Monday, February 27, 2012

The Bible is Written to Correct All Errors of Any Kind #2

The Bible is Written to Correct All Errors of Any Kind #2

An amazing exchange of ideas was recently engaged on a public media when a brother said:  Just a note for those who are really interested in the Bible. Not one word of it was written to correct the errors of denominationalism. Every passage dealing with division relates to those who are brethren who are not together. Let us learn to quit using The Book to attack denominationalism. It didn't exist when it was written.

Now, that statement has gone through a series of tests and explanations which render it worthless. The writer now says that scripture will correct all errors, but that : 1) There were no denominations when the Bible was written, and 2) None of the Bible books were DIRECTED at denominations to try to reform them.  But, that is a useless point, for NO ONE is “using the Book to attack denominationalism”, much less read the book TO them in an effort to get them to reform their denomination.  So, his original words were red herring words designed to create confusion, and ultimately had no practical value, and actually encouraged some weaker brethren to think they should not speak against the errors of denominationalism.  If they do not see his newer admissions, they will think that they should not use the scriptures to point out the errors of denominationalism.  Our brother’s  latest explanation was:

On the use of scripture to teach about errors associated with the denominationalism we see everywhere we may certainly use scripture to oppose all error, but not one word in scripture was directed at denominationalism because it did not exist. On a similar note; when we argue there is no authority in scripture for Mormons calling children "elders" we need to remember, the Mormon church isn't authorized in scripture so they can call them whatever they want since they make the rules. I may well show that elders in scripture are older, married men with children, but not one verse of scripture is directed toward Mormon "elders."\

TB: But, this renders his original comment as totally useless except for purposes of confusion. He now says “we may certainly use scripture to oppose all error” including “errors associated with the denominationalism we see every where”. Well, that is all anybody EVER does. When he says “not one scripture was directed at denominationalism” when it was written, that is an immaterial point. Nobody today reads the scriptures as if it was DIRECTED at a denomination.

 He says “I may well show that elders in scripture are older, married men with children, but not one verse of scripture is directed toward Mormon "elders."\. Well, then he is using scripture to correct the errors taught by the Mormon denomination even though the scriptures were not directed toward Mormon elders. So, what difference does it make if they were directed at Mormon elders or not?  That is a useless point since no one believes that Paul was writing to a Mormon Church, and no one is trying to reform a Mormon Church.  All who preach against the Mormon religion are simply using the scriptures to show the errors in teaching and practice that differs from what the scriptures actually teach.

His original comment indicated what we are “attacking” the denominations if we use the scriptures to point out the errors of denominationalism, and that we should quit using the scriptures to point out the errors of denominationalism since it did not exist when the scriptures were written.  But now he says we may use the scriptures to show the difference between what the Mormon “elder” is doing and what the Bible says SHOULD be characteristic of “elders”.  Well, that is all any of us ever do. When our brother does that, is he “attacking” or teaching?  I don’t view teaching the truth to correct errors in denominational thinking as “attacking” anyone. I view it as teaching the truth in love in an effort to lead one out of error into the light of truth.

Now, the Bible was written to correct all errors, no matter where it comes from, and when we try to correct errors that are promoted by denominational people, we are not “attacking” them, but trying to teach the truth in love so that they too can be corrected by the scriptures (2 Tim.3:15-17), just as we have been corrected by the scriptures and just as we are being corrected by the scriptures.

We all have adjustments to make and the scriptures call upon us to continually work on making those corrections. The brother above said to ”Quit using the Book to attack denominationalism”, but who is using the Book to “attack” anyone?  Was our brother “attacking” someone when he made the above comment?  Words need to be used wisely, no doubt, but all errors need to be corrected, no matter if it is taught by preachers and teachers from denominations, or if the errors taught in denominations are brought into the church, or if we simply want to equip the brethren with knowledge of error that may potentially come from denominations into the thinking of our brethren, or if we want to equip brethren so that they can teach others the truth and lead them out of error. 

Our brother was not too pleased that I tried to point these things out. At any rate, he began an effort to explain his meaning, but as he did so, his original message began to change a little at the time. Notice some further comments he made on this topic. Our brother said:

1.       However, you never cited a scripture which pointed out the errors of any denominational body which was (were) directed at such a movement.

