What is an Expedient?
What if someone told you, that although with our singing in worship to God, that it’s also OK to use musical instruments, because it’s expedient to do so? Would you know how to respond to that? Would you even know what they MEAN, when they say; It’s expedient to use musical instruments along with our singing, as we worship God?
I want to clarify exactly what an expedient is, as it relates to the practice of our religion. Generally speaking, an expedient is something that is considered to be practical and advantageous to us, which enables us to carry out the commands of God. For instance; God commands us to assemble together for worship. But He doesn’t tell us where to assemble. Therefore, where we assemble, is up to us. It’s up to us to choose a place that’s practical, and advantageous to us, in fulfilling the command to assemble. In other words, we choose a place that’s expedient. Where we assemble, is a “matter of expediency”, because God has not specified a particular place.
Many people however, get confused, over what things are a matter of expediency, and what things are NOT a matter of expediency, but rather, are a matter of obedience. To put it quite simply; When God commands us to do something, but doesn’t specify anything about how it should be done, then we must decide the most beneficial way to do it. However, when God gives us a command, and then SPECIFIES how, or when, or where, or even why we should do it, then THAT becomes a matter of obedience! We no longer have a choice, because God has made that choice for us
Here’s an example of that in the scriptures..
Jesus commanded His apostles, in Mathew 28, verses 19 & 20; “Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
Jesus really gives two commands in these verses. The first command is to “Go therefore..” And the second command is “make disciples of all nations..”
Now, Jesus is fairly specific in His command to “make disciples of all nations..” He actually specifies two different rules to follow, as we obey His command to “make disciples”. He specifies WHO we’re supposed to make disciples of, and then He specifies HOW we’re to make those disciples. The WHO, is “all nations”, and the HOW, is by “baptizing” them, and by “teaching” them.
You don’t make a disciple by inviting them to play a game of baseball, or by inviting them out to lunch, or even inviting them to a “pot-luck meal”. That’s how you make “a friend”. And it’s very true, that it will probably be much easier to make a disciple out of a friend, that out of someone who’s not friend. God wants us to make friends, and He wants us to be a neighbor to everyone. Luke 10:30 -37 teaches us that, in the parable of the good Samaritan.
But making a disciple, isn’t the same as just making a friend. Jesus says, to make a disciple, you have to baptize them, and you have to teach them. And then, Jesus gets even more specific, about those rules. When he tells us to baptize someone, He specifies that it must be “in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” Of course, “In the name of”, means.. “By the authority of”. And since the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all God, We know that our baptizing is by the authority of God.
When Jesus gave His command to “teach”, He again got very specific, because He tells us exactly WHAT to teach. Jesus says to teach them; “all things that I have commanded you”.
When God’s word specifies certain things, like it does here, we are obligated to DO those things exactly as He commands. That’s what obedience is.
But what about the command, to “Go therefore..”? Were there any specifics given, related to that command? It doesn’t say how we should go, or where we should go, or when we should go. It simply tells us to; “Go therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you, and Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the ages.”
There’s a lot of possibilities aren’t there? We could walk, to wherever it is that we’re going. Or we could ride a bicycle, or drive a car. Or, you might be able to fly in a plane, or go in a boat. But the point is; It’s up to us how we go. Since the scripture hasn’t specified how to go, we simply go in a way that’s “expedient”. In other words, in a way that’s.. “practical, and advantageous or convenient”.
So then, God has made the choice concerning HOW we make a disciple; We do it by teaching and baptizing. And God has made the choice concerning what to teach, and He’s made the choice of how to baptize.
When we talked about this in class a year ago, someone got the word “expedient”, mixed up with the word “expedite”. Those are two completely different words. Even though, the spelling is almost the same, the words are completely different, and UN-related.
When you “expedite” something, you speed it up, and you do it as quickly as possible. But when you do something “expediently”, you simply do it in an advantageous manner, or in a practical manner. Doing something “expediently” has absolutely nothing to do with how quickly you do it. As a matter of fact, in many cases, it might be much more advantageous and practical, to do something very slowly and methodically, rather than to rush through it quickly. It all depends what you’re doing. Sometimes, it might BE advantageous, to do something as quickly as possible, but not always.
For instance; You’d most likely want your doctor to perform heart surgery on you, in the most advantageous and practical manner possible. But you certainly wouldn’t want him to “rush through it” as “quickly” as possible. You probably wouldn’t want him to “expedite” this thing, but you sure would want him to proceed, “expediently”.
Now let’s get back to what is expedient, in regards to the practice of our religion. I have a friend who told me that a congregation where he attended, uses white grape juice, instead of red, for the Lord’s supper. He said the reason they did that, was because if the juice happened to get spilled, the white juice wouldn’t leave a stain, like the red juice would.
The members of that congregation, obviously thought it would be “expedient”, to use white juice, instead of red. But, how do you feel about that? More importantly, what does the BIBLE say about it? Well, when we study that subject in the bible, we see that the COLOR of the fruit of the vine, is never mentioned. So then, is it simply a matter of expediency, which color juice we use?
Here’s what the bible says about the Lord’s supper. It says, in Mathew chapter 26, and verses 26 thru 29; “And while they were eating, Jesus took some bread, and after a blessing (that means after He gave thanks) He broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said; Take, eat, this is my body.”
