27, no. 4 (April 1965): 51.

[24] Ibid., 50.

[25] Ibid., 51.

[26] Leroy Garrett, “IT MEANS WHAT IT SAYS,” Restoration Review 17, no. 4 (April 1975): 69.

[27] See Dallas Burdette, “Identification of False Prophets in Matthew 24” [ON-LINE]. Available from http://www.freedominchrist.net [accessed 16 February 2001], located under BIBLICAL STUDIES and then under GOSPEL OF MATTHEW.  This essay details the hypocrisy of the religious leaders that Jesus speaks of in Matthew 15:1-9.

[28] There is a certain amount of repetition in this section, but sometimes it is necessary in order to reinforce the correct interpretation of the Matthean passage.

[29] For an example of this philosophy of one-cup being one of the commandments of God, see Bruce Roebuck, “Tearing Down the Walls,” Old Paths Advocate 69, not 10 (October 1995): 5. He writes:

 

To change or advocate changing the way this supper is observed is to deny the Word of God. According to the above verses it is to be observed with a loaf of unleavened bread to represent the Lord’s body, one cup to represent the New Testament, and unfermented grape juice to represent the Lord’s blood shed for the salvation of men. In the bygone days of yesteryear men sought to tear down this wall. They introduced individual communion cups to their own demise. Having left the pattern they split brethren and condemned themselves by adding to the Word of God.

[30] Ibid., where he writes that the use of Sunday school is a violation of God’s Word :

Another wall worthy of note is that of Sunday School classes. While on the surface this may appear to be an honorable idea, further study reveals it to be a departure from the word of God.

[31] The following quote is only given to illustrate the frustrations that individuals experience when others do not agree with their “pet” themes. See Ray Dutton, “To: The Elders of the Landmark church of Christ,” letter dated, September 25, 1996, Seibles Road Church of Christ Bulletin  (November 3, 1996): 2, where Dutton bemoans the views of Buddy Bell, pulpit minister for the Landmark Church of Christ, Montgomery, AL:

When I asked Buddy if he believed solos, choirs, and quartets were scriptural in worship, he did not even hesitate with his answer. He told me in no uncertain terms that he believed that the practice of using solos, choirs, and quartets was in his words, ‘very scriptural.’ In fact he went on to state that he had NO biblical problem with them. The funny thing is that he was amazed that I was so convinced that they were wrong.

Following this charge against Bell for his unwillingness to forsake his beliefs, Dutton withdrew from the Landmark Church of Christ and placed membership with the College Church of Christ, which is a very conservative, traditional Church of Christ. This church does use individual cups and provides classes for its Sunday school on Sunday morning.

[32] If one wishes to see the many oddities that exist within the Churches of Christ, then refer to the following, as cited earlier in this essay. The reference is listed again: see Dallas Burdette, “Oddities in Pattern Theology” [ON-LINE]. Available from http://www.freedominchrist.net [accessed 16 February 2001], located under SERMONS AND ESSAYS, then under WORSHIP. One quickly discovers from this essay that the Churches of Christ have difficulty in determining the commandments of men versus the commandments of God.

 

[33] Douglas R. A. Hare, Matthew: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching, Interpretation (Louisville: John Knox Press, 1993), 172.

[34] For a detailed study of the Pharisees and their oral tradition, see Dallas Burdette, “The Political Power of the Pharisees and Their Oral Tradition” [ON-LINE]. Available from http://www.freedominchrist.net [accessed 17 February 2001], located under SERMONS AND ESSAYS and then under ELDERS. Also see Dallas Burdette, “Literary Analysis of the Gospel of Matthew” [ON-LINE]. Available from http://www.freedominchrist.net [accessed 17 February 2001], located under BIBLICAL STUDIES and then under GOSPEL OF MATTHEW. This essay demonstrates that this conflict between Jesus and the religious leaders was an on going affair from the beginning of Matthew’s Gospel to the end of his Gospel.

 

[35] See William Hendrickson, Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew, New Testament commentary (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1973), 607-612, for an excellent explanation of the traditions of the elders.

[36] Ibid.,  612.

[37] Transliteration is taking the letters, not the meaning, but the letters of one language and converting them into equivalent letters in another language. On the other hand, translation means to take the meaning of a word from one language and put that meaning into another language.

[38] See W. F. Albright and C. S. Mann, Matthew, The Anchor Bible 26 (New York: Doubleday, 1971), CXIII.

[39] Ibid. CXIII

[40] Ibid.

[41] Ibid., CXVII.

[42] Dave Miller, “Changes in Worship,” Spiritual Sword 28, no. 1 (October 1996), 25-28.

[43] One cannot help but wonder if Miller considers baptism a sixth act of worship?

[44] Ibid., 27.

[45] Ibid., 26.

