Friday, October 05, 2007

Seeking true unity--assessment of a review

Bobby Valentine recently reviewed my chapter in Seeking True Unity. Here is my response to his review:

I appreciate Bobby. He cares about the Lord and His church. I told Bobby in the beginning I felt that he was not an unbiased jury member but rather a witness or advocate for the defense. Reading his response to my chapter confirms that.

Some important points:

  1. Being a member of the church and being in fellowship with God are two different things. One may by error lose fellowship with the Lord and His church and one’s salvation.
  2. One who willfully and persistently adds to the teaching of God and leads other men to do so has sinned against God and cannot remain in the fellowship of faithful Christians.
  3. When McGarvey left the Broadway congregation in Lexington, he did not leave because he no longer considered them brethren. He left because they introduced an error, which he could not participate in or approve or fellowship. When H. Leo Boles spoke in Indianapolis in 1939, he did not speak from hate or treat those in the Christian Church as anything but brethren. He used the words “brother” and “brethren” throughout the speech. Like McGarvey, he could not fellowship “brethren,” because they had left the truth and needed to come back to the truth.
  4. When people leave the Word to practice unauthorized forms of worship, they separate themselves from the will of God. They may think they are disciples, but they are not truly disciples (John 8:31). When people go beyond the teaching of Christ, whether on the subject of Christ’s nature, or a host of other essential topics, they lose their relationship with God (2 John 9-11) and are not to be welcomed or supported.
  5. When men venture into the practice and teaching of error, they leave God. They divide themselves from God. They cannot have unity with God unless and until they repent and leave their error. The Restoration leaders pledged to leave the errors of men and to return to the truth. In Revelation 2:18-25, Jesus distinguished between those who held to the teaching of Jezebel and those who did not. He rebuked them for tolerating that woman and her teaching. The church at Pergamum also held false teachings and practices. Jesus threatened them and called them to return to Him. Repentance is returning to the Lord by ridding ourselves of error and practicing the truth.
  6. The unity God desires from His people is not a loose confederation of people who ignore their errors. The unity of the body of Christ is to follow after the model of the unity between the Father and the Son. Can you imagine the Son following after his own initiative? Can you imagine the Son not following the instructions of His Father? Jesus’ very identity as the Son arose out of His dogged and exact devotion to the will of His Father (John 8:28-32; 12:48-50; 14:31). In like manner, our identity with Christ arises from our remaining, continuing, and dwelling within the words Jesus spoke. When people cease to hear God’s will, they cease to have an approved relationship with the Lord (James 5:19-20).
  7. Faithful Christians must shun those who teach false doctrine and adopt humanly-devised practices that split the church (Rom. 16:17-18; Tit. 3:9-11).
  8. Just because people claim to be Christians does not mean they have a positive relationship with Christ (Matt. 7:21-27). Men do not get into heaven by inventing their own means and doing things their own way—that is “Sand Theology.” Campbell and others required immersion because sprinkling is not baptism. They required faith before baptism, because the Bible does. Unlike Woodmont and Oak Hills, which grants brotherhood and gives fellowship to sprinkled infants, the Bible only recognizes one baptism—that of a penitent believer who understands what and why he is being baptized. One may believe he is right with God and even argue with Christ at judgment, but that does not make him right.
  9. Unity is possible only when people serve and obey the same Lord. If they hear voices in addition, they will be hybrid Christians not true disciples. If they practice what the world clamors for, they will be children of their age not true Christians.
  10. In John 17, Jesus prayed for His people to be sanctified in the truth (God’s word which He gave them) before He prays for them to be one. Jesus’ prayer for unity was not a prayer for the unifying of truth with culture but for keeping the disciples already taught and sanctified in the truth unified. The idea that we are supposed to drop truth and righteousness to accommodate error was never in the intent of this prayer.
  11. I do not plead for narrowness on our part as if we good make one hair white or black. I plead for devotion to the narrow way of Jesus. I have no misgivings about my own emptiness. I realize that only Jesus has the way, the truth, or the life. When I hear people (who ought to know better) recommend that we loosen up to the false practices and beliefs of those who teach another gospel, another body, and another baptism, I do not see that as restoration. I see that as compromise and rebellion. One wonders if Bobby read the Kelcy quote on page 18. I have only one Lord. I was not baptized in the name of Campbell, and Lipscomb was not crucified for me.
  12. As to inferences, Campbell must have inferred Proposition 6 of his Declaration and Address. Campbell infers and binds that you must not infer and bind. What right has he or any other man to say that some which is God’s truth is not to be bound on anyone? Now Bobby here calls me sectarian for my thinking about thinking. It is quite postmodern to put down thinking, unless you are the supporting a postmodern agenda. (“thinking correctness”) If you agree with him (that Campbell is right to infer and bind that you should not infer and bind), it’s all right to think; but the person who reasons from the evidence of Scripture by inferring what the Scriptures imply is sectarian and narrow.
  13. My assignment was not to prove instrumental music was wrong. My assignment was to discuss the restoration plea: the need to come out of error and to return to God’s word for our beliefs and practices.
  14. My reference to 1 Timothy 4, 2 Timothy 4, and 2 Peter 2 (et. al.) on page 18 had to do with the early church and its fall into error. Restoration has to do with that which has been corrupted. To suggest a different context shows weakness in your skills, Bobby.
  15. Did Paul fellowship those in error? Yes, for a time. He taught and admonished them, expecting them to repent. In the cases where false teachers did not repent or were harming the church, Paul disfellowshiped them (Rom. 16:17; Titus 3:10-11). Do you not recall Hymenaeus and Alexander and Philetus (1 Tim. 1:19-20; 2 Tim. 2:17-18)? Jesus did not put up with Jezebel or the Nicolaitans; and he rebuked the churches for doing so.
  16. I realize the immaturities and weaknesses at Corinth, but do you recall 2 Corinthians 13:1-4? Paul expects to spare no one who sins (neither the immoral nor the rest). Yes, God can forgive a weakness; but to suggest something other than “go and sin no more” is presuming upon the grace of God. Paul could overlook their error due to their immaturity, but he does not tolerate continued error or disobedience. There is an end to patience with error in Paul, and just because he is patient early on does not mean he will remain so.
  17. Bobby, I think makes more of the dish illustration than is warranted. I was illustrating a meaning of the word “restoration” in the physical sense.
  18. I highly resent the suggestion that I have bound my “opinions” as a test of fellowship. The fact the early church sang is clear in Scripture. The fact that we are to remain in the words of Jesus and not add or subtract to them is also clear in Scripture; both facts are evident. Atchley must make the water muddy to give his opinion guess (we can use IM) credibility. He believes in his guess so strongly that he is willing to split the church further to practice it. We were unified before he pushed his guess (an opinion is a guess in the absence of evidence) to the making of conflict. Now, who is binding opinion—the fellow who guesses or the fellow who sees evidence?
  19. Did Paul use his worship as a Jew in the Temple as a basis for bringing the instrument into the church? Did Paul worship in the church with an instrument? Paul understood the difference in covenants, that what was appropriate in one was not appropriate in the other. Did Paul offer animal sacrifices at church? Ridiculous.

