The Apostles' Doctrine and Fellowship
The Pruett and Lobit Street church of Christ in Baytown, Texas held a lectureship on November 18, 19 and 20, 1994 on the theme of "The Apostles' Doctrine and Fellowship." The subjects and speakers for each lecture were: "Romans 14: Recognizing God's Children," by Tom Roberts; "Romans 14 and the Elastic Gospel," by Larry Ray Hafley; "Error, the Local Church, and Preaching," by Harry Osborne; "Divine Definitions of Fellowship and Factional-ism," by Ron Halbrook; and "Brotherhood Watchdogs: Troublers of Israel?", by Jeffry Fite. In addition to the messages delivered by the speakers, brother R.J. Stevens directed the singing during the lectureship and provided great encouragement with his musical abilities and comments of support for the work that was done. The lectureship was well-publicized beforehand and many even came from out of state. Visitors came from Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee, Illinois, Kansas, and Colorado, in addition to those who came from other regions in Texas as well as area congregations. The attendance ranged from around 250 to a high of about 300. Question and answer periods were held after the services on the first two nights and many good questions were asked with good Bible answers being given.
Sounding Out the Word of the Lord
Due to the advancement of certain false concepts regarding fellowship and the misapplication of Romans 14 to matters of "the faith," the elders of the Pruett and Lobit Street church saw the need for a lectureship which addressed these issues. This was done to help strengthen and inform the church here in regard to the spread of error on these matters, but also to provide an opportunity for others to hear these subjects addressed. The example of the church at Thessalonica can be appealed to as. one that had "sounded out the word of the Lord" in places other than their own community, even to the extent that Paul was able to say that "also in every place your faith to God-ward is spread abroad" (1 Thess. 1:8). While the Pruett and Lobit Street church is not seeking to "make a name" for itself, the elders did see the need for such a lectureship and acted accordingly.
The speakers in the lectureship had already been involved in a similar effort in Austin, Texas several months back. They were asked to come to Baytown, just east of Houston, to repeat and elaborate upon the topics given. They were also informed that the elders did not desire for there to be even the appearance of personal attacks made against anyone although they did desire for these men to press their points and to make specific applications where needed. This was done and good order prevailed even throughout the question and answer period. The speakers were all well-prepared and spoke with authority and conviction (Titus 2:15).
Thursday November 17:
"Recognizing God's Children"
Tom Roberts began the lectureship by addressing the subject of Romans 14 and its application to the children of God. He began by defining what the term fellowship means and how it is used in Scripture. Examples were given from several Bible accounts of how fellowship with God was broken through sin. Brother Roberts showed from the Scripture that man's fellowship or sharing or communion with God is conditioned upon both God's character, "God is light" (1 Jn. 1:5), and man's obedience, we must "walk in the light" (1 Jn. 1:7). The fact that God determines the bounds of fellowship was also emphasized.
Brother Roberts proceeded to show that human concepts of fellowship have been used as "Trojan horses" to bring sin and those practicing sin into the fellowship of local churches. The doctrine of Gnosticism had an adverse effect on the early church and on apostolic teaching. This error was appealed to as a first century example of false doctrine that attempted to bring Christians into fellowship with sin, and thus God into fellowship with sin as a logical consequence. Several examples were then quoted from denominational sources to show that the very same ideas were prevalent among sectarian churches. Following that, brother Roberts then gave several examples of how some among churches of Christ had in the past 30-40 years adopted similar approaches couched in the language of "Unity in Diversity." Quotations were given from men such as Carl Ketcherside and Leroy Garrett who had in the past pushed a "unity in diversity" approach based upon a false distinction between "gospel" and "doctrine." The fruits of the "unity in diversity" seed being sown are seen today in the appeal for a "New Hermeneutic" among our "ultra-liberal" brethren.
