And take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:17
Volume 20, Number
In this issue:
Protestant theologians have indoctrinated seminary students (their clergy) and the “people in the pew” (their laity) that certain doctrines are essential, and others are peripheral. The “essential doctrines,” they say, constitute orthodoxy, and one cannot be saved without accepting them. On the other hand, the peripheral doctrines are not salvation effecting, they tell us, and denominations rightly differ on them. (Who, or what, determines orthodoxy: Scripture? Creeds? Church traditions? Culture?)
The irony and fallacy of this approach to unity is this: As it pleads for unity, it divides the Scriptures, which are intended to induce unity! This distorted definition and division of “the faith” is at the heart of unity in diversity. Some in churches of Christ have been drawn away by this false dichotomy of gospel and doctrine. Brother Wayne Partain succinctly explained,
“In the 1960’s and 1970’s there was much talk among brethren about a “new unity movement” to unite “all segments of the Restoration Movement.” These various segments included the Christian church (with their missionary societies, instrumental music, social gospel, etc.), premillennial churches of Christ (who say the kingdom has not come but that Christ will establish it when He comes the second time and will reign on earth for 1000 years), institutional churches of Christ (with their sponsoring churches, church-institutions, social gospel, etc.), the no-class/no-communion-cups churches of Christ, etc.
“The NUM promoted unity in diversity of conflicting and contradictory doctrines/practices (just as the denominations do), for they promoted “unity” with all these different groups without requiring that they give up their unscriptural doctrines and practices” (Wayne Partain, “Unity in Diversity, Part 1,” The Preceptor, January 2001, Vol. 50, No. 1, pages 20-24; online at www.bibleanswer.com/uind_wp1.htm).
Some adopted the term “core gospel” to express their basis for this sort of unity (The Core Gospel, Bill Love). Carl Ketcherside, Leroy Garrett and others promoted a gospel-doctrine distinction to prop up their broadened unity in diversity. Ketcherside wrote:
“The gospel consists of seven facts about a person. Those facts are the life, death, burial, resurrection, ascension, coronation and glorification of Jesus.... The gospel is not the collation of apostolic writings forming the new covenant scriptures. The gospel is the glad news about a person, while the apostolic letters are composed of commendations, exhortations, warnings and criticism, sent to those who have accepted that person as Lord” (Carl Ketcherside, Mission Messenger, Vol. 36, No. 5, pp. 130, 132).
“Preaching the gospel is for the world. Its design is to call men out, to enroll them in the school of Christ. The apostolic doctrine is for the saints” (Ibid., Vol. 36, No. 5, p. 71; cited by Mike Willis, The “Unity Movements” Distinction between “Gospel” and “Doctrine,” Truth Magazine, XVIII:50, p. 10-13, October 24, 1974).
The influence of the Protestant “essential” and “peripheral” approach is easily seen. A defender of this distinction explained, “Central doctrines of the Christian faith are those doctrines that make the Christian faith Christian and not something else” (Dr. Alan W. Gomes, cited in “Essential Doctrines of the Christian Faith,” www.apologeticsindex.org).
The Scriptures do not reveal this gospel-doctrine (essential-peripheral) distinction. Doctrine is teaching, and the “form of doctrine” delivered by preaching is obeyed from the heart to be saved from sin (Rom. 6:17-18). Paul was ready to preach “the gospel” to the Christians in Rome (Rom. 1:15, 7). So, the gospel is preached to the saved, and the lost are saved by doctrine. That ought to end the debate. But, some persist, wanting to justify themselves in their broadened view of “unity,” and excuse their unwillingness to identify and condemn error as sin. This manufactured distinction comforts them in their refusal to condemn false doctrine, while rationalizing their acceptance of division under a faulty view of unity.
Because of this false doctrine, some Christians refuse to definitively say instrumental music in worship is sin, causing those who practice it to be lost. The Scriptures give a clear pattern of vocal music (singing) being used in approved and accepted worship of the Lord (Eph. 5:19; Col. 3:16; Heb. 2:12; Jas. 5:13). Adding instrumental music (playing) violates the apostles’ doctrine (the teaching given by the apostles of Jesus, Acts 2:42). Instruments in worship are not “peripheral,” they are unauthorized additions to God’s word (Col. 3:17; Rev. 22:18). We may not offer worship to God that He has not approved in “the faith” (the gospel, Gal. 1:11, 23; Jude 3).
