Orthodoxy and Orthopraxy: Biblical, Extra-Biblical, and Unbiblical

Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other. (1 Corinthians 4:6 NKJV)

I measure everything doctrinal by what has been written by the Apostles and Prophets. For me, there are two categories of doctrine, biblical and unbiblical, or orthodox and unorthodox, true and false. We are told several times to hold to the doctrine of the Church as taught by the Apostles, and I can find no ability in those words to expand or develop doctrine beyond that which was found in the 1st century Church.

However, the practices – orthopraxy – of the Church fall into three categories:

  • Biblical
  • Extrabiblical
  • Unbiblical

We are commanded two sacraments in the New Testament, baptism and the Eucharist, but beyond that and the use of psalms and hymns in worshiping God (Ephesians 5.19; Colossians 3.16; James 5.13) and the fact that the first day of the week was the meeting day (Acts 20.7; 1st Corinthians 16.2), there is very little to nothing else to guide the Christian in daily or weekly ritual life.

A few decades after John had written Revelation, Pliny the Younger wrote,

They were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god, and bound themselves by a solemn oath, not to any wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud, theft or adultery, never to falsify their word, nor deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up; after which it was their custom to separate, and then reassemble to partake of food–but food of an ordinary and innocent kind.

We know that the Church had a certain and fixed day to meet together, and that they had somewhat of a normal routine, at least those under the persecution of Pliny the Younger. Somehow, they had developed practices not found in the bible.

Recently, I have heard that the idea of an ‘altar call’ ‘cannot be found in the bible.’ Technically that is true, and I will not devote myself to defending the ‘altar call’ usually given at the end of a service in which the sinners,  the wayward, or needy are invited to come to the altar; yet, I will post the biblically example that I have seen of what we might call an altar call:

“Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”

Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?”

Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.”

And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. (Acts 2:36-41 NKJV)

Peter finished his sermon, and the question was asked – what do we do now? Peter answered, and those that had received his word, came forward. Granted, it may not be a ‘traditional’ altar call, but in the end, it has all the hallmarks of one.

But the question is, is the Church allowed to practice something godly that is not in the bible. We return to those three concepts. Biblical are those things, such as the sacraments, which are mandated in the bible, yet for baptism, we do not find the prohibition against baptismal founts or the need for only running water. We just see the command. The same is said for the Eucharist. We do not know the exact ceremony but we know that it is commanded. Extrabiblical are those things that we develop to carry on those commands, such as baptismal founts for baptism. Unbiblical might be a different formula or requirements of the baptismal candidate that is not found in Scripture which would prevent the baptism from being carried out.

I have been thinking, of course, of those other things that we do which are not exactly found in the bible, but are either used or practiced in our congregations today. Here is a short list:

  • Revival, tent or otherwise
  • Musical Instruments
  • King James Only, or even English Translations
  • Electricity
  • Sunday School classes
  • Youth leaders, ministers, or any other ‘ministers’ not found in Eph. 4.11
  • Many forms of Church Government employed today
  • Programs
  • Special Songs
  • Youth Camps

Granted, that is a short list of things not found in the bible – yet we do these things on a regular and traditional basis. If we can do these things, surely, we can understand that an altar call is not unbiblical but extrabiblical, and that it is a practise developed over time and culture.

As a rejoinder to this, let me state first, that the altar call is not the point of the service, nor should people be expected to wait until the end of the service to pray to or to seek God. There are times when saints need to be shaken away from their extrabiblical concepts, but we must remember, extrabiblical is not unbiblical.

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27 Replies to “Orthodoxy and Orthopraxy: Biblical, Extra-Biblical, and Unbiblical”

  1. You know, I don’t think that the Bible is meant to tell us absolutely everything. After all, it’s remarkably silent on such subjects as deodorant, bathing (other than in healing or certain cleansing situations), the washing of dishes, brushing teeth, and the like.

    Although I can’t find a single passage in the Bible that mandates the use of deodorant or tooth paste, I encourage the use of both in your daily life.

