Since The Christian Examiner makes a habit of discussing non-institutional issues, please stop posting it to the GospelPreachers list. I've asked in the past that these articles be edited out of posts made to the list. It has always been contrary to our list policy for these issues to be discussed here, John Gaines, June 27, 2003.
Non-institutional issues refer to any and all doctrinal issues which mark as distinctive brethren who identify themselves as "non-institutional" or "conservative" and who have in times past often been referred to as "anti" by those who disageed with them. Not all such brethren would be in total agreement on every point so a catalogue of such "distinctive doctrines" would engender controversy within itself. I assume that the term "non-institutional" is familiar to you since your iraslist describes itself on the yahoogroups site as "iraslist ∑ The purpose of this list is for christians who are members of non-denominational and non-institutional members of the one true . . . ." I suspect I mean the same thing by "non-institutional" as you do. Any matter which separates so-called "NON-INSTITUTIONAL" brethren from others in the Lord's church is not to be dealt with in any way on this list. Those issues may not be discussed. They may not be dealt in articles or sermon outlines. Those who violate this policy are subject to being unsubscribed. Thus, no one should respond to your question and attempt to discuss any of these taboo subjects. I do not want to be unkind in any way, but list members who insist on "pushing the envelope" will find themselves no longer receiving GospelPreachers posts, John Gaines, July 4, 2003.
The open letter, which follows in this series of articles, was sent to brother Gaines in response to his recent censorship of The Christian Examiner. It behooves Ethan and I, as well as any concerned brethren in Christ, to have to write such a letter. However, it must be done if truth is to be taught and defended against error.
It is not the intent of the open letter to call into question his desire to do that which is right in the sight of God, nor his need to protect those under his oversight from anything that would cause them to stumble, sin, and lose their Heavenly reward. Rather, its purpose is not only to address the fact that the actions he has taken do not harmonize with Scripture, but also to encourage him to repent of this error before it is too late.
The behavior that brother Gaines has exhibited in regards to the censorship of The Christian Examiner and other likeminded brethren, should be a grave concern to Christians everywhere. It is because there are countless other brethren who behave in the same manner. This includes other mailing lists similar to the Gospel Preachers List.
Such behavior is reminiscent of that which was exhibited during the preaching of the apostles after the church was established. Oftentimes the apostles would encounter those who would demand that preaching about certain issues must cease or they would face persecution. Although that is not the case here, the similarity remains in that both demand that the preaching of certain issues must cease. For example, in Acts 4:13-20 we read,
Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus. And beholding the man which was healed standing with them, they could say nothing against it. But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves, Saying, "What shall we do to these men? for that indeed a notable miracle hath been done by them is manifest to all them that dwell in Jerusalem; and we cannot deny it. But that it spread no further among the people, let us straitly threaten them, that they speak henceforth to no man in this name."
And they called them, and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said unto them, "Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard."
The chief priests heard these things, they doubted of them whereunto this would grow. Then came one and told them, saying, "Behold, the men whom ye put in prison are standing in the temple, and teaching the people."
Then went the captain with the officers, and brought them without violence: for they feared the people, lest they should have been stoned. And when they had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them, Saying, "Did not we straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man's blood upon us."
Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said, "We ought to obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him."
When they heard that, they were cut to the heart, and took counsel to slay them, (Acts 5:24-33).
While we respect the liberty (Romans 14) of brother Gaines to create his own rules for the Gospel Preachers List as he sees fit, we believe the rule regarding the posting of what is deemed "non-institutional issues" violates the teaching of the Bible regarding preaching. God demands that we preach on all issues, regardless of what others think and deem controversial, offensive, judgmental, and divisive. We are told to
Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry, (2 Timothy 4:2-5).
Let it be known that the disagreement that exists between The Christian Examiner and brother Gaines is not personal in nature, but rather with the truth. If it were a personal issue rather than one of doctrine, then we would acknowledge that we have been guilty of being divisive with our beliefs. Since the issue is a matter of doctrine and upholding the truth, we simply cannot hearken and obey the demand made by brother Gaines. We can, however, choose to move on to other discussion lists where people have a strong desire to hear and learn what God has to say about all issues, rather than choosing only to hear what is pleasing to them, thus excluding all other issues as non-salvation issues such as marriage, divorce, and remarriage; the plan of salvation; and, the worship of the church.
Brethren, we cannot sit idly by and allow this type of behavior within the church to persist. We must stand up and preach the word of God with all boldness and diligence as we "fight the good fight of faith," (1 Timothy 6:12).
Let us now continue our examination of the manifestations of the fruit of the Spirit with "faithfulness," as seen in Galatians 5:22-23:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control; against such there is no law.