TB: When we teach someone in a denominational body we always teach the truth on Jesus, His Lordship, and how doing what Jesus says is not what is done in a denomination. Thus, those scriptures that point out “doing the will of God” or “doing what Jesus commands” are scriptures that begin pointing out the errors of their denominational body.  I don’t know of anyone who contends that the scriptures were “directed at such a movement”, but only that the truth first directed to Christians is truth that Christians must use to correct any and all errors. Why would I need a scripture “directed at the Mormon Church” before I could point out the errors associated with the Mormon Church?  It is an absolutely useless point to make in an effort to try to justify the error of his original comment.  

I do not know of brethren who  think that we should spend time trying to artificially “unite” the various denominations.  So, if our brother above is upset about brethren trying to do that, then he is wasting his breath.  Nobody makes those kind of efforts.  We try to correct one person at a time and use the Bible to correct whatever errors that person has been involved in in their particular denomination, so that they do not stay in that error-teaching body. He further said:

2.        As for not teaching on issues which may not be specifically addressed in scripture (Islam, for instance) that does not mean one cannot preach Christ. When we put forth the Savior of the world who died for men's sins, those who come to hiim will want to follow him correctly.

TB: Notice that our brother shoots his argument in the foot.  By saying that they will “want to follow Him correctly”, he is unwittingly admitting that they might be influenced wrongly unless they learn HOW to follow Him correctly. But, to follow Him correctly, they must learn that they have been taught incorrectly about Jesus and their whole religion has been incorrect. Our brother  tries hard to pretend that he does have to spend any time “correcting” people from Islam or from denominations, but he is fooling no one but himself.  When you talk to a Muslim, you will have to correct his thinking about the Bible, versus the Quran. You will have to correct his thinking about Who Jesus is: Messiah and Mighty God, or just a human prophet. You will have to use the scriptures to correct his thinking, even though NONE of the Bible was originally written to the Islamic religion.  See how utterly useless was our brother’s original comment except to create confusion which misleads some to think that they should not spend time using the scriptures to correct errors of denominationalism?

Our brother  changed his original statement a bit more in an effort to cover over the error of his original comment. He says:

 I really don't know what to say, but will say it anyway. All error should be corrected from the scriptures where possible. However, not one verse of scripture was directed at denominationalism to correct its errors. Denominationalism did not exist at the time the Book was written.

TB: Of course NO ONE, especially me, ever said that the scripture “was directed at denominationalism to correct its errors”.  I have insisted that the scripture will correct all errors including those errors taught by denominations and their teachers.  How am I wrong? I never seek to bash anyone or to cram things down the throats of people, but we do try to humbly teach the truth and correct errors that sometimes originated in denominations and filter into the church.  Our brother should have stopped when he said: “All error should be corrected from the scriptures where possible.”  Well, some error comes to us from denominations, and then it is possible to correct it. Some error in denominations are influencing them to talk about the “cult” and error of churches of Christ as they view it. That means that we have to be ready to defend the truth against the errors of denominationalism.

 It is immaterial whether modern denominations existed when the Book was written. The Bible teaches the truth; modern denominations teach error, and therefore the Bible is written to correct error if it comes to us from within the church or if it comes to us from denominations outside the church. “All error should be corrected” and that is the stand our brother should have taken instead of arousing brethren by his original controversial comment.

In our day, there are many denominational preachers who misuse the scriptures to “attack” churches of Christ.  They call us a cult or a denomination. We should “correct the errors of those denominational preachers” by standing up and contending earnestly for the faith. We should us the scriptures correctly and use them to correct those denominational errors.  Our brother should have said this instead of the misleading comment he made. 

Now, in summary, the scriptures are given to the man of God so that he can be “corrected” and help to correct others who are in error (2 Tim.3:16-17). When we are converting people to Jesus, there are times when we have to show that they have been taught “another Jesus”(2 Cor.11:3-4) and “another gospel”(Gal.1:6-10).  We have to use the scriptures to “correct” the misinformation they have been fed for years and years.  We have to be ready to show the difference between “faith” and “faith-only” which is learned in denominations.  We have to be ready to show the errors people are taught that do not coincide with the scriptures.  We have to be ready because some people want to know the truth, and some people need the truth contrasted with the errors they have been taught.  We should not spend all of our energy and time bashing other religions and denominations, but we certainly would be wrong if we did not correct errors that are now in the church or correct errors that are in the minds of people outside the church so that they can know to come in.  I say all this in love for our brother, and for all people who got the same idea from his words as I did.  I do not wish to differ with anyone, but since we do, I want to set the record straight.  We have to use the scriptures to correct error that is already in the church and error that can potentially enter the church via the teaching of denominations. No matter where the error is found and no matter when the particular error arose, the scriptures are given for “correction and instruction in righteousness”.  God said it, and that settles it whether people want to believe it or not!

