Vol.VII No.VII Pg.4
September 1970

Is Emphasis Important?

Robert F. Turner

The preacher, hoping to reform an habitual thief, asked him to read Eph. 4:28. As the story goes, the man read, Let him that stole, steal! No more work! If you will check the passage you will see he misplaced the emphasis.

When we were children we used to play a game with our reading lesson — changing the stress or emphasis so that we read the (sentence) but made the sentence say something very different from that intended. It was great fun — coupled with the distress it brought our teachers. Today, when Gods word is so mistreated, the consequences are too serious to be fun.

But such abuse of scripture is not common, and would fool only the most ignorant. We regard as far more serious the subtle changes in emphasis of subject matter, which indicate a failure to understand essential elements in the gospel of Christ. It is one thing to teach the necessity of a faith which obeys — a trusting in Christ which leads one to repent and be baptized, for the remission of our sins; and quite another thing to put ones faith in baptism — as though we merited salvation because we were baptized. Christ is the Saviour, and no change in emphasis can change that.

Several months ago I listened to a young man preach his first sermon. He said (and I wrote it down), God sent his Son to establish the church, so that through living in the church, and by the rules and regulations which He gave us in His word, we might have eternal life. I like to think I know what he meant — and my desire to be charitable, and to encourage the young man kept me from saying anything to him, or identifying him here. But the emphasis in the statement is wrong. God sent His Son to die for man. (Rom. 5:8) The church is the people of God — those who put their trust in Christ; it is not some vehicle that God set rolling toward heaven, with seats for those who will hop in and ride. In Christ is eternal life — without His sacrifice, so that God is justified in forgiving sins, no amount of rules and regulations could save us.

Certain ones came to Antioch, and preached the Lord Jesus. A great number believed, and turned unto the Lord. Barnabas exhorted with them to cleave unto the Lord. And much people was added unto the Lord. Could Luke have said they preached the church or the kingdom? Yes, there is a sense in which this was true. (See Acts 8: 12) Were the obedient added unto the church? Yes — in that they were added to the number of people, in heaven and earth, who had come to the Lord. But the fact remains, Luke placed the emphasis upon their coming to the Lord, cleaving to the Lord, etc. Surely the wisdom, and rightness of this emphasis is clear. (Above example from Acts 11:20-f.)

Do I believe baptism is essential? I certainly do — because Christ commanded it. Is the church important? Most assuredly — for that word says called out - people in Christ, when taken in its N.T. context. I have no quarrel with the words — it is the misplaced emphasis that makes me believe this article is in order.