“Do not go beyond what is written.” It’s the good advice of Paul to Corinth. (1 Corinthians 4:6) It’s also a pretty good principle of hermeneutics.
Let me pose a few questions.
Is it going beyond what is written to insist on a doctrine that is not explicitly expressed in scripture? When we say “thou shalt not” yet the scriptures say nothing about it? When we say “you’ll go to hell if you do” when the Bible is silent?
Is it going beyond what is written to support such a doctrine with the opinions of people who have not, as we generally canonize it, written any scripture?
Is it going beyond what is written to require biblical authority not only for any given act of worship, but also how, when, by whom, and where it may be performed … but ignore, minimize or explain away scripture which seems to contradict those doctrines of people? (for example: Acts 2:42-47; 18:26; 21:8-9; 1 Corinthians 11:4-5)
Is it going beyond what is written to forbid someone to confess Christ before others when scripture instructs us not to quench His Spirit? (1 Thessalonians 5:19)
Is it going beyond what is written to make law out of silence? presume authority to make that law when all authority has been given to Christ? to cause division rather than maintaining unity? to declare indisputable what others dispute? to not keep what one believes about such matters between one’s self and God? (Romans 14:19-23)
Is it going beyond what is written to make law for all churches, for all believers, for all time … out of instruction given to a church at a given time in a certain set of circumstances? (Colossians 3:22; Ephesians 6:5-9; Titus 2:9; 1 Peter 2:18)
Is it going beyond scripture to correct others by attempting to publicly humiliate them by name, at a distance … before discussing the matter with them in private first? (Matthew 18:15-20)
Is it going beyond what is written to judge others when Jesus says don’t? (Luke 6:37)
As a rather exclusive members-only fellowship of the church He died to save, we have generally prided ourselves on not going beyond what is written. It’s one of our Restoration Movement mottoes (“We speak where the Bible speaks; we are silent where the Bible is silent”) – and we call it a motto because we say we have no creeds.
If we are, in fact, doing a really good job of not going beyond what is written … then why aren’t we widely known as Christians by our love?
“By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” ~ John 13:35