Terry W. Benton

Friday, February 24, 2012

The Bible is Written to Correct All Errors of Any Kind

The Bible is Written to Correct All Errors of Any Kind

A brother wrote:

Just a note for those who are really interested in the Bible. Not one word of it was written to correct the errors of denominationalism. Every passage dealing with division relates to those who are brethren who are not together. Let us learn to quit using The Book to attack denominationalism. It didn't exist when it was written.

TB:  First, let me say that teaching the truth about someone’s errors is not “attacking” them necessarily. When we preach against the errors of adulterers and fornicators, we don’t view ourselves as “attacking” those people. We should be lovingly pointing out the truth in hopes that the truth will weigh in on their minds and consciences. We “cast down imaginations”(2 Cor.10:4-5) because we hope people to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth that will set men free from all kinds of errors and enslavements (John 8:30-31).

Secondly, it does not matter when denominations came into existence,  they came into existence by teaching error, not truth.  The truth is written to correct those and all other errors. The scriptures are given “for correction and instruction in righteousness” (2 Tim.3:16-17).  Paul wrote the Corinthians to correct their divisions (1 Cor.1:10-13).  Thus, whenever someone establishes a division and teaches error, the Bible was written to correct and instruct (2 Tim.3:16-17) those errors and all other errors. When people today join denominations that were built around men, no matter if they existed in the first century or not, and they are saying “I am of John Wesley” or “I am of Joseph Smith” or “I am of Martin Luther” etc. , then the Bible certainly IS written to correct those errors too.

If we take that preacher’s statement above to the logical conclusion, we would have to say that we should not use the Bible to correct people in Islam since Islam did not exist when the Bible was written. The Bible is written "for correction and instruction in righteousness" no matter who needs correction and instruction and no matter when a new error or division arises.  Our brother said: "Not one word of it was written to correct the errors of denominationalism". Now if denominationalism is right, the Bible will not correct it. If it is wrong, then it is at least ONE of the things it was written to correct. If not, why not?  I could not get an answer to this.

I thought surely he meant something else and I wanted him to clarify his statement, but he took offense that I would dare to ask questions of him so that he could clarify. If the Bible does not correct errors of denominationalism, then it leaves those errors alone.  Can one be reconciled to God and remain in a denomination? Yes or no! Can you live for the Lord and remain in denominationalism? To say that the Bible does not correct the errors of denominationalism seems clearly to imply that a person can be brought to the Lord and remain permanently in denominations.  I realize that time and growth may be involved, but even then they will not leave a denomination and be just a Christian unless the Bible does indeed correct the errors of denominationalism.

He said: “When I teach a sinner about Christ and lead him to the Lord the one will have left denominationalism.”  But, many people think they have been led to Christ and STAY in the denomination.  So, what will be said from the Bible to correct this situation? There must be something in the teaching of Jesus that will correct the person and make him understand that he needs to leave the denomination.  Another brother made a very good observation. He said:

Sometimes when typing, as some have noticed, my mind runs ahead of what I am typing and I don’t type all the words I am thinking, thus leaving out a key word now and then. Sometimes that key word can make all the difference in the world.

For example, if I were to write, “you don’t lead people to Christ by preaching against false teaching,” that would be misleading. But if I were to write, “you don’t lead people to Christ by JUST preaching against false teaching,” then that would be right on. That little word, “just” makes all the difference in the world.

When preparing soil for planting it is often necessary to clear the ground of briars and weeds before planting the good seed. It is rather naive to think that the good seed will somehow thrive and push out the well rooted briars and weeds. But after the briars and weeds have been removed, then the good seed must saturate the soil or briars and weeds will return with a vengeance. Also, when nurturing and cultivating the crop springing forth from the good seed, one must keep the hoe handy to chop out any returning weeds or they will take over the ground.-Unquote!

That well summarizes the issue. If the brother had only clarified that he meant to say that you do not lead people to Christ by ONLY talking about the errors of denominations, there would have been hardy “amens”,  but he did not try to clarify that way at all. I asked, “why will leading a person to the Lord cause them to leave denominationalism if the Bible does not correct "the errors of denominationalism"?  Our brother still refused to clarify. Leading to Christ is simultaneously a commitment to leave all sin. If denominationalism is not a sin, why will one leave something that is right and not sinful ?  The scriptures are written to guide men into all truth and to correct them from all kinds of error, no matter when it started.  Granted that it will correct some things more quickly than others, but to say the Bible does not correct the errors of denominationalism is not sound reasoning.

