Know Your Bible

VOL. 13                                                                                                                         March 13, 2016                                                                                                                            NO. 52



I began preaching in 1946. Some forty-seven years have gone by since I began. I have seen many changes both in the world and in the church. Means of travel and communications have drastically changed. People have even gone to the moon. Governments have toppled; new nations have begun. Standards of living have improved for millions. And yet poverty reigns in many nations. Crime has become the norm in most of our cities. A car is stolen every 42 minutes in Fresno. People are killed as they stand on the street corners; drug and alcohol use have become common even among teenagers. Violence, nudity and profanity are standard fare on television and in movies. Homosexuality was one of the most disgraceful acts that one could think of when I was young. Now it is being heralded as being a normal lifestyle. Abortion was almost unheard of when I was a boy. Now millions of abortions are performed every year. We have an administration that endorses both homosexuality and abortion. Things have changed!

Changes In The Church

Not only have there been changes in the world, but we have seen many changes in the church of our Lord as well. Changes in such things as expedients might be most effective. Changes in God’s ordained worship, government, and work are always wrong. I have seen changes in both areas. With the coming of more efficient communications, we have been able to effectively teach more people. We have been able to sound forth the truth in radio and television as well as the printed page. I am happy to have been enabled to use such methods in gospel preaching.

I remember when I was young that tobacco use was quite common among members of the church. In fact, between Bible class and the assembly for worship, it was common to see dozens of men standing in the yard or on the steps smoking. We thought that anyone who said anything about such habits was a "fanatic" or "radical." Today most brethren have seen the danger in tobacco use. Here ... we see no one standing outside smoking.

When I was young, in every gospel meeting you would hear sermons on why we don’t use instrumental music or have choirs or groups singing in our worship. Today many churches are introducing choirs and groups. Some are even using instrumental music. Things have changed!

I have seen other changes that frighten me very much. When I began preaching, the Bible was accepted by all brethren to be the inspired word of God. Brethren everywhere demanded "book, chapter and verse" preaching. All preachers appealed to "command, example and necessary inference" as the way to establish Bible authority. The result was a united brotherhood. Today, it is different. Some brethren no longer regard the Bible as the truly inspired word of God. Even more have given up the demand for "book, chapter and verse" preaching and are calling for a "new hermeneutic" that rejects "command, example and necessary inference" as the way of determining God’s will for our lives. Max Lucado, a well known author and minister of the Oak Hills church of Christ in San Antonio, Texas, says: "I have a gut feeling that we (the church of Christ) have approached the Bible as engineers, looking for a certain design or architectural code. And I think we find that everyone finds a different code ... There is no secret code. The Bible is a love letter as opposed to a blueprint. You don’t read a love letter the same way you read a blueprint" (quoted in Behold the Pattern, Goebel Music, p. 114). When brethren regard the Bible as a "love letter," they cease to "follow the pattern of sound words" (2 Tim. 1:13). Truly, things have changed.

When I began preaching, I never heard of such things as so-called "fellowship halls," "church kitchens," or "family centers with gymnasiums" among our brethren. When such things were first introduced, there was a hue and cry across the nation against such. Now such are commonplace among many brethren. Yes, things have changed.

If in our study of the word of God, we find that we are failing to do what God says or are doing what He does not say, then we need to change. But let us make sure that our changes are what God requires and not what we decide that would be pleasing to us.

Paul said to Timothy, "Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus" (2 Tim. 1:13). Jesus Himself said that "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but My word will never pass away." His message is an unchangeable message in the midst of a changing world. While we are involved in the changes of the modern world, it is gratifying to know that we can hold on to an unchanging God and to an unchanging message. Let us determine that we will never turn from the doctrine of Christ to any other message (2 John 9-10; Gal. 1:8-9). When the winds of change are blowing, we can latch on to the Rock of Ages and know that we are secure under the shelter of His wings.

—Forrest D. Moyer 

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I do not remember a time in my lifetime when the peace and purity of the church has been threatened with more “winds of doctrine” than right now. I began preaching near the beginning of the institutional controversy that divided churches during the last half of the just recent century. “The issues,” as they were called in those days, were pretty much confined to efforts to activate the universal church in some form or the other. Today, even among those who came out of that controversy popularly labeled “non-institutional” (but not confined to them), there are a multiplicity of issues that have to be dealt with on many fronts. Among them are:

• The doctrine that salvation is grace based and not obedience based.

• The doctrine that grace covers the Christian’s sins even as he sins.

• The doctrine that all life is worship.

• The doctrine that the Lord’s Supper should be observed in a manner that mirrors the eating of a common meal together.

• The doctrine that social services are to be at the basis of our evangelism.

• The doctrine that fellowship should be extended to all “believers in Christ” without regard for doctrinal differences.

This, by no means exhausts the list of doctrines being floated out there among us and taking over churches. But this should be enough to occupy our minds to a little while.

However, I feel compelled to point out one other threat:  It is the growing number, who say they do not agree with these doctrines, who are unwilling to openly oppose them in any effective way. They prefer to bury their heads in the sand and believe that none of these present a real threat; or they prefer that they be dealt with in generalities (sometime called “just deal with the principle”) rather that clearly exposing each doctrine for the threat it is to the peace and purity of congregations and exposing the teachers as the false teachers that they are. This may well be as great, if not greater, a threat than the mere existence any of the doctrines.

Brethren, sometimes it is better to “rock the boat” occasionally than to just stand back and watch it sink.


—Edward O. Bragwell, Sr. 

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Know Your Bible" is e-mailed weekly by the church of Christ which meets at 112 Roberts Avenue in Wise, Virginia. If you know of others who might benefit from the articles contained in this bulletin, we would be glad to have you submit their e-mail addresses and we will include them in next week's mailing. If you are receiving this bulletin and do not wish to continue to do so, please e-mail us with your desire to be removed from the mailing list and we will remove your address promptly. Continue to the bottom of this page and further instructions will be given as to how you may contact us.

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