By Larry Ray Hafley
Enlarged hearts, broader love and wider, extended fellowship is the order of the day. And who is opposed to hearts filled with love and open to communion with God? Certainly no one who loves God and men can be against such things. However, there is a cry today that says the church of the Lord is too narrow, too restrictive, and that it preaches a gospel of limitation and exclusion. We are driving honest souls away with our set approach and pat replies. What we need is “more loving acceptance” of others and less emphasis on our particular, traditional ways of doing things.
In this vein, we hear liberal men as they seek to enlarge and expand the borders of God’s kingdom. With nothing but a beaming smile, a “come as you are” wink and a waving gesture, they would annex alien areas into the confines of the kingdom of God’s dear Son. Is the answer to spiritual division and false religion to take down the barriers of truth and grant people citizenship in the kingdom of heaven by simple decree? If so, I am for it. But before we make human hunches into divine decrees we must examine the rightfulness of our cause and course. Before we alter and change the wisdom of God for the wit, will and wishes of men, we must consider the precedent of the word of God.
In order to teach and reach more souls for the Lord, we are advised to loosen and soften our stance and status “in the present truth.”
For example, (1) do not quibble and quarrel over pianos and organs in worship; (2) relax restrictions against Easter, Christmas and other “holy” days; (3) do not be so sure that taking the Lord’s supper is bound upon the first day of the week; (4) our ironclad, unyielding insistence on the form and purpose of baptism must give way to a sincere believer who has been sprinkled or immersed into a denomination; (5) rigid construction as to the form of local church government must be eased in light of the changing world situation which demands some kind of organizational structure to reach the teeming billions with the gospel; (6) women’s role must be expanded to fit an enlightened society; present concepts of women in the church are the cultural residue of an ancient past which traditionally treated women as second class citizens; (7) man’s needs are societal as well as spiritual; hence, the church must adapt and present itself as a caring community committed to meeting the “felt needs of the whole man” in projects ranging from “Day Care” schools to environmental concerns (save the whales, endangered species, fund AIDS crisis centers, etc.); (8) negative, condemning remarks about hell and eternal punishment must be eliminated and replaced by positive appeals designed to soothe the sorrows and burdens of men; (9) “empty stomachs must be filled before souls can be fed”; “people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” (Translation: de-emphasize gospel preaching; meet social, secular needs).
(1) If these men had been around in Noah’s day, only the crops would have been washed away. Surely, a loving group, a caring community, could have built several auxiliary arks which would have saved those whom old narrowminded Noah excluded. Did the love of God only save eight souls by water? Did a flood actually come and take them all away? Who can believe it?
(2) Was God so exclusive that he rejected Hagar’s issue, Ishmael, from the promised seed? Was Jacob preferred over Esau in the unfolding scheme of redemption? Was Jerusalem and Mt. Sinai the seat and source of his law and not Samaria or Mt. Gerizim?
(3) Were Nadab and Abihu consumed with fire for offering “strange (foreign) fire before the Lord, which he commanded them not”? After all, fire is fire. What difference did it make? It is not like they were burning incense unto Baal. So, if their hearts were right, and if they were truly sincere. . . . (Let it be noted, for the record, they still were burned up.)
(4) Naaman considered the “rivers of Damascus,” Abana and Pharpar, better than all the waters of Israel, but if he had dipped 700 times in them rather than 7 times in the river Jordan, he would have remained a leper.
(5) David and all the people sought to please God in moving the ark of the covenant (1 Chron. 13:2-4), but when they acted contrary to God’s law, when they “sought him not after the due order,” they were smitten (1 Chron. 15:13). Where were those broadened borders of brotherhood? Ask Korah, Dathan and Abiram. what they think of attempts to rearrange God’s order and due process (Num. 13-17).
(6) A brass snake on a pole is a pretty exclusivistic, narrow way to cure snake bite, but long, loud prayers from sincere hearts did not save anyone who refused to look and live (Num. 21:4-9). Surely, if some of our modern spiritual snake doctors had been there, they could have saved a few more folks by praying or simply holding up a garden hose wrapped around a stick and saying, “Look on this and you’ll live just the same as if you really go to all the trouble to look on Moses’ serpent of brass.” Reckon it would have worked? Nope, not then, and not now, either.
