But God Did Not Say Not To

Posted on: May 18th, 2014

“But the Bible does not condemn…” you fill in the blank.  Or perhaps you have heard “But the Bible does not say we cannot …”, and again you fill in the space.  People often respond like this when they want to do something not supported by God.  It is the idea that if God does not want us to do something then He would have clearly said so in the Bible.  This approach means that without a Divine statement banning an act we are free to do as we please.

The Bible does not outlaw Christians from using a piano or organ in worship, so feel free to use them.  In fact, add a full orchestra if you want because God’s Word does not condemn that either.   It does not forbid burning candles or incense in worship, so go ahead burn them.  Nor does Christ say we cannot set up a Papal form of government for the church, so do that if you want.  You want to baptize infants or sprinkle a little water on someone and call it baptism, no problem because the Bible never says we can’t.

Do you see where all of this leads?  It means the only deeds we cannot do are the ones specifically condemned by Christ or the inspired writers.  But the problem with this logic is that we learn what God wants by Him telling us.  That is what the New Testament does, it tell us how to please God. (1 Thess. 4:1-2)  Banned acts just tell us what not to do and can never tell us what God wants from us. (Gal. 5:19-21)  They do not give us the right to do anything.

I think a good example of this point is when God told Moses to “speak to the rock.” (Numbers 20:2-12)  The Jews were thirsty and griping about not having water, and so God was going to give them water from a rock.  All Moses had to do was “speak to the rock”, but he was angry with the people, and so he rebuked them and struck the rock instead.  Although Moses disobeyed, God gave the water but He also held Moses responsible.  I wonder if it would have done any good for Moses to have argued, “But God, You did not tell me not to strike the rock”.  Or perhaps he should have said, “But God, if You did not want to me strike the rock then You should have said so.”

When God forbids an action we know not to do it, but that is all we know.  However, when He tells us what to do then we know both what He allows and what He forbids.  Take for example why we only baptize believers.  It is because the Bible teaches us that faith comes before baptism. (Mark 16:16 & Acts 8:35-38)  And why do we not baptize infants, it is because they cannot believe.  We know it is wrong to baptize babies because God told us who to baptize.

But if it is still important to you for God to say “Don’t do something” then consider the following points.  He warns us against going outside the limits or boundaries of His teaching. (2 John 9)  God also warns against adding to or taking away from His Word. (Deut. 12:32 & Rev. 22:18)  If you are looking for a scripture that says do not baptize infants or practice sprinkling for baptism, you are not going to find one.  However, the three passages above tell us not to tamper with God’s Word.  Sadly, anyone who baptizes babies or practices sprinkling does exactly that by going beyond what He has said.  So there is the “don’t do something” that condemns any altering of Scripture.
I am not saying that everyone who goes beyond God’s Word does so without trying to find Bible support for their beliefs.  Supporters of infant baptism look to the Jewish practice of circumcising baby boys as proof God wants us to baptize our babies. (Lev. 12:2-3)  They twist Scriptures to say that babies come into this world with sin and need saving. (Psalms 51:5)  Surely babies were present and baptized in the stories of Lydia and the jailer’s baptism. (Acts 16)  However, none of these arguments hold water because they assume what cannot be proven.  Circumcising Jewish boys has nothing to do with Christ or Christianity.  No one knows if Lydia or the jailer’s family had babies.  What we do know is one must believe before baptism.  So where can they turn if they want to practice infant baptism?  All they have left is “The Bible does not say not to do it.”

Just look at what religion has become using this line of reasoning.  God does not say for churches to stay away from becoming social clubs, so many do.  They become charities, schools, or health care providers even though God never says they can or should.  But then again He never says they can’t, so why not do what you want?  Musical instruments become a part of worship because the Bible does not plainly say we cannot use them.

Christ says nothing about us doing any of these, and so permission is missing, but since He did not condemn them many believe they are right.  Again I want to say the only way for us to know what God wants is for Him to tell us.  God condemning something does not tell us what He wants; it only says what not to do.  However, by Him revealing His Will He limits our actions by what He says.  All other deeds are wrong because He has told us what to do.  Respect what God has said and never think of yourself above what He has revealed. (1 Cor. 4:6)
Terry Starling