When the Bible says something unequivocally with no question and without complication, God’s people are on safe ground saying, “God said this and it’s so.”
Such statements would include salvation by grace through faith, the virgin birth of Jesus, and the inspiration of Scripture. The resurrection of Jesus is attested by all four gospels and Acts, plus the various epistles.
Only those who deny that holy scripture is God’s Word say otherwise.
But when good and faithful followers of Jesus see Scripture passages differently, for one to accuse the other of denying the Word can be most unfair and unChristlike. Rather, they should “man up” and do the adult thing and say, “This is how I see it; many good people disagree.”
In teaching our people, we can say, “God’s people differ on this, but I’d like to share with you what I believe this is saying.”
Are women allowed to be deacons? Are deacons allowed to baptize? At what age are children allowed to come into the church and receive baptism? How should a church be organized?
Good people disagree.
Should preachers speak out on political candidates? Should the church be involved in election campaigns? When public figures live scandalously, is it all right for the pastor to mention them and their behavior in his sermons? When a sister denomination takes a stand the pastor believes to be worldly and a victory for the dark side, is he being responsible by speaking out on it? Or should he confine his remarks to his own denomination?
It’s true, of course, that good and sincere Christ-followers disagree on a number of things which most of us believe to be clear and settled and not in dispute.
(Readers will know all they need to about me when I say that homosexual behavior is not one of those subjects on which good and faithful people disagree. Scripture is as plain on that as any reasonable person could expect it to be. Only by twisting the text and ignoring a dozen plain teachings can we conclude otherwise. Same with abortion, gambling, drunkenness, drug addictions, incest, sexual perversion of all types, and cruelty to children or animals. Some issues have only one side for Bible-believers.)
Women’s role in the church? Good and faithful people may differ on details, but I don’t know anyone who thinks women should sit down and shut up and let the men make all the decisions. Those who do think such quote Paul (I Corinthians 14:34) and for them hat’s the end of the story. But a basic doctrine which guides conservative believers is that we interpret Scripture by other Scripture. And since that is not all Paul had to say on the subject, that is not the end of the story. (For instance, in I Corinthians 11:5 Paul says when women are “praying or prophesying” they should cover their heads. Now, prophesying means preaching, so he is referring to women preaching. What are we to do with that? Answer: Keep studying, act in love, pray for guidance, and obey the Spirit. We are not the first to wish we could resurrect the Apostle Paul to answer a few questions!)
Instrumental music in the church? Only a small segment of the Christian population says it’s not allowed. Those who reject guitars and pianos and such because “they aren’t mentioned in the New Testament” must be hard-pressed to explain the presence of air-conditioning and cushioned pews in their places of worship.
I suspect they don’t explain it at all, but merely ignore it. They press this point (“speaking where the Bible speaks; silent where the Bible is silent”) selectively.
What about the doctrine variously called “security of the believers” or “once saved always saved”? A strong portion of the Christian church believes this doctrine, while another sizeable group denies it. We all have our opinion on the doctrine, just as we have our thoughts on why one group likes it and the others do not.
For those denying this doctrine, the funny thing is while they believe that one can have it and lose it and get it back, they cannot name one person in Scripture who lost his salvation and then regained it. They tend to ignore or discount the clear teachings of our Lord that salvation is all of grace, is forever, and is untouchable (John 3:16; 10:28-29; and Luke 10:20) in order to say “yes, but it seems to me.” It’s a scary theology that inserts its own understanding in place of the clear statements of the Lord Jesus. How any doctrine survives such sleight of hand is amazing to me.
Those who oppose this doctrine sometimes say they who believe it invented it for a license to sin. That’s harsh. And contrary to evidence. In fact, I know of not a single person believing “once saved always safe” without a strong desire for holiness. My observation is that sin besets with equal force those who accept and those who oppose this doctrine.
My opinion is the two-thirds of the adherents of either position hold their views because of the church they grew up in. Their preachers were adamant about this (one way or the other). They heard the other side castigated and ridiculed, and grew up with an aversion to it.
An online magazine read primarily by charismatics chose to run an article of ours on the subject of “once saved always saved.” I was surprised, since that group tends to oppose this doctrine. So, I made the mistake of reading the comments. Wow. I was unrecognizable. The commenters accused me of heresy, of not believing the Bible, of caving in to the flesh, of hating Jesus.
They did everything except one: No one answered my points. They just ridiculed me. And these were, presumably, my Christian brothers and sisters.
Something is bad wrong there.
I’ve taken days to write this article, going back and reading and rereading what I’d written and deleting, adding, explaining, enlarging, etc. It’s certainly not the last word on anything, but it is sent forth in love. There is not a hateful word in it.
“Brethren, let us love one another, for love is from God…. Beloved if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another…. If someone says ‘I love God’ and hates his brother, he is a liar. For the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also” (I John 4).
Even when that brother is on the other side of the country and you know him only by Facebook.