CENI: Commands

church_split1“Commands” is the “C” in CENI, and it would seem to be the easiest to apply. Obviously enough, if God commands it, we good Christians should obey it. How complicated could that be? Pretty complicated indeed, as it turns out.

Let’s take a few examples.

(Rom 16:16)  Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of Christ send greetings.

(1 Cor 16:20)  All the brothers here send you greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss.

(2 Cor 13:12)  Greet one another with a holy kiss.

(1 Th 5:26)  Greet all the brothers with a holy kiss.

(1 Pet 5:14)  Greet one another with a kiss of love. Peace to all of you who are in Christ.

Five commands saying the same thing, from two different authors, written plainly enough for a child to understand, and we don’t do it. Why not?

What’s really going on here? Hundreds of Church of Christ websites have Rom 16:16 pasted on their front page, quite unaware of the irony of such a prominent display of a command that we ignore, contrary to our stated hermeneutic!

Ken Thomas argues,

So then, what is the status of the “holy kiss” today? I have heard preachers equate it to our modern day handshake, but I am not fully convinced that firm sincere gripping of the hands carries the same warmth or affection as implied here. For an individual to take it on himself/herself to practice the “holy kiss” in a literal way would be so strange and shocking as to cause a real commotion today. There are times that hugs are accepted – when old friends are reunited, or at a funeral or marriage. But what about at other times? Can we increase our warmth of expression in the church? Could we begin by using kind words of appreciation and love toward one another? This would surely be a start toward showing the love of Christians. “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another,” Romans 12:10. “Let brotherly love continue.” Hebrews 13:10.

In other words, Thomas interprets “kiss” as “warmth of expression,” but feels no need to justify rewriting God’s direct command.

Similarly, most Churches of Christ routinely violate,

(1 Tim 2:8-10)  I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing. 9 I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, 10 but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.

Some of my church’s more conservative members have complained when members raise hands toward heaven during worship. They say it’s “Pentecostal” and therefore wrong. And, in fact, lifting hands is unusual among the Churches of Christ, despite the plainest of commands.

And, I’m sorry, it’s routine for our wives and daughters to braid their hair and to wear gold, pearls, and expensive clothes. It is. Despite a direct command.

Obviously, there’s another hermeneutic going on here — an unexpressed one. We actually mean something like “We obey direct commands, except those that reflect a culture that’s different from modern America and don’t reflect an eternal principle.” Right? We figure, as Ken Thomas does, that Americans don’t kiss — unlike Middle Eastern and Southern Europeans and, evidently, First Century citizens of the Roman Empire. But we don’t actually explain our hermeneutic. We just leap to the “obvious” conclusion.

Burton Coffman says in his commentary on 1 Corinthians,

Yet it must be allowed that the apostolic order of such a thing was related to the customs of the times and should not be construed as binding in times and cultures as diverse from theirs as ours.

Wise words. But how did he reach that conclusion? How do we conclude that a cappella singing (an inference from silence) is until Jesus returns, but the Holy Kiss is only for certain times and cultures? CENI has no answer.

And that’s the problem. By claiming that we reach our conclusions solely from CENI and not giving serious thought to how to distinguish a local, temporary practice from a permanent practice, we leave ourselves at the mercy of modern fashion, American culture, and whatever a strong personality in the pulpit or editorial board insists on pushing. And we are defenseless against the arguments.

When I was in high school, women couldn’t wear pants because,

(Deu 22:5)  A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for the LORD your God detests anyone who does this.

Now, it’s quite common for women to wear pants. What changed? The Bible? Our hermeneutic? Or America’s culture? And without a well-articulated principle for knowing what applies forever and what doesn’t, well, there’s just no way to prove anyone wrong (or right). The loudest voice wins. (And why did we insist on this part of the Law of Moses, while simultaneously arguing that Old Testament commands to worship with instruments were nailed to the cross? How do we so blithely insist on having it both ways?)

You see, by saying CENI answers these questions, we can claim to have a solid theology, built for the ages. It’s just that when we study our own history, we learn that the Ancient Order of which we are so proud changes every generation. CENI has actually led to constantly shifting interpretations, with each generation claiming to have at last found eternal truth — which, of course, the true remnant has been teaching since AD 33. 🙄

I think it’s helpful to think of CENI as being in three layers —

* The stated rationale: it’s either a command, example, or necessary inference (It’s a command: Moses said women shouldn’t dress like men.)

