Tag Archives: Scripture

Editorial: Why Emphasizing Scriptural Doctrine Is Right (January/February, 2018) — Jon Mitchell, Editor

In our post-modernistic culture which shies away from the notion of absolute right and wrong, many do not embrace the idea that one can hold to a position which is authoritatively right and thus make all contrary positions authoritatively wrong. As with most other cultural trends, this relativism has seeped into the minds of many in the religious world, even to the point where embracing and defending doctrinal truth is labeled sinful. In his book, Counterfeit Gods, Presbyterian author Timothy Keller writes, “Idolatry functions widely inside religious communities when doctrinal truth is elevated to the position of a false god. This occurs when people rely on the rightness of their doctrine for their standing with God rather than on God himself and his grace.”

Some within the Lord’s church toy with this notion as well. This writer has discussed theology with many brethren in the church over the years, most of whom are preachers. In many of these discussions I’ve observed that some tend to shy away from the notion of stating with scriptural proof that a particular belief or person is absolutely wrong; others react with outright hostility to the idea that I or anyone else could state with authority and scriptural proof that they or anyone could hold to an erroneous religious belief.

I recently read two blog posts by brotherhood writers. One, authored by Jack Wilkie and titled “A Dangerous Trend In The Churches of Christ,” starts out by saying, “Right doctrine that leads to right actions is critically important, but if we’ve come to the place that our rightness outranks Jesus in terms of where we direct our attention (and I believe we have), we have a problem.” Citing the above quote from Keller, Wilkie then criticizes our “constant dwelling on the doctrines that set us apart from others, like baptism, music, women’s roles, and the like,” before talking about our supposed condescension towards outsiders, an unfriendly, unwelcome attitude we theoretically show towards any who question us, and our “ever-shrinking window of fellowship.” While he repeatedly clarifies that we must teach correct doctrine, the majority of Wilkie’s piece seems to promote the idea that we overemphasize correct doctrine, resulting in making us shallow, prideful, fearful people who de-emphasize Jesus, the cross, and the grace of God.

The second blog post, authored by Steven Hunter and titled “Has Our Bible Replaced Our Lord?”, asks this about our true faith: “Is it in the Scriptures themselves, or the Person to whom the Scriptures point us—Jesus?” Hunter wonders if we “have become more about our Scriptures than the Lord who gave us the Scriptures,” comparing some in the Lord’s church to the Jews whom Jesus chastised when He said, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me” (John 5:39). Criticizing using the Bible “as a method to win debates and arguments,” “search(ing) the Scriptures to prove others wrong,” and “read(ing) the Scriptures in snippets to establish a doctrine,” Hunter believes the Scriptures “more often make us into Pharisees because we sometimes care more about being right in our obedience than in our carrying the whole of the purpose of Scripture.”

Those who hold to these views are likely sincere, but they overlook some facts of great importance concerning the value of focusing on the Scriptures. First, without emphasizing the Scriptures one would know absolutely nothing about God’s grace, the cross, Jesus, His will, salvation, the promise of heaven, or the curse of hell. One cannot look to Jesus or focus on Jesus without looking to the Bible.

Secondly, 2 Timothy 3:16-17 teaches that we must focus on the Scriptures if there is anything concerning the Christian religion about which we need instruction or correction. If we want to be right as God is right, we cannot achieve that goal without the Bible. If we want to grow more complete spiritually or be thoroughly equipped for any work God considers worthy, we must go to God’s Word.

Much false doctrine exists because most do not do this. The Scriptures command us to expose such error (Eph. 5:11; Jude 3; etc.) by “speaking the truth in love”; this is how we grow more like Christ (Eph. 4:14-15). God’s Word is that truth (John 17:17). Thus, we must teach topics on which error is taught by others such as baptism, worship, and the like. Doing so, even in love, may put us in a negative light in other’s eyes, but such can’t be helped (2 Tim. 3:12-13). The whole counsel of God must still be proclaimed, and the Bible is the sole source of that counsel.

The Scriptures are a major part of the method God chose to use to save us. One cannot overemphasize their importance; indeed, many are lost because they de-emphasize them. May we never do so.