One good sister wrote:

 I cannot comment on ---------  --------‘s status, but if I could - I would say that while denominationalism may not have been present during the first century, there certainly were false teachers - both members of the church and non-members. The Scriptures were, in part, most certainly written to combat false teachings. So the question becomes - are denominations teaching false doctrines?

Since the answer is also most certainly yes - then the Scriptures are definitely written to correct the errors of denominationalism.

It's that simple. Isn't it? –Unquote!  Well, it seems that simple to me, but some others are saying that I misunderstood the brother.  I certainly don’t wish to misunderstand, and I certainly don’t wish to differ with anyone, but, I don’t know how else to understand the words my bother used.  I got accused to being unbrotherly, and I certainly don’t want to be unbrotherly.  Some thought they got another idea from his words than I and several others did, but for some reason I could not get their explanations to jive with his words. So, I will just hope that I got the wrong impression and when it finally dawns on me I will make apology and correction, or it will dawn on him that he should apologize for his words.  I do not like being misunderstood, nor do I desire to misunderstand any other brother.

Does the Bible correct the errors of denominationalism? Absolutely!  It corrects all errors of any kind.  Let me close with another quote from another sister who observed:

I always thought Paul rebuking the Corinthians for thinking they were "of Paul" or "of Apollos" were the indications of the beginning of denominationalism. Yes, they were Christians, but to me it's the same as saying "I am of John Wesley" or "I am of Martin Luther". I don't think those men thought they were starting "denominations", but that was the beginning.-Unquote!

The very attitudes that led to some saying “I am of Paul” was “corrected” by the Bible. It was written to correct such errors.  It is written to correct errors that later on developed from those same divisive attitudes into the modern full-fledged denominational divisions.  People who are lead to Jesus will learn from Jesus in His word the errors of denominationalism and seek to live on the Rock of Jesus’ will.

Galatians 5:19-21 talk about “seditions” and heresies.  Those are forms of division. Denominationalism is a modern form of seditions and heresies and division.  The Bible was written to lead us to Christ and “teach us His ways” Matt.11:28; Isa.2:1-4).  He prayed for unity of all disciples (John 17:17ff). He teaches us against forming divisions and supporting false teaching (2 John 9-10).  To teach people to come to Jesus is to teach them to learn from Him and to give up all forms of sin. So, in learning from Jesus in His word, the Bible, we find that He corrects all kinds of errors in thought and practice, no matter when that particular error came into being.  I fully expect Him to correct me if I am wrong about any of this. If I am wrong, I want to be corrected.  We are disciples of Jesus in order to grow and let Him correct us. I hope good things for all my brethren.

Terry W. Benton

Wednesday, February 22, 2012



INTRODUCTION: God's people follow Jesus because they know Him and love Him.  They are familiar with His voice and follow His lead. (Jn.10:4; Lk. 9:23) His life is the pattern for our lives. (Rom.8:29; 13:14) Paul used Jesus as his pattern to follow. (I Cor.11:1; II Cor.3:18)  We learn from Christ in the New Testament, and in so doing, we try to "measure" up to Him. (Eph.4:13; 1 Jn..4:17; Rev.14:4; Rom.15:7; 1 Pet. 2:21‑24; Jn.15:10; 1 Jn..2:6; 3:3) Yet, today more and more we hear brethren criticize the idea of trying to strictly follow the Biblical "patterns".  It appears that everything should be tolerated, except brethren who insist on patterns being followed. It seems there are some brethren who have the attitude that no one should be criticized except brethren who insist that we be particular and careful about what we do in God's service. Jesus is our pattern and all we can know about that pattern is found in the New Testament. 


I.      WE SHOULD STRIVE TO BE AS "LEGALISTIC" AS JESUS. (Matt. 4:4; Deut. 8:3; Heb. 10:7)

A.  Today, we hear people use the word "legalist" in an uncomplimentary way.  They assume a definition and idea of legalism and then apply it to every one who wants to be careful and particular with the Bible.  Thus, with prejudice they pressure people not to think of using the Bible to condemn anyone else's religious abuses or lack of scriptural authority.

1.    Three of Jesus' favorite words were "it is written".  Was He a legalist?  Would He be condemned by today's standards? (Matt.4:1f; 22:29‑32; 19:4; 21:16; 21:42)

2.    He was even particular about a single word in a passage. (Jn.10:33‑36) Even the tense of a word was important. (Matt.22:29‑31)

3.    If people try to follow Jesus' way today, they will be shamed with words like "Bible‑thumper", "Pharisee", "Legalist", "Cultic", etc.  We must follow Jesus even in accepting unjust criticisms and ridicule if need be.