Brother Roberts then brought the matter a little closer to home by showing how brethren among non-institutional churches of Christ today have been echoing some of these same sentiments. The 17 articles by brother Ed Harrell in Christianity Magazine during 1988 to 1989 on "The Bounds of Christian Unity" were introduced as an example of an appeal that would allow churches today to tolerate "contradictory teachings and practices on important moral and doctrinal issues," including that of marriage, divorce and remarriage. Brother Roberts also documented similar pleas from brother Don Patton who has also appealed to Romans 14 as a basis for allowing churches to have fellowship with those in adulterous marriages and those who hold false views on the subject of marriage, divorce, and remarriage.
The balance of Tom's sermon then looked in detail at the actual text of Romans 14. He showed that Paul did not include matters of the revealed faith in the chapter, but rather did plead for acceptance of brethren who had differences in regard to matters of opinion or indifference. Paul said that the matters under discussion were in the realm of "nothing unclean of itself' and where "all things indeed are pure" (Rom. 14:14, 20). He demonstrated that whether a person ate meat or not was of no consequence to the Lord, for "God hath received him" (14:3). Tom pointed out that God will not receive adulterers or homosexuals who continue to practice their sin without repentance and that we as Christians are not to receive them either (1 Cor. 5:5, 7, 9, 11, 13; Eph. 5:11; 2 John 9-11).
Friday November 18:
"The Elastic Gospel and Romans 14"
On Friday evening, brother Larry Ray Hafley spoke on the subject of "The Elastic Gospel." Larry 's sermon began with a reminder of how the gospel of Christ is not only a unifying message, but also a divisive message (Jn. 14:6; Matt. 10:34-37; 7:13-14). Those who choose to serve the Lord must be prepared to sacrifice the acceptance and favor of men in order to be accepted by the Lord (2 Cor. 5:9). The charge of the gospel preacher is to "charge some that they teach no other doctrine" (1 Tim. 1:3). Thus being a Christian and a preacher will involve one in being divided from those who will not "hold fast the form of sound words" (2 Tim. 1:13).
Brother Hafley then defined what he meant by the "Elastic Gospel." He showed how the concept is often associated with statements such as "Unity in Diversity," "We can no more look alike than think alike," "Salvation is in a Savior not a System," and "Romans 14 allows us to disagree." While it is true that salvation is in a Savior, we cannot reach that salvation without obeying the system or pattern or form of doctrine that was revealed by that Savior (Rom. 6:17-18). Some are attempting to "elasticize" or stretch the bounds of Bible fellowship to include some "other" doctrines that are not found in the Bible. Larry demonstrated how denominational preachers have done this for years on subjects like baptism, the Lord's supper and instrumental music. For example, Baptist preachers have stretched the gospel to allow them to fellowship Methodist ministers who substitute sprinkling for immersion. This is an example of how men seek to "diversify" the gospel, or overlook significant differences in their teaching and practice. True unity, however, is established by an appeal to and a stand upon the truth of God's word. We cannot have "unity in diversity" when the differences involved constitute a departure from the revealed pat-tern of God's truth. Unity with God and with his faithful children can be accomplished only by submitting wholeheartedly to his will and by continuing to "walk in the light as he is in the light" (1 Jn. 1:7).
Larry also demonstrated from Romans 14 and its setting in Romans that this chapter does not allow us to fellowship those teaching and practicing denominational error. For example, right at the end of chapter 13, Paul states,
The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof (Rom. 13:12-14).
At the end of the book, and after Romans 14, Paul also said, "Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them" (Rom. 16:17). The point is that the very thing that some have said Romans 14 allows us to differ over ("contradictory teachings and practices on important moral and doctrinal issues") is strictly condemned by Paul both before and after the fourteenth chapter of Romans. The question is, "Why would Paul condemn these practices, tell us to avoid those who teach and practice such, and then use a whole chapter instructing us to accept those who teach and practice the very things that he condemned?"
