Contending For The Faith

Gilbert Copeland
Fort Worth, Texas

"Beloved, while I was giving all diligence to write unto you of our common salvation, I Nvas constrained to write unto you exhorting vou to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in privily, even they who were of old written of before-hand unto this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying our only master and Lord, Jesus Christ" (Jude 3, 4).

Twentv five or thirty years ago the general attitude in the church was that truth has nothing to fear . in honorable controversy. At that time there were few gospel preachers who would discourage debates that were brought about in an honorable way and conducted on ,I high plane. The preacher who did was considered a "softie," and most people had little respect for his convictions. Even in those "dark distant" days of the past, most of the sectarian world had learned not to believe in debates. Of course, most people knew the reason.

However, we have lived to see a change in the church. Many, many preachers and a host of other members of the church now have come to think of debates as most unwise. Are we, too, learning not to believe in debates? If so, there is a reason!

Shows Weakness

With every passing year the number of people in the church who do not believe in honorable controversy, is increasing. This, we think, shows a definite weakness in the church. Talk to people (in the church) about a formal public discussion with the sects, and see what reception you get. You will be surprised when you take such a poll. Then, talk to people about discussing the issues that arise within the church. Get a consensus of opinion on what kind of pulpit preaching we should have. And while you are polling the people, find out what they think of class discussions, planned discussions of current issues before the church, discussions of the live issues through the different papers owned and edited by our brethren.

Some of us are convinced that you are headed for a "rude awakening." We think you will be surprised how many people want to play the old "hush, hash gaine." "Keep things quiet . . . " "let's not fuss . . . " "just present the prettN, side, or my side of the affair." If this idea is is prevalent throughout the brotherhood as it is where I have been, we had better make contact with the repair crew, for we are headed for trouble.

Sign of Love

Open, frank and friendly discussion is the sign of love, health and happiness. If we do not have freedom, we are bound. We claim to believe in freedom, but do we? Do we believe in freedom to study and discuss issues of public interest and spiritual purity? When there is a difference between brethren an ultimatum from one of the parties concerned will not satisfv or settle the difference. The presentation, or hearing of one side only is not the way to, bring about true happiness and unity. Only when every argument has been presented will the average truth-seeker be able to weigh the evidence and arrive at the truth.

Surely the truth has nothing to fear in honorable controversy. He, who is afraid for his position or doctrine to be put to the test, is not as honest as he should be. Are we not commanded to trv the spirits to see if they are from God ? (II John 4:1 ). Does not the same scripture warn us of false prophets? Has it not always been true that the most vicious enemies the church has known have come from the inside? (Acts 20:28-30).

Past Experience

Past experience has proven that when the church of our Lord is accepted in the community by the outside world, there is usually an ingathering of unconverted people. People go into the church "for policy" rather than for conviction. Gradually, these people bring out a digression. There weakness where there is lack of conviction and knowledge of truth. Hence, "from among your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them" (Acts 20:30).

In our day the church is popular. That there are unconverted people on our church rolls is a fact unquestioned bv those with knowledge. This is our problem today. These people without knowledge and conviction will carry the church into digression if the faithful sit idly by.

Every faithful soldier of the cross will "contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints." This may lead him to forsake father and mother, son and daughter, and many dear friends of yester-years, but with undaunted courage and deep conviction that the Bible is a complete, perfect and all-sufficient guide, he must press the fight for right and righteousness.

Contend for the Faith

This fight will lead him into controversy. The sectarians oppose him until they see it is a hopeless struggle. Then, with an outward show of pletv, thev see nothing but evil in open discussions. But not only do the sectarians oppose open and forth-right discussions of issues, but some of the brethren have seemingly found it convenient to be too pious and smooth for a brotherly discussion of the differences between us.

Beloved, we must discuss every difference that exists among us, freely and fully, and let God's word be the means of settling such differences. Surely every honest soul is willing to do this. Those not ready to stand upon the inspired scriptures will not, of course, contend for the faith, and must be recognized as eneimes of the cross.

(Editor's Note: The preceding is taken from the "Guest Editorial" section of the Christian Chronicle.)

Truth Magazine II:4, pp. 1, 3
January 1958