B. Like Jesus, we should expect ourselves and all other people to know the scriptures, the meaning and application.

1.    God holds people responsible. (Matt.12:7; 9:13; 16:11; Jn.8:43)

2.    Jesus rebuked mental laziness and slowness to believe "all" that is written. (Mk.8:14‑17; Lk.24:25‑27)

3.    God's will had to be primary to Christ even if He had to stand alone and suffer to the death. (Matt.26:39) Do we have to stand for anything? If so, what?  Is it legalistic to teach people to stand for those things?  If not, why not?

4.    Was Jesus legalistic in making the statements He made in Matt.7:21‑23; 21:23‑27?  If so, then we must follow His pattern and be willing to be called legalistic, if that is what the use of the term means to our critics.


C. Like Jesus, we should insist on strict respect and obedience to God's word.

1.    READ Lk. 8:19‑21; 11:27‑28

2.    ALSO, READ Jn.8:31‑32; 14:15,21,24; 15:10

a.    To say we "love God" is empty if we do not believe we have to   do all He says.

b.    To pick something out of the law of God and act like we do not have to do that (assuming it is something applicable), is to set ourselves above the Law of God, and to make ourselves a judge of the law, rather than a doer of the word.    

3.    Jesus honored and respected God's word right down to the jot and   tittle of it. (Matt.5:17‑19)


A."Just follow Jesus and don't let anything, including the Bible, take His place".

1.    How does one know Jesus, much less how to follow Him, without the Bible?

2.    Have you ever heard someone say, "I follow the Bible, not Jesus"? No! Because the subtle distinction doesn't work as well in that direction.  Without the Bible, the above objection is really saying, "Just follow what is your "imagination" of Jesus, instead of the Bible".

3.    Further, did Jesus ever rebuke anyone for trying to follow the Law of Moses instead of Moses?  Can you imagine Jesus saying, "Just follow Moses and don't let anything, including the Law of Moses, take his place"? (Lk.16:29‑31; Mk.12:26; Lk.20:37; 24:44; Jn.5:46)

    B. "Jesus is Lord, not the Bible".

1.    How does one know that Jesus is Lord without the Bible?

2.    How can one determine what the Lord Jesus wants without the Bible?

    C. "Don't trust in self, trust in Jesus".

1.    The fact that one would study the scriptures is a confession that he/she does not trust his own wisdom. He is seeking for God's wisdom.( Acts 17:11; 1 Cor. 2)

2.    Are those who say "just trust in Jesus" sure they are not just trusting in their own opinion and imagination of Jesus?  In essence, they are doing the very thing (in principle) they tell us not to do. Shoud one trust his IMAGINATION of Jesus? How can he be sure his imagination of Jesus is correct? Want he still have to dig into the Bible and find out if his imagination of Jesus is correct?

3.    If depending on one's studies of the Bible is "trusting in self", then what is one doing when he imagines that he is trusting in Jesus? Does he trust in his imagination instead of the real Jesus?

D. "You are guilty of Bible‑olatry, which is, making an idol of the Bible".

1.    Did Jesus make an idol out of the Old Testament?

2.    How can we do like Jesus and still avoid this opinion of us?

3.    Are those who don't follow the Bible guilty of “personal-imagination‑olatry", i.e., making a god out of their own personal imaginations?

A.  “This strictness with the law is just modern Phariseeism".

1.    Actually, the Pharisees were not as strict as Jesus.  They were not as concerned about weightier matters of the law. (Matt.23:23)

2.    Jesus was concerned about the whole law.

3.    They were not concerned about their inward appearance before God, but only their external appearance before men. (Matt.23:3, 5; Lk.11:47‑48) Jesus was stricter in regard to the heart.

4.    The Pharisees added human traditions to the law and found ways to get around strict obedience. (Matt.15:1‑9) Jesus rebuked them for that.

5.    Jesus expects us to strictly do right. (Matt.5:19, 20)

F. "We should follow the spirit, not the letter of the law".

1.    This statement has a deceptive ring of scripture to it. It is a misuse of II Cor. 3.  "The letter" is made to mean the strict wording of scripture, and "the spirit" is made to mean "what you think they really mean"(or what each one desires for them to mean) -- "the letter"(what the words actually say) versus "the spirit" (how I feel inside or how I desire to interpret them). However, II Cor.3 is actually contrasting "the letter"(the already written Old Testament) with "the spirit"(the New Testament, being at that time, revealed through the Spirit to His apostles and prophets). See Eph.3:1-3. Read the context carefully and the Spirit of the New Testament will show that this is the case.

