Category Archives: 2014 – Jan/Feb

Don’t Take Down The Fence – David R. Pharr

An illustration from one of the old-time preachers was, “You don’t have to take down the whole fence to let the cows out!”  The point is that breaking down the fence in one place would allow the cattle to escape, even though it might be assumed that the rest of the fence was still standing.  The application is that if we surrender one fundamental principle of the Scriptures, we have opened a way to surrender many more.

I am persuaded that many of our people do not understand what is actually our objection to instrumental music in worship.  It is not an issue of culture, musical tastes, tradition, or whether we can afford a piano.  There is a principle involved.  It is a fundamental principle.  The principle, stated positively, is that worship that is “in spirit and truth” is worship that is according to scriptural instructions.  Stated negatively, the principle is that nothing should be allowed in worship which is not authorized by the word of God.

In our worship every Christian should find spiritual satisfaction in knowing that what is being done is according to the Bible.  When I sing, or pray, or commune, I delight in the knowledge that I am participating in a congregation that embraces the apostolic faith and practice.  Those who attack us for not accepting instrumental music should admit to themselves that what they resent is people trying to be loyal to the Scriptures.  A capella music is not likely to be questioned since it is so clearly what is taught.  Those who are not pleased with it are not pleased with something that pleases the Lord.  If instruments are added, it is not longer a capella – and no longer what the Bible enjoins.

Why do we object to instrumental music in worship?  Because it is not authorized.  Yes, we know the numerous apologies favoring instruments.  They argue it’s in the Greek, in the Old Testament, in Revelation, helps the singing, etc.  But when “the dust has settle,” nothing has ever been brought forward which authorizes instrumental music.  It can be affirmed with absolute certainty that the only music authorized for Christian worship is singing and making melody in the heart.

The principle that must be honored is that what is not authorized is not acceptable.  Unauthorized innovations are additions to God’s instructions (cf. Deut. 4:2; Rev. 22:18).  They violate the mandate given to the apostles (Matt. 18:18).  They go beyond the things that are written (1 Cor. 4:6).  They alter and add to the covenant (cf. Gal. 3:15).  They are not “in truth” because they can’t be found in the truth (John 4:24).  They are after the doctrine and commandments of men, and therefore, vain worship (Matt. 15:9).  By imposing the traditions of men, they make void the word of God (Mark 7:13).  Since they originate in the will of men, they are “will worship” (Col. 3:23).

Now, back to the illustration that opened this article.  If the principle of authority can be disregarded on the issue of scriptural music, there is no logical objection that can prohibit any other unscriptural invention.  God has set boundaries (a fence) around our faith and practice.  When the fence is broken over the music issue, by what principle can objections be made to infant baptism, sprinkling, additions to the Lord’s Table, burning incense, etc.?

In a conversation with a preacher who defends instrumental music, I asked where is the authority for it.  Eventually, his argument was reduced to his saying, “The Bible does not specifically condemn it.”  I agreed, but urged that he consider that some things must be determined by biblical principles, not by specific prohibitions.  To press the point, I asked him if he would object if someone in his congregation wanted to add jelly to the bread for the Lord’s Supper.  I told him that there is no text that specifically forbids the jelly.  Therefore, to object he would have to decide the question by a biblical principle, rather than by a specific prohibition.  I asked, “What would be that principle?”  (The only possible principle would be as stated above:  what is not authorized is not acceptable.)

What was his answer?  He said that he did not know of anyone who wanted to add jelly, so there was no need to answer my question.  I pressed the point, but he continued to refuse to answer.  I told him that it seemed to me that he was refusing to answer because he knew that the principle which would forbid the jelly is the same principle that forbids the instrument.

A faithful brother told me of visiting a building belonging to an instrumental church.  He asked if he could have one of the tracts on display.  The front of the tract raised the question:  “Where Does The Bible Authorize Infant Baptism?”  When the tract was opened, there was not anything printed on the inside.  On the back was the explanation that nothing was printed inside because there is no text that authorizes infant baptism.  The conclusion was that infant baptism is unacceptable because there is nothing in the Scriptures that authorizes it.  The brother then explained to his host that the title could be changed to:  “Where Does The Bible Authorize Instrumental Music?” and the application would be exactly the same.

