My purpose in this letter is to make some comments relative to some things I have read recently (last six months). Hopefully they will provoke your thinking and not necessarily cause you to be provoked at me. Ha!
Back in February one of the Editorial Staff of the “Old Paths Advocate” (OPA) wrote a front-page article entitled “The Way of Cain” in which he indicated that those brethren who use “mechanical and electronic instruments of music, individual cups in the observance of the Lord’s Supper, Sunday Schools and their women teachers” are false teachers, departed from the faith, and are like Cain who did out serve God out of faith. Ordinarily I would write this brother with my comments and questions, but I have done this in the past and he never responded to my letters. So you will have to bear with my comments.
Before dealing with his sweeping comparisons which are blatant misrepresentations, let me comment on something else he wrote. He indicated that Cain’s sacrifice was rejected because it was “a vegetable sacrifice only.” The Bible does not say that, and he is speaking where the Bible is silent which this brother says is wrong. Other than indicating that Cain’s sacrifice was not of faith, the Bible does not specify the problem with Cain’s offering. My speculation is that it was his attitude coupled with he did not give the first and the best of his crop. Over the years even the Jews found the story puzzling as to the specific reason why God rejected Cain’s sacrifice, yet this brother knows that detail.
This brother accuses those brethren who use instruments of music, cups and classes with women teachers in their assembling of not only being false teachers and having departed from the faith as I indicated above, but of being comparable to natural men, guilty of will worship, not depending on revelation for their knowledge, not serving the Lord with all their hearts and engaging in vain worship. He goes on to say that the way of Cain is “the way of immorality” characterized by persons with “an indifferent attitude toward God” and hearts darkened by anger which they can’t control.
These assertions are a gross misinterpretation of our/these brethren. It is a judgmental questioning of their faith, integrity, and sincerity. Then we wonder why we are so divided. No way do most of these brethren fit the scriptural definitions of false teachers and having departed from the faith. This brother confuses his and other interpretations and opinions with “the faith”. The good works of these accused brethren motivated by their faith often put us to shame in comparison.
Diatribes like this front-page article will never contribute to drawing brethren closer together and bringing about unity. We would well do better to follow the scriptures as beseeched by the apostle Paul: “walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:1-3).
The scribes and the Pharisees were the most prominent Jews of their day. They were the religious leaders, considered the most knowledgeable of the Law of Moses, and powerful. They were zealous and slavishly followed/obeyed all the rituals. Yet Jesus called them snakes and indicated they were bound for hell. Why?
They had split personalities. Their hearts were divided. They were hypocritical. They were judgmental. They majored in minors and minored in majors. They were like the person who complains that there is too much sex and violence on TV, but spends all of his spare time watching TV.
We don’t want to be modern-day scribes and Pharisees. We need to live by the Biblical principles we assert. We need to avoid as much as possible discrepancy between the truths we affirm and the values by which we actually live. It is not right to laud good character, then coerce, demean, manipulate, threaten and use people. We proclaim brotherhood, but harbor selfish prejudices causing division. We need to realize that the gist of true worship of God is not what we do for an hour and a half on Sunday morning, but our lifestyle the rest of the week. Do we live for self? How do we regard and treat others, especially those of the household of faith?
Our persons, our souls, are civil war battlegrounds. This life is a battle between the natural man and God’s spirit. Let’s not deceive ourselves as did the scribes and Pharisees.
The Older Brother
In the misnamed “Parable of The Prodigal Son” we often overlook the fact that the older son was a sinner as well. In fact, both of the brothers were very much alike. The younger brother wanted his father’s goods to go off and find himself and enjoy the pleasures of the world. He was outspoken about it. The older brother wanted his father’s goods as well, but was indirect about it. He attempted to control his father through his obedience and work on the farm. He told his father, “Lo, these many years I have been serving you; I never transgressed your commandment at any time . . .”
The older son felt that he was entitled because of his obedience. Yet he was guilty of envy, pride, and self-righteousness. He wasn’t a blatant, licentious sinner like his brother, but he was a sanctimonious, self-centered sinner.
It is my opinion that the older son is representative of the scribes and Pharisees who were immersed in legalism. Legalism leads to the attitude displayed by the older son. Legalists see an inheritance in heaven as something owed them because of their righteousness and rightness. They tend to be condescending, controlling, envious, judgmental, and unforgiving. They think they are on the straight and narrow road, but they missed the map, so to speak.
They younger brother recognized that he was a sinner and repented. The father pleaded with the older brother to repent, but Jesus leaves us hanging as to whether or not he did.
What do we see when we honestly look at ourselves? Are we blatant, overt sinners like the younger son? Hopefully not. Are we covert, self-righteous sinners like the older son? Again, hopefully not. Are we sinners saved by the grace of God through faith, seeking to respond to the love of God? Hopefully.
J. James Albert
P.S. Brother Stanley Paher has written an interesting and provocative book entitled Natural Law. One of the subtitles is “The Biblical Doctrine of Available Light.” I recommend you get a copy and read it. Contact him at spaher(at)sbcglobal(dot)net.