(7) Imagine telling a blind man to feel and find his way down to the pool of Siloam (Jn. 9). What a waste! But who thinks he would have come “seeing”if he had not gone and done precisely what the Lord said for him to do? Not me.
The Gospel of Exclusion
When the Spirit says repent and be baptized “for the remission of sins,” what right do we have to say, “But you can do otherwise and be saved just as well”? Remember Naaman’s washing in Jordan and Moses’ serpent of brass before you answer.
May we add pianos and organs to singing when God would not allow a different fire or another way of transporting the ark of the covenant (1 Cor. 10:6,11)? Can we devise and develop extra-ecclesiastical governmental structures when God destroyed those who forsook his order (Nam. 13-17)? May we sail additional works and agencies along with the ship of Zion when nothing but the ark floated in !he days of Noah? I have a sinking feeling that we may not.
Actually and factually the gospel system is one of inclusion and exclusion. It includes “whosoever will” and excludes whosoever will not. There is one God and only one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus (1 Tim. 2:5). There is no way unto God except through Jesus the Christ (Jn. 14:6). There is no other name, power or authority by which one can be saved (Acts 4:12). There is only one foundation, and only one supreme, sublime head of the one, true church, and there is no other (1 Cor. 3:11; Eph. 1:22,23).
The faith says salvation by works of the law are excluded. It says idols are nothing in the world, that there are not gods made with hands. The delusions of ancient Athens and Ephesus were counted as base superstitions and as the pretensions of men, unable to save, bless or benefit man. Jews of the flesh are not Jews, not the Israel of God (Rom. 2:28,29). Those born of the flesh are lost until they be born from above, of water and of the Spirit. This is exclusion with a vengeance.
All spiritual blessings, all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are in Christ and no where else (Eph. 1:3; Col. 2:3). Neither principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come can aid the man who will not kneel in simple trusting faith at the feet of King Jesus, for in him and in him alone dwelleth the fulness, the completeness, the perfection of the Godhead bodily (Col. 2:9, 10). Therefore, “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Col. 2:8).
The Son of God made one question the central issue regarding the baptism of John (Matt. 21:23-32). The Jewish leaders rejected it, but Jesus said one fact made it mandatory, essential, and that fact was – was it from heaven, or was it from man? If from heaven, it must be obeyed; if from man, it could be ignored. It was “from heaven,” authorized. To refuse it was to reject the counsel and purpose of God. To accept it and be baptized was to be justified of God (Lk. 7:29,30). That is an exclusionary message.
Now, baptism in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, is it from heaven or of men? If it is from heaven and rejected by men, do they not reject God’s purpose? If not, why not? The washings of the Pharisees were not accepted by God (Mk. 7). They were excluded. The baptism of John was approved of God. Likewise, the baptisms of the denominations are human traditions, from men, which make void the word of God. Dare we accept them, sanctify them and give them equality with the “one baptism” of the gospel? No more than we can unite the Pharisees’ baptisms with the baptism of John, no more one than the other. Call that exclusionary if you must, but it is the truth.
The seven ones of Ephesians 4 (one body, one Spirit, one hope, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God) may not be expanded, multiplied or modified. If we are at liberty to make one body mean hundreds of denominations, are we free to make one Lord and one God into “gods many and lords many” (1 Cor. 8:5,6)? If the one faith can be expanded into the Catholic faith and Protestant faiths, can one Lord include lords other than Jesus?
If so, is the Book of Mormon truly “another revelation of Jesus Christ” as the Mormons claim? Would our brethren who detest and protest our “exclusionary” gospel deny the Mormons their delusionary doctrines? And what of the Jehovah’s Witnesses’ translation and of the extra books of the Catholic Bible? Are they to be included, or do our inclusionary brethren have a mean exclusionary streak in them that would deny credibility to these works?
Finally, is this article to be accepted by our broad minded brethren, or is it to be excluded? Would that not be ironic? Imagine those who decry exclusionary teaching having to exclude the views expressed here! Now where is their “loving acceptance” of teaching with which they disagree? Is it wide enough to include this material? Just who is excluding whom?
Guardian of Truth XXXV: 15, pp. 456-457
August 1, 1991