By Keith M. Greer
Over the past five years I have listened to, read about and observed a growing problem among brethren. In many of the papers and periodicals published by brethren, we seem to be in a “death struggle” over a serious Bible teaching concerning the proper exegesis of Romans 14.
But if you bite and devour one another, beware lest you be consumed by one another! (Gal. 5:15).
Can one be so blind, as to not see the “ever widening gap” that is occurring between us over this issue of fellow-ship? Over the past few years I have read and studied both sides of these issues. I have preached on these matters personally in many places across the country. Also, I have discussed my understanding of these issues with elders, preachers, and many members of the church. Allow me to offer some personal observations for your consideration.
All of this began, as I see it, in recent times over an article in Christianity Magazine where brother Ed Harrell defended brother Homer Hailey, as he called it, “an unheroic assault on a 85-year-old warrior” (Nov.1988, 6). I listened to a discussion with Mike Willis and Ed Harrell at Tampa Florida (I believe at the 1990 Lectures), where the study centered around Homer Hailey not his teaching on the Marriage, Divorce and Remarriage issue! Homer Hailey is not the issue never has been the false teaching being done is the issue. Brother Harrell followed up this article with a series of sixteen articles on the “Bounds of Christian Unity.” I have read and reread these articles.
Over the next few years other articles have been written in other papers addressing these issues. I have personally discussed my concerns with brother Dee Bowman by phone and letters. I talked briefly with Ed Harrell at the Lectures. Numerous discussions have been held with Mike Willis, Cecil Willis, Ron Halbrook, Larry Hafley, Harry Osborne, Tom Roberts, Joe Price, and countless other preachers.
Recently I attended Hebron Lane, in Louisville, Kentucky to hear Connie Adams discuss the subject of Romans 14, so I have gotten many different viewpoints. Of course I have done a personal study of Romans 14 and Bible fellow-ship.
Articles such as brother Paul Earnhart, “Watch Them Dogs” (July 1996, Christianity Magazine); Connie Adams, “Watch Which Dogs?”(Guardian of Truth, February 6, 1997); Larry Hafley, “Nice Doggy”(which I reviewed on the Internet). I recently read an excellent set of articles by Thomas O’Neal (Walking In Truth, Volume 21, #3). Count-less other articles have also been written, but I think you see my point.
Being a “younger” gospel preacher (years of experience about ten) than most of these men, I’ve done what I thought was best listened, studied, read, and observed. Now I feel the need to speak out to offer my humble opinion, for what it is worth, to my brethren on both sides of these is-sues (Romans 14 and Fellowship).
What has happened to honest, open, loving discussions over issues which divide us? Why have we not learned from the events of the past? Bitter attitudes, open ill will, and prejudging another’s motives will only lead to the devil gaining ground! We be brethren! What does God’s word clearly teach concerning our relationship as brethren? Please read these passages: John 13:34, 35; 1 John 2:9-11; 3:15, 16; 4:19-21; 5:1.
By my personal observation, not much love has been shown on either side! Let us get away from personal at-tacks, distrust, and an attack of judging another untrustworthy! What did the apostles, elders, and brethren do in Acts 15 when a difference arose in the early church? They met to discuss the matter. Why? For the sake of the church and the love they had for the souls of their brethren.
Lest one misjudge my motives, I believe these issues are serious and are placing souls in “harm’s way.” Doors are being opened that my grandchildren may never be able to shut! We have a wonderful opportunity to cut off Satan “at the pass.” Will we do it? Time will surely tell. This bickering and jockeying for position is allowing Satan to gain ground and will cost the Lord’s church precious souls; both those we could be teaching and those already Christians by the means of discouragement!
What do I suggest? Open, honest, meaningful, and forthright discussions over our differences! My door is opened to do whatever I can to help bring about these discussions. Editors of Christianity Magazine and the Guardian of Truth, and others who have been drawn into this controversy, need to sit down face to face, heart to heart. Let us open Bibles and open our hearts to “rightly divide the word of God”!
Who will make the first move? Put aside personal differences, personal reservations, statements and events of the past, personal feelings and look at the larger picture precious souls and the growth of the Lord’s church. Take these discussions out of the papers, off the Internet, and bring them to the table! My dear brethren, have we forgotten we were all bought by the same blood?
As a fellow preacher of the gospel, I am quite discouraged at the actions of many of my preaching peers on both sides of the issue. This petty and childish behavior needs to come to an end and we need to act like men who are concerned about one another’s spiritual condition and the countless others who are watching our actions.
Who is right and who is wrong? God’s word will give us the answer. The important thing now is to let us again come together as those of “like precious faith.” Will it be easy? Probably not. Yet, please consider the alternative. How can honest, open, discussions between brethren make it worse than it already is?
I am sending this article to Mike Willis of the Guardian of Truth and Dee Bowman of Christianity Magazine. It will be their personal decision to print my article.
In closing, I want to pray to God that all may see the seriousness of this subject (and any subject on which we are divided), and how we have handled it thus far. All I am is one gospel preacher who loves the Lord’s church and my brethren. In much prayer and hope I will watch and listen. Is anyone listening?
(Editor’s Note: I appreciate the good article that brother Greer submitted to both me and Christianity Magazine appealing for us to sit down together and discuss our differences. Whereas I would disagree with his assessment that the focus of the discussion between brother Harrell and me was on Homer Hailey rather than the issue [brother Harrell was the only one to allude to brother Hailey, as I recall; my speech is available in the February 7, 1991 is-sue of Guardian of Truth]. For the sake of our readers and brother Greer, I wish to inform brethren that I have been part of four efforts to arrange a face-to-face meeting with the editors of Christianity Magazine, two of which I personally initiated. In every case, they have refused to meet with us, giving as their reason that they do not trust us. The men whom they considered unworthy of trust were Connie W Adams, Ron Halbrook, Tom Roberts, and me. I cannot specifically recall whether or not other names were included in the list to meet on each separate occasion, although some efforts included additional names. I remain disappointed that such a meeting has not occurred, but the reason such a meeting has not already taken place is not because efforts have not been made.)
Guardian of Truth XLI: 23 p. 21-22
December 4, 1997