Phil Sanders


Keith Brenton said...

I'll confine my response to point 19 for the sake of brevity. "Did Paul use his worship as a Jew in the Temple as a basis for bringing the instrument into the church?" No one today could know.

"Did Paul worship in the church with an instrument?" We don't know that, either. One would have to make an assumption to say that he did or did not.

"Paul understood the difference in covenants, that what was appropriate in one was not appropriate in the other. Did Paul offer animal sacrifices at church?" I hope not. That would be ridiculous, in light of Christ's sacrifice which specifically rescinds it. (I'd bet we're both thinking of the phrasings in Hebrews 10.)

But I would also imagine he took two doves or two pigeons to the temple when he had Timothy circumcised, just as Joseph and Mary did with the infant Jesus and all other sponsors for circumcision did under Jewish law. Would Paul go to hell for that?

If he didn't, but worshiped at the temple with instruments of music as his contemporaries did ... would Paul be eternally condemned for that?

Phil Sanders said...


Actually, we can know. Paul taught us to sing, to speak, to teach, and to admonish, and to give thanks--all verbal. We are to do this while making music in or with our hearts. If Paul had wanted the instrument, he would have told us. If the early church were instructed, we would have known it. As it is we have centuries of vehement opposition to the instrument. The water is NOT muddy on these issues, in spite of how hard some wish to make it.

Keith, Paul didn't offer animal sacrifices any more than he used instruments. Both are vestiges of an old covenant that vanished away.

Paul offered what he offered as a Jew, while still under the last days of that covenant. He did not disturb the church by trying to introduce them into the church.

According to his own statement (Gal. 5:1-4 and 1:6-9), Paul would go to hell if he started corrupting the gospel and the church with the Law.


Terry said...

Can you provide some insight into Acts 21:26? What was the "offering" that Paul made at the temple in that verse? Thanks for your help.

Matthew said...

This discussion seems to deal with the idea of the old perspective versus the new perspective on Paul. Scholars in recent years have spent countless hours dealing with this issue. Thank you for dealing with this stuff.

Kathy said...

I've read your post over a few times the last couple of days. This morning it seems even more clear and helpful. Thanks for the time you take to study and write your thoughts down for others.

Phil Sanders said...

Thank you for the question about vows and offerings. Paul had made a vow in Cenchrea (outside of Corinth) and shaved his head.

In Acts 21 he is accompanying four others who had made a vow. This may have been a Nazarite vow and would be according to the Law found in Numbers 6:1-21. According to verses 14-15, he is to offer: one male lamb a year old without blemish for a burnt offering, and one ewe lamb a year old without blemish as a sin offering, and one ram without blemish as a peace offering, 15and a basket of unleavened bread, loaves of fine flour mixed with oil, and unleavened wafers smeared with oil, and their grain offering and their drink offerings.

Nazarites normally shaved their head at the day of cleansing and took their vow for a period of time until they made the offering.

Paul made this offering under the same thinking that he circumcised Timothy--in order to influence others for the gospel. Paul, to those under the Law, made himself as one under the Law, even though he was not under the Law of Moses but under the Law of Christ (1 Cor. 9:19-23).


Gardner Hall said...

I agree with you about the dangers of rejecting the concept of a Biblical pattern for the organization and worship in local congregations. That kind of disregard was a factor in the initial states of the formation of the Roman hierarchy. This is a weakness in Bobby's position. In the name of unity, I fear he would have allowed the development of Romanism to go unchallenged.

However, I think Bobby is right in his concerns about a sectarian concept of God's church. Apart from the "dish illustration" which still seems sectarian to me, statements such as the following seem to reveal a denominational concept: "...he is willing to split the church further to practice it." Do you really think that God's church is an entity that can be split? There's no doubt that people can leave it, or be removed from it, but can men split it?

Thanks again to you and to Bobby for your generally good spirit and for this educational exchange.

Phil Sanders said...

We are all concerned about keeping the church holy and unified. I have no desire to become sectarian, but there is a time for being dogmatic. Pointing out heresy is not creating a division. Heresy is inherently divisive, and recognizing the division that heresy causes is not the same as causing it.