—Jon

The Faith Once Delivered – J.T. Wheeler

“Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you, exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.”  (Jude 3)

We have the truth.  And we have to fight for the truth.  Evil men hinder the truth (Rom. 1:18).  Righteous men spread the truth (Eph. 4:15).  Why is this corpus of revelation, this presentation of supernatural reality, this thing called the faith – why is it so important to us?

The Heavenly Body of Truth

Did you know that, before any word of Scripture was set pen to paper, the Message was enshrined in the holy halls of heaven?  It is true.  The Bible speaks of there being books in heaven (Rev. 20:12).  The psalmist declared, “Forever, O Lord, your word is settled in heaven” (Ps. 119:89; see also Ps. 56:8 and 139:16).  Before Ezekiel was to write or speak a word, he had to consume the heavenly volume containing the message he would deliver to the Jewish refugees (Ezek. 2:8-10).  In the New Testament, the apostle John was told to do the same (Rev. 10:8-11).  Daniel, before he wrote down his final vision and interpretation, was told by the heavenly messenger, “But I will tell you what is noted in the Scripture of Truth” (Dan. 10:21a; notice also Dan. 7:10).

That the New Covenant, or Testament, was established in heaven first is seen in Hebrews 10:7, 10, and in Acts 2:23.  Think about it.  If the covenant had to first be written down by men before it would be real to men, then Peter would have had nothing to say that first Pentecost after the Lord’s resurrection, certainly nothing authoritative; for nothing of the New Testament was written on earth at that time.  And nothing would be written, as far as our Scripture is concerned, until around fifteen years later.  So the New Testament had to exist, real and in force, before Peter and the other apostles opened their mouths as authoritative messengers of this covenant.

Catholicism states that the Church as they understand it gave us the New Testament.  But we should see clearly that the church did not originate or even authorize any canon as God’s Word.  Such is beyond the ability of men (Matt. 16:19).

Did the New Testament exist in its fullness in the time of the acts of the apostles?  If not, what authority – what covenant – were the apostles demanding allegiance to (Acts 2:42)?  What would be the efficacy of the blood of Christ that the church would celebrate the first day of every week (Matt. 26:28; 1 Cor. 11:25)?  The Old Covenant ceased to be in force after the crucifixion of Christ (Col. 2:14-17).  And John’s ministry certainly concluded its course with the coming of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2:38).  Yet the word, beginning in Acts 2, was preached with authority that validated the New Testament, the testament now in force because the risen Christ was on his throne (Acts 2:32-33; Heb. 9:15-17).

The message of the Bible is from the mind of God.  It is not arbitrary or capricious.  Rather, the Lord our God has graciously revealed what has been established in the will of God from eternity (Acts 15:18; Eph. 3:8-11).  This is good for us, because we could not know these things any other way (1 Cor. 2:7-10).

Delivered by the Miraculous Work of God

This Message was given to men as God chose to deliver it to us.  Speaking of Old Testament concerns, God delivered the revelations as he saw fit, but always with the same end in view (Heb. 1:1-3).  Holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:20-21).

The term is verbal, plenary inspiration.  It refers to God giving the writers of Scripture the very words to use to convey the message He was revealing to them (1 Cor. 2:12-13).  Since it is God’s message from God’s mind being revealed and communicated, to think of inspiration in any lesser terms becomes illogical – and certainly unscriptural.  The fact that the Scripture indicates that God used the vocabulary and communicative skills already familiar to the writers shows us God’s gentleness in his use of men (1 Cor. 14:32), but not God surrendering to their understanding of what was to be revealed (1 Pet. 1:10-12; 2 Pet. 1:20-21).

And now the mind of God has been fully revealed as that mind speaks to our life and godliness (John 16:13; 1 Cor. 2:16; 2 Pet. 1:2-4).  It has been given by the authority of Jesus Christ through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  It is the New Testament which now establishes the apostles of Christ as the revealers, interpreters, and guides for all who would follow Christ (2 Cor. 3:3-6; Eph. 3:1-7; Phil. 4:8-9; 2 Tim. 2:1-2; 3:10-17).