Gambling – Carl O. Cooper

As a boy, I understood that there were many families who were being hurt and kept on poverty by the action of the parents.  Even at that young age I could see that some families were being hurt by the immoral places the parents hung out and the immoral activities in which they were engaged.  Some of these people were drawn to the back rooms and joints where the beer flowed and the gambling was common.  In these places gambling and alcohol went together with other immoral activities.

And even as a boy I saw gambling as being bad because of the things it brought to those families.  A person can be caught up in a gambling game and before he realizes what was happening, the money he had earned to support his family is gone.  Ego may be involved as to how someone thinks he looks in front of his peers and cronies, so he continues betting and playing until all the money for his family is squandered.  Ego will not let him stop until all is lost, even the things needed for the survival of his own children.

Also, with this comes the element of addiction.  Some personalities are easily addicted to gambling.  To some people gambling is like a drug.  They just do not have the will power to stop.

We might consider 1 Corinthians 6:12.  “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not helpful.  All things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.”  This is not saying that sinful things are lawful.  Rather, it is saying that even if something is lawful, it is sinful to put oneself under its power.

The gambling industry fully understands the personalities of those people they want to entice into gambling.  They don’t even try to hide the odds and fully explain that you cannot win and beat the house, and yet people gamble anyway.  The thrill is there whether the gambler is winning or losing.  There is that addictive quality about this thrill and there will be some who cannot step away from it.  And in casinos, there will be the other sinful activities available.  Vices always attract other vices.  Alcohol will be plentiful, and sometimes free, and the shows and the crowds will be there to tempt in many ways.

But someone might say, “What is the harm if I gamble and don’t go to these places and I don’t spend money that is needed by my family?”  Here are some points to consider.

What do the pillars of your congregation have to say about gambling?  What do church leaders say?  Do they support you in this?  Or, are they against it?  If you engage in gambling, will it be against their convictions?  And would you announce it to your family?  What are the convictions of mature Christians, including those who “watch for your souls” (Heb. 13:17)?

Would your gambling cause some other person to follow you and do the same?  Is there any way for you to be sure that this person would not become addicted and ruin his life?  Would that person ever abuse his family because of gambling?  If that were to happen, would your influence be partly to blame?

Some churches have raffles and raise money for the church or for charities this way.  Also, governments prey on a citizen’s desire for gambling and raise money by using lotteries and alcohol sales.  But we know that the proper way for a government to raise money is by taxes and the proper way for a church to raise money is by free will offerings by the members.  We are to “give as we have been prospered on the first day of the week” (1 Cor. 16:2, paraphrased).

But what about punch boards and raffles and contests that require the player to pay a fee to play in order to win a prize?

Surely such activities are in the same category as all other types of gambling.  It might be argued that such things are less harmful for the player, but they are still the same basic thing.  I would suggest that we need to apply the same basic rules and the same litmus test to these activities as do to any type of gambling.

Some Leave The Church, Leave The Lord – David R. Pharr

They went out from us, but they were not of us: for if they had been of us, they would not doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.  (1 John 2:19)

The words of John are blunt.  There were certain ones who had once participated in the fellowship of the saints who had left the church.  The apostle’s explanation was that “they were not of us.”  He does not mean that they were not physically and personally associated with the brethren, but rather that they were of a different mind set, of different convictions.  This had become “manifest” (evident) in their actions as “they went out.”  There had been a time when they appeared they were “of us,” but their apostasy had demonstrated otherwise.

Comparable observations can be made in regard to modern departures.  The Holy Spirit warned that “some shall depart from the faith” (1 Tim. 4:1).  Some leave the church to pursue a worldly lifestyle.  Some leave seeking acceptance by the world.  Some leave to affiliate with denominations.  Some abandon faith altogether.  Some leave because they want a broader, more liberal and more compromising fellowship.  And some leave because they have drawn their circle of approval so small that they have no room for most of the brotherhood.