* The hidden actual reason, which may well be unconscious (Women’s roles in society are changing in ways that make me uncomfortable, and their clothes symbolize their moving into male roles. And they look prettier in dresses.)

* The reason that requires damning over this particular issue. (If we don’t make it a damning issue, the women will prevail on their husbands and get to wear pants. The next thing you know, they’ll be preaching!)

When the reasoning is actually laid out plainly, it’s easy to test it against scripture. But if the reasoning is hidden (Moses said it!), then many get fooled into thinking the command is binding. It is, after all, quite plainly a command. And that gives great power to our editors and preachers to impose their will — often very poorly thought out.

That’s not to say that their intent is to deceive. In most cases, I think our editors and preachers have managed to fool themselves, because they’ve been trained in a skill set that makes that very easy to do.

Thus, the first step toward a cure is to insist that the two hidden steps be explained. Why this command when we don’t  honor all commands? Why damn over this error when we don’t damn over all errors?

Obviously, there are some commands for which there are plenty of good, scriptural answers both to insist on the command and to consider it an apostasy issue (well, not that many). But most “commands” will withstand such a test.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink.My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
This entry was posted in CENI, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

15 Responses to CENI: Commands

  1. Alan says:

    Grammatical commands are not always mandates. In the Greek language there ae some clues that a command might not be mandatory.

    When commands are in the imperative mood and the aortist tense, the meaning can be just be an invitation, a request, or even tolerant permission ("If the unbeliever wants to leave, let him leave.") These passages are not necessarily mandates. All the passages on the holy kiss fall into this category.

    In the Lord's Prayer, Jesus used the imperative mood and aortist tense when he said "Give us this day our daily bread." And we all know we are not giving God a mandate when we pray that.

    In John 21, when Jesus asked the apostles to come and have breakfast, it was the imperative mood and the aortist tense, and we recognize it as an invitation.

    When Lydia was baptized, she invited the apostles to come and stay with her. That was an invitation, not a mandate.

    Paul used the imperative mood and aortist tense when he pleaded with the Corinthians to make room for him in their hearts. That was an appeal, not a mandate.

  2. mattdabbs says:

    In Romans 16 the word for "greet" literally means an embrace…to wrap your arms around someone. So Paul tells them to hug and kiss each other, basically! The other day in our men's class I was teaching Romans 16 and told the men before they left I had to give each one of them a hug and a kiss because that's what Paul wrote in Romans 16. They all looked at me funny. Then I pulled out 2 bags…one full of hersey's kisses and the other of hersey's hugs. They laughed.

  3. Having studied Greek, I appreciate your point, but it also seems to me that people should be able to understand what God demands of them without studying Greek.

    You make a great point that grammar is not always a clear indication of what is or is not a command.

    A complimentary point is this: The only time Jesus described his own words as a command (once in John 13 and again in John 15), his command was to "love one another" as he loved us.

    Now there is a command for you. Clear and unambiguous in every way, whether it's in Greek, English, or any other language.

  4. mattdabbs says:

    I missed my application to your points:

    By the CENI example wouldn't one always have to hug and kiss everyone, every time they saw another Christian? It is commanded after all so to miss doing it once would be in error. Then you have people in the NT who we see meeting each other but not hugging and kissing so then you have an example that it doesn't have to always happen. But it was commanded! So is Peter in error if he doesn't hug and kiss Paul, since Paul commanded that? Of course not. My whole point here is that we get so strict with these things that by our own standards of legalistic righteousness we would even have Peter sinning in this way!

    We have to use our common sense.

  5. Jay, I’ve said this before, but I’ll repeat it again to you and your readers of this blog since you build a very nice "straw man" and tell it down very effectively. I don’t think it’s being aruged or really has been the argument from the majority that “command, example, and necessary inference” needs to be the complete hermeneutic in churches of Christ. We have always used many other principles in seeking to understand a passage. Alexander Campbell, in his discussion, for example, speaks about determining word meanings, interpreting figures, using context, determining the dispensation, understanding the conditions which prevailed when the book was written, noting who speaks and to whom, and coming within an “understanding distance” of things written long ago.

    Again, Jay, the use of “command, example, and necessary inference” are a valid method of applying a passage after we have used other principles of hermeneutics to understand its meaning. Writers in the Restoration Movement who have spoken of “command, example, and necessary inference” have never intended these to be our total hermeneutic. There are two basic steps in hermeneutics: (1) determining what the passage meant to those who first received it and (2) determining what God wanted me to do as result of what that passage meant to those who first received it.

