Posted in Christianity and Culture, Doctrine

“Whatever It Takes”

By Marlin Kilpatrick

In a recent church bulletin, the elders of the Heritage church of Christ (Fort Worth, Texas) made a Special Announcement under the title of Whatever It Takes. The Heritage elders announced that, beginning in the fall 2013, Heritage’s evening services will include instrumental music. The Sunday morning services will remain a cappella. The late brother J. D. Tant, gospel preacher, was known for his saying, “Brethren, we are drifting.” If he were still living he would say, “Brethren, we have drifted.” Fellow Christians, the Lord’s church is in deep spiritual trouble.

In the announcement it was claimed, “…all the elders were in agreement that “scripture does not prohibit the use of instruments in our worship.” On many issues it is good that all the elders be in agreement, but on this issue it matters not one whit that the elders are in agreement. While the elders may be “in agreement,” they are in disagreement with the Lord and his word. In the avenue of worshiping God in song, the scriptures are very specific: only singing is authorized. The use of instrumental music in Christian worship introduces another kind of music, which the scriptures do not authorize. In public debate with denominational preachers, faithful gospel preachers have met this issue time and again, and not once have denominational preachers been able to falsify this claim. Brethren, are we going to just throw away what we know the scriptures teach and become just another denominational church among many?

In their Special Announcement, the elders claimed “that the addition of instrumental worship service would be beneficial to our quest to reach the lost.” Here is where their “Whatever it Takes” enters the picture. Supposedly, if it takes instrumental music in worship to reach the lost, then the use of instrumental music is what we should do. But, the use of that which is sinful in worship will not save the lost. Where is the benefit in filling the auditorium with lost souls, even if they do enjoy the music? The only power to save the lost is the gospel of Christ (Rom. 1:16), but to pervert the gospel by using instrumental music in worship is in direct violation of Paul’s words (cf. Gal. 1:6-9), and renders the gospel powerless.

In the aforementioned rationale, where does such “reasoning” stop. If we use instruments of music in addition to our singing, in an effort not to offend the lost, when it comes to the question of music, then what will we do when the lost object (most already do) to baptism for the remission of sins? What will we do when someone objects to immersion in water, and insists on being sprinkled, instead? On what scriptural basis could we refuse to turn the Lord’s Supper into a common meal and remember the Lord’s death on Saturday night, if we use the rationale used by Heritage’s elders? Brethren, we are opening the flood gates, and when we do the Lord will hold us accountable. Such action as that taken by Heritage’s elders is a rejection of the need for scriptural authority for all that we do (cf. Col. 3:17). Correctly ascertaining scriptural authority on this issue will settle the matter.

In their Special Announcement, the Heritage elders said, “…we have spent a great deal of time studying the issue and praying for God to reveal his will as to what we should do.” The spending of “a great deal of time studying the issue” is commendable, but praying “for God to reveal his will as to what we should do,” is a waste of time. God has already revealed his will, and it is his will which we should obey. If we do, we will sing praises to him without instruments of music (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16). The New Testament is God’s final revelation to man. He will not reveal anything that is contradictory to his already revealed will. So waiting for God to reveal what we should do, when he has already revealed what he desires in worship, is useless.

Hopefully, the Heritage elders will see their mistake and repent. If this does not happen, it then becomes an issue of fellowship. We cannot fellowship error and please our Lord. Think about it.

Posted in Doctrine, Restoration History

Flawed from the Beginning

By Mac Deaver

For years I have been greatly interested in what is called The Restoration Movement of the 1800s. As a young student, I loved to read of the great men who called others back to a more serious consideration of the Scriptures and to see more clearly the then current religious scene that had been created through years and years of Bible neglect. And I still think that current members of the church owe a tremendous debt of gratitude to so many religious pioneers who have gone before and who were willing to break with never proved religious tradition and to break rank with those who proved to be non-Christians after all, but who claimed such status before God and man.

However, as we learn in the study of the period, not all those who came to be endorsers of and even participants in the “movement” understood clearly what a person had to do to become a Christian, and while some learned exactly what was essential , others who were involved did not. In fact, as we shall soon see, in this brief piece, the “movement” was flawed from the beginning. The movement was based on a cracked foundation that could not support the hoped for superstructure. And while it has had lasting effect to our good day in America, there were some concepts from the beginning that characterized some of its most prominent leaders that necessitated its limitation by division within because of its initial failure to divide from many without!

But before I continue, let me stress that the effort to “restore” New Testament Christianity was indeed a movement in the sense that there was an historical effort in time that was socially influential and that attempted to call men back to the Bible. It was an effort to call men back to original ground, at least allegedly so. To restore the “ancient order” of things was the goal because the then current religious division was deemed so intolerable by some, and that division seemed to make any religious progress most difficult if not impossible. And so a harmony or unity of all “Christians” (those who professed faith in Christ and obeyed him in such things as they understood) was sought and advocated upon a basis less divisive and less complex. A committed return to a more simple basis of spiritual fellowship was the desired item in the hearts of those longing for an end to the unending division within the “church” as the church was being viewed.

Now, the idea is only possible (much less essential) if original ground can be located. If the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the obligatory truth regarding (1) how one enters the kingdom and (2) how one remains in the kingdom cannot be located, articulated, practiced, and successfully defended, then such an effort at “restoration” is wholly misguided because it is impossible to restore what cannot be found. But as we shall see, the working assumption that original ground could be located on the one hand (1) included some necessary concepts that on the other hand (2) were expressly excluded from the process of restoration. In fact, from the beginning there was an unrecognized conceptual self-contradiction offered as the right approach to the restoration of that original sacred ground. And so the “movement” was an attempt to restore what it was, in fact, impossible to restore given the way that it was going about the very business of restoration. If original ground were located, it would have to be found by going against some of the very foundational ideas upon which it was being launched.

Of course, it is very easy for me to criticize someone living in the 1800s who was for the first time beginning to see differences between what he found in his New Testament and religious doctrine that he had been brought up to believe in some denomination. And I certainly do not want to appear as an ungrateful recipient of great learning that took place during that time and within that movement.

But, I am more interested in (1) finding and in knowing that I have found what they were trying to restore themselves (the purity of original Christianity) than in (2) merely admiring a certain way of self-imposed looking, the effect of which would have to prevent one’s seeing clearly at all.

Let me begin the task of identifying the cracks in the foundation of the movement by first pointing out a few facts that must be faced by anyone who approaches the Scriptures in the effort to find the truth. Consider the following True-False statements:

T F 1. It is possible for a man to find all the truth necessary to his becoming a Christian and to find all the truth necessary to his remaining a faithful Christian.

T F 2. It is possible for a man to find only some of the truth necessary to his becoming a Christian and to find only some of the truth necessary to his remaining a faithful Christian.

T F 3. It is impossible for a man to find any truth necessary to his becoming a Christian and to find any truth necessary to his remaining a faithful Christian.

T F 4. It is possible for a man to find all the truth necessary to his becoming a Christian but only to find some of the truth necessary to his remaining a faithful Christian.

T F 5. It is possible for a man to find only some truth necessary to his becoming a Christian but to find all the truth necessary to his remaining a faithful Christian.

Now, these statements need a clear and careful answer. In the light of Scripture, #1 is the correct statement. Statements #2 through #5 are false (John 8:31, 32; 1 Tim. 2:4; Heb. 6:1; Eph. 5:3-14). And this truth would, at first, seem to have been grasped by the initial promoters of the restoration idea.

Now, let us consider several more relevant True-False statements that have to do with the very prospect of restoring the ancient order of things.

T F 1. Since Christians are the only components of the church, and since the first True-False statement above is correct, then we know that it is possible to locate in Scripture what is required of men today in order for them to be added to the Lord’s church (Gal. 1:6-10).

T F 2. Since we know that all men today must obey the same gospel in order to be added to the church, then we know that the church is composed only of those who have done the same thing in order to enter (Eph. 4:1-7).

T F 3. Since the church is composed of only those who have done the same thing (obeyed the same gospel) in order to enter, then spiritual fellowship is only rightly extended to those who have obeyed that gospel and thus who have entered (1 John 1:3; 2 Cor. 6:14-18).

