BOOK, CHAPTER AND VERSE
By Larry White
And when they say to you, "Seek those who are mediums and wizards, who whisper and mutter," should not a people seek their God? Should they seek the dead on behalf of the living?
To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.
Today we have the mind of God revealed in the truth of the gospel found in the New Testament scriptures. In the Old Testament economy they were under law - but yet this was still the revelation of God for them.
We in the churches of Christ have a reputation for requiring a book, chapter and verse for everything we practice and believe. We are sometimes portrayed as belligerent and argumentative people. I have heard Walter Martin on the radio - every time he gets a chance he will bad mouth the church and say that we think we know it all. Yet the only thing we are doing is relying on the authority of the scriptures for everything we do.
What is ironic about Mr. Martin's radio show is that it is called "The Bible Answer Man", and yet they rely heavily on orthodox Catholic thinking, their own think-so's and their own denominational bias to answer people's questions.
In the church of Christ you will hear the frequent call for "book, chapter and verse for what is being taught - and faithful gospel preachers and teachers will not take it as an insult if you ask for one. Because in the church and among faithful Christians there is a deep seated attitude and characteristic of respect for the authority of the scriptures.
It is not a matter of being contentious or belligerent. We know that God requires us to respect him and reverence him and his word. Therefore if a man loves God he will cultivate that attitude, the attitude of keeping God's word and requiring a scriptural basis for everything he believes and practices. After all, if you did not get it from the Bible, then where did you get it?
God requires this attitude.
Jesus said, "It you love me, keep my commandments." (Jno.14:15) He made it clear that to reject his word is to reject him, and that his word would be our judge in the last day.
He who rejects me, and does not receive my words, has that which judges him – the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.
For I have not spoken from myself; but the Father who sent me gave me a command, what I should say and how I should say it.
So if the New Testament scriptures are to be our judge - having an attitude of being careful to abide by its teachings and a watchfulness not to stray from them is highly appropriate and exactly what is needed.
The attitude of wanting a book, chapter and verse for everything - as an attitude between people is effective to bring us to our goal. The unity we can have, is not the unity of just not talking about it anymore, but establishing a real unity of faith and knowledge that Paul spoke of in Ephesians 4. This attitude establishes an authority under which we can have unity and not be split up into a hundred different factions. It is a standard by which we can gauge what is right and what is wrong religiously.
Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all say the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same opinion. For it has been declared to me concerning you, my brethren, by those of Chloe’s household, that there are contentions among you.
To say the same thing could refer to verse 12. As an application today, we should not be saying, "I'm a Baptist Christian", or "I'm a Methodist Christian", or "I'm a Lutheran Christian". To speak the same thing - we at least have to drop all these human names and titles, and belong solely, simply and completely to Christ alone. Also to say the same thing can be done by having a scripture reference for everything we do. In modern language we would say that we are "on the same page."
Mind is spiritual thinking in general - the way we view the entire gospel. A full harmony of view in regard to God's truth. Mind can also be our attitude towards any given subject.
Judgement would be an agreement about the way we decide particular points. How we use opinion and how we settle the truth of any matter.
So Paul wants Christians to be working toward a full harmony of our views concerning the truth and that we have perfect agreement in the way we resolve particular questions. The only way this can be done is by a standard of authority that we all submit to and agree upon - the word of God - a book, chapter and verse.
You can tell from Paul's words here that religious division is a subject of embarrassment. And well it should be.
“I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in me through their word; that they all may be one, as you, father, are in me, and I in you; that they also may be one in us, that the world may believe that you sent me."
The world knows that religions are divided. And since they are divided it is obvious that they have no standard. The world concludes that either they are not following the standard or the standard does not exist, and Christianity is something people just made up as they went along. It is usually the later that they believe.
The religious world says that they are united in Christ - yet questions on even the smallest matters cannot be settled because they are not basing their judgements on what Christ has said - a book, chapter and verse.
Who is to say what we will be called and when we will worship and what we will practice. To the denominations these matters are more in the area of opinion than of divine authority. The religious world cannot come to a resolution about anything - because they are ignoring the only standard that we have. Issues that trouble us can be taken out of the area of opinion when we all subject ourselves to the divine standard - the truth of God's word. But we all must have that mind, that God's word is what we all follow and to what we all submit our opinions.
If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
If any man says anything religiously, let it be founded in and based upon and upheld by a "thus says the Lord." - a book, chapter and verse. Then we have a possibility of a resolution on an issue. We may not like it - but what we like or dislike does not matter. As Christians we have given-up our will to the will of God. We have decided together that this will be our desire and what we like - that God have the final say in the church and in our lives as Christians.