We will borrow John’s language to name some reasons why some “went out from us.”

They went out from us because they had doubts about the verbal inspiration and inerrancy of the Holy Bible.  This means that the Scriptures cannot be trusted 100%.  Such is the thinking in worldly theological circles and some who have their degrees from denominational schools show that they have swallowed this kind of infidelity.  One who does not have full confidence in the reliability of God’s Word will never be comfortable where there is sound Bible preaching.

They went out from us because they were not of us with respect for the pattern authority of Scripture.  We believe the New Testament provides a pattern for our faith and practice and that it is by compliance with the pattern that the church of Christ is identified.  Those who pride themselves in their rejection of “pattern authority” logically must embrace an unscriptural paradigm.  The only alternative, according to 2 John 9, is either to abide in the doctrine of Christ or to leave the Lord by leaving the doctrine.

They went out from us because they were not with us as regards the hermeneutic of command, example, and necessary inference.  This has sometimes been incompletely described “as the ONLY way the Bible teaches.”  Obviously there is much more in the Bible (history, facts, poetry, etc.)  The point about command, example, and necessary inference is that this is the only basis by which to establish religious authority.  The place of commandments is obvious (Matt. 28:19ff).  The examples in view are those which are demonstrations of how commands are to be obeyed (1 Cor. 11:2; Phil. 3:17).  Necessary inferences are conclusions so logically necessary as that two plus two equals four.  Those who leave the church over contempt for this hermeneutic have nothing to offer in its place.

They went out from us because they found the simplicity of New Testament worship to be dull and meaningless.  Religious entertainment has a greater appeal.  After all, how can bread and grape juice compare to dramatic performances?  And how can singing scriptural hymns compare to “Christian rock”?  Such measure church by how it makes them feel, not by what is authorized in God’s Word.  We make no defense for worship assemblies that are half-hearted.  “In spirit” is as essential as “in truth” (John 4:24).  But those who go out from us in order to have a more satisfying church experience either never knew or have forgotten that worship is to praise God, not to satisfy fleshly emotions.

They went out from us because they resented preaching that upholds truth and exposes error.  With some audiences there is no longer room for sermons showing biblical proof for our distinctive positions regarding worship, the oneness of the church, scriptural baptism, the sinfulness of divorce, etc.  It’s the same story as described by Isaiah, people who do not want to hear “the law of the Lord” are demanding “smooth” preaching that pleases the multitudes (Is. 8:19ff).

They went out from us because of an inordinate emphasis on grace and faith to the exclusion of obedience.  We know and preach that salvation is by grace, unearned and never merited, and that God’s offer of pardon must be accepted by faith (Eph. 2:8-9).  However, any preaching of grace and faith which minimizes or excludes the necessity of obedience is unacceptable (Heb. 2:1-3; 5:8-9; 1 Pet. 1:22).

They went out from us trusting an inflated view of grace.  Our only hope is in the grace of God and his grace is sufficient to cover all our sins.  It is an invention of men, however, to assume that there is (as some have called it) “an umbrella of grace” that makes the rejection of God’s instructions acceptable.  Yet it is more comfortable for some to ignore the demands of truth and to justify continuance of sin and error by saying “grace will take care of it.”  Some who have gone out from us realize they have affiliated with unscriptural organizations, which teach unscriptural doctrines, and which worship unscripturally, but feel satisfied because they think grace will make it right.

They were not with us with regard to the restrictions implied by the silence of the Scriptures.  We have long endured the mockery of those who ridicule our convictions regarding instrumental music in worship.  Our position has been explicit – such is not the music for worship authorized in the New Testament – and this position has never been refuted.  In many places there has not been sufficient teaching on the principles involved, but whatever the fault, some are going “out from us” because they don’t realize that what is NOT authorized is NOT authorized!