2.    How does one determine what the spirit of a law is? Doesn't this reasoning, in essence, wind up telling people to follow their own imaginations and desires above God's law?

3.    Was the question of circumcision settled by an appeal to "the spirit of the law"?( Acts 15)

4.    Instead of insisting upon taking literal unleavened bread (in observing the Lord's Supper) in harmony with the "letter of the law", can we just observe "the spirit of what it's about"? Can we treat everything else in this way? Baptism?   Confession? Assembling? Church organization?  Who determines what the spirit of the law actually is?  How is this determined?

5.    As we consider this approach, it appears that “the spirit of the law” becomes whatever each man desires to believe it is.  Thus, the only LAW becomes whatever each man wants to IMAGINE that it is.  This whole approach is not worthy of merit. It is an approach that encourages every man to do that which is right in his own eyes.  This only furthers religious confusion.  It does not help to solve anything toward real religious unity.

CONCLUSION:  In spite of modern theology and prejudice against the very attempt to be careful and strict and respectful toward God's word, we must follow the pattern set for us by Jesus.  Beware of brethren who use expressions like the above, or who moan that we need a "new hermeneutic". You can be sure that they are doing things without authority and they just do not have the conviction to give it up.  Jesus is our pattern, and patterns are given to be followed with great care and precision to the best of our ability.


1.    Do we need to be careful to follow Jesus, or would knowledge of a few facts about Jesus be sufficient to guide us throughout life?

     Give a reason for your answer.

2.    What can we know about Jesus' life, principles, ideas, manners, plans, commands, or promises apart from the Bible?

3.    Was Jesus particular about specific tenses in words of the law?

Give an example:

4.    What is meant by the term "Bible‑thumper" today?  Is it designed to make people want to appeal to the scriptures more?  Or, is it designed to make people feel reluctant to appeal to the scriptures?

5.    Do people think they are paying us a compliment when they say we are "legalists"?

6.    Does the Bible give us a pattern of sound words?

7.    If we follow anything else, aren't we going outside the pattern?

8.    Are sound or unsound words used to criticize those who say we need to stay within the pattern?

9.    How can we determine the “pattern” of sound words concerning baptism? 

10. What does 2 Jn.. 9 say and mean?

Terry W. Benton

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Understanding Grace #2

Understanding Grace #2

A brother said:

“If you believe we are justified by our own power, through things God has given us to do,…”

TB: The Bible teaches that salvation is by grace THROUGH faith (Eph.2:8).  Faith (believing) is a thing that God has given us to do. Nobody can do it for us. Jesus does not do this for us. So, I believe like Paul that we are justified, not by our own power, but definitely “through things God has given us to do”. One of those things God has given us to do is BELIEVE (Heb.11:6).  It is THROUGH faith that grace becomes our possession (Rom.5:1).  We exercise our minds and hearts upon the word of God and “faith comes by hearing”(Rom.10:17). We do the hearing, the listening, the studying of the evidence revealed. It is BY hearing that faith comes. Hearing is something we must do. This is one of the “things God has given us to do”. Now, I do not believe that I am justified BY my own power. I believe that He gives me the power of salvation through hearing the word of the gospel (Rom.10:17; 1:16). Now, our brother goes on to say that if we believe that we are justified “through things God has given us to do”:

then your salvation becomes dependent on you and your obedience to God.

TB: But, God does not force us to be saved. So, there is a sense in which much really does depend on our willingness to yield and obey. I know it ultimately comes from Jesus, and I know that I cannot save myself except He provide the means and state the conditions or terms of pardon. But, after he provides the means and states the terms of my acceptance, then it becomes dependent on my willingness to yield and obey those terms of acceptance and pardon. Our brother goes on to say:

 On the other hand, if you believe we are justified by God’s grace and power, then your salvation becomes totally dependent on God and His lovingkindness. You can figure out which of those paths leads to confidence and which of those paths leads to deluded self-righteousness or hopelessness.

TB: Well, I believe that I am saved by God’s grace and power, but I also have to believe that it is THROUGH faith that I must bring to God.  Now, if I TOTALLY leave everything up to God, then I will not be saved. As loving and kind as God is, God is leaving some things up to me.  I can yield and obey or I can turn from His grace and let Jesus’ death be in vain for me. God has already voted for me. I have to cast the deciding vote. When I decide to vote for God’s salvation by obeying His terms of pardon, I have every reason to be confident in my salvation. That is NOT a path that leads to self-righteousness or hopelessness.

