By Larry Ray Hafley
(Recently, a young couple called and wanted to study the Bible. The young lady is a Presbyterian who is facing serious objections from her parents. Her parents do not accept the Bible as the standard of authority, and they believe that if one accepts “Church of Christ dogma,” they will “send” all their family and loved ones “to hell.” Not everything we discussed is included, but perhaps these thoughts, extracted from a letter written to them, will be helpful in your study with those who resist the truth.)
I trust that our Bible study over the phone was helpful to both of you. Our lives will always be improved by a diligent, thoughtful consideration of the word of God. Jesus said, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (Jn. 8:32). He also said, “Thy (God’s) word is truth” (Jn. 17:17). So, if we know the word of God, we know the truth, and if we know the truth, we can be made free from sin (Jn. 8:32-36; 1 Pet. 1:22-25; Jas. 1:18).
I am sure that both of you are convinced of the absolute authority of the Bible, but, nevertheless, let me prove even this point from the word of God.
“Ye shall not add unto the word which I command you, neither shall ye diminish ought from it, that ye may keep the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you” (Deut. 4:2).things which are written in this book” (Rev. 22:18, 19).
“What thing so ever I command you, observe to do it: thou shalt not add thereto, nor diminish from it” (Deut. 12:32).
“Add thou not unto his words, lest he reprove thee, and thou be found a liar” (Prov. 30:6).
“For I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the plagues that are written in this book: And if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the
Hence, from beginning to end, the Bible stresses the fact that we must not “add to” nor “take away from” what it says. That is not “my interpretation.” It is simply what the text says.
Though we have already seen the eternal danger of tampering with the word of God in the words of Revelation 22:18, 19, cited above, let us note other, similar passages:
“To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not ac-cording to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (Isa. 8:20). While there is no “light” in the words or doctrines of men, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psa. 119:105). Thus, if one wants to “walk in the light,” he must do so by walking in accordance with the word of God. But what if one will not follow the word of God?
(1) One is walking in darkness, and his deeds are evil if he will not go by the Bible. This is not my opinion. Jesus said, “For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved. But he that doeth truth cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God” (Jn. 3:20, 21).
(2) One is accursed, or cut off from God, if he will not follow the Bible. “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:8; cf. Acts 3:22, 23). We must learn “not to think of men above that which is written” (1 Cor. 4:6). One must not think more highly of the word of any man “above that which is writ-ten” in the word of God!
(3) One does not have God as his heavenly Father nor Christ as his Savior if he is not led by the Bible. “Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son” (2 Jn. 9). Further, Jesus said, “He that is of God heareth God’s words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God” (Jn. 8:47).
Observe, please, that I have not reached these conclusions based upon my own beliefs. I have simply set forth what the word of God says. Since the word of God completely and thoroughly furnishes us with all things that “pertain to life and godliness,” what need do we have for anything else (2 Tim. 3:16, 17; 2 Pet. 1:3)?
Occasionally, some may say, “Well, if what you say is true, that means that my dear loved ones are going to hell.” This is an intensely emotional argument that stirs strong feelings and causes one not to be open and receptive to objective truth. However, it is an argument that must be dealt with. How shall we respond to it?
First, note that the objection implies that what one teaches cannot be true if, because of its difficult conclusions, it causes mental and emotional pain. When doctors and scientists concluded in the mid-1960s that heavy smoking causes disease and early death, were the facts nullified by the objection, “Well, if that is true, you scientists have just caused my dear uncle to contract lung cancer because he has been a heavy smoker for many years”? Were the scientific facts of the connection between smoking and heart disease done away with, if, when they were announced, someone said, “If it is true, you doctors killed my dear friend. He smoked two packs a day and died of a heart attack be-fore he was fifty years old. If what you say is true, your medical conclusions killed him”? See the point? Did the learning of the facts, the truth, cause their deaths? If so, would a denial of the scientists’ facts and conclusions re-store the smokers back to life? No, whether or not one accepts or rejects the facts, the truth, does not change the state or condition of anyone.
Second, when I was a young boy, we were not allowed to go swimming because it was erroneously feared and believed that being in the water caused polio. Since I was not allowed to go swimming, did my belief of error keep me from contracting polio? Did my sincere adherence to a false view prevent me from having polio? No, the facts were not changed by my behavior. Though I was sincerely obeying what I believed, I still could have developed polio.
Until the 19th century, doctors “bled” their patients. (This was called “bloodletting.”) It was thought that by bleeding a sick person, the infected blood would be removed and the patient would recover. This, in part, contributed to the death of George Washington. They “bled” him, and the loss of blood served only to weaken him further, and he died. The doctors were sincere. They meant well. Now, it is known that doctors only succeeded in killing many people who may have recovered if they had not been bled to death. What if someone says, “My great, great, great-grandfather was a loyal patriot and doctor during the Revolutionary War. If what you are saying is true, you are convicting him of causing the deaths of those he sincerely sought to save.” Does the denial of the fact change the truth? Shall we urge doctors today to practice “bloodletting,” because if they do not, they will condemn former doctors as having practiced something dangerous and injurious? What doctor today would be moved by this emotional argument and begin to practice “bloodletting,” lest he “condemn” George Washington’s doctors?