They were not with us in recognizing the principle of GENERIC and SPECIFIC authority.  Some biblical instructions are generic, leaving the specifics of how to follow the instructions to our judgment as to what is expedient.  For example, the instructions for our meeting together on the Lord’s Day are generic as regards to time of day and the place.  Any practice which fits within the framework of that generic command is acceptable.  But there are also commands that are specific, which can only be obeyed in the specific way authorized.  The elements for the Lord’s Supper are specified and to omit these elements, or to substitute other elements, or to add to these elements is in violation of specific authority.  Liberalism tries to make the specific generic, to allow more than is authorized.  Radicals try to make the generics specific, binding what God has not bound (Matt. 18:18).

They went out from us because they lacked love and loyalty for the church, which is the body of Christ.  It is easy enough to point out the failures in the human side of the church.  But such does not justify contempt for the church.  Some of the meanest, most unfair, and false things that are said against Christ’s church are said by those who were once among us.  We suspect that this is their psychological compensation for their own sense of guilt that they have deserted the cause they once loved and served.

It is not a new thing that some are deserting the church.  John saw it happening and placed the blame on the ones who were leaving, not on the faithful.  Paul was saddened by the defection of Demas, but he knew the fault was in Demas (2 Tim. 4:10).  When someone leaves the church it is in order for us to examine how we might have better helped and encouraged them.  We realize our human side of the church has many shortcomings and we want to do our best in helping all who are weak and struggling.  But the faithful must also realize that some are going to depart because “they were not of us.”

The Editor’s Page – David R. Pharr, Editor

When I became editor of Palmetto Messenger in 1997 I would not have imagined that I would hold that place for seventeen years.  (In 1999 the name was changed to Carolina Messenger.)  With this issue I have decided to pass the responsibility to another.  With only a few exceptions, there has been a deadline to meet month after month and I have decided to take a rest.  The board of directors has selected Paul Kirkpatrick to continue the paper as interim editor.  Brother Kirkpatrick is the able preacher for the Warners’ Chapel Church of Christ in Clemmons, North Carolina, and is the Director of the N.C. School of Biblical Studies.  The board is determined for the publication to continue.  In view of our current financial situation the schedule for now will continue to be six issues per year.  The purpose and principles have not changed.  From the beginning the purpose has been to apply the instructions of 2 Timothy 4:2.  “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.”

Much gratitude is due to those who have cooperated in this endeavor:  members of the board (past and present), writers who have contributed articles, the late Oscar Craft and Jerry Craft as business managers, Michael Jordan in charge of mailing lists, and Jimmy Bates of Bates Printing Company, which prints and mails the copies.  It has been a fellowship of good work.  Of course our efforts have been supported by individuals and congregations who provided the funds.

Over the years we have received many notes of appreciation and encouragement and we are grateful for every kind word.  There has also been criticism.  When it has been constructive, it has been appreciated.  When it has been in opposition to biblical principles we have espoused, we have not been dissuaded.

Though for several months I have been doing most of the preaching at the Charlotte Avenue congregation in Rock Hill, SC, my intention is to be retired from full-time work.  I will continue to do some writing and to preach as there are opportunities.


Salute to Jerry Craft

Our faithful and efficient treasurer and business manager has decided to resign.  Jerry Craft has been in this position since 2005.  His brother Oscar Craft had managed the business aspect of the paper since the paper was started.  At the time of Oscar’s passing, we knew we needed someone who would show the same diligence.  Accordingly, Jerry was added to the board of directors and asked to serve as Treasurer.  Jerry’s efficient work has provided perfect financial records and has kept us on track in meeting our obligations.  As a member of the board he has been a keen adviser.  As a brother in Christ he has been a faithful encourager.  In whatever good the paper has accomplished, Jerry Craft has been an essential part.  We are grateful for his unselfish service.

