Many years ago I began to speak and write about the change agents in the church. All change agents are not bad. There are some change agents that are fighting to correct wrongs they find in congregations. Some normally give them a less constructive name such as legalist or worse. I am altogether for those who are trying to get brethren to go back to the old paths. I applaud their efforts entirely and without equivocation. The unscriptural change agents started in the early 1970s and have flourished to this new century. Our Lord said that “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). Change agents are not confined to the body of Christ or to the problems that we have within ourselves. I say this kindly, but I say it strongly because I feel strongly about it. We need to stop the play like things and get serious about doing the Lord’s will.
The problem exists due to a lack of study of the Sacred Scriptures. We need to know the Bible and how to make valid arguments using the Scriptures. We need to be bold, but kind. Kindness does not eliminate taking a strong stand. I sincerely believe that in time to come, if the world stands, our children or perhaps our grandchildren will have to involve themselves in a restoration movement. The departures from the truth are getting broader and the number is increasing rapidly. I well remember times when you could be on a trip and stop where there was a sign indicating that brethren met there; stop go in and worship scripturally. There is less respect today for the authority of the Word of God today than I have ever seen in my brief lifetime.
My grandfather was born in 1881 and was a mighty man in the Scriptures though he could not read or sign his name. My grandmother would sign his name for him and beside that he would make an X. She read the Scriptures to him every night of the week. He became an uncompromising elder in the Lord’s church. He never feared combating error. Those might have been simple times, but I am deeply disturbed today when our very learned so called preachers and specialists in the church know little about or just plainly will not defend the truth. Mum (silence) seems to be the word while 1 Pet. 3:15 still tells us to day what it did two thousand years ago. Be ready to give an account. Those teaching and condoning error have made the choice that they do not have to give an account. They are accursed of the Lord and he cometh with judgment in His hands.
What is the truth? What does it mean? Truth applies to propositions. It is the case that God exists and I know it. The Word of God is the truth and we can know it. What does it mean to be sound in the faith? It means that valid arguments are made regarding the Scriptures. Do we not do that? Are you kidding me? Many, if not most, who occupy the pulpits today do not know how to make a sound argument because they do not study the Scriptures. They seem to be wrapped up in themselves and speaking smooth words that will not ripple the water. Those of us who are “seasoned citizens” in the kingdom today were brought up studying the Holy Bible. I well remember the card class that those of us were in from about the ages of one to six or maybe seven. A good sister taught us from those little cards from the Gospel Advocate Company and instilled in our minds truths that remain there. My how times have changed! We have gone from this to “lock ins” or “sleep over’s” or whatever else these kinds of things are called. Truly times have changed and we let some professional pulpiteer lead us like pied piper down the primrose path of destruction.
The truth is that we need to know the Bible. When Jesus was tempted three times in Matthew 4 with each temptation he said “it is written.” Today some would say, “Well I think this is in the Bible somewhere, but I don’t know where.” In those three temptations each time Jesus used the same phrase. Here is this and this and this so what are you going to do with this Satan? Satan had no reply. Jesus logically put these statements together and we need to learn how to do this to the best of our ability.
“Prove all things; hold fast to that which is good” (1 Thess. 5: 17). How are we to do that if we do not know what the Bible says? Jesus has given us a job that we do not know how to do. No He has not! It is something that every faithful Gospel preacher, and faithful Christians as far as this is concerned, should be able to do, but it cannot be done as long as we are divorced from the Scriptures. It takes preparation to prove all things. Why is something true? Who can answer the question? What preparation has been made to make the correct answer? Surely we can see where we have failed individually and well as collectively.
Truth is reasonable and is not irrational. You can go back to Matthew 4 and start over again following the argumentation of the Lord and see the results. Nothing is more valuable than the truth. Truth is necessary (Rom. 1:15-17) for one cannot obey the Gospel which has the power to save if that Gospel power is not known. One cannot be saved without the Gospel. Truth is attainable and it can be learned. Nothing is more important than the truth. The conclusion must be that if truth is unknown to a living soul it will not save.
