Edifying the Saints in the Philippines

By Victorio R. Tibayan

The Filipino Christian’s growth in the knowledge of the doctrine of Christ which is directed towards maturity in the `;faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints” is the immediate need of the day. This is implicitly founded on the fact of, (1) The religious confusion bordering on or outright unbelief of the Bible; brought about by the powerful Roman Catholic influence and aggravated afterwards by the modernistic tendencies of the Denominations and Sects, and is explicit in, (2) The mandate of the Son of God.

For about 400 years the Philippines was a colony of Spain . . . once a proud and mighty votary of Roman Catholicism. It is said that she conquered the Filipino people with the “cross” held by her left hand and a sword held by the right hand. The friars who went with the “Invincible Spanish Armada” subjugated the minds of the freedom-loving peoples of this land. Paganism as contrasted to Roman Catholic Christianity was destroyed in the main. And in place of heathen rituals and beliefs; Roman Catholic dogmas, human traditions and superstitions came to be the Filipinos’ religious way of life. The Bible was never introduced and the reading of it was prohibited whenever discovered in the hands of the natives. In the process, the marks of Catholicism seeped throughout all the facets of life of the vanquished people. Needless to say, the Roman Catholic Priests vested in themselves authority which even the Old Testament did not give to the Levitical Priesthood. Papal edicts eroded even the cherished customs of the Filipino people and pervaded their very constitution. As a “crowning achievement” to their infamous colonization, the Philippines is now dubbed as “The only Christian nation in the Far East.” This is a farce. It only means that the majority of the Filipino people are subjects of the Roman Catholic religion and that it is not so with the other nations of the Far East. Furthermore, . the idea is opposed to Biblical teachings as regards the name Christian which is applied only to individuals who have obeyed the gospel. (Acts 11:26; 26:28; 1 Pet. 4:16.) The religious tyranny of Catholicism aroused the dormant desire of the oppressed to be free. Moreover, this melancholy experience left a deep scar in the hearts of the people as to be from henceforth vigilant against any kind of suppression. Naturally, the very long period of Catholic dominance in the Philippines left also, a great impact in the religious convictions of the Filipinos. But ironically, there was sown a realization among a few of the people that there must be a true religion acceptable to God . . . and they are yearning for this!

At the turn of the 19th century, Protestant Denominations of divers hues and forms appeared on the scene. Quite a number of people embraced the new breed of religionists with hope. Seemingly, these groups are bereft of religious leaders athirst for power. They introduced the Bible and worked for its dissemination. So-called believers were given the impression of total dependence on the Scriptures and not by the authority of man. But considering that Catholic influence kept the people in darkness, the brilliant light of the word of God, sad to say, temporarily blinded the eyes of the reliant victims of Denominational errors. For a period they were prevented from exhaustively examining the Book. And, though sincere in their desire to be right with God, these people “. . . erred not knowing the Scriptures.” As a matter of fact, the Denominations are standing on the naked authority of man and use the Bible only as a scaffolding through which to erect their various human doctrines. Consequently, the sand-based doctrinal structures of the Denominations and Sects with their conflicting tenets brought confusion and utter indifference in the religious realm. Only those who were begotten of the Father kept the “beacon of desire” to seek fully the truth, glowing in brightness. The Protestant leaders, in their desire to .safeguard their cause, are now launching a massive and militant religious invasion of the Philippines. Yet being outgrowths of Catholicism, a majority of them teamed up with the Romanists in the name of Ecumenism. Under the circumstances, the need of the day is for faithful Christians to so arm themselves to the hilt with the word of God . . . to be so grounded in the faith, growing more and more in Jesus Christ.

Such edification is clearly emphasized. most especially in the New Testament. Without this; conversion is rendered worthless. Apostasy follows. All .previous sacrifices that went with the work of enlisting people to the service of the Lord comes to naught. Saints ought to be trained unto perfection! In the inspired account concerning the apostle Paul’s missionary journeys, it is said that he, “. . . went through Syria and Cilicia, confirming the churches” (Acts 15:14). And to the Ephesians he wrote, `And he gave some to be apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints . . .” (Eph. 4:11,12). The Lord, in what is commonly called “The Great Commission” gave substance to the work of perfecting or edifying the body of believers. He said, “. . . teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world” (Matt. 28:19, 20). Edifying is progressive. Peter admonishes the newborn babes to, “. . . long for the spiritual milk which is without guile, that ye may grow thereby unto salvation” (1 Pet. 2:2). By this verse alone, it is clear that a child of God must not remain undeveloped. Otherwise, he will be stunted as to Christian growth. In this connection, Paul expressed a supplemental advice in the form of a rebuke. “For when by reason of the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need again that some one teach you the rudiments of the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of solid food. For every one that partaketh of milk is without experience of the word of righteousness; for he is a babe. But solid food is for full-grown men, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern good and .evil” (Heb. 5:12-14).

Filipino gospel preachers understand this need (to confirm the saints) and are willing to render their all for the sake of Jesus. Practically speaking, they are most suited for the purpose; being identified with the people and knowledgeable in the understanding of the indigenous problems which confront the brethren. Nevertheless, one important element lacking for a successful and Scriptural accomplishment of this responsibility unto the glory of the Father is a relative sufficiency in the knowledge of the doctrine of Christ. Written materials are such a source of knowledge. For sure, a number of them have access to an abundant literary helps for this kind of work. However, these written aids and references cannot usurp the different kind of advantage which can be had through the personal teachings by faithful preachers who have already attained such stature as to be of great service to other preachers. This is supplemental to the written works and is necessary. Such men of ability have had the benefit of being recipients of a rich heritage from the history of their nation’s religious conflicts; of having sat at the feet of mature Christians and of having access to a far greater number of voluminous religious reading matters.

Possession of these things coupled with an understanding of the unique Filipino problems in the light of their different culture are valid considerations in determining whom to invite here to equip the Filipinos in the work of building up the faith of the saints. The excellencies of brethren Cecil Willis and Connie W. Adams- measure up to our considered expectations in connection with the need for edifying the saints here. We have arrived at this consensus a long time ago and which led us to invite them insistently. Having consented to .come for this purpose, we are assured that they will be able to teach the faithful preachers of the gospel here the more excellent way, and “. . . who shall be able to teach others also.”

Truth Magazine XIX: 19, pp. 295-296
March 20, 1975