T F 4. It is possible for a person to claim to be in God’s favor and a devoted follower of Christ while never having become a Christian at all (Rev. 2:9; Matt. 7:21-23).

T F 5. It is possible for a Christian to cease being a faithful Christian (Gal. 5:4; 1 John 2:19).

Now, while it is true that Christians are under obligation to love all men (Matt. 22:37-40), we have never been under obligation to treat even most men as Christians. For most men simply are not, and most men do not even claim to be. And, even more to the point, most men do not even desire to be. However, while doctrinally, the matter is fixed as to who is and who is not a Christian, a problem arises when –

  1. a non-Christian seeks to extend spiritual fellowship to another non-Christian when both parties claim to be Christians and yet neither one is.
  1. a Christian seeks to extend spiritual fellowship to a non-Christian in spite of the Christian’s knowing that the non-Christian is clearly a non-Christian.
  1. a Christian seeks to extend spiritual fellowship to a non-Christian because even though he knows on the one hand that the non-Christian is not a Christian, he knows that the non-Christian at least claims to be a Christian, and the Christian considers it more loving to endorse the non-Christian in his sin than to deny his claim. After all, the Christian isn’t God!
  1. a Christian seeks to extend spiritual fellowship to a non-Christian because the Christian himself no longer is sure of the essentiality of obedience to the gospel in order for a person to have a rightful claim to Christian status. He has now subscribed to a doctrine of “grace” that by redefinition allows him to fellowship those who make the claim to be Christians on the basis that, after all, who is he to say they are not. Again, truth has now become “unclear” truth when compared to a “clear” claim especially since the truth has no feelings to be hurt by rejection but the personal claimant surely does?

Note: At this point it may not bother him because it never dawns on him that if “grace” is actually extended to one who claims to be a Christian but who has not, in fact, obeyed the gospel, for all he knows then, that same “grace” may be extended to anyone who does not even claim to be a Christian. If a formerly viewed false claim has now become a possibly true claim because of a redefinition of grace, then why is a claim necessary (for the divine extension of grace) for the reception of grace at all? If one does not have to know and obey the truth in order to be saved, then no clear claim about anything is necessary to salvation at all! With his redefinition of “grace,” he is in no position to deny the salvation of all men since he knows that God desires that universal salvation (2 Pet. 3:9; 1 Tim. 2:4). Historically, truth has often been sacrificed on the altar of friendship and false claim. But if the non-Christian can’t prove the accuracy of his own claim to be a Christian, and if the Christian does not care about the absence of justification for the non-Christian’s claim to Christian status, then the truth does not matter to either the Christian or the non-Christian! Is such a spiritual fellowship worthy of a search and then support? What is the value of such a fellowship or of a “movement” that might embrace it?

Now, let us proceed by considering some things early on declared by two prominent men in the early days of the American Restoration Movement. And as I consider these quotations, I do so with a view toward establishing the point that there were at least three cracks in the original foundation of restoration effort or three flaws from the beginning. And for the purpose of this article, I mean by “beginning” 1809 when Thomas Campbell wrote the Declaration And Address. And the “cracks” that I will identify are (1) a faulty hermeneutic which was an attempt at the time to get rid of all human opinions as impediments to the rightful extension of spiritual fellowship to all Christians in the denominations, but which hermeneutic unwittingly created (2) a situation in which it was impossible to maintain the correct distinction between faith and opinion, and (3) a willingness to extend spiritual fellowship to people who were not complying with the nature and purpose of baptism as they came to understand it.

In the Declaration And Address, Thomas Campbell stated that he was not trying to create another human creed as a term of communion. What he was proposing was a route to “original ground” so that men in his day could “take up things just as the apostles left them” (Historical Documents Advocating Christian Union, edited by John Allen Hudson, p.107; hereafter this book will be referenced as HD). Thus, his goal in providing the thirteen propositions listed in the Address were based on the view that the apostles had left some things for us that needed to be recovered in thought and practiced in life. And these things needed to be distinguished from other things so that religious reform could indeed take place. All of the various additional doctrinal positions that had been taken over the centuries and which had accumulated as divisive creedal statements that kept equally sincere brethren in segregate communities simply had to be removed from human thinking if the unity required in Scripture was going to be achieved.

But how did Thomas Campbell come to the conclusion that there was an obligatory unity that Christians were obligated to practice? Whence came this understanding? How did he come to the conclusion that there was a kind of unity that Christians were under obligation to practice? How did he know that the obligation to uphold that unity lasted longer than the first century? And why did the Address seem to him to be important as an applied way of getting rid of the accumulated human decrees that stood in the way of the unity of Christ?

The Declaration And Address didn’t just fall from the sky. It was a document that originated in the mind of Thomas Campbell. Well, let us ask ourselves some questions as to the nature of that document as it first existed in thought in his mind. And let us be specific. Let us think about his goal of trying to get back to original ground, sacred ground not spoiled by wrong human thinking.

T F 1. The view that Thomas Campbell and all other men should only do what is authorized by Christ as revealed in the New Testament is itself a mistaken and unintended part of the accumulation of mere human opinions that stand in the way of the unity of Christ.

T F 2. The view that Thomas Campbell and all other men should only do what is authorized by Christ as revealed in the New Testament is a part of “original ground” discoverable by human reason but without the exertion of opinion.

Or let us word the two statements a little differently and make our point more simple:

T F 3. The view that Thomas Campbell and all other men should only do what is authorized by Christ as revealed in the New Testament is itself a mere human opinion.

T F 4. The view that Thomas Campbell and all other men should only do what is authorized by Christ as revealed in the New Testament is itself a matter of biblical faith.

Dear reader, now think about those four True-False statements very carefully. And with regard to the first and third statements, surely Campbell did not mean to be binding another mere human opinion on others in his attempt to get rid of the then current problem of binding human opinion on men as a basis of establishing and maintaining religious fellowship. He would certainly have no right to bind his own personal opinion that “original ground” should be recovered if such were merely an opinion, while at the same time deploring the use of human opinion as the means of establishing spiritual orthodoxy. So, we would take it that statement #1 is false and that statement #3 is false. Thomas Campbell’s view that “original ground” should be desired and that by it alone men could maintain the unity of Christ is a part of “original ground” or to express it another way, it is a part of biblical faith itself and certainly is not a matter of mere human opinion. So, statements #2 and #4 are true.

Paul’s words to the brethren at Colossae establish the correctness of the foregoing conclusion. “And whatsoever ye do, in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col. 3:17). Truly, to do things in the name of Christ is to obey God rather than man (Acts 5:28, 29; cf. 4:12). And this is the very thing that was Campbell’s goal. It was a noble goal, but his process for accomplishing it was flawed. Now, just what do we mean?

Proposition #3 in the Declaration And Address is too restrictive in its statement of what constitutes the pattern of authority whereby Scriptural unity can be obtained and maintained. Campbell in trying to reach a position that would prohibit the constant dividing up into various religious camps said that “nothing ought to be inculcated upon Christians as articles of faith; nor required of them as terms of communion, but what is expressly taught and enjoined upon them in the word of God. Nor ought anything to be admitted, as of Divine obligation, in their Church institution and managements, but what is expressly enjoined by the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ and his apostles upon the New Testament Church; either in express terms or by approved precedent” (HD, 108). His words “expressly enjoined” are what we call “direct statement” and his “approved precedent” are what we call “approved example.” But Campbell left out the third category or way that the Bible authorizes. He left out what in our day came to be called “necessary inference,” but which later was more appropriately identified as “implication.” Campbell intentionally omitted that route to the record.

We can appreciate his reluctance since he was trying to avoid the mental route that had caused him so much pain. He well knew the agony of wrong inference when men drew conclusions not provable by Scripture and bound these conclusions on others. That is what had created the warring denominational camps. But rather than make the distinction between (1) inferring what is actually implied as can be established by logical argument, and (2) inferring what is not implied (thus merely drawing a conclusion not implied by the Bible which conclusion is then a mere human opinion), Campbell simply attempted to leave the whole process of “inference” out of ascertaining the pattern of authority. The pattern would consist of (1) direct statement and (2) approved example only.

