In a conversation with an elder I asked why we do the things we do. As a new Christian I had been impressed with the book, chapter and verse approach that had been used to teach me about Jesus and how to respond to the gospel. On the subjects of having two separate assemblies on Sunday, Wednesday night meetings, many containers in communion, not allowing those who smoke to teach while at the same time allowing them to do the announcements and then go outside during the lesson to "sneak" a cigarette, as well as a host of other questions, I was shocked to find scripture absent in his discussion. What he did say, which was echoed by the other elders, was this:
Basically, because of changes in culture - I was told - God could not include scripture to cover all the problems that would crop up in the future...so, He set up elders to cover future contingencies.
The answer to all of my questions was simple. The elders have decided to meet twice on Sunday - to forsake either is sin because you are challenging God's chosen men. The same argument was used for all the others as well. In areas of liberty or discretion the elders' decisions were law.
There is nothing wrong with setting your own personal standards high. There is nothing wrong with trying to mold your own life into the image of Christ and encouraging others by both speech and action. There IS something very wrong with taking perfectly sound advice, making it law and then telling another Christian that if he does differently he is sinning. If you ignore sound advice and the good example of an elder you will pay the price in grief and maybe even have to face God for a loss of faith in Him. However, not even Paul bound his opinions.
(25) Now concerning virgins 1 have no commandment of the Lord: but I give my judgment, as one who hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be trustworthy. (26) I think therefore that this is good by reason of the distress that is upon us, namely that it is good for a man to be as he is...(28) but shouldest thou marry, thou hast not sinned (I Cor 7).
Yes, discipline is lacking among God's people. Let us just make sure that those we take action against are those God told us to take action against. Let us do it with the attitude of saving the endangered soul and most of all let us remember