By Billy C. Williams
Before I answer Weldon Warnock’s last article, it is necessary to explain the role each one plays in this exchange. It is not unlike a jury trial in which there are prosecutor, defendant, jury and judge. In this case, Weldon assumes the stance of prosecutor, I am the defendant and the readers are the jury. The judge? I think Weldon wants that job too. Because I was accused, I am on the defensive and am forced to answer and explain. Always in such cases it is presumed that the accuser is correct in his views and the accused is wrong. The accused must answer yes or no to the charges. And upon that evidence alone he is pronounced guilty. Thus, it was put to me that I will be allowed to “exonerate” myself, meaning I can either plead guilty or recant. Well, you can be sure this defendant has no intention of letting anyone dictate his answers. Too many questions and accusations were made to answer all in this small space. So just the major points will be covered.
Since he hinted that I was “fired” by a church because I taught false doctrine, I must say something, though I had hoped it would not be necessary. Weldon’s flippant remark that I was not fired “because of the way he parted his hair,” is unbecoming. It is still true that no one would say that I taught false doctrine. The only “point of doctrine” brought against me was that I condemned in general the partyism and factious spirit so prevalent in the church today. But if Weldon wants to talk about it we could discuss the out-of-town preachers who interfered and the un-Christlike conduct of a few in and out of the congregation. But I do not think he really wants to talk about that.
He asks three questions wanting to know if I condemn members of the Christian Church for using instrumental music, and premillennial and institutional brethren. Such questions are asked because he believes one must “strictly and faithfully” obey all commandments to be saved. When this type of question is asked, I get the distinct impression that it is feared someone will be saved who does not deserve it. Is it possible that some wretched perverter of truth will rise from the dead, overpower the host of heaven, and walk through the Pearly Gates in defiance of God?
To answer his questions: If one deliberately and wilfully disobeys God’s law or does presumptuous sin (presuming to change or act in defiance of God’s laws), he is surely condemned as long as he continues in that sin (Num. 15:22-30; Heb. 10:26ff). But if he, in ignorance, transgresses God’s law while earnestly desiring to serve Him faithfully, I do not find any passage that allows me to condemn him. He is no more a sinner than I am. And we are both guilty (Rom. 3:10, 23). Many people want to judge others according to their own understanding. But our Lord specifically warned against it (Matt. 7:1-5). For one to demand of others perfect obedience to all of God’s commandments (as he sees it), he commits a twofold error. In the first place, the individual must understand completely all of God’s Word. What man or woman has ever lived, besides Christ, who could claim such knowledge? Is my salvation and yours dependent upon intellectual supremacy? The second error is the assumption that anyone can in fact obey God perfectly. If anyone ever could perfectly obey God in all things, without sin, then why did Christ suffer for us? Let us be careful of our presumptions and demands.
Some have turned the Lord’s church into a business or social club to satisfy their own lusts; some seek to be entertained by their instruments of music and know nothing of worshiping God in song; others dethrone the Christ and say He died because He failed. These all stand self-condemned! But there are faithful brethren who honestly believe they can use institutions in the church, worship with instruments, or that Christ will return and reign over an earthly kingdom. Are they condemned because they do not understand these things as I do? I do not presume to so judge them. The understanding of each one is different and at different levels of growth. Are we all supposed to have the same knowledge? It is impossible!
Brother Warnock readily condemns those who use instruments or support institutions. Why does he stop there? What about the covering, one cup, or women’s slacks? Will he also condemn those who disagree with him on those issues? I would really like to know his answer to that one. If he will not condemn them, then just what makes one issue worse than another? If we all accept Christ and trust in Him, why is one ostracized and another fellowshipped?
Now what has all this got to do with the plan of salvation? There is a logical connection. If the “Plan” is BRCB then it is a ritual to be jealously defended. But if the Plan is Christ, the “ritual” becomes our natural and logical response to the Plan, namely Christ’s sacrifice for us. And if Christ is the Plan we will reject sectarianism and become only Christians.
Weldon states that he has never known one Christian who believes we earn salvation, and challenges me to name one. Now pay close attention to the following:
He distinguishes between who and what saves. The who is Christ (bless his heart!), and the “what is several things.” Then he gives “conditions” – grace, gospel, word, work, faith, baptism, and ourselves. Skipping over his misuse of some scriptures, I will say that those things are valid only as they relate to Christ and His work of righteousness (2 Cor. 5:14-21). Then Weldon quotes me as I quoted from Eph. 2 and says “Peter says differently. Listen to an apostle,” – and he quotes Acts 10:35. Dear reader, who wrote Ephesians? Wasn’t it Paul? Wasn’t he an apostle too? He is still having trouble convincing folks of his apostleship. Then Weldon says that teaching BRCB is “telling people what . . . they must obey in order to be saved,” “emphasis is placed on keeping the commandments of God.” He quotes and misquotes some passages in John and 1 John. Then he says, “Jesus saves our souls by obedience to his commands.” Under the new law . . . we have forgiveness by obeying his commandments in order to appropriate his grace . . . . Jesus’s law is a law of grace wherein forgiveness is offered . . . by obedient faith.”
Notice carefully what he has said. He claims that command keeping is our salvation. And the specific commands he has reference to are belief-repentance-confession-baptism. According to Warnock, we are forgiven because we obeyed (BRCB) and thereby appropriated His grace. His use of “appropriate” is interesting. It means to take possession of. Does he mean that one who has done BRCB takes possession of God’s grace and thus owns His favor because of that obedience? Think about it.
Brethren, I think I have found one who believes that BRCB is what saves us and we thereby earn salvation. Furthermore, look at his phrase “law of grace.” If he meant the principle of grace, he would be right. But I think he means a system of legal grace whereby we merit grace through law keeping. Read Gal. 2:16-21; Rom. 3:20-31; 6:14. In these passages and others the original language omits the article “the” with “law;” which means it is talking about the principle of law, and it is not arguing for one law against another law (Christ against Moses).
Weldon quotes from 1 Jn. 3:22, 24 omitting vs. 23. Read it. The command to obey is stated.
I have not said that we do not have to obey God’s commands. We most certainly do. But we are not saved by our command-keeping. We are saved by Christ’s commandkeeping (Heb. 10:7). Because salvation by law-keeping is possible only by perfect obedience and we cannot do it. (Rom. 3:23: 4:4; Gal. 3:10, 11; Jas. 1:10). Christ kept law perfectly and made atonement for sin (Heb. 9:22-28). So we turn to Christ and through Him gain salvation. We begin by responding naturally and logically to His work of love. BRCB is not works of righteousness (Phil. 3:9; Tit. 3:5; Gal. 3:23-29). There is no merit in our doing of those things. Instead those things point to the One who does merit God’s approval (Matt. 3:17; 17:5; Heb. l; Rev. 5)
Let us stop preaching salvation by command-keeping and start preaching salvation by Christ. Stop proclaiming a “plan” that we do and start praising God for His glorious work of salvation.
I have stated clearly that BRCB is only our response to Christ. Christ is our Lord and Savior and we must honor him in all that we do, which includes righteous living. We are not created anew in Christ to do evil but righteousness (Rom. 6; 1 Jn. 2:6; 3:1-10). Doing righteousness is the result of our new relationship to Christ. It is not the cause of our salvation.
Why would anyone argue against salvation in Christ?
Who is your Savior? Is it Christ or BRCB?
Truth Magazine XXIII: 19, pp. 311-312
May 10, 1979