You Cannot Have It Both Ways
Volume IX ~ Issue XVII ~ January 18th, 2009
By: Brian A. Yeager
(To open this article in PDF - Click here)

I have often wondered how many doctrines are believed among brethren more out of tradition rather than an understanding of the truth. For example, most churches of Christ still reject mechanical instrumental music in worship to God. Most who reject this error will do so because they say that God has not authorized it (Colossians 3:17). Most correctly will say that they know mechanical instrumental music in worship to God is sinful because God did not ask for it to be done (Joshua 1:7-9, II Samuel 7:1-7, Proverbs 30:5-6, Luke 4:4, and Revelation 22:18-19). Some will correctly argue that the pattern (cf. Exodus 25:9, Joshua 22:28, and II Timothy 1:13) of New Testament worship by song shows that God wants our music to be singing not playing (Matthew 26:30, Mark 14:26, Acts 16:25, Romans 15:9, I Corinthians 14:15, Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16, and Hebrews 2:12).

If you’ll listen to those who argue the points above against mechanical instrumental music in worship to God, you’d think they have a good grasp on how to establish biblical authority. Yet, if you examine many of those same people, you’ll find that they will not use the same methods on other issues. Churches that will correctly argue what is written above will often use the Lord’s money for entertainment, assisting sinners in paying their bills, social meals, etc. All of which, the Lord has not authorized. If they’d follow the pattern on entertainment and hospitality, they’d learn these are the works of the home not the church (Romans 14:17 and I Corinthians 11:18-34). If they’d follow the pattern on “benevolence” they’d learn that the collection taken of the saints can be used for the saints, not the sinner (I Corinthians 16:1-4).

Of course, there are churches that would correctly argue against all that is above (usually they’d be known as non-institutional churches of Christ), but still they too participate in unscriptural things. They refuse to use the points they would use above in their unscriptural practices (i.e. make up offerings of the Lord’s Supper, colleges, foundations, etc.). You cannot apply Bible authority in some matters, and not in others. It gets worse...

The Inconsistency Continues If You Listen To Their Prayers

Prayer is a privilege that is given only to God’s people (Proverbs 15:29, Proverbs 28:9, Isaiah 1:15-16, Isaiah 59:1-4, John 9:31, and I Peter 3:12). However, this does not mean we can just pray any way we want to. The things we pray for must be according to the will of God (I John 5:14-15). We can pray wrongly (James 4:3). This is why we teach people how to pray (cf. Luke 11:1 and Matthew 6:9-15).

Now, consider the points we’ve already discussed in this article. We’ve seen how that many of our “brethren” will teach the truth on Bible Authority but they will not apply it to all they say and do. The same inconsistencies can be seen in prayers offered by “brethren”. For example, most members of churches of Christ properly deny the existence of miracles today as we read about in the first century. These will correctly show that when the word of God came in full, miracles were no longer needed to confirm these words (I Corinthians 13:8-10; cf. Mark 16:15-20).

While many in churches of Christ deny miracles today, there are many things related to the miraculous that are still prayed for. How many times have you heard wisdom, knowledge, faith, and healing prayed for? Well, all of these things are among those done miraculously in the first century (I Corinthians 12:3-11). I have preached against miracles existing today only to have a “brother” conclude the service that day by praying that we’d all have the wisdom to apply what was taught. QUESTION... Did he listen? ANSWER... NOPE! Asking such a one, immediately after his prayer, if he believed God would grant wisdom aside from His word today; the answer was “no”. Brethren, we cannot have it both ways. Either miracles have ceased or they have not! Our preaching and teaching cannot be one way while our prayers are led in another way. That is severely inconsistent. It also shows that we really do not believe or understand what we proclaim is the truth (cf. James 1:8; 4:8).

Continuing with prayer and the idea of praying for things which we teach are impossible, we shall make another application. Most churches of Christ teach the truth in saying that the word of God is all-sufficient in guiding and saving our souls (Matthew 4:4, II Timothy 3:15-17, and James 1:21-25). Most will teach the truth in saying that God’s word gives us all things pertaining to life and godliness (II Peter 1:3). Yet, these same folks will turn and ask God to help someone be saved. Of course this outright denies the all-sufficiency of God’s word and completely rejects the truth taught in Romans 1:16. While saying one moment the word of God is all sufficient, the next moment these same individuals will pray for a better understanding of God’s word. It’s not that they have not read Ephesians 3:4. So why do they pray one thing and teach another? Brethren, we cannot have it both ways. Either the word of God is all sufficient or it is not.

Brethren, we are supposed to pray with an understanding (I Corinthians 14:15). How can we learn that miracles have ceased and the word of God gives us all things teaching us to live and be godly, yet we still ask for those things? Notice this command:
“Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is” (Ephesians 5:17).


We do not want to be the people who teach the truth, but do not practice it. There is enough of that among “churches of Christ”. Job wrote:
“But there is a spirit in man: and the inspiration of the Almighty giveth them understanding” (Job 32:8). Scriptural prayers require biblical knowledge and common sense. You know from the Scriptures what God will do, will not do, and has already done. You have to be a reasonable person to get these things right (Hebrews 5:14). We need to understand and practice the truth. We cannot know the truth says one thing while we are practicing another. We cannot have it both ways!