    To understand what a passage meant to those who first received it we must use such principles as the following: (1) learning from history, archaeology, culture, and geography about the conditions under which these words were spoken, (2) defining words that need to be explored, (3) studying the syntax of the passage, (4) recognizing the type of literature are we dealing with, (5) discovering who said these words to whom, (6) learning from the context around the passage, (7) interpreting the figures of speech in this passage, (8) learning from other passages about the passage we are studying, and (9) finding out what the “big picture” about dispensations and theology presented in the Bible tell us as we fit this passage into it.

    Only after we have explored the original meaning of a passage through such means as this are we ready to ask the question, “Now what does God want me to do as result of what this passage meant to those who first received it?” It has been said that one method to help understand that question, is to use “command, example, and necessary inference," but it is not to be the only method or hermenutical factor in determining the will of God.

    Robert Prater

  6. Todd says:

    Ok, I opened the web browser, made my morning pass of One in Jesus and nearly choked laughing.

    This is my favorite "Oh yeah? Well what about…" in our ongoing hermaneutical debate. I have used it dozens of times over the past several years. And far from being a "straw man argument" it goes to the heart of our problem. Either we follow the clear commands of the text or we accept some lesser standard. And if we accept some lesser standard for ourselves we have to extend identical grace to others who also choose a lesser, if different, standard.

    Something Jesus said about being measured by the same yardstick we use against others…

  7. Ken says:

    Reference the statement: (1 Tim 2:8-10) I want men everywhere to lift up holy hands in prayer, without anger or disputing. 9 I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, 10 but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.

    With all of the respect I can muster, people majoring in theology and quoting others, simply do NOT have the standing to pass judgment on the word (as written) or two thousand years of scholarship. Why did it wait for the Disciples as late as 1878 to try to PROVE that God COMMANDS instrumental music by DIRECT COMMANDS or word definitions? They say God COMMANDS them when Hezekiah held a PLAGUE STOPPING EXORCISM.

    The word anger is wrath or ORGE something like ORGY. Only the women would fall into the baccic orgies and WAVE UNHOLY ARMS. By restricting that short assembly period Paul controlled the uncovered prophesiers or Mad Women in Corinth. Many had come out of paganism and Apollo (Abaddon or Apollyon) used the MUSES (musicians in Rev 18 whom Jjohn called sorcerers). Paul silenced the ORGIES in Romans 14 by those identified by DIET to enable the synagogue (Romans 15) which–for the SCHOLAR–radically condems all of the hypocritic arts and crafts.

    When a Jewish MALE then and now and a Muslim lifts holy hands they extend their hands OUTWARD and turn up holy PALMS. The meaning when David turned up his PALMS was that he was lifting up his hands to the Word of god: the image is that of reading the text which most people would have memorized by attending synagogue which was a school of the Bible–only. Women waving their arms was always an invitation. When males do it! Well, what can we say that has not been said for 6000 years.

    Those who are not ready for prime time are nevertheless ready to launch a three decades vendetta against those who WILL NOT bow when they pipe and who find NO NEED to add aids (DOGMA) to the Words of Christ who ALSO spoke through the prophets. Contrary to false teachings ALL of the church fathers said that the BIBLE is the only authority for faith and practices and they saw the musical performers as the DOGS or CONCISION Paul EXCLUDED when you worship in the PLACE of your own spirit and make melody IN your own heart and NOT upon a HARP.



    Clement Exhortation to the Heathen

    "And what if I go over the mysteries? I will not divulge them in mockery, as they say Alcibiades did, but I will expose right well by the word of truth the sorcery [Rev 18:22-23] hidden in them; and those so-called gods of yours, whose are the mystic rites, [Wrath, orgies only women and the effeminate can launch]

    I shall display, as it were, on the stage of life, to the spectators of truth. [In Romans 14] The bacchanals hold their orgies in honour of the frenzied Dionysus, celebrating their sacred frenzy by the eating of raw flesh, and go through the distribution of the parts of butchered victims, you must eat my flesh crowned with snakes, shrieking out the name of that Eva by whom error came into the world. [Eve or Zoe]

    The symbol of the Bacchic orgies. is a consecrated serpent. Moreover, according to the strict interpretation of the Hebrew term, the name Hevia (Eve), aspirated, signifies a female serpent. [ZOE as in MOVEMENT]

    Demeter and Proserpine have become the heroines of a mystic drama; and their wanderings, and seizure, and grief, Eleusis celebrates by torchlight processions. I think that the derivation of ORGIES and mysteries ought to be traced, the former to the wrath (orge) of Demeter against Zeus, the latter to the nefarious wickedness (musoj) relating to Dionysus; but if from Myus of Attica, who Pollodorus says was killed in hunting-no matter, I don't grudge your mysteries the glory of funeral honours.