In Proposition #5 we have the wonderful statement that “Nothing ought to be received into the faith or worship of the Church, or be made a term of communion among Christians, that is not as old as the New Testament” (HD, 110).

But when we come to Proposition #6, we see Thomas Campbell’s fear of inference as a category or route to Bible authority. Read it carefully in full:

“That although inferences and deductions from Scripture premises, when fairly inferred, may be truly called the doctrine of God’s holy word, yet are they not formally binding upon the consciences of Christians farther than they perceive the connection, and evidently see that they are so; for their faith must not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. Therefore, no such deductions can be made terms of communion, but do properly belong to the after and progressive edification of the Church. Hence, it is evident that no such deductions or inferential truths ought to have any place in the Church’s confession” (HD, 110).

Notice, please that while Campbell was honorably trying to prevent the continued application of human authority as binding on men as an appendix to or substitute for divine authority, in the very way that he was attacking “opinion binding,” he went too far by undermining the very procedure that he was, in fact, already employing. In looking at human reason the way that he was and in describing it the way that he did, he was creating unintentionally an impossible and self-contradictory task for himself and others. Consider carefully, please, that on the one hand (1) Campbell allows for the fact that when inferences and deductions are “fairly inferred,” the conclusions reached may be called “the doctrine of God’s holy word,” and yet on the other hand, (2) Campbell says that those conclusions, though a part of God’s holy word, are the product of human wisdom rather than divine power. Do you see a problem just here, dear reader?

If the principle that Campbell is upholding in his proposition #6 is the product of “fair inference” from Scripture premises, then although it may be a part of God’s holy word, it cannot be bound on anyone as divine authority since it is the product of Campbell’s own human reasoning and, therefore, is a part of human wisdom rather than the product of divine power. Therefore, Campbell’s own view which was reached by inferring what the Bible was implying (about substituting human authority for divine authority in his day) was a conclusion that (though correct and a part of God’s holy word) had no “place in the Church’s confession.”

Rather than stress the absolute necessity of correct reasoning (cf. 1 Thess. 5:21: Rom. 12:2), he attacked human reason, in the act of deduction, as leading to “the wisdom of men.” The truth of the matter is that it is only by the correct use of human reason that a person can come to comprehend that he is under the binding authority of the New Testament at all!

So, I ask, how in the world could the appeal in the Declaration And Address (to those viewed by Campbell as Christians) have any rightful place in their thinking? If his conclusion that there should be a rediscovery of “original ground” was rightly inferred from what the Bible implied, then (although correct and a part of God’s holy word according to Campbell himself), it still stood in the “wisdom of men” rather than in the “power and veracity of God.” According to Campbell, if these “Christians” couldn’t see the accuracy of the plea and thus the need of the plea for “restoration,” then the plea could not be “formally binding” on them, because he said that fairly inferred conclusions drawn from Scriptural premises cannot be “formally binding upon the consciences of Christians farther than they perceive the connection, and evidently see that they are so.” Therefore, unless the other “Christians” in the denominations were convinced that Campbell’s call for restoration was good and needful, and if they were convinced of the need to participate, they would be following the “wisdom of men” rather than the “power and veracity of God” in submitting to a principle that Campbell learned by proper deduction from Scripture premises.

Therefore, it is clear that the first “flaw” from the beginning was a hermeneutical (interpretational) flaw that appeared by way of Campbell’s unintentionally attacking “implication” as a way of learning what is binding upon men.

And since that error was advocated in the Address, that meant that there was no clear way for Campbell to make a clear distinction between (1) matters of faith and (2) matters of opinion although he was trying desperately to get rid of the notion of binding mere human opinion on anyone. If conclusions “fairly inferred” were still evaluated as standing in “the wisdom of men” rather than in “the power and veracity of God,” then there could be no precise distinction drawn between “God’s holy word,” learned by “fair inference” and mere human opinion both of which are products of a man’s mind.

In our day, when it comes to the matter of “ascertaining Bible authority” (that is also the name of one of my father’s well-received books), we have said that the Bible authorizes by (1) direct statement, (2) approved example, and by (3) implication. Of course, implication and approved example are both derived from direct statements, but the three categories are correct as identifications of literary function or the ways that we learn what we must do, what we may do, and what we must not do. And by the three routes to authority, we find our obligations, our options, and our prohibitions.

In Campbell’s words “fairly inferred” refer to a conclusion rightly deduced from Bible premises. “Fair inference” would be correct inference from Bible implication. That is, we fairly infer when we correctly infer what the Bible actually implies. These doctrines thus inferred can be, then, stated as conclusions of valid syllogisms. They become a part of a sound argument. And a sound argument is a valid argument with truthful premises. The argument is, therefore, dependable. The conclusion of a sound argument is true. If we infer what the Bible does not really imply at all, we draw a conclusion that is simply an opinion, and there is no sound argument whatever that can be constructed in its defense.

All doctrinal controversy can rationally only be settled by the appeal to a sound argument. And this is an obligation stated in Scripture. This is what the very notion of “proof” entails! According to Ruby’s Logic, An Introduction, the “law of rationality” is the principle that “We ought to justify our conclusions by adequate evidence” (Ruby, 131). Jesus always complied with that law or regulative principle of human reasoning. And Paul made our deference to that law a matter of biblical obligation in at least two passages of Scripture. He told the brethren at Thessalonica to “prove all things; hold fast that which is good,” (1 Thess. 5:21), and he told the saints in Rome, “And be not fashioned according to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Rom. 12:2).

But as brother Thomas B. Warren taught us long ago, since none of us (and this applies to Thomas Campbell as well as to Thomas Warren and all men living today) can find his own name written in the Bible, he cannot learn that he is even under Bible authority without rightly inferring what the Bible implies! We cannot even recognize our connection to and the necessity of submitting to Bible authority without correctly inferring what the Bible implies! Although the Bible provides our obligations, options, and prohibitions, it reaches us or connects us to those ways of ascertaining Bible authority only or completely by way of implication. That is the one and only route that provides our connection to the binding authority of Holy Writ!

Since the Bible was originally addressed to others (none of us living today were even born when even one book of the Bible was written), we can only come to recognize that we, too, like the original audience are under Bible authority only by or exclusively by inferring what the Bible implies. And if this conclusion “fairly inferred” cannot be bound on anyone because it is simply a part of the wisdom of men rather than the product of the veracity and power of God as described by Thomas Campbell, then no man living today is under Bible obligation to do one single solitary thing! And this would also mean that no one living in Campbell’s day including Campbell himself was under Bible authority at all. That is how crucial the mistake made by Thomas Campbell was. Given the way that he was describing “fair inference” and “deduction,” he could not clearly distinguish between faith and opinion at all when it came to matters of binding obligation.

His idea of getting rid of binding human opinion in the religious arena was indeed correct! But the way he described the process whereby he thought that such could be achieved made it impossible for one to even be under divine authority to do such a thing.

And perhaps, because of the way that he confusedly and unintentionally blurred the distinction between human opinion and biblical faith, that at least partially explains why it is that he and later his son, Alexander, were so very willing to spiritually fellowship denominational people, including preachers, who did not share the “restoration” viewpoint. This is the third “flaw” that I want to mention.

When we read of the way that Thomas and Alexander Campbell related to other religious people in their day, we see that they were willing to spiritually fellowship them even though they were practitioners of denominationalism and not necessarily supporters of the idea of recovering original ground. The Campbells had come out of the Presbyterian church themselves. But their break with that group with all its historical internal division, did not mean that they would, however, refuse to recognize as faithful Christians those from whom they were now somewhat religiously estranged. And as their comprehension of certain Bible truths grew, even though they remained very ecumenical in their regard to the sects, yet their knowledge growth brought them into a closer affiliation with other religious people who had learned the same truth.