For All Men of All Time

The Message is for all everywhere, for all nations (Matt. 28:18-20), for every creature in this sphere of existence who can believe it and be baptized in obedience to it from the heart (Rom. 6:17-18; Mark 16:15-16).  It is for all time, the eternal covenant which will not be abrogated (Heb. 13:20-21).  It will never pass away (Matt. 24:35).  The Message stands with us forever (2 John 2).  It does not matter that the Message is 2,000 years old.  It is as relevant and pertinent to us today as it has ever been (2 Cor. 6:1-2; Heb. 3:15).  It cannot be lost to humanity (though we may ignore it), so it will never need to be re-given to us.  There is no such thing with God as the restoration of revelation.

What Our Disposition Toward It Should Be

Notice that the Message is called the Faith.  That is telling and instructs us as to our response to this wonderful gift from God.  We are to believe it, trust it, be fully convinced of its truth.  Some brethren struggle with whether the word “faith” deals with subjective understanding or objective revelation.  The fact is that, most of the time, it references both.  The fact that the objective revelation from God, known to God from eternity, the fact that this is called the Faith demands that we hold it personally, intimately, subjectively in our own hearts.  The Faith does you no good unless it becomes your faith (Heb. 11:6; Rom. 4:13-25; 10:17).

What to say about this gift that is appropriate, adequate, impressive?

We are able to save our souls from eternal destruction because of this gift.  We can learn a depth of love beyond ordinary human comprehension.  We can commune with the Divine and make his realm our home.  We can see the invisible.  We can know the unknowable.  We can experience the best of the unspeakable.  The past is explained; the present is understandable; the future is relatable.

We can beat our weaknesses and promote our strengths.  We have a clear vision of perfection while we are able to see our own failings.  Community is enhanced while we still hold to individual worth, dignity, and honor.  Circumstances are seen as transient while we understand that real value is in the internal and eternal.

To surround yourself with Bible believers is to touch heaven.  To have a home where the Bible is believed, taught, and celebrated is to know peace, love, enrichment, and empowerment.  Children grow up secure and ready to take hold of challenges, understanding the greater good to be all important, as God himself has defined such.

Freedom is real, but to be used for the good of others.  Everyone gets a hearing but no one gets to control the soul.  With the revelation of God delivered perfect and complete, nothing new is to be feared, because nothing else is allowed authority over the soul (Eph. 4:5; Gal. 1:6-9).  Peace rules and good advances.  And the Kingdom of God is realized on this earth!

All of this and so much more are found in the wonderful treasures that God has revealed to us in his Holy Bible.  We can know God with it.  We can know how to worship God with it.  We can know what redemption is, what sin is, what righteousness is, what real hope is.

Such a thing cannot be exaggerated.  Such a gift cannot be overstated.  Such a book cannot be spoken about too much.  Oh, the terrible consequences if we were to lose this gift!  The horrible darkness that would enshroud us, the ignorance that would relentlessly beat down on us, the loss of all that could bring good and prosperity to friend and neighbor!

But if we do not appreciate this gift of God’s grace, this divine act of intervention into the affairs of men, this demonstration of love beyond all love, then we will lose the blessings it brings – for ourselves, for our children, for our society.  It has happened before.

Israel lost their focus on God’s revelation and lost great blessings, until at last the word was rediscovered by efforts of reform (2 Kings 22:1-20).  The Great Apostasy occurred with the failure to keep faith with the word of God; and the world was plunged into the Dark Ages until men determined to relearn and re-teach the truth, at the cost of their lives, families, and fortunes.  To honestly think that we can treat such treasure lightly and still keep it is to fool oneself into blindness.

Imagine such a book forgotten on a dusty shelf, trampled as a foot stop, thrown around as a paper weight.  Imagine such a book given less time than is given to an empty TV show or a crass movie.  Imagine children being taught that their secular school work was more important than to study God’s word, or that their job carried more weight than their soul or their God.  Unfortunately, we do not have to imagine, do we?  Such absurd attitudes and declarations are all too familiar in our fellowship.

What would such a treasure demand of us?  What would be the appropriate response to a real revelation from God?  Well, the Bible gives us plenty of historical examples of the wisdom found in those who listened to God and positively responded to him, and the foolishness of those who did not.  In other words, as always, so now, too, when God speaks, we are to listen.  He has spoken, and the Message reverberates to this hour, and will continue to do so, to the end of time and forever more.

charsaint@aol.com