Sound Teaching

This is the teaching site of the West Side church of Christ in Fort Worth, TX. Unless otherwise indicated, all materials were written and prepared by Stan Cox

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“Lest We Drift Away”

“Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1). Here Paul warned of the possibility of drifting, or departing from the faith. May we ever be on guard against that possibility, as it ever lingers near. The Hebrew writer stated, “Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away” (2:1). J.D. Tant often concluded his articles in the old Gospel Guardian by writing, “Brethren, we are drifting.”

The concept of drifting with regard to “the faith” involves a change of position. As Paul said, “giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons.” While it does not follow that a change of doctrinal position indicates apostasy, it is axiomatic to say doctrinal apostasy consists of a change of doctrinal position. One who once stood for truth now teaches error.

I fear that “winds of change” exist today. Concerning what constitutes God ordained fellowship, many are drifting. Simply to document the change in attitude, I submit the following representative quotes.

First, Don Patton. Don believes that Romans 14 contextually allows us to receive brethren in limited instances when they engage in sinful practices or advocate false doctrine. Don, in responding to Bobby Holmes’ contention that he was teaching a false position on fellowship, based on an incorrect exegesis of the passage, said, “And so I have very great difficulty in getting too upset with brother Holmes because I can see myself right there in exactly the same spot not too long ago.” (Preachers’ study, Grand Prairie, August 1994).

Further, in a post to the internet on April 17, 1995, he states that many others are in accord with him regarding his exegesis, “Perhaps I should also mention that the overwhelming majority of the large number of brethren who have spoken to me about the exchange, decry the injustice and a significant percentage are in fundamental agreement with the exegesis, including a number of highly respected, influential brethren.”

David Willis seems to indicate a desire to change in regard to fellowshipping others in sin. In a post dated May 18, 1995 on the internet, he says, “I’d be very interested in contacting brethren with whom I’ve differed over matters involving sin who would share my desire to put Rom. 14 into practice. Is anyone else out there also interested?” To be fair, Willis may have always believed that Romans 14 includes sinful practice in its context. However, he seems to indicate a desire to change his practice with regard to an application of the text.

Finally, Steve Dewhirst in an issue of Sentry Magazine (September 30, 1996) admitted in the past to having misunderstood the text in Romans 14. He writes that the reason for this misunderstanding lay “in failing to consider the context fully before jumping to conclusions.” Dewhirst now confidently claims that what we might believe to be sinful practices and false doctrines can be received based upon the text of Romans 14.

These piecemeal “puffs” are, I believe, indicative of a greater wind blowing. Again, change does not necessarily indicate apostasy. But if the change indicates a drift from truth, then the danger must be trumpeted, and the drifting stopped. No doubt some will be offended that quotes are given, and names are supplied. It seems that in our time the documentation of false teaching and dangerous concepts is unpopular. Many claim it indicates an intolerant and hateful attitude. In answer I can only plead a love for souls and ask, if the danger of drifting exists, how can I warn of it unless I reveal it and its advocates to lovers of God?

Now, to be fair, none of these individuals desire to fellowship sin and false doctrine without limitation. To a man they would deny their position would in any way undermine the moral fabric of God’s people. However, these quotes demonstrate their convictions with regard to fellowship has changed. Especially disturbing is Don Patton’s statement, “a significant percentage are in fundamental agreement with the exegesis, including a number of highly respected, influential brethren.” Whether they admit it or not, a consistent application of their teaching would open, as Connie Adams wrote, “A Pandora’s Box” of sin among God’s people. With disastrous results.

Perhaps old brother Tant had it right, “Brethren, we are drifting.” “Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard…” (Hebrews 12:1).