By Stanley Paher
Harry Truman’s bold words, “If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen,” is an apt commentary upon Larry Hafley’s five page rambling response to my letter sent directly to him recently. If Larry has not violated the letter of Matthew 18:15 – if a brother sins against you, go show him your fault – then he has violated the spirit of that great principle. The lessons are two-fold: (1) if he criticizes others’ articles and differences over faith, then he should learn to take criticism; he should also (2) respond directly to a simple letter instead of converting a private matter into a public one through publication in a journal such as Guardian of Truth.
Larry has not answered my argument. He says that Simon is an example of yo-yo-ism. But all one can get out of Acts 8:18-24 is saved, lost, saved, if that. Larry’s yo-yo string is jammed. Now the ongoing debate on this matter is whether or not salvation is a reality in the Christian’s life continuously (interrupted only by faith failing and renouncing Christ) or whether salvation is an on-off, yes-no, up-down thing, hour by hour, in the Christian walk. The latter is implied in yo-yo-ism and expressed in his letter and recent article in Guardian of Truth. It is erroneous.
More than the above faults, Larry knows that those who advocate constant cleansing do not excuse sin or minimize any sin. We do not love error or knowingly tolerate it or otherwise have fellowship with it. Yet Larry says that our position “opens up broad opportunities for wickedness,” others say that constant cleansing promotes a loose attitude toward error and encourages sinful living.
The opposite is true. Yo-yo-ism advocates have an inadequate notion of what sin is. It is more than transgression of law; sin is any thought, word, deed or action that violates the spirit of any of God’s laws, as well as the letter. Anyone with a profound sense of sin would not argue about how God saves and what he does about sins, day-in, and day-out.
To Larry and others of the Guardian of Truth, Facts and Faith, and Searching the Scriptures triad of papers, sin is treated subjectively rather than objectively. At most such concepts of sin and law saves one from sinning but not from sin itself; it saves from known sin but not from the corruption of a man’s heart. This is true because the triad ignores the fact that sin consists of any lack of conformity to the will of God as well as specific transgression of law. Secondly, acceptability consists of more than “repenting and confessing sin” (the so-called second law of pardon); it is a matter of forsaking sin as well.
Larry’s bypassing of me and gossiping my letter to others is evidently sin because the spirit of Matthew 18:15 is violated. By ignoring the spirit of God’s laws, it is often tempting and easy to cheat. “The Bible does not say, thou shalt not smoke,” some have reasoned. Mere adherence to the letter of commandments never makes a man holy, but living by the Christ-principles can and does make him upright. By recognizing divine biblical principles, one can find any number of good reasons why a Christian should not smoke.
Righteousness therefore comes through grace-faith and not solely by obeying New Testament commandments. Remission of sins, including violating Matthew 18:15, was never intended to come by mere law-keeping. Otherwise, justification could never be made sure (Rom. 4:16b). The Bible’s great moral principles must be recognized and made a very part of the fabric of our beings.
Guardian of Truth XXIX: 1, p. 8
January 3, 1985