For example, following the Campbells’ learning that “baptism” was, in fact, in Scripture “immersion,” the little Brush Run church across the West Virginia line in southwestern Pennsylvania became organizationally connected to the Baptists. After writing out a statement which entailed a rejection of human creeds as a basis of fellowship, and declaring their willingness to become a part of the Redstone Association if they would be allowed to uphold what they were convinced the Bible taught, the Brush Run church then joined that Baptist association in 1813 (West, Search For The Ancient Order, Vol. I, p. 61). Alexander wrote to a relative in 1815,

“For my own part I must say that, after long study and investigation of books, and more especially the Sacred Scriptures, I have through clear convictions of truth and duty, renounced much of the traditions and errors of my early education. I am now an Independent in church government; of that faith and view of the gospel exhibited in John Walker’s Seven Letters to Alexander Knox, and a Baptist so far as regards baptism. What I am in religion I am from examination, reflection, and conviction, not from ‘ipse dixit’ tradition or human authority” (West, pp. 61, 62).

Later, while Alexander Campbell was working with the Wellsburg church, that congregation joined the Mahoning Baptist Association (West, pp. 66-68). So, while the Campbells were advancing in their understanding of Scripture, and while they were making headway in teaching the non-denominational nature of early Christianity and the necessity of unity among Christians, they still recognized Christians among the sectarians groups.

And later, in 1837, Campbell received a letter from a woman in Lunenburg, Virginia, in response to which Campbell again revealed his attitude toward the sects, and which attitude bothered some of his own brethren who thought that Campbell was surrendering ground gained in the reform effort. The woman from Lunenburg had been surprised by the fact that in Campbell’s periodical, Campbell had recognized “the Protestant parties as Christian” (Campbell, Millennial Harbinger, September, 1837, p. 411).

In response, Campbell first proposes the following:

“In reply to this conscientious sister, I observe, that if there be no Christians in the Protestant sects, there are certainly none among the Romanists, none among the Jews, Turks, Pagans; and therefore no Christians in the world except ourselves, or such of us as keep, or strive to keep, all the commandments of Jesus. Therefore, for many centuries there has been no church of Christ, no Christians in the world; and the promises concerning the everlasting kingdom of Messiah have failed, and the gates of hell have prevailed against his church! This cannot be; and therefore there are Christians among the sects” (Campbell, 411).

So, the basis on which Campbell rests his view that there must be Christians in the sects is that unless one is willing to grant that contention, then he must admit that in history the church at some point ceased to exist! But I ask the reader, is that true? Why would that admission necessarily have to follow? Isn’t it possible that Christians could have existed ever since Pentecost in the world without their getting involved with and amalgamated with some denomination. Even if history ignored the existence of non-denominational Christians in its record (given their small numbers), does anyone today have the right to claim that the church simply stopped existing in history unless one admits that it existed in combination with Catholicism and Protestant denominationalism or among Jews, Turks, and Pagans? Such simply does not at all follow. Campbell merely asserted what he could not prove.

It is the case that Christians, following the apostasy predicted by Paul, did not for a long time have the force of a massive societal movement, but their non-mention in the historical record of the continuing apostasy does not prove their non-existence. To be viewed as non-worthy of mention is not the equivalent of proof of their non-existence. Consider that outside the Bible there is very little mention of Jesus during the first few centuries from secular historians following his resurrection. And some today deny that he ever lived, but such is no proof of any currently alleged non-existence. The books of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are historical documents from antiquity. They establish the historicity of Jesus. I used to ask my students the following question: How long must you be dead before your “not having been” here becomes a real possibility? We are not here trying to beg any question. We are simply saying that real historical existence, while it can be denied, can never be disproved. Too, the non-existence of the church in one country would not argue conclusively for the non-existence of the church in every country. The fact that the Bible did not exist in many languages for a long time during the days of the apostasy did not mean that it was not here at all. And simply because the Bible had not existed in an English version before a certain date could not mean that it did not exist in some other language or languages before the first English version appeared. If the Bible presently exists in one language, then it has always existed in some language tracing back to the original.

Then, too, Campbell thinks that if we claim that there are no Christians in the sects, we have also to claim that there are no Christians among the Catholics (Romanists), the Jews, Turks, and Pagans. In other words, if there are no Christians among the sects, there have been no Christians in the world for many years! But it is certainly conceivable that one could argue for the existence of some Christians among the sects while denying that any Catholic or Jew or Turk or Pagan had ever become a Christian. And Campbell says that if we deny that all others have become Christians, that we are claiming, therefore, that there are “no Christians in the world except ourselves, or such of us as keep, or strive to keep, all the commandments of Jesus.” Well, is that a false claim? If “ourselves” refers exclusively to those in America, it would be a false claim. If it refers to those known only to Campbell, it would be a false claim. But if it refers to all those who “keep” (not just strive to keep) the commands of Jesus any and everywhere, the claim is correct. And it is beyond successful contradiction.

On the one hand Campbell (1) strove for recovering original ground, (2) did not intend to start a new religious group or church, (3) attempted to get Christians among the sects to unify on that recovered ground. He plainly stated that he was not striving for the unification of the sectarian groups as such. He was appealing to those among them who were Christians to come out and unify on the restored basis of divine doctrine, but he (4) spiritually fellowshipped the denominationalists who did not agree with him doctrinally. This made the very idea of “restoration” seem suspect. If on the one hand he was distinguishing between “Christians among the sects” (thus calling them out from among those in the sects who were not really Christians) that might have a certain Scriptural appeal to it. It would seem fair to assume the possibility that some people had, in fact, become Christians but who had subsequently joined some denomination. However, since Campbell himself spiritually fellowshipped others who were not willing or who had not as yet “come out” to unify on original ground, that made the Campbells concept of “restoration” suspect and inconsistent.

But then notice what Campbell says in response to the letter from Lunenburg:

“But who is a Christian? I answer, Every one that believes in his heart that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah, the Son of God; repents of his sins, and obeys him in all things according to his measure of knowledge of his will. A perfect man in Christ, or a perfect Christian, is one thing; and ‘a babe in Christ,’ a stripling in the faith, or an imperfect Christian, is another” (Campbell, p. 411).

He goes on to say that both groups are recognized in Scripture and the imperfect Christians are told to be perfect, and he cites 2 Corinthians 3:11. But Campbell’s significant problem is that he is assuming that a person can become a Christian without clearly understanding anything beyond repentance. According to his own words, a Christian is a man who believes that Jesus is the Christ, repents of his sins, and “obeys him in all things according to his measure of knowledge of his will.” So, given the way that Campbell describes who a Christian is, the following individuals would be Christians:

  1. a man who has faith and repents but does not know anything about baptism;
  2. a man who has faith and repents and knows that he should be “baptized” for some unknown (to him) reason;
  3. a man who has faith and repents and who is “ baptized” for some wrong reason;
  4. a man who has faith and repents and who is “baptized” in the wrong way (by sprinkling or pouring but not by immersion) would be a Christian.

In response to the implications of Campbell’s remarks to the woman from Lunenburg, I would say this: “repentance unto life” per Acts 11:18 does not entail any of the four categories just listed! The cases of kingdom entry in the book of Acts do not allow for such variation as Campbell’s view did. Read the following from the “Lunenburg Letter” carefully, and you can see how that other brethren began to see that they were not looking at “restoration” in the same way that Campbell evidently was:

“Should I find a Pedobaptist more intelligent in the Christian Scriptures, more spiritually-minded and more devoted to the Lord than a Baptist, or one immersed on a profession of the ancient faith, I could not hesitate a moment in giving the preference of my heart to him that loveth most. Did I act otherwise, I would be a pure sectarian, a Pharisee among Christians. Still I will be asked, How I know that any one loves my Master but by his obedience to his commandments? I answer, In no other way. But mark, I do not substitute obedience to one commandment, for universal or even for general obedience. And should I see a sectarian Baptist or a Pedobaptist more spiritually minded, more generally conformed to the requisitions of the Messiah, than one who precisely acquiesces with me in the theory or practice of immersion as I teach, doubtless the former rather than the latter, would have my cordial approbation and love as a Christian. So I judge, and so I feel. It is the image of Christ the Christian looks for and loves; and this does not consist in being exact in a few items, but in general devotion to the whole truth as far as known” (Campbell, p. 412).