Larry then used a series of charts that highlighted certain statements of Romans 14: "Receive Ye"; "Let Every Man Be Fully Persuaded"; "Regardeth it Unto the Lord"; "Nothing Unclean of Itself'; "All Things Indeed Are Pure." Each statement had its own chart with a copy of the verse in which it was found at the top. Then out to the side of the statement, there was a list of sinful practices such as abortion, homosexuality, instrumental music, and adulterous marriages. Larry then with each chart asked, "Is abortion `pure'? Can one practice abortion `to the Lord'? Are we to `receive' the abortionist?" etc. These were very effective in pointing out that the context of Romans 14 dealt with indifferent matters of conscience, such as the eating of meats and observance of certain days, and not matters of sin. Larry also contrasted the different settings of 1 Corinthians 5 and 2 John 9-11 with that of Romans 14. Those under consideration in 1 Corinthians 5 and 2 John 9-11 who were sinning were not to be accepted while those of Romans 14, who were not sinning, were to be accepted.
Larry concluded by dealing with the false dichotomy that some are making regarding the "person" of Christ and the "pattern" of Scripture. The June 1994 issue of Christianity Magazine was used as an example of such a dichotomy, where it was stated that the first century Christians "surrendered, not to a plan of salvation, but to a Savior." Larry showed that one cannot obey Christ without obeying the form or pattern of teaching that was delivered by him (Heb. 5:8-9; Rom. 6:17-18). He then showed the inevitable consequence of a softened stand against sin and error by showing several charts that documented the "joint services" that some churches of Christ have had in recent years with denominational congregations. One of those services took place about a year ago in Florence, Alabama, where the Magnolia church of Christ and the Northwood United Methodist Church held such a joint-service. Our appeal must constantly be to "hold fast the form of sound words" (2 Tim. 1:13).
Saturday November 19:
"Error, the Local Church and Preaching"
Saturday was the final day of the lectureship and was divided into three different sessions. Brother Harry Osborne began the day by speaking on the above subject and local church autonomy. In the past and present, some have appealed to local church autonomy as an objection to preaching that is pointed and specific in condemning error. Harry began with Acts 20:28 and I Peter 5:1-2 in outlining what the Bible says about autonomy and the work of elders. Elders are commanded to carry out the will of God in each congregation where they labor. Their authority and oversight is limited to that "flock which is among you" (1 Pet. 5:2).
But the question might be raised, "Can the elders or preachers of one congregation rightfully attempt to teach the truth outside the membership of their own congregation?" Harry answered "yes" and gave the example of the brethren at Jerusalem in Acts 15, who with the apostles wrote unto the brethren in Antioch, Syria, and Silicia regarding the matter of circumcision. By relying upon the inspired teaching of the apostles, the elders at Jerusalem along with the apostles wrote to these other churches regarding the controversy over circumcision and instructed them according to the truth. They did not attempt to take the oversight of those congregations away from the elders in those churches, but they did teach the truth on the matter in question and taught them the inspired course of action. Certainly those other churches could choose to pursue or to ignore the biblical course of action. However, the elders at Jerusalem did not violate the autonomy of the church in Antioch by simply teaching them the truth. A church's autonomy is not violated by their being taught the truth.
Brother Osborne then showed several examples of autonomy being violated among our institutional brethren, such as the Herald of Truth radio program which subjects churches contributing to this work to the oversight of the Highland congregation in Abilene, Texas. When these kinds of unscriptural programs began and brethren began objecting to them on scriptural grounds, those who defended the false concepts charged those who were preaching against such deviations with "violation of local church autonomy." Brother Osborne pointed out that these men obviously did not feel that their preaching over the radio throughout the world on the "Herald of Truth" program violated autonomy, but yet other men preaching and writing about their sinful practices did violate autonomy! Preaching the truth does not violate autonomy.
