Know Your Bible

VOL. 13                                                                                                                         August 24, 2014                                                                                                                            NO. 25



Written by: Hugh Fulford

(Editor’s Note: I have known Hugh Fulford since the 1950's when we were in college together. Since the split over the institutional question, he has worked among the “institutional” churches. This article reflects his good insight into what is going on in many churches today.)

Several months ago I read Phil Sanders’ book, A Faith Built on Sand: The Foolishness of Popular Religion in a Postmodern World. This is a sequel to Phil’s 2000 book, Adrift: Postmodernism in the Church. Both are deserving of a serious read by all who would be aware of what is taking place in the contemporary world of Christendom. Chapter 8 is titled “The Vanishing of Heresy.” Phil begins the chapter with a 1987 quote from J. Packer:

“The net result of all these impulses to pluralism is that … there are just about as many theologies as there are theologians to devise them; the concept of heresy has almost lost its meaning; and loyalty to the institutional church has for the most part taken the place of loyalty to the faith once for all delivered to the saints, for no one is quite sure any more what the essence of that faith really is” (p. 89).

Packers (and Phils) point is that speaking facetiously heresy is now a thing of the past. It does not exist today! The only “heresy” that exists in our postmodern world is the assertion that something is heresy! Every cockeyed notion, theory, doctrine, practice, and belief is to be uncritically accepted. No one is to be told that they are wrong. Interestingly, however, one postmodernist recently told me, “The Bible is wrong about many things!”

Later in the chapter Phil observes: “The preaching in churches of Christ has changed in the last generation. Over time the church has become afraid to say much of anything with conviction. Preachers preach much love but little truth, much grace but little repentance, much salvation but little obedience, and much on relationships but little on relating responsibly to God Himself. Some speak much on believing and confuse their listeners by speaking little on what to believe” p. 100).

The notion exists in many quarters that preachers ought not to emphasize doctrine “because doctrine only divides.” The idea is that we should “preach only Christ.” But to preach Christ is to preach “doctrine.” It is “doctrine” to affirm that Christ alone is “the way, the truth, and the life,” and that no one comes to the Father except through Him! (John 14:6). But there are multiplied millions who do not believe that Christ is the only way to God. Therefore, Christ Himself is divisive. He said, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I came not to bring peace but sword” (Matthew 10:34).

What does it mean to preach Christ? Can we preach Christ without preaching what He taught? Can we preach Christ without preaching the doctrine of Christ? Philip the evangelist preached Christ to the Ethiopian eunuch and the eunuch asked to be baptized (Acts 8:35-39). How did the eunuch know that he needed to be baptized unless in preaching Christ to him Philip had told him what Christ said one must do to be saved? Jesus said: “He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mark 16:16).

The apostle Paul did not subscribe to the idea that doctrine is not important or that there was no such thing as heresy. He named “heresies” as one of the works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-22). He further warned that “the time will come when they [the professed people of God, hf] will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn away their ears from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (II Timothy 4:3-4). In this respect, the ones of whom Paul spoke were like the wayward people of God in the Old Testament who said, “Do not prophesy to us right things; speak to us smooth things…” (Isaiah 30:10). Translation: Don’t tell us what we need to hear; tell us what we want to hear. Don’t rebuke us for our sins; rather, show us how we can continue in our sins and still be good church members. Show us how we can be religious without having to be righteous! Make us feel good about ourselves! Such are the times in which we live.

—Taken from The Reflector, October 2012

by Edward O. Bragwell, Jr.

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We are all tempted in various ways. Jesus was tempted in "all we are" (Heb. 4:15). Some of those areas are named: the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life (1 Jn. 2:16). The particular temptations common to people include sexual misconduct, lewd and lascivious talking, cursing and profanity, use of alcoholic beverages and drugs for 'recreation", pride in earthly possessions and accomplishments, jealousy and envy, hatred and retaliation.

While we are not all affected equally by every temptation, we all have our own inclinations and strong desires. We must deal successfully with these, resisting sin steadfastly in the faith (1Pet. 5:9). If we are so infatuated with a particular desire, we may ignore the warning signs and reject the way of escape (1 Cor. 10:13). The Scriptures not only identify temptations, but also provide knowledge and strength by giving us instruction in preventive measures.

Consider these passages of Scripture: "Flee fornication;" "Flee youthful lusts;" "Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband;" "Let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath," "Be ye angry and sin not, let not the sun go down upon your wrath;" "Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord;" "Recompense to no man evil for evil..."  Remember the advice of Solomon to the young man: (Prov. chs. 1-9). “Evil companionships corrupt good morals;" "Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil."

In order to overcome temptations to sin, we must desire to do right always and to serve God instead of the flesh. Changes in life-style are often necessary in order to change our lives for  righteous-ness. A recovering drug addict must not run with other addicts. One who is tempted to be immoral must stay clear of the pathway to immorality, avoiding provocations to lust. "There are many paths through this world of sin, but there's only one I shall travel in. 'Tis the old Cross road or the way called strait.'" Any time anyone lives in sin, he demonstrates where he desires most to be. If we fill our minds with the putrified language of Hollywood and the literary world, and if we admire the lifestyles of the heroes of fiction and the silver screen, we make ourselves totally vulnerable to those evil influences. We must decide what we want and then conform our lives to the way we have chosen. How long will we hesitate at the crossroads? If Jehovah is God, let us serve Him. We cannot serve God and the flesh in sinful living.

There is strength to endure temptation and afflictions if we want that strength. We can "Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might" (Eph. 6:11). If we are united with Him, then "He who is in you (us) is greater than he who is in the world" (1 Jn. 4:4). Let us crucify the sins of the flesh and “Live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world, looking for that blessed hope and the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, Who gave Himself for us that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His Own special people, zealous of good works" (Titus 2:11-14).

——Gilbert Alexander

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