(We need to take note here, that Jesus and His disciples were eating the Passover meal when this occurred. And at the time of the Passover, the Jews were not allowed to have any leaven in their homes. Therefore, the bread that they baked for the Passover meal, was un-leavened bread. And the significance of that, is that in the scriptures, God compares leaven, with sin!
God says in 1 Corinthians 5, verse 6; “..Do you not know that a little leaven, leavens the whole lump?” In other words; Leaven spreads! And that’s what sin does, when it’s tolerated; It spreads! That was the whole point in saying what was said, about the leaven. The apostle Paul was rebuking the congregation in Corinth, because they had been tolerating sin, in their congregation.
So Paul said in verse 7; “Clean out the old leaven, that you may be a new lump; Just as you are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover, also has been sacrificed!” When Paul said; “Just as you are unleavened”, he means.. Just as you are without sin.)
Now, we were reading about the Lord’s supper, from Mathew 26:26 thru 29; “..And Jesus took some bread (what if we ran out of the unleavened bread? Couldn’t we use some leftover cake from our last pot-luck?) and after a blessing, He broke it and gave it to the disciples, and said; Take eat, this is My body. And when He had taken a cup, and given thanks, He gave it to them saying; Drink from it, all of you. For, this is the blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many, for the forgiveness of sins. But I say to you; I will not drink of this fruit of the vine, from now on, until that day when I drink it new with you, in My Father’s kingdom.”
So then, Jesus said, concerning the fruit of the vine, “This is the blood of the covenant..” Luke says that the cup is “the new covenant in My blood”. No matter how you say it, the fruit of the vine “represents” the blood of Jesus. What COLOR do you think that blood was?
If you were going to “correctly”, and “respectfully” represent the blood of Christ, with the “fruit of the vine”, what color juice would you use? It’s kind of obvious, isn’t it?
If you were going to “correctly”, and “respectfully” represent the sinless body of Jesus, would you use leavened bread, or would you use UN-leavened bread?
Those sound like silly questions, don’t they? But evidently, they need to be asked. And we need to answer them, because someday, we’ll need to answer to God.
One of the definitions of the word “expedient” is.. “convenient or advantageous, without regard for ethics or consistent principle.” Another definition says.. “convenient or practical, although possibly improper or immoral.”
What people don’t realize, is that just because something seems to be practical, and seems to be advantageous, that doesn’t mean that it’s acceptable, to God.
So then, judging from those two definitions, is it “expedient” to use WHITE grape juice, for the Lord’s supper? Well, without regard for what’s proper, and without regard for what’s possibly even irreverent in God’s eyes, white grape juice may very well be convenient, and even practical, in case any of it got spilled on our clothes, or on the carpet. We wouldn’t want to leave a stain anywhere would we? The problem is, people are more concerned about leaving a physical stain, than they are about leaving a spiritual stain.
So then that’s a lesson for us. Whenever we do something, because it seems to be “convenient”, or “expedient”, we better be making sure that’s it’s proper, and respectful to God’s word. We better make sure that it’s not, “without regard” for what the bible says.
Now maybe we should go back to the question I asked in the very beginning. What would you say to someone who told you that it was “expedient” to use musical instruments, to accompany our singing in worship? Now that we’ve studied what an expedient is, we can see that it very well may SEEM advantageous to someone, to use musical instruments, along with their singing. But when we know the scriptures, we also see that using instruments, is indeed, “without regard” for what the bible says.
But here’s something to keep in mind. There is something that’s supposed to accompany our singing
Colossians 3:16, tells us to sing “psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs, WITH thankfulness in your hearts to God.” So then our singing, is to be accompanied with “thankfulness in your hearts to God.”
Ephesians 5, verse 17, tells us that we should be “singing AND making melody in our hearts to the Lord.” Those two verses, are what we call “parallel verses”. They say the same thing, but in slightly different words. The “thankfulness” in our hearts, in Colossians, is the same thing as the “melody” in our hearts, in Ephesians. If you’ve got thankfulness in your heart, then you’ve got “melody” in your heart.
And here’s what else our singing should be accompanied with..
1 Corinthians 14, verse 15, tells us to “..Sing WITH the spirit, and to sing WITH the understanding also.”
So then, here’s what God has specified; We are to sing “Psalms , and hymns, and spiritual songs.” And we are to accompany our singing, with; “Thankfulness” and with “melody” in our hearts. And with “the spirit”, and with “the understanding”.
When you think about it, all the accompaniment, comes from within us, doesn’t it? There is no “external accompaniment”. So where does that leave instruments? It leaves them OUT, doesn’t it?
But think about our singing again. There’s a few things that are not specified about our singing. The bible doesn’t say whether we should sing loudly, or softly. That might depend on the song. The bible doesn’t even say that we have to sing WELL. It doesn’t even say have to sing “on key”. Just as long as we sing, WITH the proper accompaniment, from within us.
Remember that old Johnny Cash song called “Daddy Sang Bass”?
“Daddy sang bass, momma sang tenor.. me and little brother would join right in there.. Singin’ seems to help a troubled soul.
One of these days, and it won’t be long.. I’ll rejoin them in a song. I’m gonna join the family circle at the throne.”
In our worship services, some of us could sing bass, and others could sing tenor; That would be fine, wouldn’t it? And then all the rest of us could join right in. That would be expedient wouldn’t it? And it wouldn’t disregard any of the words of God either. You’d just have to leave your guitar at home, that’s all.
So, that’s our lesson; In obeying God’s commands, always do what’s specified, and when nothing is specified, just do it expediently.