By Marshall A. Patton
In brother Diestelkamp’s second article on the issue of continual cleansing entitled “A Necessary Negative,” he quotes a paragraph from a personal letter from brother Willis which in his judgment is a clear, concise, summation of brother Willis’ position. He then proceeds to reply by reviewing the paragraph sentence by sentence, numbering the sections of his reply.
In section one, in reply to brother Willis’ statement “that anytime a Christian sins he dies spiritually,” brother Diestelkamp presents a picture of things brethren in the Corinthian church were guilty of and then says, “Yet Paul addressed them in the first chapter of his first epistle to them with very endearing terms and with no indication that they were dead spiritually.” Brother Diestelkamp needs to look again, because there is a clear indication that the guilty individuals were spiritually dead. He has failed to distinguish between the church and church action and individuals within the church who were guilty of sin. How long before God removes the candlestick of a church (Rev. 2:5) for its failure in duty is another issue. Those guilty of immorality were to be “delivered unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” The spirit (soul) of the guilty was lost and needed to be saved – in spite of the endearing terms used in addressing the church. Those guilty of misusing the Lord’s Supper were eating and drinking damnation to themselves (1 Cor. 11:29) – in spite of the endearing terms used in addressing the church. While there is further evidence, this suffices to show that the guilty in Corinth were spiritually dead, Brother Diestelkamp’s concept, when “tried on for size,” is a misfit in the light of scriptural examination.
In the same paragraph he appeals to Peter and Paul as examples of Christians who sinned yet were not lost at the time they sinned. This, too, will not bear up under the light of scriptural examination. His example of Peter is found in Galatians 2:11f. The primary design of the second chapter of Galatians is to show that a Christian cannot be justified by the works of the law; that Christians ought not to revert to it so as to imply that justification was by such law keeping. Peter’s action was an example of such. Hence, Paul said, “I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed (“stood condemned,” ASV) . . . If thou being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?” (Gal. 2:11-14). Furthermore, such action while seeking justification by Christ causes one to be found a sinner and makes Christ the minister of sin (v. 17). No wonder Paul adds: “God forbid” (v. 17). That is not all. Paul shows further that by reverting to his former life one was building again the things formerly destroyed and thereby made himself a transgressor (v. 18); that such frustrates the grace of God and makes the death of Christ in vain (v. 21). Yet, all that brother Diestelkamp sees in this is a little “scolding” from Paul.
His use of Paul and Romans 7:14-25; 1 Corinthians 9:26, 27 misses the truth just as badly. The Romans passage does not refer to Paul as a Christian! By use of the personal pronoun “I,” he personifies mankind apart from Christ and he refers to himself while he was without Christ. Verse fourteen makes this evident: “. . .I am carnal, sold under sin.” The “I” here is one bought and owned by sin – in bondage to sin – hence, without Christ. No matter how much such a person strives to attain unto righteousness, he fails and can only cry: “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?” (v. 24). Paul immediately answers in verse twenty five: “I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord.” He then presents a picture of freedom in Christ in the beginning of chapter eight: “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus . . . For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the tlaw of sin and death” (Rom. 8:1, 2). These verses present a contrast between bondage and freedom, between one without Christ and one in Christ. It certainly is not a picture of one spiritually alive while at the same time he is sinning. Again, it is the size of brother Diestelkamp’s argument that does not fit in the light of a textual and contextual study.
1 Corinthians 9:26, 27 implies victory, not defeat, over temptations. By “buffeting” the body we, too, may withstand, endure, overcome.
Our brother then appeals to 1 John 5:16 which deals with “sin not unto death” and “sin unto death.” According to his comments, the former is a sin of one whose heart is right and the latter is a sin of one whose heart is not right. He gives as an example of each: “Ananias and Sapphira lied and died. Abraham lied three times and lived (see Acts 5:1-10; Gen. 12:13; 20:5; 26:7).” Our brother’s count on Abraham is in error – Abraham lied twice – the later reference involves Isaac. His use of 1 John 5:15 is very much in error and is completely void of any textual or contextual exegesis. His position will not bear up under such study.
God will not give “life” (forgiveness) to a brother guilty of “sin unto death” when we pray for such, because such would not be “according to his will” (v. 14). He will give “life” (forgiveness) to a brother guilty of “sin not unto death” when we pray for such, because such is “according to his will” (v. 14). The fact that God must give life indicates spiritual death on the sinner’s part. God’s will in this matter is set forth plainly in 1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Therefore, “sin unto death” is a sin of which a brother will not repent and confess. All the prayers of all the faithful will not cause God to save either an alien or a saint contrary to His will.
Now look at what brother Diestelkamp has done in the case of Abraham. The lie Abraham told was with forethought, purpose, plan and intentional design to deceive. Heretofore he has affirmed only a limited coverage for sins, namely, inadvertence, ignorance, and weakness. Now, in the case of Abraham, he goes all the way with Calvinism and affirms coverage for a willful, deliberate, intentional sin. I know he denies teaching this elsewhere in what he writes and teaches – “O Consistency, Consistency, thou art a jewel.”
Concerning section 2, I know of no law of pardon for a Christian except the one stated by Mike: “he must repent of his sin, confess it and pray.” However, there is a difference between repenting of and confessing what one is guilty of and in enumerating specifically every instance of that guilt. The latter is not necessarily a part of the former and ought not to be forced upon one as such.
The publican of Luke 18:3, in the light of what is revealed and in the absence of anything to the contrary, was guilty of wholesale apostasy, and the word “sinner” must be understood with that connotation. Even Jesus shows the general attitude toward publicans from a spiritual viewpoint (Matt. 18:17). If one is guilty of wholesale apostasy, that is what he should confess. If, however, he sins while striving to live as a Christian, he should confess only that of which he is guilty. In both instances one confesses the what of his guilt – and only then should it be to the one or ones against whom the sin was committed.
Psalm 19:12 needs more study than space win here permit. Suffice it to say that in view of God’s plan for forgiveness of sins of ignorance in that day (Lev. 4 and 5), David was circumventing God’s ordained plan, if brother Diestelkamp’s position be true.
There is some doubt in my mind that the examples submitted by brother Diestelkamp, under the conditions described by him, constitute sin. However, there are hypothetical situations that are difficult to handle in the tight of revealed truth. No man however, should presume beyond that which is revealed! Cases like the alien who is killed on his way to be baptized must be left in the hands of the Great Judge. It is His prerogative to grant clemency commensurate with justice. Yes, I think too many are “whittling on God’s end of the stick.”
In section 4 brother Diestelkamp again misuses 1 John 2:1. This “advocate” does not act in our behalf unconditionally. The context demands a confession based upon repentance (1 Jn. 1:9), which necessarily involves “ceasing the practice of sin.” Short of this we have no assurance that the “advocate” will act in our behalf.
God does not demand perfect knowledge of truth or perfect living of any man. God’s judgment in many matters will be in relation to our time, opportunity, and ability (Matt. 25:14-30). Hence, these are relative. Everything in which one grows or becomes proficient with time and opportunity are indeed relative. In these matters one’s faithfulness is in proportion to his sense of responsibility and spiritual appreciation. One is not born into the kingdom with a full measure of such. However, some conditions of faith are absolute. One does not become proficient in the kind of music used in worship, the day on which he observes the Lord’s Supper, or in observing the pattern of the church organization and work. Carefully distinguishing between the relative and the absolute will solve many problems posed by some.
I look forward to brother Diestelkamp’s reply and fervently pray that this study may be of spiritual benefit to all.
Guardian of Truth XXIX: 12, pp. 368-370, 375
June 20, 1985