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Do We Still Believe These Principles?

Do We Still Believe These Principles?
By Richard Nichols

Published in
The Christian Informer
August  2006

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[The following is part of an article by J. Ervin Waters which was Published in September 1945 by Homer L. King in the book, OLD PATHS PULPIT (pp. 81-85).  This is "A Book of 33 Sermons and Essays By Evangelists of the CHURCH OF CHRIST." If you have a copy of the book you can read this for yourself.  The question is, brethren – Do we still believe these principles?].
When Moses came to the burning bush the Lord spoke to him in these impressive words: "Take off thy shoes from they feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground" (Exodus 3:5). Surely coming to the investigation of such a subject as this, the admonition given to Moses, may not be inapplicable.  Let us approach this study with a reverential spirit, realizing that we are treading on holy ground.  A subject of such magnitude and importance cannot be satisfactorily treated in one sermon, but, if I can succeed in arousing interest and caution in the study of it, my efforts will have been productive of good.  The church today faces a situation pregnant with possibilities for either good or evil.  To accept present departures from the truth, or append to them newer errors, is to be a blight upon and a curse to that world which God loved and for which he gave his only Son; but to humbly accept the divine instructions in the Scriptures, which completely furnish "unto all good works" (2 Tim. 3:17), and to draw the sword of the spirit against those innovators who have encroached upon sacred soil is to be a blessing to that world and the cause of "joy unspeakable and full of glory."
By the word "spiritual" I mean "holy, sacred, and pure."  By "worship" I mean "the act of paying divine honor and religious service to God."  "Spiritual worship" would then be "sacred and pure religious service to God."  That we may understand more fully what spiritual worship is, we consider,—
This was most effectively taught when Jesus said, under the lure of the strong temptation of the devil who offered all the kingdoms of the world to Jesus if he would fall down and worship him, "Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, thou shalt worship the Lord they God, and him only shalt thou serve" (Matthew 4:10).
When the apostle John fell at the feet of a man to worship him, he was rebuked, "And he said unto me, See thou do it not: I am thy fellow-servant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God" (Revelation 19:10).
Idolatry, the worship of anything made by hands or which is not God, was the chief error in most of Israel's apostasies.  Since it displeases God it provokes him to consuming anger.  "Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,  And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:  Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever.  Amen." (Rom. 1:22-25).  Since idolatry is not a thing of the past and there are millions of fetishists in the world today, John closed his first general epistle with this admonition, "Little children, Keep yourselves from idols.  Amen" (1 John 5:21).
Some, whom Satan the "God of this world" (2 Cor. 4:4), has blinded, worship money and become mad in their lust for it.  Others, drunken on power's wine, hold high carnival in trying to subjugate most of the human race, and the world is hurled into a bloody holocaust of confusion by the power worshiping dictators.  Some, how few, are willing to worship God.  Next we consider—
(1) For Israel– " Take heed to thyself that thou offer not thy burnt offerings in every place that thou seest:  But in the place which the LORD shall choose in one of thy tribes, there thou shalt offer thy burnt offerings, and there thou shalt do all that I command thee" (Deuteronomy 12:13,14).  Jerusalem was the place chosen:  "And Rehoboam the son of Solomon reigned in Judah. Rehoboam was forty and one years old when he began to reign, and he reigned seventeen years in Jerusalem, the city which the LORD did choose out of all the tribes of Israel, to put his name there" (1 Kings 14:21).  Truly, Jerusalem was a city rich in tradition, honored by historic mention, and blessed by divine selection.
Time passes, Israel is prosperous.  All recognize Jerusalem as the place where men ought to worship.  The house of David was established.  His grandson, Rehoboam, comes to the throne. And, now, the long smouldering fires of dissatisfaction burst into flames.  Ten tribes revolt under Jeroboam and set up a new government with different laws, capitol and worship.  Jeroboam told his people, "It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem" (1 Kings 12:28), and he set up apostate altars for Israel.
The Samaritans were the mongrel descendants of these ten tribes of Israel.  In the time of Christ they were still worshiping God in the wrong place.  The woman of Samaria, with whom Jesus conversed at Jacob's well, said, "Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship" (John 4:20).  The Jews could have worshiped the right God in the wrong place and it would not have been acceptable.