Dear reader, did you understand what Campbell just affirmed? He said that if they were “more spiritually minded, more generally conformed to the requisitions of the Messiah” both a sectarian Baptist and a Pedobaptist (one who believes in infant baptism) would have his “cordial approbation and love as a Christian” more so than that given to someone less spiritually minded but who “precisely acquiesces with me in the theory or practice of immersion as I teach.” WOW!

In the November issue of the Millennial Harbinger under the heading, “Christians Among The Sects,” Campbell briefly responded to some objections received in the light of his response to that letter from Lunenburg (pp. 506-508). One can easily see how that some concluded that Campbell was surrendering ground for which he and others had fought. Campbell, however, didn’t think he was surrendering anything, and if he wasn’t, we see that many who had been striving for “restoration” for years had failed completely to grasp the weakness in the foundation of Campbell’s thought regarding who was and who was not a Christian. When Campbell’s precise teaching on the nature and purpose of baptism was grasped and practiced by others, they took it as a point that was necessary to be understood in order to become a Christian. Campbell evidently thought that was going too far.

So, we see that early on there were flaws in the thinking of some who were most engaged in the effort at “restoration.” There was a (1) hermeneutical flaw regarding the place of deduction in discerning the pattern of authority, (2) an epistemological flaw, therefore, that did not allow for clear distinction between matters of faith and matters of opinion, and (3) there was the willingness of some involved in the formative period of “restoration” thought to spiritually fellowship other religious people who had never obeyed the gospel, which rendered the whole effort at restoration suspicious. It is a wonder that unity was maintained as long as it was.

Posted in Doctrine

The Tomb Was Empty

By Weylan Deaver

No event in history is more staggering in consequence than the resurrection of Jesus Christ on the Sunday morning following his Friday death by crucifixion. The apostle Paul would say in Romans 4:25 that Jesus was “raised for our justification.” That means, without Jesus’ resurrection, there is no justification of sinners in the eyes of a holy God. His blood was given for our sins (Matthew 26:28), but it would all have been for nought had the devil been able to keep Jesus in the tomb. Elsewhere, Paul says that Jesus’ blood is what purchased the church (Acts 20:28). It is only in the church of Christ that anyone can find justification in Christ by the blood of Christ. The church is the Lord’s spiritual body, and Christ is “the saviour of the body” (Ephesians 5:23). Thus, to be outside his body is to be without salvation. But, whether you are in the Lord’s church or not, you are coming out of the grave eventually. As Paul taught the Athenians two millennia ago, the fact that God raised Jesus from the dead is what guarantees that God will one day raise all of us from the dead (Acts 17:31). “And these shall go away into eternal punishment: but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 25:46). Come visit us at the church of Christ, where Jesus’ empty tomb still motivates us to prepare for our own.

Posted in Doctrine

“Into what then were you baptized?” (Acts 19:3)

By Marlin Kilpatrick

When the apostle Paul came to Ephesus he discovered certain disciples who had been wrongly baptized. These disciples had been baptized into John’s baptism, but John’s baptism was no longer operative. Paul asked, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?” (Acts19:2, NASB). Here the word “believed” is used as a figure of speech where a part is put for the whole. It is as though Paul asked, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you were saved?” But what is the implication(s) of such a question?

Paul’s question, “Into what then were you baptized?”, in conjunction with his first question, “Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?”, implies that, had they been properly baptized, they would have been baptized in the Holy Spirit; otherwise Paul would have had no reason to further question these disciples’ obedience. In this situation we can see a major difference between John’s baptism and the baptism that puts one into the kingdom. John’s baptism was in water and for the remission of sins (John 3:23; Mark 1:4), but the baptism which involves the “new birth” and which puts one into the kingdom is a baptism involving more than water–it also involves the Holy Spirit.

When Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, among other things he wrote, “For in one Spirit were we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Greeks, whether we be bond or free, and were all made to drink into one Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:13, ASV). If the Corinthian Christians were baptized in one Spirit (and Paul said they were), then why should we think it strange that all who obey the gospel are likewise baptized in the Spirit? The fact is, for the past several generations the church has been led to believe that any claim that the Spirit is working in the hearts (minds) of faithful Christians will lead us into Pentecostalism (sometimes referred to as Neo-Pentecostalism). But such fear is unwarranted. It does not necessarily follow that if the Spirit is working in the hearts of sincere, faithful Christians, then we have present-day miracles. Miracles in the Lord’s church have ended, just as Paul said they would (cf. 1 Cor. 13:8-10). And, even in New Testament times, not all who were baptized in the Spirit worked miracles.

Today, no one is being helped by the Spirit in a miraculous way. The Spirit always works in conjunction with his word. It is time that we put Neo-Pentecostal phobia to rest and begin asking ourselves, “Did you receive the Spirit when you believed?” And, if we did not receive the Spirit when we believed, then we need to inquire, “Into what then were you baptized?”

Posted in Doctrine

A Most Significant Scripture

By Marlin Kilpatrick

The Bible is God’s inspired word (2 Tim. 3:16-17). In one sense there are no insignificant scriptures. Still, there are some scriptures which are more relevant than others in helping us understand the great biblical themes which are woven throughout the Bible. Our Lord’s promise to send his Holy Spirit to his faithful brethren is a Bible theme which has occasioned the asking of many questions. One question concerning the giving of the Holy Spirit is whether the Spirit is given by measure.

Most all of my life I have heard of different measures of the Spirit being given. It was claimed that (1) Christ had the Spirit without measure, (2) the apostles received the “baptismal” measure, and (3) some upon whom the apostles laid their hands received the “laying on of hands” measure. All other Christians received what is called the “common” or “ordinary” measure of the Spirit. But were there different measures of the Spirit given?

A most significant scripture is John 3:34 which, due to the KJV translation, has caused many to believe and teach there are different measures of the Spirit given. The KJV reads, “For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God, for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him.” The problem with which we are faced involves the words “unto him” which were supplied by the KJV translators. However, they are not in the old manuscripts. The ASV (1901) correctly translates the verse by omitting the words “unto him.” Likewise, most newer translations have followed suit. This is a most significant rendering of the scripture and it helps immensely our understanding of the reception of the Spirit by all who obey the gospel. There are no measures of the Spirit.

If there are no measures of the Spirit, then all who received the Spirit, beginning at Acts 2 and throughout the book of Acts, received the same thing. Since Jesus promised his apostles they would be baptized in the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4-5) and there are no measures of the Spirit, then all who received the Spirit on Pentecost (Acts 2) were baptized in the Holy Spirit. And this harmonizes with John the Baptist’s words, “…he shall baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Matt. 3:11; Luke 3:16).

I anticipate that someone may say, “But not all Christians could do what the apostles could do.” Yes, this is true. But now we are speaking of the power supplied by the Spirit. We must make a distinction between the baptism in the Spirit and the power supplied by the Spirit. It is certainly the case that the apostles had supernatural (miraculous) power. The apostles laid their hands on certain individuals and they received limited supernatural power. And all other Christians had non-miraculous power. Today, the Spirit’s power in Christians is limited to the non-miraculous.

If only the translators of the KJV had translated John 3:34 correctly, much of the confusion over the so-called measures of the Spirit would have never occurred. Today there are no measures of the Spirit; one either has the Spirit or he does not have the Spirit. He who does not have the Spirit, does not belong to Christ (Rom. 8:9-11). Think about it.

Posted in Doctrine

The Difference in Kingdom Entry (Then and Now)

By Marlin Kilpatrick

Most serious Bible students know the kingdom of God (his church) was established by Christ on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4). The establishment of the kingdom of God was the fulfillment of several Old Testament prophecies (cf. Isa. 2:1-4; Dan. 2:44; Joel 2:28-32).

There is a problem that exists in the minds of many sincere brethren about the difference between how entry was first made into the kingdom and how we enter the kingdom today. There is definitely a difference between kingdom entry of the converts of John the Baptist, including the apostles, along with the Samaritans (Acts 8), Cornelius and his household and near friends (Acts 10), and the twelve disciples at Ephesus (Acts 19) and our entry today. Why does this difference exist?