    You may understand mysteria in another way, as mytheria (hunting fables meaning sexual), the letters of the two words being interchanged; for certainly fables of this sort hunt after the most barbarous of the Thracians, the most senseless of the Phrygians, and the superstitious among the Greeks.

    Perish, then, the man who was the author of this imposture among men, be he Dardanus, who taught the mysteries of the mother of the gods [Rev 17], or Eetion, who instituted the orgies and mysteries of the Samothracians, or that Phrygian Midas who, having learned the cunning imposture from Odrysus, communicated it to his subjects.

    For I will never be persuaded by that Cyprian Islander Cinyras [DOGS, WOLVES, PEDERASTS], who dared to bring forth from night to the light of day the lewd orgies of Aphrodité in his eagerness to deify a strumpet {Muses Rev 18:22} of his own country.

    Others say that Melampus the son of Amythaon imported the festivals of Ceres from Egypt into Greece, celebrating her grief in song.

    These I would instance as the prime authors of evil, the parents of impious fables and of deadly superstition, who sowed in human life that seed of evil and ruin-the mysteries.

    And now, for it is time, I will prove their ORGIES to be full of imposture and quackery. And if you have been initiated, you will laugh all the more at these fables of yours which have been held in honour. I publish without reserve what has been involved in secrecy, not ashamed to tell what you are not ashamed to worship.

    All honour to that king of the Scythians, whoever Anacharsis was, who shot with an arrow one of his subjects who imitated among the Scythians the mystery of the Mother of the gods, as practised by the inhabitants of Cyzicus,

    beating a drum and sounding a cymbal
    strung from his neck like a priest of Cybele, [The castrated or a cappellas Paul hoped would let the KNIFE slip]

    condemning him as having become effeminate among the Greeks,
    and a teacher of the disease of effeminacy to the rest of the Cythians."


    NOT CAPABLE OF PASSING HARSH JUDGMENT ON A PEOPLE WHO REFUSE TO IMPOSE MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS AND CONTINUE TO TEACH WHAT THE BIBLE TEACHES. You KNOW no scholar who has the standing to become the AUTHORITY: Jesus called them the doctors of the law who TAKE AWAY THE KEY TO KNOWLEDGE. He called them hypocrites meaning entertaining speakers, singers and instrument players.

    I tremble for people who have invented a NEW ANTIISM. The image of Apollyon unleashing the LOCUSTS to any Bible student means that he unleashed the MUSES John called SORCERERS. In Paul's world they were CROSS DRESSERS: men put on women's garments and affected a falsetto (new style praise singing). People who were dogs were effectively women but appear female.

    Lest anyone WHINE: the ONLY issue is INSTRUMENTAL MUSIC which John says will be the MARK of the rise of the Babylonian mother of harlots, using lusted after FRUITS (same as in Amos) as slick preachers who preach themselves, singers and instrument players. John calls the SORCERERS who HAD deceived the whole world. and Lucifer (ZOE) was the singing and harp playing prostitute in the garden.

    Those who practice the CENI will not track you down and IMPOSE a hurtful thing on you: that lets THEM have the time to be students of the WORD as it is written. Words are equivalent in the Greek literature: Exegetice, Hermenuo, Magica, Musica, Vanity. If they are wrong they have the untampered Word held as inspired to CORRECT THEM. Those who use CENI as a RACA word intend to IMPOSE something or force you to abandone your church.

    Alan Scott says:

    Looks like Ken found you, Jay. Are you scared, yet?


    God bless,
    Alan Scott
    Sugar Land, TX

  8. Bondservant says:

    Ken, It's obvious you believe music is a sin.

    Ken, is it ever possible for you to carry on a normal conversation. You just keep repeating the same thing over and over and over, etc…

  9. Does anyone understand what Ken said? I tried to read it twice. And not only is it difficult to read, but even more difficult to comprehend.

