What An Imagination!


     I remarked to a young mother after service upon observing her son imagining different things, "They say that imagination is a mark of intelligence and based on this, your son sure appears smart."  She was pleased with my statement.  However, there is a sense in which imagination is not good. When God specifies in his word, man is not allowed imagination contrary to God's teaching.  Consider Paul's statement:

"6: And these things, brethren, I have in a figure transferred to myself and to Apollos for your sakes; that ye might learn in us not to think of men (literally, "not to think above what is written," dm) above that which is written, that no one of you be puffed up for one against another" (I Cor. 4).

     When man allows his imagination to be active in the circumstance of revelation from God, man is acting presumptuously (cp. Num. 15: 30-36).  Consider some ways in which we observe such imagination at work, even among us on occasion.

     "Even though all we read about and see as far as direct teaching is vocal music in the New Testament, this does not mean that they did not have mechanical music and it is just not mentioned," some say.  They take the case of the return of the prodigal and thus imagine, "The father was godly; therefore, he must have engaged in praise to God upon the return of his son and since there were mechanical instruments present, he sang with mechanical music accompaniment."  When reminded that even if this were the case, the father and the prodigal lived under the Law of Moses, they simply take another case and allow their imagination to be productive, rejecting what is clearly taught (Eph. 5: 19, Col. 3: 16).

     "When we see how families accepted the gospel and were baptized, we must imagine that babies were also baptized."  It is true that families did together accept the gospel and were baptized (cp. Acts 16: 33).  However, in order for one to be scripturally baptized, one must believe, repent, and confess Jesus' deity (John 8: 24; Acts 2: 38, Rom. 10: 9, 10).  Babies, then, are excluded.  Yet, the imagination of some continues to blind them to the simple fact of the accountability of people who have the ability to believe, repent, and confess.  "I just cannot imagine how you exclude babies," say they.

     "One cannot help but imagine that Aquila, Priscilla, and Paul preached through their tent making business."  When many of us look at Acts 18: 1 following, we simply see Paul finding Christians, namely, Aquila and Priscilla, and since they were of the same craft, working with them in this craft to support himself as he preached the gospel at Corinth.  We do not envision some foundation being established or even Paul and his company setting up some special order and in and through it preaching the gospel at Corinth.  Some order such as, "Tents for Jesus Foundation."  Yet, this is precisely what some see in Acts 18.  When pressed about such matters, they respond:  "The only reason Paul, Aquila, and Priscilla did not incorporate their business in and through which they preached the gospel  and thus have a board of directors, president, etc. is because the laws that provide for incorporation were not in place in the first century."  What an imagination!

     Dudley Ross Spears wrote the following, in which he demonstrated a rich imagination. I invite you to examine and analyze Dudley’s reasoning and dialectic process that culminates in such matters as the Guardian of Truth Foundation Lectureships ("gospel meeting) being justified:

     "Individual Christians have the Lord's approval to engage in secular occupations in order to establish the cause of Christ (Acts 18: 3). Paul lived with Aquila and Priscilla and worked with them in the tent making business.…There is obviously nothing wrong with Christians joining together in a commercial business in order to cause the gospel to be proclaimed.

     We have no information that in the first century local or federal laws were enacted allowing a business venture to be incorporated. Nor were there any provisions for forming a business relationship into a ‘Foundation’ as a non-profit corporation….

     The purest form of teaching is the distribution of the Bible. The Lord sanctions brethren working together in a commercial business. They have the right to take advantage of every legal benefit that doesn't conflict with God's law (Acts 25:11; 4:19-20). Men have divine sanction to form a company whose sole purpose is to translate, print and distribute Bibles. This is not an encroachment on any duly established and organized local church of Christ. Through their combined business arrangement they simply work together ‘in the gospel….’

Much good has been done over the years through religious publications. It was through the influence of the old Gospel Guardian I learned the truth on institutionalism and a number of other issues. I will always be thankful for that. Some religious periodicals are published by a religious bookstore. The publication serves two purposes. (1) Advertising the wares of the company and (2) presenting biblical writings designed to further the gospel.

     Some religious companies employ an editor who in turn invites others to contribute biblical articles. Special issues of the periodical are published with specific topics assigned to selected writers. There is no material difference in the same religious bookstore providing a place where the same men are invited to deliver the same material orally. One may be legitimately called a Gospel Paper; the other a Gospel Lectureship. I see no significant difference" ("Evangelism Congregation and Individual," Bible Matters, October 25, 2006).

     Hence, we see how some are promoting and working in and through human foundations, allowing their overseeing board of directors to provide the oversight and the foundation treasury to finance them, etc. to corporately preach the gospel, thus, doing the work belonging to the local church. The only reason Dudley sees for the "entity" that he imagines existed with Paul, Aquila, and Priscilla not being something comparable to the Guardian of Truth Foundation is what he believes is the probable lack of civil incorporation provision in the first century. Since, he observed good being accomplished in his referenced example, such must be scripturally acceptable and brethren selling Bibles for profit is necessarily tantamount to such an entity as the Guardian of Truth Foundation. Combine a highly active imagination with such convoluted logic and such orders for corporately preaching the gospel as the Guardian of Truth Foundation are fully authorized by the scriptures, according to Dudley.

     When God has spoken, we need to control our imagination.  We are not to think above what is written, whether we are talking about music in worship of God, those subject to the gospel, or the fact that the local church is God's means of providing his people with the corporate or collective means of preaching the gospel.  I would agree that an active imagination is a sign of intelligence, but when it comes to God's word, such an imagination is simply a sign of rebellion!