Since Jesus spoke to Nicodemus, there has only been one way into the kingdom. Jesus said, “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). On Pentecost day the Holy Spirit came upon the 120 disciples of John, which included the apostles (Acts 2:1-4). But these had been “born of water” when they were baptized by John (John 3:23). Their baptism was “for the remission of sins” (Mark 1:4). Though “born of water” and “for the remission of sins,” they were not yet in the kingdom. What allowed them to enter the kingdom? It was their baptism in the Spirit (Acts 2:1-4). And their baptism in Spirit was accompanied by the miraculous — their speaking in languages they had never learned. The miracle of “tongue speaking” was the empirical evidence of God’s acceptance of them into his kingdom. Clearly, there was a time-lapse between their baptism by John and their being baptized in the Spirit. So, when the first ethnic group (Jews) entered the kingdom, a time-lapse existed, but no such time-lapse exists today.

The second group to enter the kingdom on Pentecost (Acts 2) were the 3,000 (Acts 2:41). In their case, there was no time-lapse between their baptism in water and in Spirit. Why? Since Jews (converts of John, including the apostles) had already entered the kingdom, there was no need for a time-lapse; their baptism consisted of two elements: water and Spirit (John 3:5). The time-lapse between the baptism in water and Spirit occurred only when a new ethnic group entered the kingdom, and in each case there were miracles associated with their entry into the kingdom.

When the second ethnic group (the Samaritans) entered the kingdom, there was also a time-lapse. Philip the evangelist had gone down to Samaria and preached Christ to them, but they were baptized only in the name of Jesus (Acts 8:16). But under the Great Commission, baptism was to be administered in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19). When the apostles in Jerusalem learned the Samaritans had received the word of God, they sent Peter and John to the Samaritans, who laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit (Acts 8:17). So, again, we have a time-lapse between the Samaritans’ baptism in water and their baptism in the Holy Spirit.

In the case of Cornelius, his household and near friends, there was also a time-lapse between their receiving the Spirit and their baptism in water (Acts 10:44-48). After having received Holy Spirit baptism, these Gentiles began to speak in tongues (Acts 10:46). Why did the Spirit fall upon these Gentiles before they were baptized in water? He did so because Cornelius, his household and near friends were righteous Gentiles. God’s Spirit cannot dwell in the hearts of those who are practicing sinners, and it is explicitly said of Cornelius that he was a righteous man (Acts 10:22, NASB).

The case of the twelve disciples at Ephesus who had received John’s baptism also involved a time-lapse. These disciples had not heard of the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:2). When Paul explained that John’s converts were to believe on Christ, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus (Acts 19:4-5). Then Paul laid his hands on them, they received the Holy Spirit, and they spoke in tongues and prophesied (Acts 19:6). With this event at Ephesus, the necessity for a time-lapse between water and Spirit baptism ceased because all ethnic groups (Jews, Samaritans, and full Gentiles) had entered the kingdom.

So far we have discussed what happened back then when various ethnic groups were entering the kingdom. What is the case now with men and women who obey the gospel? There is no time-lapse. When a penitent, having confessed, alien sinner is baptized for the remission of his sins, while in the water, his spirit is immersed in Holy Spirit (Tit. 3:5-6). There is now only one baptism (Eph. 4:5), but it consist of two elements: water and Spirit (John 3:3). Think about it.

Posted in Doctrine, General

The Color of Grace

By Mac Deaver

God made man to be oriented in two directions. Man would while on earth always feel the “tug” of his physical atmosphere and also the “tug” of the metaphysical or spiritual atmosphere. His body would find attraction (and to a point even a necessary attraction) to things of this life (including food and covering—1 Tim. 6:8) while his spirit would find an appeal to something beyond what this world can of itself offer (Acts 17:27; cf. Col. 3:1-4). And this dual “tug” is captured in the free will choices of every person. There is an essential tension between flesh and spirit as they war for dominance in human personality (Gal. 5:17). All of our choices we make while in this body of flesh. Our human spirits are called upon by a wise and mighty Maker to choose spirit over flesh. But we must make that choice while still living in the body of flesh. And we must choose spirit over flesh because flesh goes back to dust and spirit goes back to God who gave it (Gen. 3:19; Eccles. 12:7).

This body of flesh is amazing in that it delivers to the brain certain “information” which then enables our mind to do its work. Our atmosphere makes an appeal to our minds through our senses that bring information to our brains in particular ways that make life so enjoyable and choices so necessary. Our five senses allow us contact with our physical atmosphere. The sense of sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch put us into physical relationship with this physical world. And each sense has its own peculiar function in the way that it delivers information to our brains. And each of us values each sense. We would not want to lose any of the senses. Perhaps the sense of sight is the one we would least like to lose. It is of course an enormous ground for temptation (cf. lust of the eyes–Gen. 3:6; 1 John 2:16) while at the same time being such a blessing for enjoyment and a means of spiritual improvement (for example, through the examination of the universe [Psalm 19] and through the reading of God’s word (cf. Eph. 3:4; 1 Tim. 4:13; Rev. 1:3). Most men and women of whom we read in Scripture were people of sight. The blind men were the exceptions and on rare occasion the recipients of miraculous power (John 9:32; 8:22-26; Matt. 9:27-31).

Through sight the world we live in reveals itself to us in form and color. Light provides our capacity for vision and makes the distinction between darkness and light visually possible. Moses records for us the fact that following the initial creative act of Almighty God, “darkness was upon the face of the deep” (Gen. 1:2). After the creation of light, God separated each from the other and gave to each its own name (Gen. 1:3-5). In Job 38:8-11 we learn that thick darkness was a “swaddling-band” for the sea. And in a most humbling and exposing question, God once asked Job, “Where is the way to the dwelling of light? And as for darkness, where is the place thereof, That thou shouldest take it to the bound thereof, And that thou shouldest discern the paths to the house thereof?” (Job 38:19-20). Did Job know how to follow the path or trail of darkness all the way to its source? And we know that Job is not alone in his inability for such a search. Later in the New Testament, light will represent God, truth, and goodness, while darkness will stand for ignorance and evil (1 John 1:5-7; Eph. 5:7-14; Luke 22:53; Eph. 6:12), and darkness will even come to indicate the final and complete loss of all privilege and blessing forever (Matt. 25:30; 2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 13).

Following initial creation, God had said, “Let there be light” (Gen. 1:3). The Logos or Word was the agent of creation in whom was life and light (John 1:1-5). Jesus Christ in his incarnation was “the true light” (John 1:7-9).

Now, as earlier mentioned our vision or sense of seeing makes possible not only form and the distinction between light and darkness, but it also reveals to us color. Interestingly, the first explicit reference to color in the Bible is Genesis 1:30 where Moses informs us that “every green herb” was intended for animal consumption. And the next reference to color is by way of introducing to us the “bow in the cloud” which was to be the sign of God’s promise that never again would he destroy the earth by a flood (Gen. 9:8-17). In the dictionary part of the Dickson New Analytical Study Bible, we find the following description of “rainbow.” “A beautiful arc exhibiting the colors of the spectrum, formed opposite the sun by the refraction and reflection of the sun’s rays on rain drops or mist. In Genesis, God tells Noah that the rainbow is the symbol of the covenant between God, Noah, and every living creature (Ge. 9:12-17; Re. 4:3).” When we consult the Revelation passage, we find that in John’s vision, the rainbow is around the throne of God.

Now, let us think about grace. There are various aspects of the topic such as: the nature of grace, the location of grace, the specific conditions of grace, the limit of grace, the purpose of grace, the distinction between grace and work, the essential connection between grace and work, etc. There is no actual color of grace, but if grace did have a color what would it be? Think with me just now about the color of grace. In the Bible as truths are told about actual events that have happened or that are yet to happen, we are on occasion introduced to colors that may or may not be in the textual accounts being considered all that significant for the moment, but when collected together may provide for us a combination of color whereby we can describe the magnificent grace of God. At least, for a moment, let us try to glimpse the color of grace.

