It came up again in a conversation between, for want of a better term, a conservative member of our fellowship and a more liberal one. The liberal brother was explaining that he no longer believed in the “argument from silence.” Then he made that statement that really caught my attention: “I believe the church of Christ has been hypocritical down through the years when it insists that we sing a cappella, reasoning that the New Testament is silent on the subject of instruments.
The topic of instrumental music can wait for another article. Let’s say something about hypocrisy.
Let’s be clear about something: His terminology was incorrect. He didn’t mean we were “hypocrites” because we sang a cappella, he meant we were “legalistic.”
Hypocrisy is an attitude of the heart. It occurs when someone pretends to be something that he is not, usually hoping to receive the approval of others (Matthew 6:1). To be legalistic on the other hand means to try to earn our salvation by works of the law.
Our liberal spokesman has no idea, I repeat, no idea of the genuineness of my heart. He has not been blessed with the ability to read minds, he is not clairvoyant, he cannot possibly know whether for me, Christianity is the real thing or not. God, and God alone can read the intentions of my heart. Furthermore, just because I am “conservative” does not mean I hold my convictions lightly, that I worship only by rote, that I serve God merely out of a sense of duty. Almost forty-five years of mission work and preaching through bad times and good, I have surely demonstrated whether this Christianity business is real to me.
As for being a legalist (which is what I suspect he actually meant), I am under no misapprehension that to follow God’s directions would pay for even an hour of Christ’s death on the cross. But please take note of this: To accept God’s grace never meant that we got to take his directions lightly! Where did we get the idea that grace means God does not care what we do? Surely grace, properly understood, emphasizes God’s commands more highly, not less. That’s why grace is necessary! It only means that when we in our human weakness fail to live up to God’s expectations, he is gracious and forgives.
“For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20 ESV).
I am certainly happy to talk about my convictions about the “argument from silence” any time, but in the mean time, please don’t toss that “hypocrite” label around so casually.