THE SILENCE OF THE SCRIPTURES
By Tom Moore
God has revealed His will to us exclusively through the Bible. Peter informs us, “For no prophecy ever came by the will of man: but men spake from God, being moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Pet. 1:21). We have in the Holy Scriptures the expressed will of God, penned by men who were guided by the Holy Spirit. For this reason Paul said that the Scriptures are inspired of God (2 Tim. 3:16).
One of the ways in which the Bible instructs us is through its silence. Peter proclaimed, “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God…” (1 Pet. 4:11). From this statement a motto in the Restoration Movement of the early nineteenth century was coined: “We speak where the Bible is speaks and we are silent where the Bible is silent.” Because of this motto, it is common to refer to this attitude as “the silence of the scriptures.”
The phrase “silence of the scriptures” is not found verbatim form in the Bible, but the principle is found repeatedly through the pages of holy writ. Moses, a great leader of Israel, announced, “Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish from it, that ye may keep the commandments of Jehovah your God which I command you” (Deut. 4:2). Moses, by inspiration, informs us that it is a sin to “diminish,” or to change the requirements that God has set forth. It is equally as clear that we are not to “add to” the word of God. To add to the will of God is to speak where God has not spoken, and thus, to sin against God.
Balaam realized the principle of the “silence of the scriptures.” Notice what he declares, “If Balak would give me his house full of silver and gold, I cannot go beyond the word of Jehovah, to do either good or bad of mine own mind; what Jehovah speaketh, that will I speak” (Num. 24:13). To go beyond the commandments of the Lord is to have no respect for the silence of the scriptures; and therefore, no respect for God.
Another example is found in the book of Leviticus 10. “And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took each of them his censer, and put fire therein, and laid incense thereon, and offered strange fire before Jehovah, which he had not commanded them. And there came forth fire from before Jehovah, and devoured them, and they died before Jehovah” (Lev. 10:1-2)[emp. mine TM]. God had specified what he wanted, and did not have to detail all that He did not want. Jehovah simply stated what He wanted and that automatically eliminated all else. One does not have to be a “rocket scientist” to understand the principle of the “silence of the scriptures,” and our need to comply with its teachings.
We also see the principles of the “silence of the scriptures” in the New Testament. Paul wised for the Corinthian Christians “that in us ye might learn not to go beyond the things which are written” (1 Cor. 4:5). Paul warns his brethren in Corinth not to violate the “silence of the scriptures.” We must be concerned solely with what the Bible says, and not go beyond what it teaches.
The penalty for violating the “silence of the scriptures” is vividly seen in Revelation 22:18-19. John writes, “I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, if any man shall add unto them, God shall add unto him the plagues which are written in this book: and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the tree of life, and out of the holy city, which are written in this book.” Violating the “silence of the scriptures” has serious consequences! Remember Nadab and Abihu?
There are basically two views held concerning the concept of “the silence of the scriptures.” Consider first the WRONG VIEW: “If the Bible does specifically prohibit an action, then it is all right to engage in that activity.” To all those who hold fast the truth, this is a very terrifying view, for it is easy to imagine where this view could lead. It would literally open the “flood gates” for all types of falsehoods.
Many, if not most, of the proponents of instrumental music in worship would, in an attempt to argue their case say, “Well, the Bible does not say you can’t use instrumental music in worship. Therefore, it must be all right.” If this reasoning were correct, then it would be all right for us to have hamburgers and cokes for the Lord’s Supper. This, of course, is an absurd view. This violates “the law of exclusion.”
What is “the law exclusion?” Well, we use it almost every day. For example, Let’s say you go to a restaurant and order a bowl of soup and a salad, and they bring you a bowl of soup, a salad, an order of fries, and a piece of pie. What would your reaction be? If you are like most folks you would protest and say, “I didn’t order the fries and pie!” What if the waiter comes back and says, “Well, you didn’t say not to.” Would you go for that? No, of course not. You do not have to go through the whole menu and inform the waiter of what you do not want – you order what you do want and that automatically eliminates all else. We understand and use the “law of exclusion” in our every day lives, why can’t some understand it in spiritual matters?
Let’s notice a biblical example of the “law of exclusion.” In Numbers 20 the Israelites, as they had many times before, began to murmur for a lack of water. Moses approaches the Lord with the situation, and the Almighty tells Moses to “take the rod, and assemble the congregation … and speak ye unto the rock” (Num. 20:8), and this action would produce water for the people. But as is seen in Numbers 20:11-12, Moses violated the “law of exclusion” by striking the rock – thus showing that he did not truly believe in the Lord, failing to sanctify Him before Israel. As a result Moses was not allowed to enter the PromiseLand. The three things that God commanded automatically excluded all else. Notice that God did not tell Moses NOT to strike the rock. God simply told Moses what He wanted and that eliminated all else.
Can you imagine the size our Bibles would be if God chose to specifically tell us everything that we were not to do? Our Bibles would of such size we could not carry them. They might not even fit into our houses! We see the wisdom, therefore, of “silence of the scriptures” and “the law of exclusion.”
The CORRECT VIEW of “the silence of the scriptures” is that “man cannot do anything that God has not authorized.” Remember that God authorizes through direct statement, implication, and example. The apostle Paul declared, “And whatsoever ye do, in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus” (Col. 3:17). Acts 4:7-10 clearly shows that “in the name of” is the same as by the authority of. “Now these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes; that in us ye might learn not to go beyond the things which are written” (1 Cor. 4:16). We will be judged by what is written – not by what is not written (Jn. 12:48; Rev. 20:12). We should not concern ourselves with what “is not written,” but with WHAT IS WRITTEN. Let us give heed to and understand the principle of the silence of the scriptures. The destiny of our souls hangs in the balances. What will your destiny be?