Editorial: Traditional, Contemporary or Scriptural

Many Christians who listen to Christian music tell us that so-called “Contemporary Gospel music” turns them off. It can be argued that their ears have become accustomed to an older style of lyrics and cadence and they are unwilling to change their taste in music. This may well be, but there may be a deeper principle behind their preference. They may prefer to show more respect for their fellow believers, and more reverence for God.

Music is a matter of personal choice, but we want to look at truth. Old teaching is not true just because it is old. Neither is a teaching necessarily wrong because it is new. When changes have been introduced in assembly order and function, I have heard Christians say, “We never did it this way.” We need far stronger evidence for what we practice than mere human tradition.

The Lord Jesus strongly condemned Jewish traditions. He said, “Ye leave the commandment of God and hold fast the tradition of men” (Mark 7:8). Yet the same word “tradition” is used by the Holy Spirit for truth that has been given to us from God (1 Cor 11:1-2. 2 Thess 2:13-15. 2 Thess 3:6, 7). How do we test a tradition?

The simple answer is that we need to trace it to its source. Some Christians trace the truths we practice in assemblies to the gospel pioneers who came to North America in the 1870’s. This is not far enough back. Then should we go back to the 1820’s, to the “early brethren?” This is not far enough back. Can we trace what we believe and practice back to the apostles and the Lord Himself? I believe we can. This is truth, not merely because it is old, but because of its Source in God and His Word.

This brief article will not allow more than an outline of some truths that have come to us from the Lord.

1. The one name: The first mention of an assembly (Matt 18:20). The Authority of His name (1 Cor 5:4; James 2:7). The Uniqueness of His name. {Phil 2:10-11; Eph 1:21). No second name.

2. The breaking of bread in remembrance of the Lord on the first day of the week (1 Cor 11:23-31; Acts 20:7) Principle of first things. The importance of a pattern for assembly order.

3. Gathering around the Lord in the midst. The Epicenter (Heb 10:25; 2 Thess 2:1).

4. The back seat: (1 Cor 14:16; 14:23-25) A spiritual fellowship expressed visibly.

5. Headship: (1 Cor 11:1-16). An object lesson of Christ’s eternal Headship.

6. Seven assembly meetings: Lord’s supper, prayer, gospel, ministry, report, elders meeting and a discipline meeting. All from the New Testament.

7. Appropriate dress; (1 Tim 2:8-15; 1 Pet 3:1-7). “God is greatly to be feared in the assembly of the saints, and to be had in reverence of all them that are about him” (Psa 89:7).

8. A holy priesthood: “A holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ” (1 Pet 2:5, 9, 1 Cor 14:26).

9. A plurality of gifts to preach and teach. Not a one-man ministry (Rom 12:6-13; 1 Cor 12:1-31; Eph 4:8-16).

10. Separation: Not unequally yoked with unbelievers (2 Cor 6:11-18).

11. A godly elderhood and deacon service: (1Tim 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9; 1 Pet 5:1-4).

12. Submission to civil authorities, yet recognizing our heavenly citizenship, so not involved in politics (Phil 1:27; 3:20). God’s purpose in this age is “to visit the nations and take out of them a people for His name” (Acts 15:14).