Willis-Bowers Debate

By Don Willis

Cecil Willis engaged Mr. G. M. Bowers of the Seventh Day Church of God in a public debate on the Sabbath question. The debate was conducted at the Southside church of Christ building in Huntsville, Texas on March 5-6 and 8-9.

Many have been concerned in recent months relative to the health of Cecil Willis. The family also expressed concern as he entered the debate. There have been so many circumstances to affect Cecil in recent months, that his nervous system has almost been taxed to the limit. However, Cecil was amply prepared (as has always been his custom) for this discussion. He entered the debate with around 140 charts dealing with almost every conceivable argument that Bowers desired to present. Cecil was assisted by his two preaching sons: Steve and Dave; and I helped some.

Bowers would deny no affirmation that Cecil suggested; thus, Bowers was in the affirmative for four nights. The proposition read: “Resolved: The Scriptures teach that the Ten Commandments are not part of the Old Covenant, that all Ten Commandments are repeated in the New Testament, including the Sabbath command, and that Sunday worship is of pagan origin, and comes to us through the Catholic Church.” Bowers had no local endorsement. The nearest Seventh Day Church of God published an article repudiating Mr. Bowers, and they did not attend the debate.

Bowers chief affirmative was that there is a difference in the Commandments and the Ordinances (Judgments) found in the Old Testament. He affirmed that the Commandments were the Ten Commandments (and certain other injunctions chosen by Bowers by his own ipsi dixit; e.g., laws regulating Diet, Worship, Social Conduct, Charity, Sanitation and Business). thus, every time Bowers would find the statement, “keep the commandments” or “keep the law” (cf. 1 Jn. 3:4; 5:3, etc.), he always related this to the Ten Commandments.

Cecil showed the uses of terms such as commands, statutes, judgments were all used for the Ten Commandments (Deut. 5:1 ff). He further proved that the Ten Commandments were not from the beginning, for they were not made with the Israelites’ “fathers,” but with you who are alive this day (Deut. 5:3). Further, Cecil convicted Bowers of being a Judaizer of Judaizers. Bowers simply held up a finger signifying he was “Number One”Judaizer.

Second, Bowers affirmed that Heb. 4:9 commanded the Christians to keep the Sabbath. Christians need to be acquainted of this passage and the use made by Sabbataraians. “It is therefore the duty of the people of God to keep the Sabbath” (Heb. 4:9, Peshitta Translation by Lamsa).

Several translations of Heb. 4:9 were printed manifesting the inaccuracy of the Lamsa translation. Cecil had one chart showing that sabbaton was the Greek word for the Seventh Day Sabbath; sabbatismos is the word used in Heb. 4:9. Therefore, Heb. 4:9 is not teaching a seventh day sabbath, but a future rest. Bowers had so stated this identical point in his book Faith and Doctrines of the Early Church.

Third, Bowers affirmed that the Catholic Church ordained Sunday as the day of worship, borrowing such from Pagan Sun worship. Cecil attempted to get Bowers to tell when the Roman Catholic Church had its beginning. Bowers refused! Cecil had used Acts 20:7 and I Cor. 16:1-2 specifying the first day; plus quotes from the early writings all the way back to 90 A.D. that the first day was observed by New Testament saints. The Roman Catholic Church was not in existence, therefore could not have begun the practice!

Bowers was inept as a debater. Brother Willis was amply prepared on all phases of the proposition, and answered all of his arguments and presented the truth relative to Divine Worship. Truth has never suffered at the hands of Cecil Willis. I rejoice in being his brother in the flesh, and with you can rejoice that Cecil Willis is back to his old self ip ability and sharpness!

Truth Magazine XXIII: 18, p. 299
May 3, 1979