The story is found in 2 Kings Chapter 5, verses 1-15. It is of a man who held the position of being a “captain of the host of the king of Syria.” He is seen as “a great man with his master, and honourable”, one who was “a mighty man in valour”, yet he was “a leper”. Leprosy is not a disease to be taken lightly in any sense. It is “characterized by ulcers of the skin, bone, and viscera and leading to loss of sensation, paralysis, gangrene, and deformation.” (Leprosy). But that is not the “amazing” part of the story. As we read on, a young Israelite girl that had been taken into Syrian captivity “waited on Naaman’s wife.” She, no doubt due to her regard for her master, indicated that if Naaman were “with the prophet that is in Samaria” he “would recover him of his leprosy.” But again, this is not the part of the story that “amazes” me. To make a “long story, short”, the prophet Elisha sends his “messenger” to Naaman, instructing him to “Go and wash in Jordan seven times” and his “flesh shall come again” to him. “Amazing,” but not the most “amazing” part of this story in any sense, knowing the power of God as I do!

The “amazing” part of all of this is found in verses 11 and 12, where these words are recorded, “But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, Behold, I thought, He will surely come out to me, and stand, and call on the name of the LORD his God, and strike his hand over the place, and recover the leper. Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? may I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage.” There it is, a shocking statement from a man destined to die an excruciating death from leprosy. Naaman, “thought” instead of listening and obeying what he was told to do. How “amazing”! How could anyone be so prideful that they would reject what was said by God’s “messenger?” Surely, there must be just one event like this in all the history of mankind. But, sadly to say, that is not true.

Religion continues to be the one place wherein man’s “thoughts” are elevated to a place above directions given by God through His Inspired Word (2 Timothy 3:16, 17; 2 Peter 1:3). When confronted with clear teaching from God’s Word, I repeatedly hear people say things like, “But, I believe. . .”, or “I think. . .”, or “I feel as if, even though God has said what was said, He must mean something else.” This reminds me of the comment made by a denominational preacher in reference to Peter’s statement in 1 Peter 2:18-25. When confronted with the truth taught by Peter therein, this “preacher” stated, “What Peter should have said, we think. . .” Perhaps, he could have, like Naaman, said, “Behold I thought Peter should have said.”

All around us we are seeing one article after another, claiming to have been written by elders and preachers in the Lord’s church, which subtly suggest they, like Naaman, know what is best for the church based upon nothing higher than their beliefs. For example, one article stated, “I do not believe that the question whether Churches of Christ will continue to sing a cappella is the most important question facing our fellowship, and I think the question of what we sing is more important.” (Emp. mine, R.W.S.). Notice the use of the “Naaman Principle” here. No passage of New Testament Scripture was offered in defense of the suggestion that what we sing is of more importance than how we do so. The reality is both the “how” and the “what” are of equal value in so far as our singing being consistent with Scripture. Our worship is to be in “spirit and truth” (John 4:24). It must be done “with the spirit” and “with the understanding” (1 Corinthians 14:15), or it will not be the true worship God demands (John 4:24). Only scriptural songs (i.e. songs which teach the truth according to New Testament Scripture) and only a cappella singing is authorized by God for the New Testament church (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16, 17). We can “believe” and “think” anything we want, but doing so fails to make it right. Just as Naaman’s thought would not have served him well had he stuck with it, thoughts like these fail to serve us well today.

