Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
September 5, 1957
NUMBER 18, PAGE 2,5c

The Infallible Message But Fallible Messengers

C. D. Plum, Columbus, Ohio

The New Testament of our Lord is infallible. By inspiration, this New Testament is called "the perfect law of liberty." (Jas. 1:25). The New Testament was given because the Old Testament was imperfect. "For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second." (Heb. 8:7.)

One of the outstanding works of the Holy Spirit was to see that the New Testament was given wholly, and infallibly. Jesus had commanded the apostles to teach the people "to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you." (Matt. 28:20.) But Jesus had taught the apostles at least three and one half years. It would be too great a task for the apostles to remember all Jesus had taught them in three and one half years. The Lord knew this, too: So to insure an infallible, a perfect revelation of the New Testament to man, Jesus told these apostles that, "The Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you." (Jno. 14:26.) From this, and other Scriptures, be it understood fully, that the apostles spoke, and wrote, under the guardianship of the Holy Ghost, "Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth." (Jno. 16:13.) We speak of the apostles as being inspired men. What we mean by this, if we mean the right thing is, the Holy Spirit inspired the apostles to speak and to write a full, infallible revelation of the Lord's will to man.

That the apostles did speak under the guidance of the Holy Spirit is further set forth by Jesus when he said to them, "Whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye, for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost." (Mark 13:11.) And Paul, in writing to Timothy, recognized the Spirit's guidance, and said, "Now the Spirit speaketh expressly." And to this ever increasing array of evidence that, the Holy Spirit did guide the apostles to give us the infallible message, the New Testament, our Lord adds this promise: "My words shall not pass away." None of the Lord's message has been lost. We not only have it but we have "all" of it. Yes, miraculously endowed men, all of them together, gave us the New Testament in all its perfection, grandeur and glory. This we believe because it is right. The message is infallible.

But The Messengers Were Fallible

Just because the apostles were "baptized with the Holy Ghost," which baptism was a guarantee to us of the infallibility of what they spoke and wrote, this does not mean that their own life was perfect. Far from it. Brethren err greatly in thinking that because Peter and Paul, and others, were baptized with the Holy Ghost, they could not sin and fall from grace. The messengers, Peter and Paul, were human just like we are. Their message was perfect, but they were not.

Peter Knew Better — But He Fell

God had convinced Peter by letting a vessel down to him from heaven that he should no longer look upon the Gentiles as being unclean. And before his contending Jewish brethren, Peter justified himself in going to the house of the Gentile Cornelius. All this Peter knew. Yet on another occasion, because he feared the Jews, he refused to eat with the Gentiles. The Holy Spirit through Paul rebuked Peter for, his dissimulation (hypocrisy), condemning his conduct, and saying, "He walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel." (Gal. 2:11-14.) That Peter was guilty of sin in this case there can be no doubt. This does not mean he was eternally lost, for like us, he had access to the law of pardon for erring children of God. (Acts 8:22; Jas. 5:16.)

Most brethren find it more or less easy to accept the fact that Peter thus sinned. But many, for lack of forethought, seem to want to think Paul couldn't sin and fall because he was baptized with the Holy Ghost. So was Peter baptized with the Holy Ghost. This baptism only assured a perfect message, it did not guarantee a perfect character.

Paul's Preaching Versus His Practice

The Spirit rightly guided Paul to preach that the Old Testament Scriptures were "nailed to the cross, and we are not to be judged by them any more." (Col. 2:14-16.) The same Spirit guided Paul to preach: "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness." (Rom. 10:4.) And the same Spirit guided Paul to preach that the law of God revealed through Moses, called: "The ministration of death, written and engraven in stones " is abolished is done away in Christ." (2 Cor. 3:7,13,14.) And again the Holy Spirit prompted Paul to say that Christ's sacrifice was the end of animal sacrifices. (Heb. 9:26; 10:110.)

Yet, because Paul, like Peter, was only a human being, even as we are, what did he do? He disobeyed the Spirit's teaching through himself. At Jerusalem, because Paul, too, feared the Jews, partly no doubt because his weak Christian brethren feared the Jews and urged him to do so, he submitted to the laws of Jewish purification as set forth by Moses, and would have permitted an animal sacrifice to be offered for himself. (Acts 21:26.) This could not possibly have been right, even if it were for deception. There is only one right explanation for this. Paul was inspired to deliver an infallible message, but like us, he was human, and could, and did, sin. No, he was not an eternal "castaway" because of this, if he used, as no doubt he did, the law of pardon for erring children of God, just like we have to do when we sin.

Sometimes brethren get worked up to a great pitch, and think we are very much out of place to think Paul could do wrongly. Paul was no greater in the sight of God than was Peter. Why don't brethren get worked up when we say Peter sinned by acting a hypocrite? We have picked on poor old Peter a long while. We use him to fight the Catholics with. We show the Catholics that Peter was fallible. Yes, he was. So was Paul fallible. Paul declared of himself in this life that he was not "perfect." (Phil. 3:12)

The New Testament is a perfect standard for all Christians — Peter, Paul, you and me. No human being can boast of perfection in this earth life. Jesus stands alone there. So when Peter, Paul, or you and I disobey the perfect New Testament message in one thing, we have to obey it in the other thing that tells us how to get right again. God never fixed the apostles so they couldn't sin, and left us so we can sin. "There is no respect of persons with God."

Explain Paul's action in the temple at Jerusalem according to this scriptural and sane presentation as given here, and people can see it, and understand it. Defend the inspired teaching, yes, of Paul and et al., but don't defend them in their human conduct that is contrary to that inspired, message. And don't discriminate against any preacher, old or young, because they earnestly and honestly set forth the truth which I have set forth in this article. May God bless and help us all!