OceanSide church of Christ
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I DON’T HAVE TO
Victor M. Eskew
It has been said: “There are only two things people have to do, die and pay taxes.” The reality is that the only thing anyone really has to do is die (Heb. 9:27). All men and women are creatures who have the ability to make choices. Everything we do or do not do is by our choice. Because we have a choice, there are things that we do not have to do.
In the practice of one’s Christian life, some make their choices based upon the thought: “I don’t have to.” By this, they mean that something they are invited to do or told to do is an optional matter. They reason: “I can do this if I want to, but I don’t have to.” They believe that not doing what is asked in no way impacts their standing with the heavenly Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Some believe: “I don’t have to attend Bible classes.” In the minds of many, the worship service on Sunday morning is the only thing the Lord has asked us to attend, that is, that MUST be attended. Bible classes are optional. This is interesting because: 1) the Lord instituted the local congregation, 2) the Lord put elders over the flock, and 3) the Lord commands the elders to feed the flock (Acts 20:28; I Pet. 5:1-3). If the elders are commanded to feed the flock, isn’t the flock responsible for eating that which is offered by the shepherds? If not, the command to feed the flock is a useless command. The time, efforts, and money the elders spend to do this are meaningless. NOTE: If one member doesn’t “have” to attend, then all the members could opt out. Elders could offer Bible classes and not one person would have to show up. In the minds of some, this is fine and dandy. How silly! If the elders are to feed; the members are to partake of the food.
Some also believe: “I don’t have to attend the worship services every week in order to be faithful.” Some attend every other week. Others attend once a month. Still others attend less than that. Hebrews 10:25 states: “Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.” Somehow, in the minds of some members, assembling in a sporadic manner is not forsaking the assembly. They believe that the word “forsake” means to “totally abandon.” This is one definition of the word. However, it also means “to leave behind.” When a person fails to attend one assembly, he has left that assembly behind. He has forsaken that service. If not, why not?
Another belief that some have is: “I do not have to submit to the elders of the church if I do not want to.” The elders are the overseers of the local congregation (Acts 20:28; I Pet. 5:1-2). God has delegated to them the authority to rule (I Tim. 5:17). Their rule consists of two applications. First, they are responsible for making certain God’s revealed will is followed. These men are not free to change the Word of God. They are to uphold it at all times (Tit. 1:9). Second, they are responsible for making decisions in optional matters. Times of services, the color of the carpet to be installed, and which missionaries the church will support falls under their discretionary authority. In the optional matters, the members are supposed to submit to their rule. “Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you” (Heb. 13:17). Some do not seem to understand the words “obey” and “submit.” They defy the elders. They circumvent the elders. In their minds, they believe, “I don’t have to submit to these men if I do not want to.” Whatever reasoning one uses to come to such a conclusion is faulty and totally wrong.
Another belief that some manifest is: “I do not have to stand and fight for the faith.” Opportunities to stand for the truth present themselves in many forms. We may need to stand when a person makes an “off-the-wall” comment about Christ, the Bible, or Christianity. We may need to stand for the faith by confronting our local officials about a certain issues that involve sin. We may need to stand when a family member or friend is involved in something that is sinful. But, many reason: “I don’t have to stand and fight.” The Bible tells us to fight the good fight of faith in many places. Paul told Timothy: “Fight the good fight of faith…” (I Tim. 6:12). Jude exhorted his readers to “contend earnestly for the faith” (Jude 3). How people can read these verses, and think: “I don’t have to,” is beyond this writer.
Yes, people think: “I don’t have to attend Bible classes,” “I don’t have to go to every worship service,” “I don’t have to submit to the elders,” and “I don’t have to stand and fight for the faith.” There is a sense in which this is true. They do not have to in the sense of someone forcing them to do these things. They are free to choose to do none of them. There is a sense, however, wherein they are wrong if they believe they do not have to. If they want to please God, they HAVE to. God did not make these things optional. He wants all of us to be fed the Word of God. He wants us to assemble on the first day of the week to worship Him. He wants the members of the local congregation to submit to the eldership. He wants all of his soldiers to content for the faith. If God want us to do these things, how can faithful Christians say: “If don’t have to”? I suppose individuals will always have their reasons as to why they do not have to. Their wrong reasoning will never take the place of God’s Word, however. They may say: “I don’t have to,” but, God says: “Oh yes you do.”