By Larry Ray Hafley
In this article, we are drawing a bead on a statement that very well could have been written by those affected and infected by the “grace, unity and fellowship” concepts of Carl Ketcherside. First, the statement:
One of the apostle Paul’s great affirmations of faith began, `I know whom I have believed.’ His security in his salvation was based not on some set of beliefs nor a system of theology; it was based on a personal relationship. He knew Jesus. It is entirely possible that a person can know all about Christ and not know Him personally. The Christian faith is not so much a religion as a relationship. It is having a personal encounter with Jesus Christ who is the Son of God. This encounter leads one to a personal commitment of his own life to Jesus, accepting Him as Savior and acknowledging Him as Lord.
The quote is from the “First Baptist Messenger.” It was written by Jerry Curry, a Baptist preacher. The Baptists have been making nonsense on the grace-fellowship issue for, “Lo, these many years,” but some of our brethren are about to get even.
Look at the statement again. What does it say? In 2 Timothy 1:12 (“. . . for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day”), Paul did not argue that security is “based not on some set of beliefs nor a system of theology.” That was not his point, for in the very next verse, Paul said, “Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of men, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus.” Wonder if the word “form” would be at least roughly equivalent to “set of beliefs” or “system of theology”? What would you think if one were to take 2 Timothy 1:13 and say that Paul’s security in his salvation was not based on a personal relationship but on a set or form of beliefs? You would respond, “Yes, we must hold fast the form of sound words, but this cannot be separated from our trust or faith in Christ.” In other words, both verses go together. Exactly!
All this talk about “commitment to a Person,” “a personal encounter,” and “knowing Christ personally” is a bunch of pious nothing. What does it mean? What does it say? When it attempts to exclude obedience to the truth or a keeping of a “set of beliefs,” it means absolutely nothing. Paul did think, in one of his “great affirmations of faith,” that security in salvation was dependent on knowing and continuing in a “set of beliefs.” Hear him, “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee” (1 Tim. 4:16). Try to explain that text with “a personal encounter” that eliminates adherence to a “set of beliefs” to cannot be done. Further, “He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him” (1 Jn. 2:4).
But Baptists and the “new unity movement” brethren in the so called free churches should not feel hard at this article or toward me. After all, my security, according to them, is not “based” on a “legalistic” set of beliefs, but on “a personal relationship.” So, I can scorn their beliefs and be just as secure as they are as long as I maintain that ever-nebulous, undefined “personal commitment to Jesus.” Somehow, though, it does not work out that smoothly. These brethren who accept the old Baptist views on grace and fellowship in Christ can accept a premillennialist, a Christian Church preacher and his piano, and institutional brethren with their human societies, because they say theirs is a “relationship to Jesus” which is not based on a “set of beliefs.” But they have a hard time following that same reasoning and accepting me. That is not being consistent.
Truth Magazine XXII: 36, p. 578
September 14, 1978