In any discussion of an issue, someone has to be right and someone has to be wrong (or they're both wrong), but both cannot be right. Truth, by definition must be absolute and not contradictory. Truth must be one thing, not two or more different things.
When Jesus was faced with a controversy in the first century, he settled it with a book, chapter and verse. He had the Sadducees who did not believe in the spiritual realm or in the resurrection and on the other side was the Pharisees who believed both. Jesus settled the dispute in Mt.22:29. He told the Sadducees, "You do err, not knowing the scriptures nor the power of God." He showed them their real problem - they had ignored what the scriptures say and they had no faith. He showed who was wrong.
When we follow the standard, we can resolve an issue. The person that is wrong is the person who cannot find a book, chapter and verse to support his view. The person who can and shows that what be believes is based upon the word of God is the one who is right.
Issues of right and wrong need to be settled and brought to a definite conclusion. We must make sure we have a book, chapter and verse for what we believe and practice and know certainly whether it is right or wrong.
When the apostle John was faced with a question of doctrinal teaching in the first century, he immediately appealed to the standard by which everything in the church must be judged.
Whoever transgresses and does not remain in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who remains in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds.
So the standard is that if you are outside the teaching of Christ - you are wrong. The doctrine of Christ is found in the scriptures (1Tim3:16) so if you do not have a book, chapter and verse for what you believe or teach, you are wrong.
Jesus said that God's word is the truth. (Jno.17:17) If you do not have a book, chapter and verse for what you teach, then you are teaching error and falsehood.
To where do we turn in an issue to settle it? Can we turn to denominational creeds and disciplines and catechisms? Denominations have committees and conventions every so often to draft new by-laws, it is because their right and wrong keeps changing. I understand that the edicts and doctrines put out by the Roman Catholic councils are larger in volume than the whole Bible. In the New Covenant the only people qualified to write the standard of authority were the apostles.
If anyone thinks himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things which I write to you are the commandments of the Lord. But if anyone is ignorant, let him be ignorant.
Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard him, God also bearing witness both with signs and wonders, with various miracles, and gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to his own will?
Since the apostles gave us the word of God, then the commands and teaching that they wrote and confirmed to us, becomes our standard that we should not let slip, especially should we not allow God's word to be superseded or replaced by the traditions and "think-so's" of men.
Is your preacher always right? Have you ever heard a preacher teach error? And if so, how did you know it was error? Our standard has to be a book, chapter and verse.
What does it take to become a Christian? Without a book, chapter and verse, that becomes an unsolvable problem. The only thing we end up with is confusion. One preacher tells you one thing and another preacher tells you something different.
I remember when I was aboard ship in the Navy, I met with a Baptist who was very zealous for the denominational doctrine he had been taught and had made the same mistake most make in equating that doctrine with what the Bible says. When he found out that I was teaching that a man had to me baptized for the remission of sins - he just had a fit.
"You mean, if I'm not baptized, I'm going to hell?"
I said, Mk.16:16, "He that believes and is baptized will be saved. He that believes not will be damned."
He said, "You mean, if I'm not baptized, I'm going to hell?"
I said, Acts 2:38, “Repent, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."
He said, "You mean, if I'm not baptized, I'm going to hell?"
I said, 1Pet.3:21, "The like figure whereunto even baptism does also now save us. (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward God), through the resurrection of Jesus Christ."
He said, "You mean, if I'm not baptized, I'm going to hell?"
I said, "Yes, if you don't believe what the Bible says."
He said, "That's all I wanted to hear." and he walked away.
That man did not want to hear what the Bible says. He cared more about what his denomination taught than what God's word actually says.
The world has a sliding tolerance for what they want to hear, and only what men will accept is what the churches teach. When we appeal to a standard, when we give a book, chapter and verse, rights and wrongs become clear, and we can have faith in what God requires of us. We cannot teach doctrine in order to please men - but to please God. Look at what Paul said in
Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but after their own desires, they will heap up for themselves teachers because they have itching ears; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables. But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
Always bring them back to the rule, always bring them back to the standard - God's word. We do not have to be in confusion about the truth, and we do not have to rely on some man to tell us. When we know what God says, we do not have to worry about what men say.
This is the test for unfamiliar doctrines, "Give me a book, chapter and verse, brother." We do not have to be belligerent or insulting about it - just ask for the scriptures that teach it. "To the law and to the testimony, if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them."
We can show you how to become a Christian by a book, chapter and verse. It is the most reliable way.
Acts 16:30-33 (believe)
And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household. Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house.
And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized.
For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.
Acts 2:38-39 (repent and be immersed)
Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar away, as many as the Lord our God will call.”
(Originally delivered as a sermon in Eagle Point, OR. July 22, 1984)