John Adams, second president of the United States, once made this observation: “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” Indeed, facts are important because knowledge relies heavily upon factual information, assuming that we want our knowledge to be based upon truth and what is real. We have all heard the comic line, “Don’t confuse me with the facts,” but it’s sad when that same attitude often governs people’s behavior in important areas of life. The most important area of all, of course, has to do with our relationship with God.
Too often we develop opinions in religion, but then we are confronted with facts that expose those opinions as false. How do we respond to those facts? Do we accept them and act accordingly or do we ignore them and act as if they don’t exist? In contrast to the comedic line already referred to, we need to have the attitude of Sergeant Joe Friday on the old television show, Dragnet. As he investigated a case, he would often say, “Just the facts, Ma’am, just give me the facts.” Incidentally, that’s the kind of presentation that we should demand of our preachers and teachers in the church! We want them to get up and tell us what God has actually said in his word (1 Pet. 4:11) and not deal in speculations and the opinions of men. Since it is by the use of “facts” that God has revealed the truth in the Bible, we are blessed to read for ourselves what Christ actually taught and learn from incidents that really occurred (Rom. 15:4).
While it may be true that learning facts is not always exciting for some people, we must possess factual information on various Bible topics or we will be lacking in our concept of spiritual things. Yet, some deal very little in facts in order to promote what they consider to be more exciting things, hindering them from having the proper basis for a good understanding of God’s will for their lives. However, I don’t want to leave the impression that factual preaching means that it must be lacking in power and persuasion. That is simply not the case! Look at Stephen’s discourse in Acts 7 and the point becomes crystal clear. He gave the Jewish leaders a good history lesson as he spoke of how their historical past was one of idolatry and rebellion against God repeatedly. All of this factual information allowed Stephen to conclude his speech with a powerful denunciation against the stubborn unbelief of his hearers (verse 51-53). This shows that preaching must be factual, but at the same time it can be preached with power and conviction as people are reproved, rebuked, and exhorted by the word of God.
Please consider this question: How do you react to the facts presented in God’s word (when you read them for yourself or you hear them proclaimed in a sermon)? Do you accept them gladly or do you try to negate them in some way? The truth is that men often deal with the truth in an unfavorable way, causing them to deny what is factually true. Let’s notice how some seek to overthrow Biblical facts.
Sometimes an attempt is made not to face the facts by distorting the real issue or by slanting things their way. In other words, they are guilty of misrepresenting what the real facts are in the case. A good way to illustrate this is how some have tried to justify instrumental music in the worship of the New Testament church. The false charge has been made against us, “You people don’t believe in music. You think that music is wrong in the church.” One lady actually stated to me several years ago, “I’ll never become a member of the Church of Christ because I like music too much to give it up.” When one recognizes what the real issue is, it’s obvious that such statements as these are a distortion of the facts!
It is an obvious fact that we don’t believe “that music is wrong in the church” because it is often a part of our assemblies and it is also something that we enjoy (in the sense that we find it edifying and uplifting). It is true that we don’t use instrumental music, which is actually the point of the criticism, but that is a far cry from saying that we don’t obey such passages as Eph. 5:19– “Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.” When it comes to the New Testament church, it is vocal music that is specified, hence authorized, every time.
Let’s notice some facts that are undeniable: (1) Secular history attests to the fact that the early church did not sing with instruments of music: “All our sources deal amply with the vocal music of the church, but they are chary with mention of any other manifestations of musical art”– Music In Western Civilization by Paul Henry Lang/ “In the beginning, all the Christian musical practices were vocal”– Music In History by Howard McKinney & W.R. Anderson (2) The New Testament shows that their music was always confined to “singing”— Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16; Heb. 2:12; Acts 16:25; 1 Cor. 14:15; James 5:13 (3) When instrumental music was introduced into congregations of the Lord’s church, it caused division among brethren. Early in the 1800’s, using the instrument in church assemblies was virtually unknown. In 1860 the practice was introduced in Midway, KY, but it caused great controversy. Their preacher, Lewis Pinkerton, said that this was the only congregation he knew of where the instrument had been successfully introduced. This innovation into the Lord’s church became a constant source of trouble, eventually causing a major division in the body of Christ. That is an undeniable fact!
Facts are stubborn things, but after it is all said and done, nowhere does the New Testament authorize instrumental music in our worship today.
Another attempt to evade the truth is by simply denying the facts and contradicting what the Scriptures plainly reveal. For example, consider how some deny what the Bible teaches about baptism— I’ve heard some claim that it is not a command of the gospel, while others assert that it is never spoken of as having a connection to salvation. Here are the facts: (1) Baptism is a command of God– “And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord” (Acts 10:48). Notice that it was not a choice or an option, but a command of the gospel (Mark 16:15-16) unto salvation. (2) Every time baptism is mentioned in regard to salvation, it always comes first and salvation follows (in that order)– Read it for yourself in Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 1 Pet. 3:21; Gal. 3:26-27, et al. (3) Only immersion will suffice– It involves much water (John 3:23), a going down into the water (Acts 8:38), a coming up out of the water (Acts 8:39), a burial (Rom. 6:4), and a resurrection (Col. 2:12).
Facts are stubborn things! We can deny them, but that will not make them go away. The word spoken by Christ will judge us in the last day (John 12:48).
GO ON THE ATTACK
When all else fails, some find it necessary to attack the presenter of facts. They can’t give scriptural authority for instrumental music, so they engage in name calling and character assassination. Calling brethren “antis,” non-progressive, or legalists is a poor substitute for Biblical authority. When they can’t answer the arguments that show that baptism is “for (unto) the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38), they make false allegations like we believe in “water salvation” or we teach that one can merit salvation. It shows the weakness of one’s position when the messenger is attacked in order to overthrow the “facts” that have been proclaimed.
Facts are stubborn things, especially when they are backed up with the authority of heaven! Let us remember the words of Christ: “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away” (Matt. 24:35).
Article by Billy D. Dickinson