An “elder” in a congregation claiming to be a congregation of the church wrote the following.
“. . . this church has worked through several very significant changes–in my opinion (Emp. mine, R.W.S.), ALL for the GOOD” (Emp. his, R.W.S.). Some of those “significant changes” that are “ALL for the GOOD” involved a change when it came “to the practice of deacons as males and females” and “the use of men and women in public worship.” He, further, suggested that “we need to look again at the Bible about the place and function of women as pulpit preachers, elders [shepherds], and other functions in the church.” His “opinion” is that “We need to continue our study of worship of all kinds, including the use of instrumental music, lifting up hands, kneeling, bowing, all kinds of art models like theatre, dramatic presentations, paintings, sculpture, etc.” Never mind what the New Testament has or does not have to say on any of these matters (Ephesians 5:19; Colossians 3:16, 17; 1 Timothy 3:1-13; Titus 1:5-9 [note the gender specificity found in these two texts that is disregarded]; Titus 2:15, et. al). What is important to these folks, so it seems, is what their “opinions” are. Long past is the plea once heard within churches of Christ for there to be “book, chapter, and verse” in support of our practices, or whatever was being considered would not be practiced. The “Naaman Principle” of authority rules supreme in the lives of such people.

It amazes me that God somehow “overlooked” the need for “art models” when He had the Apostle Paul write to the Romans that the gospel is the “power of God unto salvation” (Romans 1:16). How it was that people in the first century managed to “save themselves from” an “untoward [crooked, E.S.V.] generation” (Acts 2:40) I will never know without such aids (do you sense the “dripping sarcasm” here?). Surely James must have been mistaken when he wrote concerning the need for man to “receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.” (James 1:21). It seems that “opinion” is taking the place of the “engrafted” (“implanted” – E.S.V.) word as we incorporate the all-important “art models” into the teaching practices of the church.

This “elder” goes on to suggest that “We should constantly continue to attempt to reach out and co-operate with all kinds of groups outside ourselves, including other denominations, . . .” Here, too, the “Naaman Principle” must have been put into practice as no Scripture was provided to sustain such a practice. It is evident that our brother sees the Lord’s church as a denomination, as seen in the need we have to “reach out and co-operate with . . . other denominations,. . .” (Emp., mine, R.W.S.). Never mind that not a single passage of New Testament Scripture even remotely hints at the idea of the church being a denomination. Jesus predicted He would build His “church” (Matthew 16:18). Nothing is seen in this passage that would suggest that He recognized it as “a religious grouping within a faith that has its own system of organization” (Encarta, n.d.). The singleness of the church approved of by God is seen in passage after passage in the New Testament (Acts 2:47; 1 Corinthians 1:2; Ephesians 1:22, 23, et. al). No New Testament Scripture provides authority for the existence of denominations and, as such, how do we go about reaching out and co-operating with them with God’s approval?
The question posed by Amos, “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?” (Amos 3:3), rings true when it comes to the suggestion that we somehow “reach out and co-operate” with those of the denominational world. The Lord’s church has been presented with the need to pursue that which would result in unity, not diversity (John 17:20-23; Ephesians 4:1-6; Philippians 1:27; 4:2; Colossians 2:2; et. al). How can unity possibly be accomplished by reaching out and co-operating with those with whom we disagree? Paul’s questions penned to the Corinthians well speak to this suggestion, “what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14). The answer to each is self-evident, are they not?

The “Naaman Principle” is seen on every hand as one congregation after another follows the path laid out by brethren such as these just referred to. So long as we are allowed to express our opinions on matters of faith, and they are put into practice, congregations will continue to “turn away their ears from truth, and shall be turned unto fables” (2 Timothy 4:4). True elders, who have been commissioned by God to stop the “mouths” of “deceivers. . .who subvert whole houses” (Titus 1:10, 11) must step up. As predicted by Paul, and is easily seen today, even from within congregations and elderships are men who are arising, “speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:30). If the Lord’s church is to remain “sound in the faith” (Titus 1:13), then “sound words” (2 Timothy 1:13) and “sound doctrine” (Titus 1:9) must come forth from men who are, like the Apostle Paul, committed to please God rather than men (Galatians 1:10).

May God continue to bless the efforts of those who defend His Word.

REFERENCES

Encarta Dictionary, Microsoft Word Version
“Leprosy”, American Heritage Dictionary, n.d., http://www.answers.com/topic/leprosy