Again, some Christians refuse to definitively say social drinking is sin, saying one’s view and practice of this subject is not essential to salvation. May a Christian disobey the teaching (doctrine) of the apostles without jeopardizing his salvation? (What verse teaches that?) In 1 Peter 4:3, the Holy Spirit led Peter exhort us not to walk in “drinking parties” (“banquetings,” KJV, “winebibbings,” ASV), as well as “drunkenness.” That sounds like social drinking, doesn’t it? This word describes “the act of drinking,” without describing the amount consumed (The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, Kittel, VI:145). This “drinking” begins the process that leads to drunkenness. Can we approve the drinking that leads to drunkenness, when Scripture condemns both? Certainly not. Is it essential that we abide in the doctrine (teaching) of Christ on this subject? What Scripture makes the sin of sipping wine a peripheral, non-essential matter before God?
All truth is essential. The essential-peripheral view of the faith is harmful to Christians’ faith. It is error that props up sin, leading to death.
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Scripture Reading: Proverbs 8:1-11
1. Fear of
the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, Prov. 9:10.
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Scripture Reading: 1 Thessalonians 1:1-8
The Thessalonian church is a model for believers to imitate, 1 Thess. 1:7.
I. THEY FOLLOWED THE APOSTLES, 1 Thess. 1:5-6.
A. Received “Our” Gospel (gospel of God, 2:9). 1 Thess. 2:13; Acts 17:2-4; Jno. 13:20; Matt. 28:19-20; 1 Thess. 1:6; 2 Thess. 2:15.
II. THE PATTERN OF THE CHURCH AT THESSALONICA, 1 Thess. 1:3.
Work of Faith, 1:3.
III. THIS FAITHFUL CHURCH HAD ITS PROBLEMS (2 Thess.).
Constant Work of Warning, Exhorting, Comforting, Patiently Holding Up Some,
1 Thess. 5:12-14.
From Hollywood, to Washington DC, the floodgates have opened. Reports of alleged – and confirmed – sexual misconduct are heard almost daily. Politicians must be trained to recognize and prevent it (“House moves to mandate sexual harassment training,” Cristina Marcos, www.thehill.com). The shame of a sin-sick society that indulges carnal passions, ignores God and oppresses its fellow citizens, is being exposed for all to see (reminiscent of God’s judgment against shameless Babylon: “Your nakedness shall be uncovered, yes, your shame will be seen,” Isaiah 47:3). It is a very ugly picture.
God gave the intimacy of sexual contact to marriage (1 Cor. 7:2; Heb. 13:4). But, many reject marriage, demanding immediate, self-indulgent gratification. America’s hedonistic culture is consumed with fleshly passions. Those who can, force their sexual appetites on others, in sinful displays of carnality that offend God and mankind.
Sexual harassment is about exerting power over others. People with power – managers, politicians, teachers, coaches, celebrities, and more – are among the prevalent harassers. It’s about power and control. The person with power thinks he (she) is entitled, and abuses his position at the expense of the weak and defenseless. Such conduct is contemptible.
Sexual harassment is about total disrespect for others. This sin manifests extreme selfishness. The dignity and rights of others are violated by this sin. “Lovers of themselves” who are “unloving” aptly describe those who prey on others for their own perverse pleasures (2 Tim. 3:2-3).
Sexual harassment is about fleshly lust and a lack of self-control. “Perilous times” produce people who are “without self-control,” being “lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God” (2 Tim. 3:1-4). We must remember, the world and its lusts never satisfy, and will surely perish (1 Jno. 2:15-17).
The existence of this licentious treatment of others is a warning to protect yourself against such aggressors. No one should have to endure such abuse. Diligently keep yourself pure in thought, word and deed. Love God, and love your neighbor as yourself. (That would solve this sin, wouldn’t it?)
Created by Chuck Sibbing, last updated. 11/26/2017
The Spirit's Sword is a free,
weekly publication of the Mt. Baker church of Christ, Bellingham, WA