Gospel Truths, Volume XV, NUMBER 6 (June, 2004)
Commitment to Christ
Is A Commitment to “The Faith”
By J. T. Smith
The word “commitment” means, “The state of being bound emotionally or intellectually to a course of action or to another person or persons.” (The American Heritage Dictionary). When we make a commitment to Christ to be His disciple, we are making a commitment to be bound to whatever course of action He prescribes. Following this course of action is not without cost. In fact Jesus said we need to “count the cost” of being His disciple.
“For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it” (Luke 14:28).
In order to follow Christ our commitment must be great.
“If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple. And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple” (Luke 14:26-27).
These conditions set forth by Christ are not “you can if you want to and if you don’t want to you don’t have to.” They exemplify what the Lord said in the Sermon on the Mount. “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). These conditions pale into insignificance when we compare them to the ultimate sacrifice made for us. Christ left heaven, came to earth to live as a man among men, suffer and die on the cross as a sacrifice for our sins. In fact, Paul expressed it this way. “But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8).
Unity Relative To Matters Of “The Faith”
To what do we have reference when we discuss matters of “the faith!” “Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3).
Jude describes “the faith” as that which was “delivered.” Paul contrasts “faith” with “the law” and said “faith” is that which “has come.” It is therefore a body of doctrine, not simply an attitude.
In the 21st Century, as in every century as long as time shall continue, we need to distinguish between matters of “the faith” and matters of indifference or tradition. In matters of “the faith” we must not waver. We must search the Scriptures to be sure we are “contending for” matters of “the faith” (the gospel of Christ) and not matters of indifference or opinion. When we determine by command or statement, apostolic example, or necessary implication, that a thing is a matter of “the faith,” we must “earnestly contend for it” and not go beyond that which is written.
“Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God. He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son” (II John 9).
“Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other” (I Corinthians 4:6).
Truly our fellowship with others will have to be based on matters of “the faith.”
To further exemplify this, we read in I John 1:3-4,
“That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ. 4 And these things we write to you that your joy may be full.”
Thus, we may jointly-participate with those of the Godhead and also with other “fellows” (Christians). Our fellowship is with God (according to I John 1:7, “But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin”), is predicated on our walking in the light or truth. As Christ walked in the light – for He came into the world to bring light – so we must walk in the light of the gospel.
If we say we have fellowship (“communion”) with God and yet “walk in darkness, we lie and do not the truth” (1 John 1:6). In I Corinthians 10:20, Paul tells us that we should have no fellowship with the Devil. John speaks of one who “hateth his brother” as being in darkness (1 John 2:9). Since hatred is a work of the devil, and is contrasted here with walking in the light and of love, to walk in darkness would be to have fellowship with the devil. Paul also mentions having fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness in Ephesians 5:11, and warns that instead of walking in them, we should reprove (expose –NKJV) them. If we are to have fellowship with God, we cannot condone or engage in the unfruitful works of darkness.
Not only are we to expose those who have fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness., John said:
“Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. 10 If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: 11 For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds” (II John 9-11).
In these passages, the “doctrine of Christ” is comparable to “the faith” which produced the “common salvation” of which Jude wrote in Jude 3.
“Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints.”
Now John said, in the above passages cited (II John 9-11), those who “bid God speed” to one who does not abide in the “teaching or doctrine of Christ” is “partaker” in his evil deeds. You will observe that the word “partaker” in this verse is from the Greek word (koinoneo). This word is also translated “fellowship.” In other words we are “fellowshipping” that one in his evil deed. (Of course the “evil deed” here spoken of is that of not abiding in the teaching or doctrine of Christ). What is said of one when his teaching is not according to the doctrine of Christ (the faith of Jude 3)?
“But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. 17 and their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, 18 who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some” (II Timothy 2:16-18).
The truthfulness taught in the Scriptures concerning Christ’s resurrection and ours (along with many other things that could be mentioned – what one must do to be saved, singing, the Lord’s Supper and other acts of worship, putting off the old man of sin and putting on the new man of righteousness [living the Christians life, divorce and remarriage] et. al.) – are matters of “the faith.” In other words, these are things on which God has legislated and our recognizing the teaching and our obedience to them are necessary to our salvation. For as John said, those who “abide in the doctrine of Christ have both the Father and the Son” (II John 9). That is, we are in fellowship with God.
Fellowship – Unity-In-Diversity
For a number of years now we have discussed with others their scriptural right to fellowship those who have taught and/or practiced error on the subject of divorce and remarriage (the late brother Homer Hailey’s position was a case in point). We have said that those who do so are practicing unity-in-diversity. This was because we believed then and now that those who taught and practiced error on these subjects were/are false teachers.
This was also true with brethren in the 1970s. The battle we were fighting then has increased in popularity today. Observe the following propositions.
“When a man puts away his wife for any cause other than fornication and subsequently marries another that his first wife then may put him away for fornication and she has the scriptural right to marry another.” Jack Gibbert will affirm this position and H. E. Phillips (J. T. Smith) will deny.
“The Scriptures teach that when a man puts away his wife for any cause other than fornication and subsequently marries another that his first wife must remain celibate or be reconciled to her husband.” H. E. Phillips (J. T. Smith) will affirm and Jack Gibbert will deny.
Now, notice the next proposition discussed less than a year ago in Hopkinsville, KY.
“The Bible teaches that if a man puts away his scriptural wife for a reason other than fornication, and then commits fornication, the original wife may not remarry.” Joel Gwin affirmed, and Bill H. Reeves denied.
Personally, I cannot see an ounce of difference in the proposition denied by brethren Gibbert and Reeves. In the 70s we charged these men as being teachers of false doctrine, thus false teachers. I haven’t changed my mind about that. Today brother Reeves has gained a number of followers to his error. Many of them are personal friends (as was the case with brother Hailey).
“Are you saying that brethren Reeves and those who are teaching the “error” need to be denied fellowship?” No, I am not saying that at this point. In the 70s we were involved in many discussions (I had at least 4). In my estimation, there should be no lines of fellowship drawn today until we have had more discussion. Brother Connie W. Adams wrote an excellent article recently in Truth Magazine on “The Mind of Christ and Error.” Error cannot be left alone. We must make every effort to challenge positions by the Scriptures to see if they are true.
I probably, because of health problems, could not engage in an oral discussion on this subject. But I would certainly be willing to discuss the above propositions in a written debate with a representative man. Is anyone willing?
(Be sure and read the late brother H. E. Philips’ article on this subject – Page 6)