It is not “self-righteous” to believe that I must meet GOD’s terms of pardon. It would be self-righteous to think that I do not need to or have to. It is not hopeless to think I have to repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for remission of sins.  It would be hopeless if I refused.

So, having looked again at our brother’s words, I still disagree with them. I have not twisted them or taken them out of context. I realize that a little later he made a disclaimer that he does not believe in “cheap grace”, but that disclaimer contradicts the idea of being totally dependent on God and His lovingkindness, because if it costs me anything, cheap or expensive, then it is not totally dependent on God and His lovingkindness. It depends some on whether I am willing to pay the cost demanded, whether cheap or expensive.

I also said and realize that ONLY by grace do I have a chance at all, but the fact that it is a chance to be saved, and that chance is up to me, surely indicates that it is not ALL “totally dependent on God and His lovingkindness”.  When our brother says it is not “cheap grace”, he is implying that it may cost us something, and if it costs us anything, then it is not “totally dependent on God and His lovingkindness”.  

I know the MEANS of pardon (Jesus’ blood) and the TERMS or conditions of pardon are totally given by God’s grace. He did not have to give the means or terms because of any goodness on my end. But, meeting the terms of pardon is totally up to me.  There is much that DEPENDS on me. Am I wrong? Does ANY of the possession of the gift of salvation depend on me?  Yes!  It depends on my hearing, my honesty with the evidence presented, and my willingness to believe and obey the terms of pardon.  Where am I wrong? In what way have I misrepresented anything a brother said?

Now let me address this question to our brother:  Does salvation depend on us at all? If it does not, then all of us are saved automatically. Jesus died for us all.  There is nothing we can do to be lost, because being lost is not up to us, and there is nothing we can do to be saved, because being saved is not up to us. If salvation does depend on us at all, then to whatever degree that any of it depends on us, to that degree it cannot TOTALLY depend on God and His loving-kindness.  The part where God gave terms of pardon and appealed to us to obey those terms of pardon, leaves that much up to us.  We can keep tagging along with this perverse generation and remain condemned with them, or, we can save ourselves from this perverse generation by meeting God’s terms of pardon(Acts 2:40). But, if it depends on my willingness to hear and believe and obey, then the argument our brother makes is not true. - Terry W. Benton

Monday, February 20, 2012

Understanding Grace??

Understanding Grace??

Back in the 1950’s and 60’s there was the testing of ideas of authority under God’s grace.  Brethren knew that salvation was by grace through faith, and they also knew that the grace of God taught us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts and to live under the authority of Jesus (Matt.28:18-20; Eph.1:19f).  Because of Jesus’ authority and being head over all things to the church, brethren tested issues to make sure they could hold to the practices that they were engaged as a congregation (1 Thess.5:21).  Even though it was a system of grace, brethren knew that grace teaches us to “prove what is acceptable”(Rom.12:1-4; Eph.5:11) to the Lord, and not just ASSUME what is acceptable to the Lord.  This led to a testing of whether we could support human institutions from the common treasury.

Much dispute was engaged according to the pattern of Acts 15, where brethren believed that discussion and debate was a very needed and helpful tool toward understanding an issue, and developing the convictions that align with what grace teaches and what is truly authorized under grace in Christ.  Yes, division will come about when one side MUST live under the authority of Jesus and the other side thinks grace is a ticket to act without authority.  Jude 4 mentions people using the grace of God for license.  When the treasury is used in ways that force people to violate their consciences, grace does not teach us to just sear our consciences and ignore the issue.  The division was not due to non-institutional brethren not understanding grace, it was due to institutional brethren misusing grace and forcing brethren to either ignore the issue of authority or get out.  Those who fought those battles knew that if there was any other way to avoid division, they would have loved to avoided it.  Sometimes division is just not avoidable (1 Cor.11:19) where brethren will not “test all things and hold fast that which is good” as the grace of God teaches us.

In spite of all the study and testing of ideas, there came along a wave of people who thought a proper knowledge of grace would allow us to fellowship just about anybody. Thus, a wave of people thought they knew more about the grace of God in the 70’s, and thus a battle with the “grace-fellowship” brethren was engaged to test those claims of how to properly understand and use the grace of God toward proper fellowship with institutional brethren.  Brethren were willing to debate the issues, but the “grace-fellowship” advocates preferred not to debate and discuss, but chose hit-and-run tactics instead.  It seems that every time somebody writes an article that suggests that brethren divided “needlessly” over issues of authority, and then someone wants to test their claim, that these brethren do not possess the love and courage of true grace to actually test their claims as we see the apostles and elders doing in Acts 15.  It seems that the new breed do not really believe that their new views can stand up when tested, and so they prefer the techniques of the false teachers in Jude and 2 Peter 2 where you try to slip in and convince people without testing all things openly.