(2) For Christians– Jesus said unto the woman of Samaria, " Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.  Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews.  But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him" (John 4:21-23).  The Jews had to worship God at Jerusalem.  There the temple of God was erected.  Under the Christian economy our place of worship is not at any exclusive geographical location or in any special house made with hands. Stephen gave voice to this truth, "The most High dwelleth not in temples made with hands" (Acts 7:48).  God dwells in his spiritual temple, "For ye are the temple of God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them (2 Corinthians 6:16).  This temple is the church through which we must glorify God, "Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end" (Ephesians 3:21).  Our place of worship is not the earthly Jerusalem but the "heavenly Jerusalem, which is the church of the firstborn" (Hebrews 12:22-
23).  No one outside the church of Jesus Christ has the right to worship God because his worship would be vain.  This should be a strong incentive to every sinner to become a Christian.
As members of the church, we come "together" (Hebrews 10:25), "on the first day of the week" (Acts 20:7), in assemblies of two or more, "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them" (Matthew 18:20).  But we must be careful that we worship God with a congregation which is conducting the worship scripturally.
In the beatific vision which John saw on the Isle of Patmos, Christ stood in the midst of seven golden candlesticks (Revelation 1:13).  Christ said, "The seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches" (Revelation 1:20).  This forcefully teaches that Christ is in the midst of his congregations to own and to bless them.  But Christ rebuked the church at Ephesus, "Remember therefore from whence thou are fallen, and repent, an do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent" (Revelation 2:5).  The Lord did not threaten to destroy the Ephesian church.  The congregation might still remain and worship God regularly, but, if because of their rebellion their candlestick were removed, Christ would not be in their midst any longer.  Some brethren think that the calling of a congregation the church of Christ proves that Christ abides with that congregation and blesses it.  Let us be careful not to worship with a congregation whose candlestick has been removed because of their departure from the truth.
When the apostle Paul visited Athens, his spirit was stirred within him by the idolatry of the city. He disputed with the philosophers of the Epicureans and Stoics and finally, at their invitation, stood on Mars' hill to proclaim the gospel.  The profound logic of Paul on that occasion is wonderful to read.  Among the edifices and altars erected to the Athenian gods, Paul had beheld one to the "Unknown God," "For as I passed by, and beheld your devotions, I found an altar with this inscription, To the Unknown God.  Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him declare I unto you" (Acts 17:23).  These people were ignorantly worshiping the true God.  It profited them nothing.
"But in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men" (Matthew 15:9).  Vain worship is "worship producing no results."  It is not only spiritually unfruitful but brings condemnation upon the worshipers.  To set aside the divine instructions and substitute the commandments of men is to hurl the church into the wilderness of sectarian error.  So many congregations are bound with the shackles of unscriptural traditions and refuse the assistance of those who desire to extricate them.    
[Do you hear that sound condemnation of changes from the Divine pattern of worship?  Are we all "old fashioned" enough to believe and practice these same principles taught and penned over sixty years ago?   If our hearts deceive us not, we who print this little paper still believe that it is sinful, "to accept...departures from the truth, or append to them newer errors."   We today hold such "to be a blight upon and a curse to that world which God loved and for which he gave his only Son."  We hope to continue to humbly accept, submit to and follow only the divine instructions in the Scriptures, which completely furnish "unto all good works" (2 Timothy 3:17). We repeat the admonition issued so long ago — "Let us be careful not to worship with a congregation whose candlestick has been removed because of their departure from the truth." Brethren , do we all still believe this?  We are convinced that this warning continues to be valid. Remember, the inspired apostle commands, "Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing. Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample. (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end is destruction, whose God is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things)" (Philippians 3:16-19).   "Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them.  For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple."  (Romans 16:17,18)].