By Thomas F. Shropshire
In Philippians 1:15, 16 Paul said, “Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: the one does it of love, knowing that I am set for a defense of the gospel.” A defense of the gospel embraces a broad field of teaching and practice, both individually and collectively. But in this essay, I wish to consider one particular phase of this general subject.
Let us consider what Paul wrote to the Ephesians in Ephesians 6:10-17, giving particular attention to verse 12. “Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of his might. Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world-rulers of this darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Wherefore take up the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; withal taking up the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.”
In verse 11, Paul teaches us to “put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil.” In verses 14 through part of verse 17, he lists the various parts of the Christian’s armor; about which we will not deal particularly, except to say that each particular one is vital to our protection from a spiritual standpoint. In verse 17, he speaks of the only weapon to be used in the conflict.
Now we want to give particular attention to verse 12, in which Paul speaks of the nature of the conflict involved and the nature of the foe to be met. He speaks of “spiritual wickedness” in high or heavenly places. In this verse the wickedness of a spiritual nature or with reference. to spiritual matters, in high places or upon a spiritual plane, gives us the idea of the field of conflict involved.
The vast majority of the sectarian world despise any idea, to say nothing of any practice of controversy upon religious matters. It is a sad thing indeed to see some members of the body of Christ, recognizing sectarians as “Christians” and using terms which are sectarian in their origin. Many will say, “A false religion is better than no religion.” I cannot share this belief. This idea is modernistic in nature. False religions may have some merit in improving .society and life of a temporal nature, but it is deceitful in its influence and wicked in the sight of God. It is fatal spiritually and will cause millions to be lost eternally.
Among many members of the body of Christ, when a preacher has the intestinal fortitude to oppose false doctrine, some will become incensed with indignation toward that preacher and criticize him, even in the presence of their sectarian friends. This makes about as much sense as if one saw his neighbor’s house on fire and let him burn to death for fear of hurting his feelings if he warned him of his danger.
The issues between Christians and denominationalists are clearly drawn. Of course denominationalists pay “lip-service” to the Bible, but ignore it when it comes to the conditions of primary obedience as well as church procedures in work, worship and organization. All denominations, with the possible exception of one, teach that salvation comes in a miraculous manner without and independent of obedience to the truth. The idea of faith only “trusting Christ as your personal savior” – does not come from the Bible but from the imagination of men. Paul said, “So belief cometh of hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Rom. 10:17). Since our faith that leads to salvation, comes by hearing the word of Christ, our faith will consist in what the word of Christ says in the New Testament. Until one hears, believes and obeys what Christ says in the New Testament, he cannot even come close to being saved or having his sins forgiven.
In Matthew 28:18-20 Jesus said, “All authority hath been given unto me in heaven and on earth. Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them into the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy spirit: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” In Mark 16:15, 16 Jesus said, to the apostles, “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that disbelieveth shall be condemned.” In Luke 24:46, 47 Jesus also said, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer, and rise from the dead the third day; and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name unto all the nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” These things were combined in the preaching of the apostles on the first Pentecost after the resurrection of Christ, through the influence of the Holy Spirit whom Christ had promised would be sent to them in His name. “Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly (believe beyond a shadow of doubt – T.F.S.), that God hath made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom ye crucified. Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and the rest of the apostles, brethren, what shall we do? And Peter said unto them, repent ye, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ unto the remission of your sins; and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:36-38).
Sectarians will say, “That is your interpretation of it.” I deny that this is mine or anyone else’s interpretation of anything. The Lord simply meant what He said and said what He meant. Actually, the term “interpretation” as they used it, is called by Peter, “wresting” in 2 Peter 3:15, 16. “And account that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also, according to the wisdom given to him, wrote unto you; as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of their things; wherein are some things hard to be understood, which the ignorant and unsteadfast wrest, as they do also to the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.”
Authority Of The Scriptures
One of the largest religious bodies in the world, the Roman Catholic Church, rejects completely the authority of the Scriptures. The only use they make of the Scriptures is when they are trying to convince people who are supposed to accept the Scriptures as the inspired word of God. The whole system of Catholic teaching is founded upon the claim that authority was vested in a succession of men, with the living Pope at the top of the heap, and not in the original apostles and New Testament prophets alone, who wrote the New Testament. The original apostles and New Testament prophets had no successors and wrote the. New Testament through inspiration of the Holy Spirit. The Catholic Church in no way remotely resembles the church of the Lord as it is revealed upon the pages of inspiration. Nor do they claim that it does, since they claim to be the successors of the apostles. The Catholics have placed themselves in an insurmountable dilemma. Either they are wrong in their claim of authority or the apostles were wrong in what is written in the New Testament. The Catholic’s claim of the supremacy of Peter, based upon their weak and obvious perversion of Matthew 16:18, is the foundation of their whole system.
The matter of a recognition of the authority of the Scripture is the first line of battle with the devil and his spiritual hosts of wickedness in heavenly places or in regard to spiritual matters. Whether it be the Catholics, whose whole system is based upon the authority of men who are imposters, or those who claim miraculous experiences, as opposed to Divine Truth, until they come to the point of allowing the Scriptures to decide any and every religious discussion, there is no basis of agreement.
Guardian of Truth XXVII: 14, pp. 429-430
July 21, 1983