[46] Ibid., 27

[47] The Spiritual Sword is published by the Getwell Church of Christ in Memphis, TN. This journal is probably one of the most radical of all publications put out by Churches of Christ. Just a perusal of the articles quickly reveals that the writers, as whole, do not concern themselves with context. The authors in this journal cite a lot of Scripture, but so do the Jehovah Witnesses. In the interpretation of passage, one should always remember CONTEXT, CONTEXT, CONTEXT.

[48] See Hugo McCord, “Does Instrumental Music Matter?” Spiritual Sword 28, no. 1 (October 1996): 30; see also Roy H. Lanier, Jr., “How Important Is Doctrine?” Ibid., 39.

[49] David Hester is also author of Among the Scholars (Tuscumbia, AL: David Hester, 1994), which is similar in nature to Dave Miller, Piloting the Strait: A Guidebook for Assessing Change in Churches of Christ (Pulaski, TN: Sain Publications, 1996).

[50] For information on R.L. (Pat Kilpatrick), see Dallas Burdette, “Biographical Material on the Life of R.L. Kilpatrick,” and “Kilpatrick’s Concept of Leadership” [ON-LINE]. Available from http://www.freedominchrist.net [accessed 16 February 2001], located under SERMONS AND ESSAYS and then under ELDERS.

[51] See David W. Hester, “IS ENSIGN ‘FAIR?’” Seibles Road Church of Christ Bulletin (June 1, 1997): 2-3. For an examination of this essay, see Dallas Burdette, “Watch Out for Those Who Cause Division (16:17)” [ON-LINE]. Available from www.freedominchrist.net [accessed 20 February 2001], located under BIBLICAL STUDIES and then under ROMANS (57 CE).

[52] See David W. Hester, “CELEBRATING DIVISION,” Seibles Road Church of Christ Bulletin (June 15, 1997): 4.

[53] Jodie Boren, “The Melting Pot,” Seibles Road Church of Christ (April 27, 1997): 3.

[54] The New Jerusalem Bible: Reader’s Edition, (New York: Doubleday.) 1990.

 

[55] For an explanation of “Targums” and “LXX,” see F. B. Huey, Jr. and Bruce Corley, A Students dictionary for Biblical & Theological Studies (Grand Rapids: Academie Books, 1983), 185, where they define the word Targum:

 

TARGUM. A word that means literally “translation.” Usually refers to translations ot the parts of the OT into—Aramaic, originating in the public reading of the OT in the synagogue, that involves a certain amount of interpretative comment or—paraphrase. EX. The Targum of Onkelos (the Pentateuch) and the Targum of Jonathan (the Prophets).

[56] See Ibid., 173, where they define LXX:

SEPTUAGINT. From Latin Septuaginta, “seventy.” Greek translation of the OT that (according to the Letter of Aristeas) was made by Jews of Alexandria, Egypt, around 250 B.C.: the word is frequently written as—LXX. Strictly speaking, the term should apply only to the Pentateuch, but the name came to be used of the entire Greek translation of the OT.

[57] Alan Hugh McNeile, The Gospel According to St. Matthew, Thornapple Commentaries, reprint (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1980), 223.

[58]William Hendriksen, Matthew, New Testament Commentary, 613.

[59] See Dallas Burdette, “Unity in Jesus” [ON-LINE]. Available from www.freedominchrist.net [accessed 16 February 2001], located under SERMONS AND ESSAYS and then under UNITY AND DIVERSITY. This essay explores the concept of imperfection in knowledge.

[60] William Barclay, The Gospel of Matthew, The Daily Study Bible Series, 2 (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1976), 117.

[61] Ibid.

[62] For an in-depth study on worship, see Dallas Burdette, “Worship: An Analysis of the Various Greek Words” [ON-LINE]. Available from www.freedominchrist.net [accessed 16 February 2001], located under SERMONS AND ESSAYS and then under WORSHIP.

[63] For a detailed explanation of this conflict between Jesus and the religious leaders, see Dallas Burdette, “Literary Analysis of the Gospel of Matthew”  [ON-LINE]. Available from www.freedominchrist.net [accessed 21 February 2001], located under BIBLICAL STUDIES and then under GOSPEL OF MATTHEW.

[64] For a brief history of the one-cup and non-Sunday school movement, see Dallas Burdette, “A Brief History of the One-cup and Non-Sunday School Movement,” [ON-LINE]. Available from www.freedominchrist.net [accessed 22 February 2001], located under SERMONS AND ESSAYS and then under LORD’S SUPPER.

[65] Peterson, Eugene H., The Message, (Colorado Springs: NavPress Publishing Group) 1997. 

[66] For a detailed analysis of this passage (Romans 16:17), see Dallas Burdette, “Watch Out for Those Who Cause Division” [ON-LINE]. Available from www.freedominchrist.net [accessed 22 February 2001], located under BIBLICAL STUDIES and then under ROMANS.

[67] Peterson, Eugene H., The Message, (Colorado Springs: NavPress Publishing Group) 1997.