Answering Cecil's Charges
Kansas City, Missouri
In the May 23rd issue of Truth Magazine, Brother Cecil Willis featured me in an editorial stating that I teach "pernicious error." The grounds for the accusation is that I teach that a child of God can constantly stand in the grace of God. Cecil attacks this view as being the equivalent to the Baptist position of "once saved, always saved," and leading to a loose view of sin and of grace.
Cecil and I agree that Christians sin daily, as the Bible clearly teaches and experience demonstrates (1 Kings 8:46; Ps. 130:3; Ps. 143:2; Isa. 64:6; Eccl. 7:20; Rom. 3:32; and 1 John 1:8). The point of controversy involves sin and separation from God. While I believe that every sin the Christian commits can potentially separate him from God (see James 1:15), Cecil believes that every sin automatically separates the Christian from God. This latter position insists that when the Christian sins (and none of us can say that we do not sin (1 Jno. 1:8), he is "severed from Christ" (Gal. 5:4), or "fallen from grace" (Gal. 5:4), or in a state of condemnation (see Rom. 8:1), or has his name blotted out of the Lamb's book of life (see Rev. 20:15), etc. This position logically says that a Christian must constantly be "in" and "out" of a state of condemnation.
If Cecil's theory is correct, the nature of the Christian life is one of constant fear, an even should the Christian pray hourly for the forgiveness of sins, he would still have no assurance that he would be in a saved condition. This theory must insist that right standing before God at any point in time is based upon sinlessness. Although the Bible clearly teaches that the child of God can fall and be lost (see John 15:1-6; Heb. 6:4-6; Heb. 10:26-27; 2 Pet. 2:20-22, etc.), the nature of the Christian life is one of "righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Rom. 14:17) as contrasted to fear and bondage (Rom. 8:15).
The Bible teaches that a Christian can abide in a state of grace. Paul wrote: "Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God" (Rom. 5:1-2). See also John 15:1-6; Rom. 8:1; Rev. 3:4-5; Phil. 4:1; 1 Pet. 5:12, and countless other passages.
Abiding in the grace of God is conditioned on a living faith (see Rom. 5:1-2). Our faith is demonstrated by "walking in the light" (1 Jno. 1:7) bearing fruit (John 15:1-6), keeping God's commandments (1 John 2:4), continually confessing our sins (1 John 1:9), etc.; but none of these conditions demand sinlessness. When a Christian ceases to possess a living faith, God's grace through Jesus Christ is no longer appropriated to him (Rom. 3:28 and Eph. 2:8-10). In this connection, the word "faithful" describes one who is "walking by faith," and such a one, although not sinless, is indeed in favor with God (see 1 Cor. 4:17; Eph. 1:1; Col. 1:2, 2 Tim. 2:2, etc.).
I deny emphatically that I believe in "once saved, always saved" as has been charged. I deny emphatically that I believe that a child of God need not make confession of sins! On the other hand, I freely admit that I believe a child of God can "walk in the light without being sinlessly perfect. Thank God for that fact!
It has been widely reported that Cecil and I are divided over "doctrinal differences." Many have inquired about the statement to this effect found in the last issue of Pitching For The Master, a paper which I edit and write. Cecil, without my knowledge or consent, changed my original statement by adding the word "doctrinal." From my point of view, it is not true that Pitching will no longer be published by the Cogdill Foundation because of doctrinal differences. It is much more accurate to say that it is the Cogdill
Foundation Board's reactions to these differences (as described in this article) that has finally resulted in our not being able to work together.
I am extremely sorry that it has become necessary for me to answer Cecil's public charges. I am shocked and perplexed as to why they were made, but I cannot stand back and allow the facts to be misrepresented. This is all I intend to say publically about the matter. There is ample work to be done in the kingdom without getting side-tracked into endless arguments over pointless controversies which can only gender division and strife. Let brotherly love continue.
(EDITOR'S NOTE: For about a month I have been away on an extended trip for gospel meetings. Hence, several issues of TRUTH MAGAZINE had to be prepared prior to my leaving. It now is less than two weeks until the debate which Brother Jesse Jenkins and I are to hold. Hence, I cannot at this time spare the time to write the reply that I had intended to write to the above article from Brother Lindy McDaniel. Yet I think it might be unfair to him to permit more time to lapse before he is given opportunity to be heard regarding my previous article. Our basic disagreement lie in the fact that Lindy thinks a Christian who sins as a result of ignorance or from the weakness of the flesh continues to stand in the grace of God, even though he has neither repented of, nor confessed the sin. He applies this point specifically to the usage of instrumental music and institutionalism. Herein lies our basic disagreement. Already I have written about 15 pages, showing Lindy's vacillation on this question, but to complete the job will take about that many more pages. So I have chosen to print his article now, and perhaps will publish my reply later. I must prepare three issues of the paper, and then be gone for meetings and the debate for a five week period.--Cecil Willis)
Truth Magazine, XVIII:45, p. 3