— The Board of Directors


Men’s Fellowship

March 8, 2014 is the date for the 16th Annual Carolina Men’s Fellowship.  This is a one-day lectureship with the purpose of encouraging men from churches of Christ over the Carolinas (and from a few other states.)  It is a day of strong Scriptural messages, tremendous singing, and visiting.  The Charlotte Avenue congregation in Rock Hill, SC, continues to host this gathering and provides a barbeque lunch.  There is no need for advance registration, no charge for attending, and no collection is taken.  Last year’s attendance was over 600.

In the first years the program was held in the Charlotte Avenue building.  Later it was moved to a public school building, then for a few years has been in the larger facilities of the Gold Hill Road Church of Christ in Ft. Mill, SC.  It is a cooperative effort with the Rock Hill congregation providing the program and the Ft. Mill congregation providing the location.

The keynote speaker this year will be Gary Hampton from Jacksonville, Mississippi.  Brother Hampton is the author of several books and was formerly the Director of East Tennessee School of Preaching.  One thing that differs from many lectureships is that several speakers are included, but very limited in the amount of time allowed.  The brief time between speeches is used for singing.

It is sometimes asked why this is designed only for men.  There is no reason except it is thought to be expedient and it has been successful in bringing together so many men from so many places.  Some lectures have been of particular application to men and boys.  Every message is intended to strengthen faith and to encourage steadfastness.  Opportunity is also provided to browse displays and bookstore selections.


There was a warm fire in the courtyard where Peter was.  His surroundings were more pleasant than those in the building where Jesus was on trial.  Great issues were at stake, but Peter was not concerned about them.  He was thinking of his own welfare.

How many people today are willing to wait until the battle is fought before they are willing to identify themselves with the cause involved?

— Leslie G. Thomas, Another Hundred Sermons

Vexed by Gay Bullying – David R. Pharr

For all his failures otherwise, Abraham’s nephew Lot could not countenance the sordid ungodly deeds of the inhabitants of Sodom.  The Bible says he was “vexed with the filthy conversation [sensual conduct] of the wicked: (For that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their unlawful deeds)” (2 Pet. 2:7-8).

From antiquity the name Sodom has been identified with homosexual perversion.  This was not their only sin.  Ezekiel adds the charges of “pride, fulness of bread, and abundance of idleness…neither did she strengthen the hand of the poor and needy” (16:49).  But it was “giving themselves over to fornication, and going after strange flesh” that has especially perpetuated their disgrace and infamy (Jude 7).  (The term “fornication” covers all forms of elicit sexual activity, which includes homosexuality.)

Sodom and her sister cities were removed from the earth when the “Lord rained upon Sodom and upon Gomorrah brimstone and fire from the Lord out of heaven” (Gen. 19:24).  As The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible observes, “Sodom never occurs again in the Bible as a living city, but the memory of its sin and consequent destruction was kept alive by Moses, the prophets, Jesus, and the authors of the New Testament.  Sodom and Gomorrah have become bywords and tokens of God’s wrath on sin.”

Lot’s error of selfishness has been the subject of numerous sermons because he “pitched his tent toward Sodom,” a place where “the men of Sodom were wicked and sinners before the Lord exceedingly” (Gen. 13:12ff).  He moved his family into Sodom, and before long the influence of Sodom moved into his family!  Still, Lot’s fundamental sense of morality was shocked by the open and vile depravity he witnessed around him every day.

To be “vexed” (KJV) means to be severely “distressed” (NIV), to be “tormented” (McCord).  All sin should be troubling to God-fearing people.  Righteous souls grieve that “the whole world lies in the power of the evil one” (1 John 5:19, NASB).  However, some sins are especially egregious and homosexuality ranks among the most detestable of moral abominations, being classified alongside such things as bestiality and incest (Lev. 18:22; 20:13; cf. Rom. 1:26; 1 Cor. 6:9).

How did the society of Sodom and Gomorrah become so vile that there could not be found even ten righteous people among them?  The lessons of history suggest that it was degeneration which occurred over time.  What is at first repulsive comes to be tolerated.  Tolerated, it becomes commonplace, and the more commonplace and accepted, the wider its appeal.  Lines from the poet Alexander Pope describe the process:

Vice is a monster of such deadly mien [conduct],

That to be hated, needs but to be seen;

But seen too oft, familiar with her face,

We first endure, then pity, then embrace.