First, it is partly the color of purple (John 19:1-5). Following the scourging, the soldiers platted a crown of thorns and put it on the Lord’s head. They also took off his own garments and replaced them temporarily with a “purple garment” or a “scarlet robe” (See also Matt. 27:27-31; Mark 15:16-20; Luke 22:63-65). They put a reed in his right hand to represent the scepter of a king, and they mocked him by kneeling down before him in feigned worship. They spat on him and took the reed from his hand and struck him with it. They placed a blindfold over his eyes, struck him, and then requested that he identify the assaulter. Yes, they mocked him in worship as though he really was a king. So, they mixed their insincere worship with their sincere brutality, and little did they know that the One robed in scarlet was born to be a king and was about to willingly die for those abusing him (John 18:37; Rom. 5:6-8). Grace has within its fabric the color of purple.

Second, grace is partly the color of red (Rev. 1:5; Acts 20:28). About sixty-three years following the event of the cross, John on Patmos Isle would remind us that Jesus “loosed us from our sins by his blood.” There was blood on his back from the scourging; there was blood on his brow from the thorny crown driven into his skull by the soldiers who struck him on the head with the reed. There was blood from the wounds in his hands and in his feet through which the nails affixed his body to the cross. After all, in the wonderful eternal purpose of God, that marvelous human body was prepared for this crucifixion (Eph. 3:10-11; Heb. 10:5-7). And after he died, a soldier pierced his side and out came blood and water (John 19:34). The Father had announced at the Lord’s baptism in water that Jesus was in fact his son in whom he was well pleased (John 1:29-34; Matt. 3:17), and at the Lord’s death the Father again claimed him, in effect, by the various miraculous demonstrations of God’s power, tearing the veil between the holy of holies in two pieces and doing so from top to bottom (Matt. 27:51), providing an earthquake that opened the graves from which certain saints arose following the Lord’s own resurrection (Matt. 27:52-53), tearing rocks apart (Matt. 27:51), and having already provided darkness from noon to three over the land, one half the time that Jesus spent on the cross (Matt. 27:45; Mark 15:25, 33). The darkness and the earthquake along with other features of this most unusual scene were sufficient to produce fear in the hearts of a certain centurion and his associates as they watched Jesus. They got really scared and they reached the conclusion, “Truly this was a son of God” (Matt. 27:54). Thus the Father claimed Jesus by water at the Lord’s baptism. And the Father claimed Jesus by deed when he shed his blood. Thus, Jesus had come by water and by blood (1 John 5:6). And when the Lord died, a soldier pierced his side and out came blood and water (John 19:34). Indeed, grace is partly the color of red.

Third, grace is partly the color of white (Rev. 3:4; 7:13). Just as light comes to be distinguished from darkness as indicating truth and goodness, the color white comes to represent purity and innocence. During the Lord’s transfiguration, “…the fashion of his countenance was altered, and his raiment became white and dazzling” (Luke 9:29). Mark says that “his garments became glistering, exceeding white, so as no fuller on earth can whiten them” (Mark 9:3). Following the Lord’s resurrection, Mary saw two angels in the tomb. They were dressed in white (John 20:11-12). Immediately following the Lord’s ascension, two men in white apparel asked the apostles why they were looking into heaven (Acts 1:10). If the color of an angel’s garment is mentioned, inevitably it will be white. Many years later, the Lord through John informed the church at Sardis, “But thou hast a few names in Sardis that did not defile their garments: and they shall walk with me in white; for they are worthy.” Later in John’s visions, an elder asks him concerning certain ones that are arrayed in white robes. Who are they? Where did they come from? John has no answer but is sure that his inquirer has it. Indeed, the elder responds, “These are they that come out of the great tribulation, and they washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” Their garments are clean; they are white because they have been washed in blood. The color scheme of grace is profound! Just as a man may become rich by becoming poor or may become first by becoming last or may become wise by becoming foolish, he may wash his garments in red blood so that they will be white. Such language is unique, such concepts are ironic, but the thought becomes clear as we understand that a believing, penitent confessor washes his robes when he is immersed in water unto the remission of his sins, for it is at that point that the Lord’s blood is spiritually applied to his own human spirit (John 7:24; Rom. 10:9-10; Acts 2:38; Rom. 6:3-4). Yes, the color of white is represented in the fabric of grace.

Fourth, the color of grace is partially composed of blue (Exod. 26; 1 Pet. 2:24). You may read of the ornate nature of the veil that separated the holy place from the most holy place. The veil was composed of “blue, and purple, and scarlet” (Exod. 26:31). You may well recall that in Judaism only the High Priest could enter the holy of holies, and that he could do so only on one day of the year, the day of atonement (Lev. 16). He could only come inside the inner veil with blood that he was to sprinkle before and upon the mercy seat (Lev. 16:15). This inner sanctuary was off limits to the rest of the Jews and even to the High Priest himself except on that one day of atonement. In the New Testament the Hebrews writer uses the most holy place as representative of heaven itself (Heb. 9:24). Following the death of Christ, as God tore the inner veil in two separate pieces, he was declaring that heaven was now available to his people in a way heretofore unavailable. Heaven was no longer off limits to God’s people. The sacrifice of Christ could do what that of bulls and goats could not do. The cross was able to perfect for ever them that are sanctified (Heb. 10:1-4, 14; Heb. 9:23-28). Jesus has now gone into heaven itself to appear before the face of God for us, and he will one day come back to claim those who have waited on him unto salvation (Heb. 9:27-28). Thus, when the veil (colored with blue and purple and scarlet) was divinely torn, God was saying that the sacrifice of his own dear son, just concluded, was sufficient as a sacrifice to take care of the sins of man (cf. Isa. 53:11; Rom. 3:25-26). Also, consider that when Jesus suffered for us just before and on the cross, his body was so tortured that it became one single bruise. In 1 Peter 2:24 we read, “who his own self bare our sins in his body upon the tree, that we, having died unto sins, might live unto righteousness; by whose stripes ye were healed.” The ASV gives us a footnote on the word “stripes” showing that in the Greek New Testament the word is in fact singular and could be translated “bruise.” The Lord’s body was in effect one continuous bruise. Thus, when we think of the Lord’s sacrifice and how it makes heaven now possible for us, we think of the divinely torn blue and purple and scarlet veil giving us access to heaven but only at the price of the battered and bruised body of Christ himself.

Fifth, the color of grace is partly pale (Rev. 6:7-8; Psalm 116:15). In Revelation six, we learn that John watches as the Lamb opens the seals that had kept the contents of a curious book concealed. This book was held by One who sat on the throne. No one could open the book and see what was inside except the slain Lamb that was now alive. As the Lamb removes each seal further information inside the book is revealed. With the opening of the first seal, John sees a white horse. The second seal removed reveals a red horse, the third a black horse, and the fourth a pale horse. The rider of the pale horse is identified as death, and we are informed that Hades followed him. Indeed, the removed fifth seal reveals slain saints beneath the altar, waiting for justice regarding their murders. They are told to have patience; other Christians are yet to be killed before final justice is rendered. The pale horse is the color of yellowish-green. It is the color of a corpse. Grace involves death. It surely entails the death of Christ on the cross, for Jesus tasted death for every man (Heb. 2:9). Life was removed from the body of Christ temporarily as he winged his way to Paradise at the moment of his death (Luke 23:43). He expired (Luke 23:46). While crying out with a loud voice, he released his spirit (Matt. 27:50). He had been given the authority or right to lay his life down and to take it again; no one actually took it from him. The commandment that gave him this right came from his Father (John 10:17-18). The loud cry that preceded his death was the cry of triumph. He had not been defeated! Yet, his body was now a corpse, and was taken by two men and placed in a tomb. Regarding us, the Scripture is clear that our old man must be put to death. Spiritually speaking, we all must die to sin (2 Cor. 5:17). In our case, it is death by burial into death (Rom. 6:3-4). We rise with a new nature and with the Spirit of God now indwelling our body (2 Pet. 1:4; Rom. 8:9). The body once dominated by flesh and sin is now dead, but the human spirit is said to be life because it is now joined to the Holy Spirit himself (Rom. 8:9-11; 1 Cor. 6:16-20). But in time even Christians must meet the appointment of physical death (Heb. 9:27). Death “the rider” finally comes on his corpse colored horse to take the spirit away. Indeed, the corpse is taken to the cemetery for burial, but the spirit goes back to God for final disposition (Eccles. 12:7: Heb. 9:27). Grace is composed of yellowish-green.