Harry also showed that some today are echoing similar sentiments. Harry presented a chart which gave the following quotation from a preacher who argued that brethren are
... not generally contented to mind our own business. We want to know what everyone else is doing. We find it extremely difficult to allow someone to walk by faith if his application of faith is different from ours. Man has consistently clamored for uniformity rather than autonomy, and has sometimes gone to extremes to attain it. Witness the Catholic Inquisition, for example. All Catholic churches, and individuals, were to conform to the official norm ... or else. And history also demonstrates that those who have clamored loudest for uniformity under the guise of `scripturalness' have actually had an ulterior motive: POWER. . . Religious papers and self-important preachers have meddled repeatedly in the affairs of autonomous congregations over the years. . . And in our day, papers are often eager to tell us with whom we may or may not have fellowship ... and people are still listening (Steve Dewhirst, Sentry, June 30, 1993, pp.1-2).
In the interest of clarity and fairness, the writer, was not charged with teaching false doctrines on marriage, divorce and remarriage nor was it suggested that he intends to support the spread of doctrinal error. However, to refer to those who are simply teaching the truth and trying to withstand the attacks of the devil as "self-important preachers" who dishonestly operate "under the guise of scripturalness" and who are really just interested in "power" is completely untrue, unfair and uncalled for. He would consider the same characterization of his articles in papers as unfair.
It is true that the Lord is the one who determines and sets the bounds of fellowship among God's people, but the responsibility of preaching and teaching those boundaries falls upon the shoulders of preachers. Whether these men preach the gospel by mouth or by tract or by magazine article, they are simply fulfilling their responsibility to preach the word and to make application of it. If taken to the extreme but logical conclusion, the above statement ("papers are often eager to tell us with whom we may or may not have fellowship") would not allow preachers to preach against fellowship with denominational churches or those who deny the deity of Christ. I do not believe the writer intended such, but that is the logical end of his argument. It is true that papers and/or preachers do not have the right to arbitrarily set the bounds of Christian fellowship. But it is certainly within the right of preachers, through whatever means they have avail-able to them, to preach the divine bounds of Christian fellowship and then to make specific application of those boundaries to specific situations.
Harry concluded his lesson by addressing the "accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative" philosophy of preaching with which some are so enamored. While all agree that error should be rejected, some believe that all direct references to the person and/or persons who teach the error should be eliminated. Brother Osborne showed that the Apostle Paul instructed Timothy to follow the example that he set forth "every where in every church" (1 Cor. 4:16-17). Paul identified not only the false doctrine, but also those who taught such (1 Tim. 1:20; 2 Tim. 1:15; 2:15-18). What some do not seem to realize is that "avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called" sometimes also involves stopping the mouths of those who teach such (1 Tim. 6:20; Tit. 19-11). False teachers as well as their false teaching need to be exposed, reproved and rebuked (Eph. 5:11; 2 Tim. 4:1-5).
Saturday November 19:
"Divine Definitions of Fellowship and Factionalism"
Brother Ron Halbrook followed brother Osborne's lesson with a sermon on fellowship and factionalism. Brother Halbrook began his sermon with an appeal to 2 Timothy 1:8, which says, "Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God." Brother Halbrook affirmed that he appreciated the work that was being done by the elders of the Pruett and Lobit congregation, as well as those who were preaching in the lectureship, and that he was not ashamed to be associated with any of them. Sometimes brethren want to stand for the truth, but they become ashamed of those who do so in such a bold and open fashion. Paul saw such shame and rejection first hand, as Phygellus and Hermogenes turned away from him in Asia (2 Tim. 1:15). Not only should we not be ashamed of the gospel, but neither should we be ashamed of those who stand firmly for the gospel.
A large portion of Ron's sermon dealt with the book of 1 John. He emphasized how the joy of the Christian is directly connected to the objective truth of the gospel. Ron addressed the charge that we are overemphasizing the keeping of commandments at the expense of such themes as love, grace, and the person of Christ as if the keeping of commandments can somehow be separated from the love of God. Passages such as 1 John 2:3, 5 were quoted to show how one truly abides in the "person of Christ" and in the love of God: "And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. . . But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him." One cannot truly love God and respect the person of Christ without obeying the words and commandments of Christ. This theme, and the accompanying matter of fellow-ship, is a constant emphasis of the epistles of John. Ron used these and similar verses very effectively to establish that careful consideration must be given to the words and commandments of Christ if we are to be in fellowship with God and with other faithful saints. Fellowship with God is not based upon subjective emotions and experiences, but rather upon the objective truth of what God has said.