Truth is unique (cf. Gal. 1:6-9; Acts 19:1-5) there is no other truth from God that will save and produce eternal life. Is that specifically stated in these particular verses? No. There are implications. I read such passages and I infer what it means, but I must be careful in drawing the proper conclusion. You see, I could infer something that is not right that could cause souls to be lost. I suggest to you that the numbing placating sermons that we are hearing today are many times brought about by wrong implications or inferences out of one or two reasons. One is out of sheer ignorance and the other is to deliberately lead congregations into apostasy. What other answer can there be?
Obligatory matters must be obeyed. This means that I have to do it. The plan of salvation taught in the Bible must be obeyed—I have to do it because it is obligatory on me and/or anyone else who would be saved from alien sins. The Christian life—walking by faith is obligatory. There are also forbidden matters—things I must not do. If I do them I sin and if I die in that condition I am lost eternally—forever. No one can do these forbidden matters and not be guilty of sin. Think back for a moment of those who are leading the church away from the truth! If you have paid attention you know that they are lost and there is no reason to beat around the bush about it.
Some things are optional which means that we do not have to do them. Why did we put pews in our buildings? We did not have to because there is no command. Where in the Bible does it say we have to have a building? It is not there. It is not obligatory. It is optional. Where is the passage that commands us to have a preacher with a salary and benefits as we know it today? It is not there. It is optional. We must understand that there are some things that are expedient and the aforementioned things fall into that realm.
Jesus put Satan to rout by saying it is written, it is written, it is written and Satan could not handle it. Neither can a denominational preacher. There is not one of them in the world that can defend his doctrine. I think today they recognize this more than ever because they will not debate today. Through our television program I challenged every denominational preacher regarding spiritual gifts such as talking in tongues. They were also challenged on channel 22 to defend their premillennial doctrine. Not one taker! Why? None in this area can or will defend their error. Our own erring brethren will not debate. It has been almost five full years since I challenged a brother to a debate representing the elders of the Northside church of Christ in Calhoun, Georgia. Five years later he is no better than the denominational preachers here that surround me. Silent as the tomb! Those who stand shoulder to shoulder with him will not debate it and neither will they respond to plain questions. “It is written” still applies today as it did two thousand years ago.
What about authority? We understand authority in ordinary affairs. I go to the doctor to find out what ailments I might have. He says that you need this and this and this. How does he know? I look and there are no medical degrees. He has not been to medical schools so how does he know? What authority is he using? This is simple enough for us to understand. I go to the pharmacy and he reaches up and gets stuff off of the shelf and tells me to go take it. What authority does he have? Authority must be honored. A child is sent to the store to get bananas and comes home with a toy. Did his mother authorize him to buy a toy? No. He failed to recognize the authority. Suppose you order a pair of shoes—brown size 12 B. Your order comes and the shoes are white and size 8 D. Who authorized this? It is a failure to recognize authority.
Elders and preachers should be especially careful in the matter of authority. Whatever we say or do in the realm of religion is to be done by the authority of Christ (cf. Col. 3:17). There is almost no end to the abuses that I find in this area today. We are farther away from divine authority than anytime in my fifty three years of trying to preach and establish authority. One congregation was building a gymnasium. It was called a family life center. I asked the preacher about the measurements of the floor and asked if goals were hanging down from the ceiling. I asked him where he got the authority. His reply was, “No one asks that old question anymore.”
The Bible authorizes by direct statement—command. This includes imperative statements such as Acts 2:38 and Matt. 11:28-30. Implication authorizes. This has already been addressed in this piece. We are authorized by approved examples. There is much more that could be written in this regard. We must do that which is authorized or we will lose our souls. What is authorized is that which is obligatory and that which is optional that expedites. What is not authorized is that which is forbidden. They are simply not even mentioned and thus not even authorized.