One can hardly fail to see that there is a devilish agenda in America to convince the majority of society that homosexuality is so commonplace that it ought to be accepted and approved.  The evil expectation is that when people are sufficiently exposed to favorable portrayals of gay lifestyles, they will no longer find it repulsive.  So, more and more sitcoms and movies must have at least token gay couples.  Gays are depicted with upstanding and tasteful personalities.  How could anyone not admire them?  Newspapers and magazines include features about gays in almost every issue.  When there is some hate crime against homosexuals the papers give it full coverage, but when gays commit hate crimes it is hardly noticed in the media.  A major denomination elected a homosexual.  Denominations consider ceremonies for uniting homosexual couples.  When a Baptist church in North Carolina baptized a gay couple with no expectation of their repenting from that lifestyle, the media reported the event as if it were a milestone.

Various cities celebrate a “Gay Pride Week” with a “Gay Pride Parade.”  Some of the parades involve such vulgar antics that TV news will not show it, perhaps because it would violate broadcast standards and perhaps because it would show the public how deviant the gay movement really is.  The mayor of San Francisco granted marriage licenses to hundreds of gay couples.  He knew this was against the law in his state, but doubtless expected liberal courts to back him.  The U.S. Supreme Court has overturned a state’s right to have laws against sodomy.  Same-sex marriage is now legal in several states.  in some places it is unlawful to distribute material which is opposed to homosexuality.  Even quotations from the Bible are not allowed.  What teacher would dare read such texts in class?  Indeed, how many preachers will read them from the pulpit?  Homosexual advocates claim that what the Bible says about it should be labeled “hate speech.”

Letters in newspapers reveal abysmal ignorance of the Scriptures as writers assert that Jesus never condemned homosexuality and lovingly accepted everyone regardless of lifestyle.  (Jesus defined what marriage IS and thereby precluded what it is NOT – Matt. 19:4-5.)  Other theologians (sometimes more ignorant than ordinary people) suggest that maybe Sodom’s sin actually was not in their perverted sexuality, or that maybe Jonathan and David were homosexual, or that Paul was gay, or that passages which condemn the sin really don’t mean what they say.

We are told that people are homosexual because they are “born that way” in spite of no evidence to prove it, and some blaspheme by saying “God made me gay.”  Polls are regularly published to suggest that the trend is toward accepting gay practices and gay marriage.  The gay agenda expects that moral sensibilities will become weary of objecting and that the majority will approve.  Satan’s expectations is that the more we are exposed to it, the less shocked we will feel.

In all of this there is an underlying hatred of Christianity.  People who hate God’s rules are haters of God.  But gays and their fellow travelers have appropriated the word “hate” to apply it against Christians.  Christians do not hate homosexuals.  We love their souls and want to see them repent and turn to God.  We do in fact hate their sinful lifestyle.  (By comparison, we can speak of hating cancer while not hating the cancer patient.  Homosexual conduct is a “malignancy” of character.)

Thus, we have sometimes expressed it:  “We love the sinner, but hate the sin.”  A pro-homosexual and anti-Christian newspaper columnist ridiculed this as hate speech.  The more Christians express their love and concern for souls, the more they will be despised by the ungodly.  There was a time when most all churches were bold in their denunciation of sin, even specific sins.  Now many are intimidated out of fear they will be accused of being intolerant and unloving.  But while churches are hiding behind a curtain of timidity, the anti-Christian world marches with bold belligerence to trample underfoot moral decency and reverence for God.

The homosexual agenda is determined to bully people and churches into acceptance.  Now, back to Lot.  He was a righteous man and was vexed by the sin around him.  But it was a society ruled by bullies.  The Sodomites pounded at his door demanding submission to their ungodly lusts.  That was an actual door, but it reminds us that the bullies of moral corruption are beating at the doors of our families and churches.