Brother Halbrook then applied these principles and points to the matter of marriage, divorce, and remarriage. He identified the popular false theories of the day on marriage, divorce, and remarriage and some of those who are openly teaching such. He then addressed the separate and significant subject of fellowship and how some who do not hold these false views on marriage, divorce, and remarriage are contending that we can receive into fellowship those who do hold these false concepts. Brother Ed Harrell's articles on "The Bounds of Christian Unity" were again referenced in this respect. Ron also documented the charges of "reckless" and "irresponsible" attacks, of "extremists who have their own cause to promote," of "transparent" efforts to "create a party" that were leveled by the editors of Christianity Magazine against those who opposed brother Harrell's teaching on fellowship. The booklet entitled Fellowship on Marriage, Divorce, and Remarriage by Samuel Dawson was also referred to as an example of a loosening and broadening of the bounds of fellowship. Several other examples were given to establish the fact that a pattern is developing in which an appeal is made to tolerate and fellowship teaching that is not in keeping with Divine truth. This pattern includes unkind remarks made about the motives and intentions of those who are opposing the spread of error, particularly with regards to marriage, divorce, and remarriage.
Brother Halbrook appealed to the word of God as the basis for unity with God and with one another (Jn. 17:17-21). When we abide by the teachings of the Lord, then we have the grounds and basis for unity with one another. However, Ron also pointed out that sometimes division becomes inevitable. He gave several examples of why division may sometimes become inevitable. He pointed out that division becomes inevitable when:
(1) Theories Contradict Fundamental Rule or Law Given by Christ (Matt. 19:9).
(2) Appeal to Silence and Absence of Specific Prohibition Rather Than Positive Authority (1 Pet. 4:11).
(3) Theory Breeds Looseness on other Moral and Doctrinal Issues (2 Tim. 2:16; 3:13; 2 Cor. 6:17; Eph. 5:11).
(4) Won't Tolerate Persistent Teaching of Truth (2 Tim. 2:2-4; 1 In. 2:19).
When men teach doctrines that contradict the gospel of Christ, appeal to the silence of the Scripture rather than to positive Divine authority to support their teaching, and will not tolerate the persistent teaching of truth (while appealing for toleration of their false concepts), then division is inevitable. Ron pointed out that recognizing the inevitability of division does not mean that we are happy about it, but rather that we must point out the error and encourage others to take steps to oppose the error as well in an effort to delay and avoid division. This is what must be done!
In his conclusion, Ron pointed out that a strong stand for the truth does not mean that churches are doomed to splinter and divide over every issue. He showed that we must first be sure that we distinguish between "apples and oranges," that is, that we be sure that some concerns are truly violations of the gospel law before division occurs. Ron gave over twenty examples of various situations that are often discussed among brethren and showed why they do not require us to divide over them. The reasons he gave are simply the reversals of the reasons given regarding the inevitability of division. They are:
(1) All Appeal to Same Fundamental Rule or Law Given by Christ.
(2) All Appeal to Positive Authority, Not Silence.
(3) Different Views Breed No Looseness on Other Moral and Doctrinal Issues.
(4) Open Study and Discussion of Issues.
Ron pointed out that ninety percent of the fellowship matter will take care of itself when men appeal to the Word of God in open study and preach that Word with conviction. When we allow our own lives and our own teaching to be tested by the standard of the Word of God, then we will see any areas where corrections need to made. He also stated that division should not be immediate and rash and that time must be allowed for open study and discussion. We must continue to remember that truth has nothing to fear from open investigation.
