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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Defending the Truth

It is extremely important that brethren everywhere contend for the truth and refute error. When such is done, because so many are tolerant of error and antagonistic toward the truth, there will be conflict. Some will say “Who set you up as brotherhood watchdogs, or arbiters of truth, or modern day prophets.” We have heard such, and the whining we hear when the false teacher is exposed is indicative of the whiner’s arrogance. Concerning the intellectual arrogance that can beset Christians, Paul warned, “For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise. We, however, will not boast beyond measure, but within the limits of the sphere which God appointed us; a sphere which especially includes you” (2 Corinthians 10:12-13). Paul also wrote, “…Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies. And if anyone thinks that he knows anything, he knows nothing yet as he ought to know” (1 Corinthians 8:1-2).

Is it possible, however, that on occasion there is a kernel of truth in their complaints? Is it possible that some take delight in the exposing of the false teacher, because they are guilty of “comparing themselves among themselves”? I would assert that it is possible, and have even seen indications of such arrogance among some who are quick to defend God’s word.

The truth must be defended. But, it must be defended humbly and with uprightness. My being right on a particular doctrinal position does not guarantee I am acceptable to God. My being in a particular “group” or writing for a particular “paper” or having particular “friends” in no way proves me to be righteous. If I have a superior attitude because of who I associate with, or because “I have the truth”, then I am guilty of arrogance.

When truth is defended, the enemies of truth will be quick to launch attacks against the defender. May it always be that those who preach the gospel do so with sincere motives, and with the integrity that the task demands. “Likewise exhort the young men to be sober-minded, in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you” (Titus 2:6-8).

Some brethren are today guilty of desiring innovation, as were the Athenians, recorded in Acts 17:21, “For all the Athenians and the foreigners who were there spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing.” As brethren have become more tolerant of hearing some “new thing,” there have been teachers coming out of the woodwork, willing to tickle their ears. Internet discussion lists, for example, are hotbeds of such innovation. Men are quick to “throw out” something to the list, to see if it will gain acceptance. Arguments are made rapidly, without sufficient study and reflection, as brethren clamor to be known as “open-minded” or as “free-thinkers.” Young preachers, subtly influenced by the liberal thinking in the colleges and the so-called “sophisticated” culture of the day, begin to ridicule and dismiss the scholarship of pioneer preachers and teachers of an earlier generation. Such men do not heed the warning of Paul, “that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting,” (cf. Ephesians 4:14).

In the end, all that matters is the truth of God. Just because a generation of Christians believed a particular doctrine does not in itself make it compatible with the will of God. However, when preceding generations, studious in their preparations and respectful in their attitudes, have taught their convictions, we must not dismiss them lightly. As I study God’s word, I tremble at the thought that I may come to a conclusion which differs from such combined scholarship. In the end I must act upon my conviction, but I must not be cavalier in my attitude toward those who have gone before. I must not be quick to “preach” my conclusions. I must carefully consider the arguments of those more wise than myself, and be cautious in propounding anything “new.” I must not be arrogant to think that I have come across a truth that generations before have not grasped.

Intellectual arrogance can touch us all. But, by its nature, it is seldom recognized by the guilty. The Corinthians fancied themselves tolerant, and yet Paul called them “puffed up.” Such pride is subtle, and can affect us all. “Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Corinthians 10:12). May we all emulate the mind of Christ…

“Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others. Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” (Philippians 2:3-8).