Major Problems In Doctrinal Purity (No. 2)
In last month's magazine I wrote on this subject and considered two of the major problems in purity of teaching (doctrine) under the subheadings of "The Problem of Sincere Desire" and "The Problem of Completely Objective Investigation." Let us now continue this study with the hope that it will help all of us in every sincere effort to "prove all things; hold fast that which is good." To be forewarned is to be forearmed, and to see our problems regarding the seeking, finding and application of the pure word of God is to have those problems at least partly solved.
In this area we come face to face with the demand that we apply what we learn to be truth. Furthermore, this application must be made just because it is truth-just for the sake of truth. Absolute integrity upon our part will enable us and cause us to accept truth when we have sought it and found it.
The kind of honesty involved in this problem is not simply that which requires that we tell no falsehoods, but it is that which demands that we believe a thing when it is proved to be true, even if we have always believed it to be false before. To illustrate this let us think of Mark 16:16, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." Responsible people cannot misunderstand that passage. If you think there is someone who really does not understand the verse, just put money where the Lord put salvation and see if he won't immediately know what it means. Tell him that, "He that believeth and is baptized shall receive $1,000.00" and he will never ask for the money before baptism. So it is not a matter of misunderstanding, but a refusal to believe. Many who have always been taught that salvation comes by faith only just do not manifest absolute integrity when confronted with Mark 16:16 and other such passages of scripture.
In a similar fashion, Christians often fail to react with absolute integrity to the word which must direct their lives if thev would be pleasing to God. Some whose lives have been scarred by such evils as divorce refuse to recognize the necessities of their own souls and go on in a life of sin, refusing to give up a second partner in marriage, even in the face of the evident teaching of the New Testament. Others have become so obsessed with the traditions of the fathers that thev will not turn to the clear directives of the Lord. Some of us who preach the gospel fail to act with real honesty because it would sometimes require us to openly renounce things we have already taught, or because it would demand that we venture to stand in opposition to the pioneers. Often even Christians are heard to say, "I just can't see it that way," when no scriptural answer can be given. Some others shrugg off the requirements and limitations of the word of God by accusing those who insist upon "what is written" of "hair-splitting," etc.
An amazing and even shocking attitude is manifested by many Christians today, in their failure to recognize the limiting power of the positive word. When the question of "the college in the budget," or something of like nature is mentioned, one often hears some preacher say, "What is wrong with it?" This attitude is spreading swiftly it seems to me, and it is observed not only among young men of little experience, but also among those who have preached for many years with most significant abilitv. It is quite hard to find a preacher today who will say that the New Testament teaches that a college may be supported from the church treasury, but many, many will say, "Where is the verse that forbids it ?" Upon only a little investigation it usually becomes easy to get most men to see that the only authority in the New Testament for the church to support an evangelist is that which authorizes the church to send directly to him rather than through some other agency, whether that agency be another church or a human missionary society. However, many still fail to face that fact honestly and dodge it by saying, "Where is the verse that condemns the common practice of sending funds to other churches?" Sometimes, I must admit, this attitude may be because of ignorance of the authorizing and limiting power of the word, but usually it seems to be only an effort to evade the force of that power. Those who ask such questions under those circumstances should be prepared to answer the following questions: Where is the verse that forbids: (1) A Christian to have two wives at a time? (2) Use of bitter herbs on the Lord's Table? (3) Use of mechanical music in worship to God? (4) Observance of the Sabbath day today? And, (5) Where is the verse that forbids the church to build an ice cream store on part of the church property, use volunteer labor to operate it, and let the profits support the church treasury? Of course everyone will quickly echo, "There is no authority for any of those things, therefore they must not be used or practiced." Right! But when the same people use the old dodge, "What's wrong with it?" regarding other things, it becomes an evident sign of a lack of real integrity. Each of us should examine our own attitudes lest we become guilty of evading the truth simply because we do not face it honestly.
This problem, the last one we shall consider at this time, involves us in the action that stops short of the full demands of God. Sometimes we may fail to go all the way with the Lord because we disagree with him. Perhaps more often we stop short of full surrender because we fail to comprehend the full significance of his demands. Nadab and Abihu (Num. 3) evidently had this attitude, as did also Lot's wife (Gen. 19). Time and again the Bible shows us that God is not satisfied with partial submission. Saul, the first King of Israel, knew the need of sacrifice, and he knew God's will regarding the offering, but, under the stress of an emergency he failed to surrender to the requirement of the Lord. Saul said, "I forced myself therefore and offered a burnt offering (I Sam. 13:12). Yet Saul knew that Samuel was the one who should make the offering. But Saul was more concerned with the making of a sacrifice than with total surrender to God's word. Samuel said, "Thou hast done foolishly: thou hast not kept the commandment of the Lord . . ." (I Sam. 13:13). Again, under similar circumstances, when Saul had obeyed part of God's commandment, but had kept alive some of those whom he should have destroyed in order "to sacrifice unto the Lord," Samuel reminded him that "To obey is better than sacrifice" (read I Sam. 15).
Today many Christians will worship often but still fail to surrender to the instruction which demands that we worship regularly (not just often) (Heb. 10:25). Some of us may submit sufficiently that we do give some of our earnings, but we may refuse to really surrender and give liberally, "bountifully" (2 Cor. 9;6), as we have really been prospered (I Cor. 16: 2). We may have a heart that abounds with pity for the unfortunate, but we may fail to submit to God's will which demands that we use our own time, talent, energy, our own money, houses, beds and food. Many times it becomes easier for us to push our own responsibilities off on the church, and by so doing we get the church involved in action which is not within the scope of New Testament authority. Because we recognize a need, but because we fail to meet it in surrender to the Lord's will, and instead, substitute the wisdom (?) of men, we may often wander far from truth and righteousness.
Let us then be concerned that our submission to the law of Christ be so complete that it not only demands that we do all, to the best of our ability, which he requires, but that we refuse to "go beyond what is written" (I Cor. 4:6-R.V.). Let us recognize that our surrender is not total until we are as concerned with stopping where the Lord's word stops as we are with going where it goes.
Truth Magazine II:10, pp. 18-19