Know Your Bible

VOL. 7                           October 19, 2008                           NO. 39

THE PREACHERS OF DOUBT

    Even as the Israelites were being delivered from Egyptian bondage, they found reason to doubt. Having just seen the power of God demonstrated so thoroughly by the plagues which decimated Egypt, they should have known that God had the power and will to deliver, yet when they stood at the edge of the Red Sea and looked back to see Pharaoh's approaching army, some complained to Moses, "Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt? Is not this what we said to you in Egypt, 'Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians'? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness" (Exod. 14:11,12). Despite the recent evidence to the contrary, some of the Israelites doubted the power of God would deliver them and complained that they were going to die in the wilderness.

    Just three days after God delivered them from that seemingly hopeless situation, they complained about water at Marah (Exod. 15:22-24); about six weeks later, they were complaining again while in the Wilderness of Sin (16:1-3); and they complained again at Rephidim (17:1-3). This was all before they even reached Sinai! When they traveled up to Kadesh-Barnea, they sent spies into the land of promise and 10 of the 12 came back with a bad report, saying, "We are not able to go up against the people, for they are stronger than we are" (Num. 13:31), and the people complained again, ready to appoint new leaders and head back to Egypt (14:1-4). It seems that for all God had done and for all they had seen, they still found reason to doubt and, by doing so, impugned the character of God by implying that He was not able to do these things.

    But the doubt was unfounded. It wasn't as if the people had reason to doubt, for God had amply supplied enough evidence to cause them to believe in Him and trust that He would provide. In effect, they have made God a liar because they did not believe His 'testimony' or His evidence.

    The apostle John wrote by inspiration that those who deny the testimony of God regarding His Son make Him to be a liar (1 John 5:10); but what about those today who are preaching doubt regarding other portions of God's testimony _ on subjects such as salvation, our worship, marriage and divorce, and even our fellowship with others who profess faith in Christ, but who are not of Christ? Do we think that there will not be consequences for this? Do we not realize that when we say that 'one cannot know God's will' on a particular subject or when one says 'we cannot know the truth' on any particular subject that God has addressed, then we are once again impugning the character of God and calling Him a liar?

    It is very troubling to me - more often as of late - that when I am discussing certain subjects that are clearly taught within God's written word, someone feels compelled to say, 'We cannot be so dogmatic on this!' Or, when someone points out the erroneous teaching of a brother on a subject such as marriage and divorce, someone will say, 'There are many differences among brethren and we don't need to divide over this one.' Pardon me? Are we saying that we cannot know God's teaching [the truth] on marriage, divorce, and remarriage? Are we saying, now, that we cannot know God's teaching [the truth] on salvation? If I didn't know better, I would think we were standing at the edge of the Promised Land, hearing some of my brethren saying, 'We are not able!' Where are the Joshuas and Calebs for today?

    But why this doubt? Why are some of my brethren all of a sudden doubting our ability to know God's will on some topics - topics that have been clearly understood for centuries? Why are some brethren now impugning the character of God by preaching doubt, rather than instilling trust and faith by talking about the surety and clarity of God's word? Why are some brethren now arguing that since we cannot say we know the truth on everything God has revealed, then we should not preach absolute truth on anything? Is it possible that God has failed to sufficiently provide for us, as those Israelites believed so long ago? Is it really that God's word is not so clear on these subjects? Or is it something else?

    I cannot answer why some brethren are preaching doubt today [though some brethren are making it clear why they do this], but I can answer the question about the ability to understand God's word and the surety that God has provided all we need to know, and in such a way that it can be known. All we have to do is look into God's word [and that is where some are failing]. With that in mind let us consider the following three passages, which speak about understanding the will of God.

    First, consider Paul's inspired revelation that God "desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim. 2:4). NOTE: God desires that we know the truth; did He desire something of man which is beyond his ability? If we are going to be consistent, then if we argue that man cannot know the truth, it must follow that man cannot be saved, either; God provided salvation and the means to obtain it, just as surely as He provided the truth and the means to understand it. If man cannot know the truth, then it must logically follow that he cannot obtain salvation, either, since God desires and provides both. If not, why not?

    Next, consider Paul's inspired admonition to the Ephesian brethren to "understand what the will of the Lord is" (Eph. 5:17). Not only is it God's desire that men know the truth, He has also commanded that we know it [God's will = truth]. Now, has God commanded something which is beyond our ability? If so, what kind of God must He be? Surely, we are not going to start preaching that God wants and commands something of mankind that he is unable to do, are we?

    And, finally, consider Paul's inspired words to the Ephesian brethren when he wrote about the gospel plan of salvation [something particularly relevant to this discussion]. Here, Paul reminded them that, regarding that "mystery" of God's plan for salvation, he had "written already, by which, when you read, you may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ" (Eph. 3:3, 4). Did you catch that? Paul said they could understand God's once-hidden plan for man's salvation; they could understand the truth! Now, we - who are supposedly much more educated and intellectually astute - are now arguing that we cannot understand this, or other controversial subjects? Really?

    The reality is, God's word is not so unclear and difficult to understand or apply. The difficulty for so many - including many of our brethren now - is in simply accepting what it teaches. Within my lifetime, I have seen brethren, who once boldly preached the truth on some subjects, now tuck tail and become inexplicably timid when addressing the same topic today. Has God's word suddenly become more difficult for them to understand? Or is it something else?

---Steven Harper

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WHAT WOULD THIS CHURCH BE LIKE?

What would this church be like if:

The preacher missed services as often as I do?

Everyone in the Bible classes studied and prepared like me?

All of the members contributed the way I do?

The song leader was as tardy as me?

Visitors were greeted by everyone in the same way I greet them?

What would this church be like if everyone in it was just like me?

---Selected

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