By Earl E. Robertson
The apostle Peter wrote, “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God . . .” (1 Pet. 4:11). There is no divine directive more needed today than this one in the midst of denominational jargon and theological palaver of preachers and elders. One church recently advertised in the Firm Foundation, “Youth Evangelist applications being accepted by progressive, spiritually minded fellowship. Send resume of experience, references and salary needs to Roswell, NM. Note: no legalist need apply. Also send statement of personal beliefs re: grace, faith, Holy Spirit. A grace-oriented church.” Now that language truly reflects the attitude of the so-called liberated church. Liberated, yes, freed from the shackles of scripture so they can both say and do what they want.
The word of God says our speech must be as the oracles of God and our doing must be in the name of Christ (by His authority) (Col. 3:17). Any person with reverent familiarity with the New Testament knows nothing of the above language describing that New Mexico church. Yet, many people now want this kind of “fellowship” and will argue loud and long that it is all right, while at the same time designate all who would object as legalists. They would feign make us think that they believe the Bible to be the word of God and that they believe they must obey it. Yet, our very efforts to cause men to obey the Bible are declared by them as the actions of a legalist. They are “grace-oriented” and those demanding Bible for religious practices are, by them, legalists. We know the voice of the Savior (John 10) and we also know the voice of the modernist!
The loose attitudes presently being formed (some all ready formed and being pushed) lead to modernism. The path many preachers and churches are now walking will take them to a position where they can stand with men like Harry E. Fosdick. Deny this if you will, but if you continue to teach and practice what you now are one generation (your children) -will prove that I am correct. We remember the modernism of the past generation: Wilburn, Box, Sanders, Warren, and Roy Key. We remember what they said about the Bible being a “blueprint” for the legalists, and that they wanted freedom. When these men were identified and exposed they left their former hiding and went fully into denominational churches. Little things lead to big ones!
Our speech reveals the heart with all its attitudes (Prov. 4:23, 23:7) What we say and the way we say it determines whether we are safe or unsafe teachers. Much around us sets the pattern for religious behavior. Influence of our teachers is overwhelming. As Guy N. Woods recently editorialized in the Gospel Advocate, expressing his appreciation for having had the privilege to sit often at the feet of men like Hardeman: “It is for me most fortunate that the concept of the Junior Church was yet with the denominations when I was young because it is most likely that were such the practice then I would not today be attempting the work they did . . . . Suppose we had been shuttled to a `junior auditorium’ where we were amused by puppetry while N.B. Hardeman or some other great gospel preacher spoke only to adults!” This “Junior Church” concept is, as Guy stated, from the denominations and it is a tiger around the neck of the liberal churches of Christ. But it came into existence by men who did not “speak as the oracles of God.” Any departure in practice from apostolic doctrine is usually attributable to the fact that the teacher has ceased to speak apostolic doctrine.
The cry of legalism heard in some cities today is the same cry heard in the past generation. It will not take much more time to see the same end-results. When men grow tired of doing what God’s word says, they begin to take liberties with that word. Men of this attitude desist from speaking as the oracles of God, castigate all others who do “tell it like it is” as legalists while insisting that certain heretics are faithful gospel preachers! As one modernist, flying under the flag of being “grace-oriented,” wrote, “The church of Christ holds to a Pharaisaic Biblical literalism that blinds its members to their mission in today’s world and makes it impossible for them to meet modern problems in an effective way. The Bible becomes a blueprint with exact details for all work and procedures. Nothing can be done and no procedure used for which the `blueprint’ does not give example to command. Such literalism not only stymies the activity of the church but leads to endless and futile quarrels about insignificant details and methods. The non-instrumental aspect of worship is one such result, but hundreds, just as unimportant and irrelevant to the world’s needs, could be listed. I am changing to the Disciples of Christ to find more freedom of life and work and to find more spiritual compatibility in Christian service.”
That is the only direction loose speech leads. Reread Col. 3:17 and 1 Pet. 4:11.
Truth Magazine XXIII: 30, p. 490
August 2, 1979