And sixth, grace is partly crystal clear (Rev. 21:6, 11; Rev. 22:1; Heb. 10:22; John 4:10; John 7:37-39; 1 Cor. 12:13). It is the color of fresh, clean water (John 4:10). The Holy Spirit himself is likened unto such water of which Christians drink (John 7:37-39). This is possible because all who become Christians are born of water and Spirit (John 3:3-5). That is, they are immersed in both water (Acts 8:36) and Spirit (1 Cor. 12:13). They drink of one Spirit as if they were drinking fresh, pure water. There was always only one way into the kingdom. There was always, in one sense, only one baptism, and it was a baptism with two elements: water and Spirit. And everyone who entered the church came in under the application of the principle stated by Jesus in John 3:3-5. There are absolutely no exceptions to the application of this principle to any case of (1) conversion or (2) kingdom entry in the book of Acts. None! In baptism our bodies are to be bathed or washed in clean water (Heb. 10:22), and our spirits are submerged into the purity of the Holy Spirit himself. We thus from baptismal water arise to walk in newness of life (Rom. 6:3-4), our human spirits now joined to the Holy Spirit himself (1 Cor. 6:16-17). The Holy Spirit within is as a spring producing rivers of water within the saint (John 7:38-39). And furthermore, the holy city of God (the heavenly Jerusalem) to which saints now march is glorified with a light said to be like crystal (Rev. 21:10-11). Yes, grace is partly crystal clear.

Then again, grace is the varied color of precious stones (Rev. 21:19-21). The foundations of the wall surrounding the heavenly Jerusalem are precious stones. There is jasper which can be of various colors including blue, purple, and green. Sapphire is blue. Chalcedony is whitish and bluish or grey. Emerald is green. Sardonyx is reddish and white. Sardias is reddish. Chrysolite is gold. Beryl is sea-green. Topaz is yellowish. Chrysoprase is golden green. Hyacinth is light violet to moderate purple. And amethyst is deep purple or violet. Such colors are meant to place before us the undeniable fact that heaven is a place of indescribable beauty. The gates to that holy city are of pearl (Rev. 21:21), and the city itself is pure gold like unto pure glass (Rev. 21:18). And all who enter were of character like unto gold, silver, or costly stones (1 Cor. 3:10-15).

And in the eighth place, the grace of God could be partly the color of gold (Rev. 5:8; Rev. 21:21). The prayers of the saints in John’s vision are likened unto incense within golden bowls. There is no way for a Christian on this earth to successfully live a righteous life without the constant employment of prayer. The prayer of a saint is to be utilized along with the rest of his spiritual armor (Eph. 6:17-18). Through it, much needed power is provided (Eph. 3:14-21). The grace of God which remains so accessible to his children will be of little value if his children cease to pray. The Lord taught to pray sincerely and meaningfully (Matt. 6:5-8). He taught us to pray dependently (Matt. 6:11). He taught us to pray forgivingly (Matt. 6:14-15), and hopefully (Matt. 6:10, 13), and urgently (Luke 18:1-8). And Paul told us not to stop praying (1 Thess. 5:17). And James assures us of the value of a righteous man’s prayer (Jas. 5:16). And of course, that kind of prayer is a prayer of faith (Jas. 1:5-7; cf. 1 John 5:14-15). The one street in heaven is of gold, “as it were transparent glass” (Rev. 21:21). And those who will walk that street who arrive on the other side of death from our period of time are those “faithful until death” Christians whose faithfulness was to a great degree determined by their sweet relationship to the Father through authorized prayer.

And finally, the color of grace is the color of the glory of God (Rev. 21:23-27). The light from heaven which revealed to Saul of Tarsus the ascended Christ was a light brighter than that of the noonday sun (Acts 9:3; 22:6; 26:13). Saul then could not see “for the glory of that light” (Acts 22:11). And the extent of light that would blind a physical eye on this earth will in heaven be the extent of light that will provide vision to all the residents of the eternal city. The sun and moon will not be needed. Their light which served this universe so well is not appropriate to the metaphysical or spiritual domain which will be the home of the soul. And the greater light that ruled the day, and the lesser light that ruled the night, will be no more since the first heaven and earth will by then have fled away (Rev. 20:11). The New Jerusalem will be bathed in the light of the Lord God the Almighty and of the Lamb (Rev. 21:23). And in some way, whatever glory from this universe that can be translated into glory appropriate to the new domain will contribute to the spiritual atmosphere there (Rev. 21:24-27). We cannot begin to imagine the beauty of that eternal situation that awaits the faithful children of Almighty God.

Indeed, if grace had a color, the colors that we have here collected from Holy Writ, would at least in part characterize in color that favor bestowed upon the sons and daughters of men. May God help us to appreciate the grace of God more and more and to constantly live in its loving and beautiful embrace.

Posted in Baptism, Doctrine

Consequences of Baptist Doctrine

By Roy C. Deaver

[The following is excerpted from Deaver’s book, The Baptist Church and the New Testament Church, pp. 47-49.]

In view of the study already made regarding the Bible teaching on the essentiality of baptism, we need to consider now some of the consequences of the Baptist doctrine that one can be saved before and without baptism.

First of all, the teaching that baptism is not essential to one’s salvation means that the Baptist church is not necessary. Baptists teach that one can be saved without baptism, but that one cannot get into the Baptist church without being baptized…And, in which case the Baptist church is not necessary to one’s salvation.

Secondly, the Baptist idea that one can be saved without baptism means that it takes more to get into the Baptist church than it does for one to go to heaven. Baptists hold that one is saved by faith, the moment he believes, and that he is later baptized into the Baptist church because he has already been saved. If one can go to heaven because he is saved, and if one is saved by faith, and if one cannot get into the Baptist church without baptism—then, obviously, it takes more to get into the Baptist church than it does to go to heaven!

Thirdly, the doctrine of salvation without baptism means Baptist preachers cannot follow New Testament examples of conversion…The following quotation is from a book called The History of the Denton County Baptist Association and the Sixty Churches in Its Jurisdiction. This book was written by Mr. J. N. Rayzor, a prominent Baptist of Denton, Texas. The quotation is found on page 82. Here it is:

“An incident occurred in the Pilot Point church during Rev. J. B. Cole’s pastorate, which involved a point of doctrine that subjected Pastor Cole to criticism, and gave the incident much publicity and notoriety. Pastor Cole went fishing one day with a business man who was not a Christian, and he availed himself of the opportunity to talk to the lost man about his unsaved condition, and led him to an acceptance of Christ. Jo Ives, the man converted, said to Pastor Cole, ‘Here is water, what doth hinder me from being baptized?’ Obviously Brother Cole thought of the story of Philip and the Eunuch, and taking that incident an example, he led Mr. Ives out into the water and baptized him. Rev. Cole had been a Baptist but a short time and was not up on their conception of baptism, and how and when it should be administered. The news of the incident soon spread among the members, and then the show began. The following Sunday Mr. Ives presented himself to the church, asking membership, and his application was rejected and he was hurt at the action of the church and turned to another church which readily accepted his baptism. The criticism of the pastor caused him to ask a committee of eminent brethren to sit in judgment upon his conduct—Dr. A. J. Holt, J. B. Link, and R. C. Buckner. After reviewing the details of the incident they wrote the church, advising it to drop the matter, and Pastor Cole to go his way, but not to repeat the act.”

Note that Pastor Cole was advised by his eminent brethren never to follow this Bible example again. This is the story of a man who knew something about the Bible, and little about Baptist doctrine, and who thought he could follow a Bible example of conversion. But, he learned that such would not be tolerated.