“And some men came down (to Antioch) from Judea and began teaching the brethren, ‘Unless you are circumcised according tot he custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.’ And when Paul and Barnabas had great dissension and debate with them, the brethren (there) determined that Paul and Barnabas and certain others of them should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders concerning this issue.” (Acts 15:1-2)
And so we have what is called the First Church Council, convened by the early church fathers to answer the question ‘How are we saved?’ Is it by faith alone or are works of the law required? Must a Gentile become a Jew to be saved?
The reason this is on my mind today is that I’ve been in a dialogue with a preacher in the Church of Christ denomination (although he and their leaders insist they are not a denomination!). He gave me a packet of pamphlets written by one of their elders which he is distributing. I took it home with me, read through them, and was answering them. When I concluded he was more interested in defending their narrow (and erroneous) interpretation of the truth than in finding and doing the truth as taught in Scriptures, I shut the discussion down.
One of the pamphlets addresses the question “What must I do to be saved?” from Acts 16:30. But instead of giving the answer Paul gave–“Believe on the Lord Jesus and you shall be saved, you and your household”–the writer proceeded to attack the very answer Paul gave. In one paragraph, he writes:
“I have spoken openly to the world. I always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all the Jews come together. I spoke nothing in secret” (John 18:20).
Something happened this week to remind me of why, as a young teen, I hated the typical television sitcom. I could never say “I Love Lucy.” And here’s why.
I was listening to the replay of a 1950’s radio program “The Life of Riley.” William Bendix’ character, the husband and father of the Riley household and namesake of the program, was a bumbling, stumbling embarrassment to the males in the audience, always jumping to conclusions and misunderstanding what the normal people around him were up to. He needed a good whupping, I always thought. As a nine-year-old as well as today, I find that hard to listen to.
In the early 1950s, we had no television. To watch anything, we had to walk down the country road either to my grandmother’s or to Uncle Cecil’s. Now, Granny would watch whatever you wished–she was just glad to have the company–but at my uncle’s, you sat there and watched whatever they chose. And the one program they loved above all others was “I Love Lucy.” They even named their youngest child after the baby in the show.
“I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot endure evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles…and you have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary. But I have this against you….” (Revelation 2:2-4).
The Lord has “something” against certain ones calling themselves true believers while perverting the gospel and slandering His disciples.
When I heard of Florence Foster Jenkins, I thought of these who are both deceived and deceivers….
This woman who lived from 1868 to 1944 was a patron of the arts in New York City. She was rich and generous and in a hundred ways kind and gracious. Her one over-riding fault was that she thought of herself as a gifted singer. She was not. In fact, she was comically bad. And yet, her husband and those around her conspired to keep the truth from her. When she learned the truth, she was devastated and died soon afterward.
In The New Yorker’s review of the new movie–the title is her name–the opening paragraph is wonderful and poignant and lends itself to our application.