A Reply On “Continual Cleansing”

By Marshall E. Patton

This article is in reply to brother Diestelkamp’s “Rebuttal” appearing on p. 16. I hope that the demand for brevity and my compliance with it will be appreciated by our readers.

The difference between brother Diestelkamp and me on continual cleansing involved the conditions upon which it is received. His conditions simply involve an attitude of the heart. He insists that one with the proper attitude of heart is forgiven–even as he sins. If this is so, then there is nothing for him to do after he sins in order to be forgiven — he has already been forgiven-even as he sinned. This eliminates repentance! Remember, repentance involves a change of mind that results in a change of action. If one repented before the act of sin, it would preclude the sin in the first place. It would be impossible to repent simultaneously with the act of sin. If one repented after the act of sin, it certainly would not be “as he sinned.” Thus, there is no place for repentance in the cleansing he affirms. I insist that there is only one law of pard6n for the Christian who sins, namely, repentance, confession and prayer (Acts 8:22; 1 Jn. 1:9). I know that elsewhere he affirms repentance as a condition of forgiveness, but such is the inconsistency of his position.

In spite of my effort to be clear, qualify my statement even with emphasis-about his examples of lying, offending, etc., he misunderstood me. For example, I believe that lying is sin, but we differ over what constitutes lying that is condemned in the Bible.

Brother Leslie continues to affirm that some sins committed by Christians “do not constitute the Christian as walking after the flesh and as living in sin (Rom. 8:1:4; 4:7; 1 Jn. 1:7).” Notice, he makes no argument based upon the verses cited-he only asserts. On the contrary, I carefully examined these verses textually and contextually in my review articles showing that they do not teach what he asserts and then showing what they do teach.

Brother Diestelkamp continues to make 1 John 1:9 say something that it does not say. Yes, we all sin (1 Jn. 1:8), but the next verse offers hope only to those who repent and confess what they are guilty of-not that they are sinners. He ignored my argument on this.

Furthermore, the consequences of his position demand acceptance and fellowship with every sincere brother in error, including premillennialists, those of the Christian Church, our liberal brethren, et al. These pray the same prayer and just as often that brother Diestelkamp prays with respect to unknown sins.2 His exclusion of such is purely arbitrary.

At other times, he includes such brethren. In reply to my affirmation that music in worship, the day to observe the Lord’s supper, and pattern for church organization are absolutes, he says, “Thus he teaches that one must have perfect (absolute) understanding of these matters instantly when he is baptized into Christ.” If there is any point to his reply, it is that brethren without such knowledge and who are practicing such are included in God’s fellowship and ours. Thus, his inclusion and exclusion of such brethren is, indeed, arbitrary and inconsistent! Perhaps statements like this from him account for some young men accepting the grace-unity doctrines, using his name in their defense.

When in public prayer we pray “Forgive us our sins,” such presupposes repentance on the part of each individual of what he is guilty. Public prayer is no place to identify each individual’s private sins.

Concerning the Corinthians, Paul, and Peter sinning but not being spiritually dead, I gave a textual and contextual exegesis of the passages involved which he completely ignored. He simply proceeded to express what “I think” (his think so). Look, again at the consequences that followed from Peter’s action as set forth in my articles based upon Galatians 2-Peter “stood condemned” (ASV)!

The fact that Abraham lied and lived and was not struck dead as were Ananias and Sapphira affords no proof that such an individual goes uncondemned. If so, what of all liars today who are not struck dead-are they uncondemned?

If David could have been forgiven of sins of ignorance by the prayer of Psalm 19:12, then the law and sacrifices for sins of ignorance when they became known would not have been necessary (cf. Lev. 3 and 4).

What Matthew, the publican, was before he was called and what he became afterwards may be two entirely different things. Zacchaeus was a publican who made a radical change (Luke 19:1-9). The general attitude toward publicans is clearly set forth by Jesus in Matthew 18:17, and in the absence of any exception one must conclude the publican of Luke 18 to be guilty of wholesale apostasy.

No, one does not have to have perfect knowledge of the duties of a Christian in order to become such. However, in order to observe the Lord’s supper acceptably, he must do so on the right day. So with all other absolutes-perfect obedience is required. In relative matters, one should grow in knowledge and proficiency commensurate with his time, opportunity, and ability (Matt. 25:14-30).

The last paragraph of both my review articles offered an alternative to brother Diestelkamp’s view of continual cleansing. Read them again as well as the following.

Brother Diestelkamp has unduly magnified his “in and out, in and out” situation. The alternative which I offered, involving absolute and relative commands, is not nearly as “in and out” as his position. He has affirmed that there is no hope for the child of God who does not “confess and pray as did the Publican, ‘God be merciful to me a sinner.”‘ Thus, he affirms that general repentance, general confession, and prayer are necessary to forgiveness. If so, one is “in,” and then “out” when he sins — until he meets these conditions. Thus, he is “in and out” as often as he sins. If he sins since last forgiven and dies without meeting these conditions and God forgives him anyway, then such is not necessary as he affirms, and we have forgiveness without repentance-even general repentance. If this general repentance and prayer are necessary, then it follows “unless we die with (this) prayer upon our Ups we may indeed die lost and every hour of every day and night would be a day and hour of misery and fear.” And there goes his assurance.

Brother Diestelkamp’s position, in my judgment, has severe consequences. It makes null and void the warnings: “take heed,” “watch,” “prove,” etc. After all, according to his position, sins of ignorance and weaknesses of the flesh for the sincere Christian are forgiven — even as he sins.

Brethren, “be not deceived.”

Guardian of Truth XXIX: 13, pp. 401-402
July 4, 1985