  10. Alan says:

    You and I are in complete agreement on this.

  11. Ken says:

    Ken didn't write any of that between the dashed lines. Now, go back and try to read the CLEAREST prose ever written DENOUNCING what your THOUGHT LEADERS claim that he APPROVED. Strong delusionsn follow IMMEDIATELY upon "lying wonders" which defines singing, playing instruments and all of the scenic performances. It MAY be too late. The rhetoricians, singers and instrument players whom John calls SORCERERS (Rev 18) is followed immediately with the CANDLES (the seven spirits OF Christ) being blown out so that they are GONE in Rev 19.

    Because the changeling hirelings INSIST that men like Clement of Alexandria endorsed instrumental music, I just posted come comments from the REAL Clement.

    If you read the ASSERTION about "waving unholy ARMS" which happens when the MALES lift up holy PALMS WITHOUT WRATH

    I was fairly sure that if you have a Bible degree (about 212 F) or an advanced degree in Greek you would not have a remote CLUE about the word WRATH.

    Then, I quoted you some Clement and I can quote all day from the Greek texts WHAT MEANS WRATH and you will say I DON'T UNDERSTAND. That's my point: you DON'T understand well enough so some pour out all of the RACA words on people who will NOT engage in WRATH.

    What is WRATH? Wrath does mean ANGER but ANGER was the Purpose Driving ALL KNOWN religious rituals as a defacto old pagan SLAUGHTER of the gods to SILENCE THEM.

    You can identify WRATH or ORGY when the preacher waves, points his finger, prances around on tippy toe and does "rhetoric" (the hypocrit word). He will ALWAYS be the focus and you will little Bible and lots of error.

    Wrath is ANGER at your "god" when you sing, clap, dance, play instruments, act to get your body in sync with the audience. Jesus identified the waged Scribes and Pharisees as HYPOCRITES by pointing to performing preachers, singers and instrument players.

    So, while the preacherling-professorling debate about who's on top (the old matriarchal/patriarchal battle) what Paul REALLY said was make the FEMALES (or wannabes) be quiet and sedentary or they will BREAK LOOSE in an ORGY.

    By outlawing ANGER or WRATH or ORGY Paul outlawed ALL of the hypocritic arts and INCLUDES only RESTING (Pauo) FROM the burden laders, READING "that which is written" to educate, praise God who wrote all of the songs and sermons, comfort with Scripture and that will keep the UNITY of the body.

    I dogmatically assert as PROOF of just reading and defining words the fact that NO biblical church had "congregational SANGING" with or without instruments.

    The scholarlings use as PROOF the fact that no one OPPOSED instruments for several centuries. Well for Card class, fast ones of the slow group's sake, there was NO SINGING as an ACT (a legalism word) for almost 400 years BECAUSE they could read the Bible without doing a legalistic end run. Both preaching, singing and all music was added BECAUSE IT WAS COMMON TO ALL PAGAN CULTS confesses the Catholic Encyclopedia which declares that we have DIRECT COMMANDS for singing (not tunefully) the Words of Christ.

    Get it: not a battle of the sexes where sermonizing and singers fill the FEMALE role. It is a direct command NOT to engage in any of the MARKS of hostility called ORGY. Singing, clapping, raising, waving, playing and bumping and grinding in the "holy place" CLAIMING to be MEDIATORS to "lead you into the presence of God."

    The major goddess was APHRODITE who has many of the same characteristics of ZOE (Eve, Inanna etal). Now, who was it who trained the "mothers" in my old Seattle church how to STEAL the church house of widows?

  12. Jay Guin says:

    1 through 8 make perfect sense. They are often ignored, but you are right that they should be adhered to. So why do we need CENI? And why do we ignore 1 – 8 when applying CENI?

    For example, Paul wrote the Corinthians asking they they raise funds for the poor in the church at Jerusalem. His instructions on this special, temporary request has been expanded by CENI to become a "mark of the church" and one of "5 acts of worship" applying to contributions for the general fund of the church and showing who the true church is. That violates 1 – 8. So I criticize the part of the hermeneutic I find to be fallacious. We are agreed on 1 – 8 (except we probably aren't quite on the same page re dispensations).

  13. Kinda like reading Finnegan's Wake, for me.

  14. nick gill says:


    I was thinking The Sound and The Fury, myself, but Joyce is even better!

Comments are closed.