Saturday November 19:
"Brotherhood Watchdogs: Troublers of Israel?"
Brother Jerry Fite concluded the series of lectures with his sermon on the charge that some preachers are just trying to be "brotherhood watchdogs," "self-appointed protectors of the faith," and "guardians of truth." Brother Fite began by reminding us of the importance, in days gone by, of the man whose job it was to be the "watchman on the walls." This man's duty was to watch and to look, and to be ready to sound the alarm in the event of a surprise attack. Jerry spoke of an old Mesopotamian proverb that said, "In a city with no watchdogs, the fox is the overseer." During the recent elections here in Texas, one of the candidates for the office of Treasurer ran a television commercial featuring a watchdog. This watchdog was sitting atop a pile of money (the state treasury no doubt) and every time a hand would reach in from off-screen to attempt to take the money, this watchdog would growl and snap, thus sounding an alarm. In so many areas four lives, we appreciate those who give warnings, who watch out on our behalf. Yet, some today speak disparagingly of those who are attempting to "watch" and to sound the alarm against wolves in sheep's clothing, who "privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them" (2 Pet. 2:1). Jerry wondered aloud if those who are warning against watchdog preachers have made themselves the watchdogs of watchdogs!
Although there is no organization to the universal church, there is a common bond that we all share in Christ. Jerry pointed out that this bond is what necessitates preaching the gospel and warning souls against the encroachment of error "every where in every church" (1 Cor. 4:17). Ahab referred to Elijah as the "troubler of Israel" in 1 Kings 18:17, because Elijah opposed Ahab's sinful practices. Elijah, however, pointed out that Ahab was the true troubler of Israel, "in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the Lord, and thou hast followed Baalim"(1 Kgs. 18: 18). It has always been, and always will be, that those who depart from the commandments of the Lord will charge and accuse those who uphold the truth with being the "troublers of Israel." Jerry reminded us that we must recognize the true troubler of Israel as the one who departs from the commandments of God.
The example of Ezekiel was also appealed to as an example of what God's watchman must do. First of all, God's watch-man is sent to speak the words of the Lord (Ezek. 3:4, 17). It is his purpose and aim to see that those who are in sin hear the commands of God to repent of their sin. He is not a "self-appointed protector of the faith," but is given this responsibility by the Lord himself. Yes, Ezekiel was divinely inspired, but the apostle Paul gave the young preacher Timothy the same charge in 1 Timothy 6:20-21 and 2 Timothy 4:1-5.
Later, brother Fite had a chart with the question, "Who Made You A Watchdog?" on it and right underneath that question another question, "Who Made You An Evangelist?"! The answer to the first is the answer to the second. First of all, when you become an evangelist, you take upon yourself the responsibility to watch. Secondly, brother Fite pointed out that the watchman of the Lord is overwhelmed by the responsibility that he has. Ezekiel was overwhelmed for seven days over the situation in which he found the children of Israel. He did not rejoice in their state, but was grieved in his heart because of their state. Thirdly, Jerry identified the goal of the watchman of the Lord as the saving of the life of the sinner. This is why Peter accused the Jews directly of being murderers (Acts 2:23, 36; 3:13-15). The truth is often hard to accept when it demands repentance and a reformation of life. The apostle Paul asked the question of the Galatians, "Am I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth?" (Gal. 4:16) We need to be appreciative of those who make sacrifices to watch and warn us against the spread of error and not speak disparagingly of them as "watchdog preachers." Isaiah criticized the watchmen of Israel in his day as "dumb dogs" who "cannot bark." He rebuked them for not barking and sounding the alarm.
Jerry finished his sermon by asking the question, "Who Needs God's Watchman?" First of all, the sinner with a righteous past needs to hear and heed God's watchman. God told Ezekiel, "When a righteous man doth turn from his righteousness, and commit iniquity, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die" (Ezek. 3:20). Just because a man has been righteous in the past, or an eloquent and effective preacher in the past, does not mean that he no longer needs to hear and to heed the warning given by the watchman of God. Neither should we blame and castigate the one who fulfills his responsibility in warning the wicked, for he must do so to save his own soul (Ezek. 3:20).