The cycle turns and the cycle turns, like the cycle we see in the book of Judges.  A new generation arises that does not know the issues, and then they think they have discovered “grace” in a way that brethren have always been ignorant about. They visualize being heroes of the faith who can now unite brethren by showing them that they have discovered the “true” grace of God, and that all the division over the issues of the work and organization of the church can now be resolved with a better understanding of grace.

Here is a recent quote I want to examine:

Another key point of understanding for Christians is on the topic of Justification. A good friend of mine has told me time and again that our understanding of justification affects the way we view the rest of the Bible. I think he is right. For instance…

If you believe we are justified by our own power, through things God has given us to do, then your salvation becomes dependent on you and your obedience to God. On the other hand, if you believe we are justified by God’s grace and power, then your salvation becomes totally dependent on God and His lovingkindness. You can figure out which of those paths leads to confidence and which of those paths leads to deluded self-righteousness or hopelessness. –Unquote!

Now, catch the subtlety of the above comment.  It is actually the same claim that denominational “faith-only” people have been advocating for years.  They said baptism is not essential because that is “believing we are justified by our own power”.  Peter did not think so in Acts 2:36-41. They argued that we were wrong about baptism because that is the same as believing that “your salvation is dependent on you and your obedience to God rather than becoming totally dependent on God and His lovingkindness”.  Now, the young brother I am quoting above does not take his words to the logical conclusion. He DOES believe that baptism is essential to salvation, but he did not realize that by borrowing his ideas from denominational writers about grace and justification, he has prepared those who read from him to take his words to the next logical step.

These very arguments were used by a denominational preacher I have debated twice on the issue of baptism’s place in justification (See the Benton-Olson debates at the ReligiousDebates site in YahooGroups).  His argument was exactly what our brother argued above. It is a very weak argument because if taken to the logical conclusion will mean that everyone is saved.  Think about it.  If I “believe” by relying upon my mind to judge truth from error and arrive at conviction, then that would also mean that I should not exercise any thought about the matter, else I would be relying upon my own power to believe, and salvation would be up to me and dependent upon me.  I should not repent because, again, if that is up to me too, then I am relying upon myself and my own actions to bring about what should be “total dependence on God and his lovingkindness” rather than my own efforts and responses.  Our brother uses the denominational arguments of justification without yet taking them to the logical conclusion.  The universalist is “totally dependent on God and His loving-kindness” for he does not believe anything is a condition for justification.  They are taking the grace-justification argument to the logical conclusion. They are simply wrong about whether we have to meet certain conditions for grace and what those conditions are.

The truth is that we are totally dependent on God and His loving-kindness, and that is why we obey Him. If He has conditions for me to meet, I depend on Him to justify me on the terms He gives.  I am totally dependent on Him.  I depend on Him to offer the pardon itself because I cannot produce it, and I depend on Him to tell me what the terms or conditions of pardon are.  I cannot invent my own terms. I totally depend,  as those 3,000 on Pentecost, on God’s grace to provide pardon and to tell me what I must do to obtain His pardon.  Likewise, I totally depend on Him to tell me what His will is for my life.  My obedience is not the basis of salvation. His grace is the basis.  Obedient faith is the condition through which grace is acquired and enjoyed.  Grace does not allow me to quit submitting to His terms and conditions of ongoing pardon (1 John 1:7-9).  I am confident because of forgiveness, not because I feel worthy or good enough.  I am confident because Jesus authored my salvation and is able to aid me on my journey and will be with me to help me finish the race (Heb.2:18; 12:1-4). As I know Him, I love and obey Him. When I see that I am failing, I ask His forgiveness and I know He forgiveness me and lets me start over again and again. That is what His grace teaches me (Titus 2:11-15).

Let us be careful that we do not misuse the grace of God to teach people that they are safe without obeying God.  I do not see the grace taught in the New Testament ever talking like that. Beware that you do not let someone teach you that grace allows people to continue in sin (Rom.6:1f) or that it allows us to fellowship and participate with brethren who are acting outside the bounds of authority. That is surely turning the grace of God into license (Jude 4). That is a misunderstanding of grace, not an understanding of it.

Terry W. Benton