A Matter of Principle

an essay on the Exclusivity (or Regulative) Principle of Scripture

by Bill Allen

(updated 12/30/2013)

I would like to draw your attention to the following text as I believe it helps explain the principles behind Old Line Primitive Baptist practice.

Hebrews 7:11-14

11 If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron? 
12 For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law. 
13 For he of whom these things are spoken pertaineth to another tribe, of which no man gave attendance at the altar. 
14 For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda; of which tribe Moses spake nothing concerning priesthood.

Hebrews Chapter 7 makes the case for not adding to the commandment or precept crystal clear.

In chapter 7, we find the changing of the Levitical priesthood to the priesthood of Christ is being taught. There are some important things to consider.

1) Without a change of the law, Jesus Christ could not assume the role of our High Priest unto God. Heb. 7:11 
2) The Law only prescribed for those of the tribe of Levi to hold the office of the priest. Jesus Christ was disqualified from this service under the Levitical Law because He was of the tribe of Judah. Heb. 7:12-13 
3) While the Law only prescribed Levites to fulfill this office, it did not FORBID those of the tribe of Judah. Moses spoke nothing concerning the priesthood in relation to the tribe of Judah. In other words, the scriptures were silent as far a command against one of the tribe of Judah holding the office of the priest was concerned. Heb. 7:14 With these things in mind, please notice the scriptural principle being describe here in Hebrews 7. There was only a positive precept laid forth concerning the priesthood under the Law - that Levites were to be priests. It did not take such a precept in conjunction with an equally authoritative commandment against those of other tribes holding this office to keep the precept reasonably enforced. God did not have to give a negative command to each of the other tribes to keep them out of the office of the priesthood. God simply said it was left to the Levites. That is all it took. It was clearly understood by God's people even in ancient times that no alternatives were allowable.

In the same light consider: Numbers 20:8 Take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water, and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock: so thou shalt give the congregation and their beasts drink.

The same is clearly demonstrated by God telling Moses to simply speak to the rock. God did not forbid Moses to strike it, but Moses was clearly and justly condemned for doing so. Moses had violated God's command and the scriptural precept that God's commands are exclusive in nature.

Similarly, in Leviticus 10:1-2 And Nadab and Abihu, the sons of Aaron, took either of them his censer, and put fire therein, and put incense thereon, and offered strange fire before the LORD, which he commanded them not. And there went out fire from the LORD, and devoured them, and they died before the LORD.

Nadab and Abihu, did not break break a “thou shalt not” commandment. All they did was to alter the divine worship of God in a way that He did not authorize. They went beyond what the Lord had prescribed.

Now, returning to our Hebrews 7 text, Jesus Christ was not forbidden to assume the priesthood according to any positive delineated command of the Law. He was excluded from that office by a very simple principle - God's precepts are exclusive in nature. The Law had to be changed to change that facts of who could serve in this office.

This very simple principle is the backbone of adherence to the concepts of the New Testament Church and the basis of Old Line Primitive Baptist Practice. It is a doctrinal difference in how one views his obligations with respect to God's word. One who holds to this disagrees, as a matter of principle, with those who feel that anything is allowable to be included in the corporate worship of God in His Church if it is not expressly forbidden. This becomes most clear when applied to church practices.

This following church practices are good examples:

1) Baptizing properly by immersion instead of sprinkling. The bible only says to baptize. It does not expressly forbid sprinkling although the Greek word "baptizo" means to immerse and the descriptions of the act given in scripture also show that immersion only is what is being taught. Those who sprinkle have violated the exclusivity principle of scripture.

2) Use of wine and unleavened bread instead of anything else in the Lords' Supper. The bible does not expressly forbid grape juice, leavened bread, or other substitutes for the elements of the communion. However, those who do make such substitutions have violated the exclusivity principle of scripture because God only has to say what the proper elements are and does not have to give a detailed list of all possible disallowed substitutes for right practice to be established.

3) Praying without the use of incense or candles. Again, the addition of incense or candles to the prayers would be addition unto prayer that is not expressly forbidden, but understood to be excluded by the exclusivity principle when we are told simply to pray. If God wanted incense or candles to be employed, He would have said expressly to pray with incense.

4) Singing without the addition of instrumental music. This is yet another good example of where men so easily abandon the exclusivity principle. Those who employ instrumental music in their corporate worship will demand for those of us, who say it is wrong to do so, to produce scripture forbidding it. I would say that they should produce New Testament scripture commanding it. The New Testament says clearly in both Ephesians 5:19, Colossians 3:16 to sing. 1 Cor. 14:15 makes singing clearly a self-contained activity. Christ gives the example of singing in the Hebrews 2:12. The apostles gave the example as well in Acts 16:25. Christ and the disciples sang together in Mark 14:26. In none of these texts is instrumental music commanded, demonstrated, or even implied by the very language of the texts, either in the English or the Greek. Positive precepts and examples of vocal only singing are given. While instrumental music is not expressly forbidden, the exclusivity principle demands that it not be added to the singing.

Adherence to this principle and having this as one's mindset is the heart of biblical conservatism. It is the root of holding God's written revelation sacred and the only rule of our faith and practice. Abandonment of this principle of the exclusivity of God's word is the real root of liberalism, both practical and doctrinal. When it is not scrupulously held to, men will simply do what is right in their own eyes, claim that there is not a direct commandment against what they are doing, claim rights on the basis of supposed scriptural silences, and in fact ignore the actual principles and precepts taught by God in His holy scriptures. When men abandon the exclusivity principle of the scriptures they will most surely do what is right in their own eyes without regard for God's word.