Secondly, the righteous need God's watchman that they might "maintain good works" (Tit. 3:8). Paul tells the children of God to "examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith" (2 Cor. 13:4). This is a duty and responsibility that each one of us has as individuals, yet it is also the responsibility of preachers to help us to see and know the truth, and to apply it where needed in our lives. Paul said, "Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall" (1 Cor. 10:12).
As Christians who must struggle against the assaults and attacks of the devil on a daily basis, let us not disregard or demean the importance of those who have the desire and the duty to help us in this struggle. Perhaps part of the problem is that some have never been deserted in their stand for truth, and thus they do not appreciate the comfort and help that a "watchman" or "watchdog" can bring. There have been occasions in the past when I have been gone from home, and it was always more comforting for my wife Tracy when we had a dog who was at home with her. Many despise the work that "watchdogs" do, and chief among those are thieves!
The lectureship that we had was a very profitable and encouraging success. A few who came and listened patiently did not agree with all that was said, but at least they gave ear to those who spoke. The elders of the Pruett and Lobit congregation are to be commended for their willingness to have and host such a discussion. They are not ashamed of the "testimony of our Lord," nor of those who stand for it. Some who came did not know about or understand all of these issues, but were able to leave with a better grasp of the challenges that lie ahead for God's people today. On Thursday and Friday evenings after the sermons, a question and answer period was conducted with many good questions and Bible answers given. Open study and discussion of these matters need to be cultivated and not condemned.
Of course, some will not be happy that these matters are being pursued like this. The question has already been raised, "What right do those preachers have to determine matters of fellowship for the brotherhood?" First of all, nothing was "decided" or "determined" for the brotherhood. The preachers who were involved have no desire nor authority to "decide" anything for the brotherhood, but they do have the responsibility to see that the truth is taught and that false concepts and those who promote them are exposed (1 Tim. 6:19-20; 1:3-7; 2 Tim. 1:13; 2:15-18; 4:1-5; Tit. 1:9-13). When the truth is taught, the truth is what should "decide" our practice! The fact that some do not agree with the truth is what, to some degree, is causing the protest against such sermons as were given during the lectureship. The fact of the matter is, the truth must be taught, and application made, no matter where a preacher goes. Paul expected Timothy to remind the Corinthians of "my ways which be in Christ, as I teach every where in every church" (1 Cor. 4:17). He also expected the Corinthians to "keep the ordinances, as I delivered them" (1 Cor. 11:2)
I also want to commend each of the men who spoke for his courage and conviction. They do no seek, nor do they desire, the accolades of men. Many of the things that they have said have made them rather unpopular in many circles. But they are determined to press on. It was also profitable to have brother R.J. Stevens with us to direct our singing. I am sure that most know of his abilities and he was a great encouragement in that regard. Brother Stevens also gave some words of encouragement at the end of the lectures that I feel sum up the way that many feel:
It has been a joy, yet sad in a way, because all of us are affected by this. There are so many of our dear friends who are drifting and it thrills my heart to hear younger men. They're all men of maturity even though they are young . I'll tell you, I've thought today how proud the loved ones of these preachers, who are here today, how proud they must be of their dad, their son, their husband, to stand up for the truth of Almighty God. But I've also thought of how proud I am of them too.! certainly am happy to be here. I believe with all my heart that these men have preached the truth and I believe they did it in the spirit of love and I believe we ought to tell everybody in the country that. I appreciate this church for the stand that you've taken and I hope we can be together again.
All I can add to that is Amen!
(Those desiring video or audio tapes of these lectures can contact for details. As this article is being concluded, over 1200 individual sermon tapes, both video and audio, have been distributed).
Guardian of Truth XXXIX: 7 p. 16-21
April 6, 1995