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

Index by Subject

Fellowship and the “Days” of Genesis

creationIt is interesting, and rather disheartening to note that brethren can quickly become complacent with regard to false doctrine. Typically, when a false doctrine is introduced, it is dealt with by those who uphold the truth, sides are taken, and the issue fades. Unfortunately, those who hold to the error are seldom fully expelled from fellowship with God’s people. This was the case with Israel, which failed as a nation to eradicate idolatry. As such, the worship of foreign gods was a constant sin of the nation throughout its history. It seems that we have not learned from history. In this generation, God’s people continue to fellowship those who bring error into the camp. As Paul wrote, “For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (2 Timothy 4:3-4).

It is especially disheartening that many who do not hold to the error itself will nevertheless uphold the hands of the false teacher, and take issue with those who stand against him. In recent years, men who have taught error on the limits of Christian fellowship; marriage, divorce and remarriage; Multiple causes for divorce; the creation account; and other substantial doctrines have been championed by Christians who don’t even agree with their teaching! All the while, those with the conviction to address both the error and the errorist have been castigated, and even marginalized because of their stand for truth.

How can this be? A consistent pattern emerges regarding the treatment of men who have held to the errors just listed. It is one of the most disturbing trends among brethren in our time. Using the dispute concerning the “days” of creation as an example, let us consider the following salient questions:

First, are the differences regarding the interpretation of the Genesis account of any significance? In Genesis 1:3-5, the Holy Spirit reveals, “Then God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light. And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day.” These verses begin the creation narrative, which ends with the words, “Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day. Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done” (1:31-2:2).

The Genesis account is a straightforward narrative of the creative work of God. It affirms that the earth (1:1-10), the universe and solar system (1:14-19), and all life on the earth (1:11-13, 20-31) were created by Divine fiat in six days. Secularists ridicule the account, rightly surmising that the narrative can in no way jibe with current scientific theories regarding the origin of life and the age of the universe. This does not surprise us. It is surprising that some Christians are now advocating the Big Bang theory (with God behind it) to be a plausible and “scriptural” means of interpreting the Genesis text. Rather than literal days, some advocate either gaps between the days, or the days themselves to be indeterminate “ages” — all in an attempt to get to the 14 billion years or so that the Big Bang theory mandates.

Without recounting the myriad arguments made in defense of the truth on the “days” issue, let us at least consider that our Lord clearly considered the Genesis account of origins to be literal. He used the events of the sixth day as a defense of his teaching on marriage in Matthew 19:4-6, “And He answered and said to them, ‘Have you not read that He who made them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man separate.” No interpretation fits Jesus’ words other than a literal six days, at the beginning of God’s creation. If billions of years spanned the time between day 1 and day 6 of the Genesis account, Jesus would not have said that God, “made them at the beginning.”

Fifteen years ago one man, in defending a figurative interpretation of the “days”, contended that the ancients may have believed the account to be literal because of their ignorance of hard science. His contention is that in light of what science has “revealed”, we should change our understanding of what the scripture teaches. Perhaps he has the audacity to include Jesus Himself in that group of ignorant ancients, but this writer is not so bold. Our claimed understanding of the world does not impact our understanding of scripture. Rather, our understanding of scripture impacts our view of the world! “Indeed, let God be true but every man a liar” (Romans 3:4).

If we do not have to accept the literal historicity of Genesis 1, a product of inspiration, then upon what basis must we accept the other accounts of Biblical miracles? If one in the future has the audacity to deny that Moses literally parted the Red Sea, or that the sun actually stood still in Joshua 10 will we continue to fellowship him despite his views? If one goes so far (as some in the denominations have done) as to deny the virgin birth of the Lord, or His resurrection from the dead as literally so, will we draw the line there? If so, why? I would submit that a refusal to fellowship such a man would be arbitrary and inconsistent. Accepting some, but not others would not be based in scriptural principle, but simply upon personal preference. If it is true that we don’t have to accept one, then we don’t have to accept any. In fact, all of the positions in this paragraph are examples of false teaching, including teaching that the days of Genesis 1 are not literal!

So, what is the proper response to those who advocate the view that the days of creation are not really days? Some, of course, have been taken in by the teaching. Others disagree, but still uphold the men who teach it as “honest”, and “doing much good.” Some will say that they can have them in for meetings and fellowship “as long as he doesn’t teach it here.” Contrast such attitudes with John’s words, “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. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds” (2 John 9-11).

But, why do so many uphold the hands of those who teach falsely? The question goes to motivation, and this writer certainly can’t judge the hearts of any man. However, in the first century there were those who did so because they were “untaught and unstable” (cf. 2 Peter 3:16), such as those Paul mentioned in his letter to the Ephesians, “tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine” (4:14).

Others expressed loyalty to a man rather than truth (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:1-4). Those who did so lacked the nobility of the Bereans, who “searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11). It is plausible to consider the same motivations to be present today.

Further, why are so many antagonistic toward those who hold the truth? Again, without delving into a judgment of hearts, the Bible reveals why men in the past have opposed those who defend truth. They believed “smooth words” (cf. Jeremiah 12:6), because of their “itching ears” (cf. 2 Timothy 4:3). They were unwilling to heed God’s admonition to “contend earnestly for the faith” (cf. Jude 3), perhaps because they confused such contending with the sin of contention. Might I suggest that with regard to this particular issue some felt compelled to defend Florida College, which was at the center of the dispute which erupted 15 years ago. If so, their motives are as misguided as any of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day who rejected the Lord because He threatened their institutions and authority.

In conclusion, all of us must understand what side we are on when we uphold the hands of those who teach error, and criticize those who oppose it. We are not on the side of truth. If someone who teaches that the days of Genesis are not literal days, or some other error, is invited to preach at your congregation, what will you do? If you sit at his feet, uphold his hands, and invite him into your home, you violate John’s admonition in 2 John 9-11. If you choose to do so, what will those who defend the truth think? More importantly, what will God think?!