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

Contending for the Faith

The United States is among the most tolerant and permissive of societies. Yet it is a society that is extremely intolerant of a very few things. One example of intolerance is with regard to “political correctness.” There are certain attitudes and ideas, which if expressed, lead to the ruin of public reputations and careers. Often those who rush to condemn these attitudes, (what they call “hate speech”), are the same ones who clamor over the right to freedom of expression. This is incongruous, but is nevertheless a rather prominent feature of our day.

This is also true in religion. These permissive influences claim that all religions have worth and that religious criticism is a form of that “hate speech.” Pleas for toleration have led many to the irrational claim that all these terrorist attacks by Muslim fundamentalists had “nothing to do with religion.” They ignore the fact that such extremists have declared a “jihad” (holy war) against all non-muslims.

This ecumenical mindset has had a great influence among Christian denominations. (The word ecumenical is defined by Webster as, “the promoting or tending toward worldwide Christian unity or cooperation”). Some would extend their ecumenical invitation even to those who do not name Christ as Lord. Others, who will not go so far, nevertheless seek to dismiss differences between religious organizations as unimportant, and to develop a type of unity that has its roots in toleration and permissiveness.

It is not difficult to see this for the charade it is. While unity is claimed, each Sunday the various denominations retreat to their own sanctuaries, and their own methods of worship and work, and preach their own doctrines. This is not the unity that God has enjoined upon His disciples. Christians are to be “one” as Christ said, as “You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me” (John 17:21). Whatever this toleration is, it is not the unity for which Christ prayed to the Father. The conflicting doctrines and multiplicity of denominations do not encourage faith from the world.

When the Bible speaks of unity, it requires Christians to be “like-minded” (cf. Philippians 2:2). Paul exhorted the divided Corinthians to unity by writing, “Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1 Corinthians 1:10). This perfect joining can not be accomplished by tolerating differences. Error must be separated from truth.

Rather than taking our cue from the peculiar attitudes of our day, it seems best to mimic the responses of our Lord and the apostles. We should not be more permissive than is our God. When the Corinthians tolerated the sexually immoral man (cf. 1 Corinthians 5), rather than commending them for their open-mindedness, Paul admonished them, “And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you” (5:2).

So, let us examine the practice of Jesus and his followers. In so doing we will be able to determine our proper response to religious error.

The Example of Jesus

  • Jesus condemned the Pharisees who set aside their responsibilities to their parents by their man-made traditions.“He answered and said to them, ‘Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition? For God commanded, saying, “Honor your father and your mother”; and, “He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.” But you say, “Whoever says to his father or mother, ‘Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God’; “then he need not honor his father or mother.” Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: “These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men”‘” (Matthew 15:3-9).
  • He called the self-willed religionists “Blind.”Following the above condemnation, his disciples told Jesus, “Do You know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this saying?” (vs. 12). This response is similar to some religious people today. Rather than appreciating correction, many become offended. Jesus said of such, “Every plant which My heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted. Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch.” (15:13-14)

Any religious person who teaches “as doctrines the commandments of men” is said by Jesus to be devising “vain” worship. It is not right to tolerate these things, and certainly not right to actively fellowship such unlawfulness. Rather, we should raise our voices with the Lord in condemnation of such impudence.

The Example of Paul

  • He condemned false teaching regarding circumcision.He plainly stated that the Judaizers were guilty of perverting the gospel of Christ, and in so doing were endangering their own soul. “As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:9). He did not use “politically correct” speech in describing them, “Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation!” (Philippians 3:2). He was aware of the dangerous nature of the error, and did not hesitate to expose them as frauds.
  • He condemned false teaching concerning the resurrection.“But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some” (2 Timothy 2:16-18). Herein lies the necessity of exposing religious error. If we do not, the faith of some will be overthrown. May we never be so concerned with the sensibilities of the false teacher that we endanger the souls of those he may influence.

The Example of Peter

  • Rather than describe false teachers in glowing terms, such as “sincere”, “well-meaning” and “loving”, Peter painted a dark picture of the teacher of error.“But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber” (2 Peter 2:1-3). He further describes them as corrupt, carousers, adulterous, unstable, covetous and accursed. Why did Peter warn of these religionists who were perverting the gospel? Because “Many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed.” Again, we must not tolerate and entertain error, we must expose it!

Our Charge

The preceding examples serve to show the contrast in attitude, (regarding sin), between Christ and the apostles and those who promote ecumenism in our time. Rather than embrace the various faiths with contradicting doctrine, we are to “contend earnestly for the faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). No man has the right to put his own views and opinions on par with the revealed will of God. “Surely you have things turned around! Shall the potter be esteemed as the clay; For shall the thing made say of him who made it, ‘He did not make me’? Or shall the thing formed say of him who formed it, ‘He has no understanding’?” (Isaiah 29:16).