Third, since we can see the folly of this reasoning in mundane matters, let us apply it to spiritual realities. To-day, some will say, “If one must be baptized to be saved, then you have just condemned my dear grandmother to hell.” There is no question that one must be baptized to “be saved.” Jesus said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” (Mk. 16:16). Who “shall be saved”? “He that believeth and is baptized.” At least, that is what the Son of God said. Having settled that fact with all who believe the word of Christ, what shall we say to the emotional argument which says, “By so teaching, you have condemned my dear grand-mother to hell”?
(1) Atheists, evolutionists, Jews, and Buddhists have “dear, sweet” grandmothers, too. But the person who objects to baptism often will say that one “must believe on the Lord Jesus in order to be saved.” In this, they are correct (Jn. 3:16; 8:24; Acts 16:31). Jesus said, “No man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (Jn. 14:6). Suppose the one who rejects baptism, because he believes it condemns his relatives, is talking to a Jew or a Buddhist and is trying to persuade him to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” and be saved. Suppose the devout, upright, sincere, and honest Jew or Buddhist says, “If I have to believe in Jesus to be saved, that means that my dear mother is in hell because she did not believe in Jesus as the Son of God.” Jews and Buddhists have dear relatives, too. Shall we cease to teach and preach faith in Jesus because such preaching condemns the loved ones of our unbelieving Jewish friends?
Now, if Baptists and Methodists, for example, can reject baptism as being essential to salvation “because it condemns my wonderful grandfather,” will they reject and refuse “faith in Christ” as being essential to salvation because “such a doctrine condemns” the dear loved ones of the Jews, Hindus, and Buddhists?
What about a morally upright atheist? Shall we convince him that God exists, and that he is accountable to the Lord? What if our atheist friend says, “If there is a God, and if there is a future judgment, you have just condemned my dear father to hell. He lived a good, moral life, but he is the one who taught me that there is no God.” When our atheist friend makes this very emotional statement, shall we deny that one must believe in God in order to be saved? No, for “without faith it is impossible to please him (God): for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him” (Heb. 11:6). However, if one can reject what the Lord said about being baptized and still be saved, upon the very same basis, why cannot the atheist reject belief in God and still expect to be saved? If this is so, universal salvation prevails; all will be saved; none will be lost; it matters not how anyone lives; it matters not what anyone believes; there is no heaven to gain and no hell to shun; it matters not at all whether Jesus Christ ever lived or died or even existed. All will be saved, if emotional arguments abolish divine truth.
(2) After his death, the rich man prayed and pleaded for the salvation of his brothers (Lk. 16:19-31). Despite his earnest and sincere desire that his brothers not “also come into this place of torment,” they (his brothers) still had to hear and obey the word of God (Lk. 16:27-31). The story of the rich man in this text is an exceedingly emotional one. Surely, if ever an exception were going to be made, it would have been in this case. Here is a man who has passed from this life. He recognizes that all hope for himself is gone forever. Unselfishly, he begs that his “five brothers” not be allowed to “come into this place of torment.”
But the strong emotions and desperate feelings of this poor, suffering man do not alter the situation. His brother sstill had to “hear” and obey the word of God. That being so, what makes us think that our emotions and pitiful circumstances will offset or override the loving incentives and tender inducements of gospel obedience?
(3) In a Bible study some years ago with a very respected and good man, a member of a large and prominent protestant, denominational church, this fine man said, “My dear wife recently died of cancer. She was a devout and active member of our denomination. She was a good wife and mother. If what you say is true, and if I accept it, I will be condemning her.” As gently and softly as I could, I related some of the things addressed above, then I said words to this effect:
“Your dear wife is in the hands of an infinitely just and loving God. He will do right by her and by all of us. We cannot affect the eternal destiny of any soul who has gone on from this life. Now, (and I called the gentleman by name) if your wife, being the good and wonderful person she was, if she knew what you now know, what would she do if she were here? Would she deny the truth, or would she obey the truth? Further, if your good and honest wife knew that you now know the will of God, what would she encourage you to do? Would she, devout and honorable woman that she was, tell you to ignore the truth? Would she insist that you reject the truth and not be obedient to it, or would she en-courage you to believe and obey it?” I paused. Tears were in our eyes. Silence and sorrow enshrouded our hearts. A week or so later the man obeyed the gospel, being “baptized into Christ.”
These are some thoughts for your study and prayerful consideration. Please be patient and kind with those that appear hardened against reason and truth. Often, people who are the most difficult to teach are the ones who can be won to Christ. Sometimes their stubborn hearts cause them to study and “prove that you’re wrong.” When they do this, they discover the truth. Keep an open, honest, receptive heart to what God says in his divine word, the Bible. Those who love the truth and who desire to know and obey it shall find it. Take care.
Guardian of Truth XXXIX: No. 21, p. 10-12
November 2, 1995