    With some of these arguments, I wonder why people want so much of a step-by-step guide to life.

    I also wonder if some people who get involved in this know that Jesus didn’t play the pipe organ or speak English.

  2. We know Scripture does not tell us everything. But it DOES tell us a lot, and its principles guide us in life. It CAN be used as a manual for life – I do it, and it works great in that regard. If something goes directly against what the Bible tells us, then we know not to do it and not to encourage it.

  3. Well.. I wouldn’t go so far as to say KJV 🙂

    But I would say it tells us about issues of moral and faith. But I also agree, if its not expressly against what the Bible tells us (read in context), then we can decide for ourselves.

  4. Ok good topic!

    We actually have a preacher in my city that preaches the use of deodorant is un-Godly. Wow! He also keeps the entire tithe. Just wow!

    Some things are just ….. common sense. Like not stinking up the House of God when you can avoid it. I don’t know, I guess perhaps some people’s view of stink can differ.

    Musical instruments are used widely in the Bible for worship. Nifty rock riffs on a Fender? Dunno.

    Electricity? Why not? We use it at home.

    Revivals? “Re”vive means to re-live. How can you re-live if you have not yet been born? Many revivals just wind up being fellowship meetings, with other churches attending to “help out”. Could just be nit-picking the word. We know of “revivals” happening in the Bible with Nehemiah re-building the walls and such, and dedicating the work to the LORD. I think a revival can be both a place where a believer can regain lost fervor and zeal, and a place where the lost can be saved. Really depends upon the preacher and what he’s preaching.

  5. I submitted before I was done.

    KJV — I use the 1769 Oxford Text KJV. I never demanded that everyone else use it. If you can follow me in your other Bible, have at it. Jesus didn’t read from the KJV. 99.99% of Christians could not read what Jesus read.

    Sunday School Classes — Extra-Biblical. they didn’t have them “back in the day”. In Acts, the boy fell out of the window and died. He was at the main service, not in Sunday School. Of course, some churches have sunday school, then the main worship service. I think it all should be schooling in one way or the other. If something can’t be taught each time, it’s just best to stay at home.

    Church offices? plethora of data and scripture supports:
    Bishop
    Deacon
    Evangelist
    Apostle
    Teacher

    Others may be considered extra-biblical but not necessarily un-biblical. Unlike the fellowship I came out of, I consider a Bishop to be a pastor of church. They chose to call me Elder. I was a Bishop, nonetheless. It was not a mission sent by another church.

    No one should be not held accountable for the office they fill in Church Government. From the head to the toe. Without such, we see the likes of Jim Jones et. al.

    Programs. Extra-Biblical. At other times other than scheduled service times. I remember going to a Baptist Church near my present home on a Sunday evening in January. The whole congregation was downstairs, at church time, watching the SuperBowl and eating popcorn. To God be the Glory, I suppose? Not. I know that’s not the program you were talking about, lol, but you get my point. While we’re on that. We do know the day of Jesus Christ’s death. Passover. Probably a Wednesday evening, just before sundown — otherwise you don’t get 3 days. We, however, don’t know the date of his birth. Most likely not December 25, probably not even in December. Ecclesiastes 7:1 says
    A good name [is] better than precious ointment; and the day of death than the day of one’s birth.

    Special songs — do they really glorify God? I witnessed a fellow trying to sing a re-worded song to the tune of “Gilligan’s Island”. Not sure if that glorified God. All David’s and others psalms were special songs.

    Youth Camps — extra-Biblical, not without merit for fellowship of youngsters.

  6. Oops! I lied, or at least was remiss of memory. I did, in fact, have a ruling in place, on the KJV, in the Articles of Faith of the church I pastored in Madisonville. Upon consulting with the wife over the phone, just now, we did this to cause less confusion should I call on congregants to read aloud from their Bible. I did, however, have a KJV in every pew slot. That cost a bit, but I believe no one should be without.

    1. See, I’m not really against that because having a single version in the pew helps to unite the congregation when something is being read, or when the whole congregation stands to read.

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