Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 20, 1950

Fairness In Controversy

William Thompson, Lufkin, Texas

All men should be fair in their controversy, ever dealing with the issue and never misrepresenting the opposition. Whether the error involves dissension from the word of God within or without the church we should confine our remarks to the principles involved and always be fair. It is not unusual, however, for a man to commit his opponent to a position that he does not admit, simply because they fail to agree on some point.

Salvation by the grace of God is set forth in many passages of scripture. Grace defines the part of God in saving man. Without God's grace salvation could not have been possible. "For the grace of God hath appeared, bringing salvation to all men." (Tit. 2:11) "For by grace have ye been saved." (Eph 2:8) Universalism appeals to such verses in an effort to prove that salvation is wholly a matter of God's grace, that his grace is sufficient to save all, and that all will be saved. One is apt to be branded by one of these sectarians as not believing in the grace of God if he should deny the extreme position. It is obvious to a casual reader of the Bible that man appropriates God's grace by faith and obedience.

Justification by faith is a Bible doctrine. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house." (Acts 16:31) "Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Rom. 5:1, 2) "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life." (John 3:36) "For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus." (Gal 3:26) An admission of the truthfulness of these passages does not admit that justification is by faith only. Gospel preachers taught the essentiality of obedience coupled with faith in order to justification. It was obedience from the heart to the form of doctrine preached that made the Romans free from sin. (Rom. 6:17) The Author of eternal salvation extends it to "all them that obey him." (Heb. 5:9) Purification comes "in obedience to the truth" (1 Pet. 1:22) To deny the sectarian position of salvation by faith only does not place a man in the fold of water salvationists.

The second coming of Christ was a constant theme of the apostles. Peter anticipated the appearance of the scoffer in the last days asking for the promise of Christ's coming. The fact that all things continue as they were from the creation does not dispose of the fact that he will come. The time of his coming is not a matter of consequence, and Peter shows that the extension of probation is the reason for the delay. While the infidel denies his coming, the fanatic insists that the coming must be premillennial, and immediately he dissertates on the "Golden Age." For a man who believes the Book to oppose such heresy is an admission he doesn't believe Christ will come, according to some modern Judaizers.

That the Holy Spirit exercises a part in the salvation of all men is also a Bible truth. His mission was to reveal the plan of redemption through the apostles and confirm the message they preached. His influence is known in the conversion of all people, but the influence is through the medium of words. The appeal is to the intellect through the medium of the words of the Holy Spirit. Some fanatic insists that it can be only in a direct and immediate manner that the Spirit motivates, and if a man denies the miraculous idea he is, of course, an infidel, and doesn't believe in the Holy Spirit.

These illustrations show the different extremes on the points mentioned. Gospel preachers have labored abundantly to show that such charges are false and without any foundation of truth at all. Most of us are able to see the point where it involves some denominational dogma, but the fact is that the spirit has not been confined to the sects. It has become more and more apparent in the church in the past few years. If anybody opposes some innovation his name is a hiss and a byword forever. If I teach against the instrument in worship it is because I don't like beautiful music. If I teach against infant membership in the church it is because I don't like babies. If I teach against the use of incense it obviously means that I don't like to smell sweet things. If I don't admit polygamy then I just don't like women. Brethren have heard these sophistries for years, too.

Carry right on through with the application and see it at work in the church of the Lord. If a gospel preacher opposes placing a "Christian College" in the budget of the church, and makes any criticism of the institution he is forever an enemy to "Christian Education." And some think the colleges have a monopoly on it. If a brother opposes the sponsorship idea, and missionary society methods, he is opposed to preaching the gospel. If he criticizes some part of a work the church is doing which he believes incompatible with the New Testament plan, he is against everyone that has a part in the program and has no interest in the salvation of people. It is an unfair attitude manifested largely by those who are supposed to be the most charitable, and who never retaliate, even with the pen. Any man or group of men who are unable to accept constructive criticism are a menace to freedom, religiously and politically.