The word here translated as "faithfulness" is the Greek word pistis, the word used throughout the New Testament to refer to "faith," and it is defined by Thayer's as:
1) conviction of the truth of anything, belief; in the NT of a conviction or belief respecting manís relationship to God and divine things, generally with the included idea of trust and holy fervour born of faith and joined with it
1a) relating to God
1a1) the conviction that God exists and is the creator and ruler of all things, the provider and bestower of eternal salvation through Christ
1b) relating to Christ
1b1) a strong and welcome conviction or belief that Jesus is the Messiah, through whom we obtain eternal salvation in the kingdom of God
1c) the religious beliefs of Christians
1d) belief with the predominate idea of trust (or confidence) whether in God or in Christ, springing from faith in the same
2) fidelity, faithfulness
2a) the character of one who can be relied on
Time would fail us if we attempted to examine each time this word is used in the New Testament; the word is constantly used in each respect as seen above and certainly the idea of "faithfulness" as a manifestaion of the fruit of the Spirit contains all of these definitions, involving faith in God and in Christ and in His promises to mankind through the Gospel and also as a personal characteristic of dependability.
We are fortunate that the idea of "faith" is defined for us in the New Testament itself, as seen in Hebrews 11:1:
Now faith is assurance of things hoped for, a conviction of things not seen.
This definition may be easier to understand when we look at the Greek words behind them. The word translated here as "assurance" is the Greek term hupostasis, translated also as "substance," a word that in its literal form denotes the idea of "standing under" or "setting under." Therefore, "faith" is the thing that "stands under," or supports, our hope in Christ. The word here translated as "conviction" is the Greek term elegchos, and it refers to evidence, hence, conviction. Our "faith," therefore, stands as our evidence regarding things we have not seen.
When we begin to think about this definition, we can see how it makes sense, for our faith is really the basis upon which we live. The human body is confined to the sense perceptions and the mental faculties; we only know with any certainty the things going on around us that we can see, taste, touch, smell, or hear, and the past impressions of what we have seen, tasted, touched, smelled, or heard. Even with these perceptions we can often be wrong, and our reliance on them is in itself a measure of faith. We have faith in our eyes that what we see is truly what is before us; that the vibrations we sense in hearing is truly what another says to us, and so forth. All of our actions in life are based in some measure on faith: we go to work with the faith that we shall be recompensed, and receive that money with the faith that it has value. We cooperate with others in faith, expecting that everyone will fulfill whatever commitments they have regarding us. Even the most "absolute" fields, such as mathematics and science, are really exercises in faith, trusting in the laws of logic and scientific observation to produce valid results.
Seeing that these things are true, it should come as no surprise to us that faith in Christ is a key ingredient in the life of a Christian, for it is upon the basis of that faith in Christ that we live and breathe. We have placed our trust in Jesus, believing that He truly did die for our sins yet was resurrected in power so many years ago. We trust that God exists and did truly exalt Him and that His promise to us is true, that by believing in Him and expressing an obedient faith we might have eternal life with Him in Heaven and be spared an eternity in hell. This faith is the foundation of our hope in Christ, for without this faith, how could we hope in Jesus? Why would we profess eternal life in Him if we did not have the security of faith in His love for us? How can we expect the resurrection in the future if we have no faith in the resurrection of Jesus Christ 2,000 years ago? We can see, therefore, that without faith in God and Christ, we are nothing; should we be surprised, then, at the statement made in Hebrews 11:6?
And without faith it is impossible to be well-pleasing unto him; for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that seek after him.
It is also not surprising, then, to read in Romans 1:17, a quotation from Habbakuk 2:4, that the truly righteous man shall live by faith:
For therein is revealed a righteousness of God from faith unto faith: as it is written, "But the righteous shall live by faith."
It will do a Christian well to dwell upon the "giants of faith" that may be found in the Bible. Hebrews 11 is full of examples of men and women who overcame amazing odds thanks only to their faith in God. Many left their homes, their old gods, and all of their possesions because of their faith in God, and none were disappointed. Many faced physical hardship and suffering for God, but considered it worthwhile. And above all, the Christian should marvel at Hebrews 11:39-40:
And these all, having had witness borne to them through their faith, received not the promise, God having provided some better thing concerning us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.
Elijah standing up to the priests of Baal; the constant torment of Jeremiah regarding the word of the Lord; Abraham willing to sacrifice his only son to God-- all of these and countless others who had extraordinary faith in God received less than what we have been given without even asking-- the immediate hope of Heaven by the salvation given to us through the blood of Jesus Christ! If all of these people in the Old Testament can have faith in God without having received the promise, why ought we not have even more faith in God than they, since the promise has been given to us? Do we not have more evidence of God's love for us, and a stronger foundation for our hope of salvation?
We see, then, that if we truly are going to live a life pleasing to God, it is absolutely essential that we have faith in Him and in His promises. It also follows that if we are to be men and women of such great faith, we ought to be found faithful not only in matters pertaining to our Lord but also in our committments and words to one another. As the Lord has said, "He who is faithful in much, much more shall be given him; but to the one who is faithful in little, even what he has shall be taken from him." The blood of Jesus Christ has been shed for our sins, and if we believe in Him and display obedient faith He has promised us eternity with Him in Heaven. All that would be lacking is your faith in Him and His promises.
But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life, (Jude 1:20-21).
Ethan R. Longhenry
Thank you for examining materials from The Christian Examiner. If you have any questions or comments regarding anything you have read here, or you desire more information, please feel free to e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Thanks!