Vol.IV No.III Pg.3
May 1967

First Principles

Robert F. Turner

This page is regularly devoted to "first principles" -- according to the Plain Talk menu. According to many brethren, that means it must present a topical outline on any subject your fertile imagination can concoct, with illustrations from calf-roping to kite-flying -- just so you show that it takes Faith, Repentance, Confession and Baptism to get the kite up or the calf down.

If Bible illustrations are used it is expected that F., R., C., and B., marry off the bride, put the sheep in the door, or bring the highway wanderer to the feast. Now don't miss my point! I fully believe that alien sinners must believe in Christ with all their heart, repent of their past way, and upon acknowledging their faith, be baptized into sacred relation with the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. I believe that in so doing, their past sins are forgiven. (Acts 2:37-38 8:35-f. Matt. 28:18-f.) Obviously, if the Lord wants people to so obey Him, we must make these commandments known. But I am persuaded that "first principles" go much further than this.

FORGIVENESS -- here is a key word -- and forgiveness implies a wrong done. Since we are talking about God forgiving, we obviously must consider we have wronged God. This involves faith in God, respect for God, and a recognition of responsiblilty or obligation toward God. If we induce someone to be baptized "for remission of sins," who doesn't sense his responsibility to God; we have simply fed him a bit of "church" doctrine, or theological formula, of no real value or meaning to him.

The early converts (as on Pentecost) were Jews (a) believing in a personal God, (b) taught by centuries of "law" to feel an obligation to God, (c) taught to expect, one day, a deliverer through whom they might escape God's punishment for sin. Even the pagans of the first century had a superstitious faith in a real God. For them the true God had to be identified, their faith given solid backing; and in the process the individual's responsibility to God, and for sin, brought to the foreground. (see Rom.1:2:) When they were taught to put their trust in Jesus Christ, Son of God; and turning from their sins, to obey Him in baptism; this was much more than a "formula." By this they reversed their whole life -- became truly "new creatures" in Him.

I am persuaded that much of our preaching today falls upon ears that either (a) refuse to consider God as real and actual -- as a God offended by sin, and to whom we must go for forgiveness; or (b) whose senses are conditioned by traditional "Christian" concepts to expect certain orthodox formulae -- who do not really believe their condition is critical -- who accept or reject the "invitation" upon purely social reasons. Oversimplification? Perhaps! But there is enough truth here to warrant this conclusion.

We must make the reality of God more apparent. Since nothing lacks on God's part, we must be at fault. Our failure is not in material good works, which men see as humanitarian acts; but in OTHER-worldly manifestations. Fearless faith, love for souls, seeking heaven; here are first principles.