The Law of Expedients

Worship is one of those “both-and” areas of our lives together as Christians. It cannot be an “either-or” because God has filled His family with extraordinary diversity so that we can keep each other in balance. Worship together is a matter of what God wants FOR us as well as what He wants FROM us. (See A Comprehensive Hermeneutic and Part 2 for some thoughts on this.)

If it were only a matter of praising Him, there would be no need for us to do it together. It would be clearly laid out in rules to follow, and it would not matter whether it came from our hearts or not; it would simply be a matter of rote obedience.

If it were only a matter of worshiping together, we could do whatever we wanted to that was edifying to ourselves/each other as long as it didn’t directly violate scripture, but it would not necessarily have God as its intentional focus and in the end, it would not be worship. Fellowship, maybe, or at worst self-indulgence. But not worship.

The problem comes when one point of view sees itself as the only one that matters and the other as unnecessary, dangerous, and/or unscriptural.

If scripture were a radio station, there would be folks who would insist that its format is all-law, all-the-time. And that’s all they can hear in it. They are plenty vocal about what is “wrong” with the other point of view, so for the sake of balance, I’d just like to chat about the problems that arise when a “law-only” point of view is observed.

This hermeneutic, or way of looking at scripture, can sometimes be very useful in determining what God says to do or not do, and what He wants FROM us. It is not as useful when determining what God wants FOR us. There are still problems when you use it only with logic and not without love and a discernment for God’s entire nature of justice and mercy. That leads to logical absurdities like The Law of Silence.

Because there are problems with it, a set of amendments has to be legislated onto it in order to interpret it and help it seem less absurd and more logical.

Since the Law of Silence* dictates that anything God has not commanded is forbidden, and any proposed action or practice must be commanded by God, exceptions have to be made for the things we are already doing which are not directly commanded, exemplified, or even inferred of necessity from scripture.

That’s where the “Law of Expedients” comes in.

Its adherents often explain it is drawn from the KJV scriptures I Corinthians 6:12, where it summarizes what Corinth was considering the “permissibility” or “lawfulness” of fornication, idolatry, adultery, cross-dressing/male prostitution, homosexuality, theft, greed, drunkenness, slander, and extortion and in 10:23, where it focuses more on just idolatry, sexual sin, and eating/participating in food sacrificed to idols – and still eating the bread and drinking the cup at the Lord’s table. In both cases, it says:

All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things edify not. / All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any.

Now, I ask you, can you demonstrate that any of those things are truly items about which God is silent – or was silent about at that time – either in scripture or through His servants?

Nevertheless, its adherents can confidently state that “Expedients help fulfill the instruction, but additions change the instruction.” And in case you can’t logic it out for yourself, they will sometimes supply a handy-dandy chart so that you’ll know which things are expedients and which things are additions to scripture. (Although the chart itself is not listed among the additions to scripture, so it logically must be an expedient.) Here’s a reproduction of one of them; I’d credit it, but I have modified it slightly for clarity and I’m not certain the specific author would want to be associated with my revised – but standard – version:

Bible Examples Expedients Additions
Lawful and Authorized Unlawful and Unauthorized
Noah’s Ark – Gen. 6:13-22 Tools to cut, join, and to spread pitch; gopher wood Larger size, additional windows, additional woods
Tabernacle – Ex. 25:9,40; 26:30; Ex. 39:32,42,43 Tools to work silver, gold, and wood in making the tabernacle and its furniture Making ark of covenant out of both acacia and pine wood
Lord’s Supper Bread and Fruit of the Vine; Trays and Cups Roast Lamb
Baptize, Be Baptized Baptistery, pool, river, lake, sea, or bathtub Sprinkling and pouring are different actions
Singing- Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16; Heb. 13:15 Songbook, pitch pipe, tuning fork Piano,
Organ – Different kind of music, Different means of praise

If there is any way that a chart or set of definitions of “Expedients” like this can be qualified as a teaching of God through scripture rather than an interpretation or tradition of man, please let know how.

Otherwise, it would seem to me to be extra-scriptural, unscriptural, and something which God did not command to be done in order to worship or serve Him acceptably.

We speak of God as a Father, as He wants us to speak and think of Him. Would He consider us good parents if we punished our children cruelly for doing something harmless, something “extra” to express their love for us – because we had not specifically commanded them to do so? Or because they did not fully understand our instructions and asked for clarification, but we refused to reveal that truth to them even though we had promised to do so?

He has promised. He will provide. All we have to do is ask (Luke 11:33; John 16:5-15).

Why do we fail to ask?

Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. – Proverbs 3:5

*I have a problem with the “Law of Silence” creed, if you haven’t already guessed. Since it is minimalist by definition, then taking it to its logical conclusion provides a reason – or an excuse – for doing as little as possible to worship or serve God and being satisfied that it is scripturally “enough” because that’s all God commands and more would be wrong. To me, that flies in the face of The Parable of the Talents, where Jesus speaks of reward for creativity and risk-taking in serving God.

3 thoughts on “The Law of Expedients

  1. Me too! Seriously…I would love for your book to be a reality. My only real fear is that you might take a break from blogging in order to make time for it.Then what would I do???

  2. Thank you so much for this wonderful post brother.I really enjoy your blog.It has blessed my life in so many ways.I pray that you experience God’s richest blessings in your life.I hope you have a wonderful week.In Him,Kinney Mabry

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