By Connie W. Adams
There is a tendency to take scriptural terms and expand them to include more than the Lord ever intended. It is all too easy to make of these terms a giant umbrella to shield whatever we want to put under it.
Timothy was admonished to “hold fast the form of sound words” (2 Tim. 1: 13). Titus was to rebuke false teachers that they might be “sound in the faith” (Titus 1: 13). He was to speak “things which become sound doctrine” (Mt. 2: 1), and to use “sound speech, that cannot be condemned” (Tit. 2:8). A preacher is therefore “sound” when he teaches the wholesome words of life found in the scripture. He must not only teach sound doctrine, he must practice it and show himself “a pattern of good works ” (Tit. 2: 7). He is to be “an example of the believers” (1 Tim. 4:12). A congregation is sound when it adheres to sound doctrine, both theoretically and practically. This means an adherence to all the truth, not just isolated parts of it. It should permit and require the whole counsel of God to be preached.
Over the past twenty-five years the majority of congregations in this country took up some practices unknown to the New Testament. The support of human institutions became widespread. Theological defenses were devised to support this practice, thus doctrinal corruption resulted. The sponsoring church idea was revised to satisfy a desire, to activate the universal church through a single agent. Along with these changes came an increasing demand for church supported entertainment and recreational facilities. The churches which began to practice such things became unsound in so doing, because there was no Bible authority for them. Those who insisted on holding to the “old paths” began to look upon themselves as “sound” churches to distinguish themselves from those who have accepted “unsound” practices. The preachers who defended these practices were “unsound” because they were implicated in that for which no scriptural defense could be made. So the terms “sound” and “unsound” began to be used with respect to certain issues. When used in that frame of reference they are legitimate.
Sadly, there have been some who have decide that the only test of soundness in a preacher is his opposition to the above named practices. With some, the term has become an umbrella wide enough to cover preachers whose lives are ungodly, whose families live by the standards of the world and disgrace the name of Christ and who are to be tolerated because they know how to give the “liberals” “what for” every now and then. Never mind that they do not know how to present a balanced diet of truth. They are “sound”. They are against Herald of Truth! Don’t get me wrong, brethren; soundness in the faith includes opposition to error whether in or out of the church, but it does not end there.
Then there are those “sound” congregations, which have severed themselves from the “liberals” but have aligned themselves with the Devil on other questions. A church which is not doing what it can to spread the gospel in its own community and elsewhere as it has opportunity is not sound. One, which does not practice corrective discipline and allows the sacred body of Christ to become a spiritual garbage (limit) where all manner of sin is shielded with not so much as a little finger lifted to correct it is not sound either. One which knows how to do nothing more than fuss and fight over ever trivial idea or opinion is not sound, even if it is opposed to the college in the budget!
Certainly every congregation has its weaknesses and room for growth and improvement. As long as the whole counsel of God can be taught there and brethren are willing to listen to the truth and make corrections where they are needed, then that church is committed to soundness. Let’s be sound in the faith, but let’s not use a scriptural term as an umbrella to cover sin.
Much is said in the New Testament about the spiritual partnership of those who serve the one Lord. Such is attained by jointly walking in the light (1 John 1: 7). There is to be no fellowship with either moral corruption (Eph. 5: 11) or doctrinal error (1 John 2:19; Gal. 1:6-9).
But again, this great spiritual relationship with all its wondrous blessings has been made an umbrella to cover all kinds of doctrinal deviations — premillennialism, instrumental music, institutionalism and you name it. Men like Carl Ketcherside and his devotees will raise their fellowship umbrella to cover it provided one has been immersed for the remission of sins at some time. All along, the borders of this umbrella are getting wider and some of the “pious unimmersed” who are “brothers in prospect” are now standing under the fringes and in due time can expect full shelter.
Anyone conversant with the New Testament knows that man did nothing to earn the great scheme of human redemption. It was provided out of the riches of God’s grace (Eph. 2:8-10). The extension of favor may be conditional or unconditional and yet classify as grace. Some of the brethren are getting excited and thinking that some of us have forgotten all about grace when we stress the importance of gospel obedience. They hint that we have minimized grace and really hold to a concept of salvation by works – that God owes us salvation. If there is any hint in the word of the Lord that the grace of God saved a sinner without his believing the Lord to the point of obeying his commandments, then it has surely escaped my notice. The Lord is still “the author of eternal salvation to all them that obey him” (Heb. 5:8-9). It will be of grace, to be sure, but grace may be rejected. The disobedient reject it and the obedient receive it. Unless a fellow has been dipping his bucket too deeply in the well of denominational theology, I fail to see the reason for the uproar. You just watch and see if this grace umbrella does not merge with the fellowship umbrella before it is all over until they will have one common handle. Already some who are enamored of Ketchersidism are in virtual ecstasy over their discovery of how the grace of God is wide enough to cover over all the doctrinal deviations, which have arisen among God’s people. Gird on your armor, brethren, there is going to be a battle over this! Dont be caught asleep.
There are other scriptural terms, proper in their correct application, which have become
umbrellas to cover too much. But perhaps enough has been said for now to rally friends of truth and to stir up a few enemies.
TRUTH MAGAZINE XVII: 18, pp. 8-9
March 8, 1973