Maybe I’ve coined a new acronym: “DC.” I don’t mean “direct current,” or “District of Columbia.” Those were the only things I came up with that “DC” stands for. I did some research (googled it) and found some others: Diner’s Club (credit card); Doctor of Chiropractic; Dairy Council; Dallas Cowboys; damage control; data center; day care; death certificate. I’m not thinking of any of those or the well over 200 other things listed.
By DC, I mean “doctrinal correctness.” We are all aware of PC, political correctness. For thirty years those in public office, public schools, the media and other highly visible positions have been awash in PC. They have to mind their Ps and Qs, tiptoe lightly and tremble lest they say something that a minority group may take umbrage to. Once this happens, no amount of explanation, apology or penance will expiate or placate their transgression. It’s futile to offer evidence of one’s good intentions or one’s past support of said group. Heads must roll. Careers must be destroyed. Offenders must pay.
But, then, there is DC. It pertains especially but not solely to preachers. If one does not express the “doctrinally correct” formulas in his sermons or writings—just as we have grown accustomed to hearing them—he is making an uncertain sound. He is suspect. He is soft. He is not DC. I heard a well known preacher, one of our guardians of the faith, say that there are some fellows he could listen to for hours and sit very comfortable knowing there would be no uncertain sounds. But there are others who make him extremely uncomfortable. He did not say they don’t preach truth; they just make him uncomfortable! Perhaps they say things a bit differently. I thought that certainly the highest goal of any preacher should be to make this guy comfortable! So far as I remember, he’s never heard me preach, but if he did I expect he’d be as jumpy as a gun shy hound at a fireworks show.
Just what do I mean by DC? Let me give some examples. It is dangerous for a preacher in our fellowship to say we are justified by faith. That constitutes an uncertain sound. To say it without elaboration sounds suspiciously like the doctrine of salvation by faith only. The creed (unwritten) demands that it be made clear that there are other steps: repentance, confession, baptism, that are essential. Especially baptism. One might get by without mentioning the other things, but not that. Am I overstating the case? I don’t believe I am.
The problem is that the Bible says we are saved by faith any number of times! John 3:16; Rom. 5:2; Eph. 2:8-10, for starters. Therefore, DC be hanged! I will say we are saved by faith! In fact, I will even say we are saved by faith only! Do I believe baptism is essential to salvation? You bet I do! Do I believe James 2:24 which states that we are not justified by faith only? You bet I do! So I believe we are saved by faith only and I believe we are not saved by faith only. Is that a contradiction? Is it an uncertain sound? It depends on what we mean in each of these propositions by faith.
If we understand what faith truly is, we will have no problem with salvation by faith or even by faith only. The point that James makes is that faith, by virtue of its very nature, must work. If it does not manifest itself in works, it is not faith at all. At least not a living faith. It is dead. Such acts as repentance, confession and baptism are works (or acts) of faith. They are not works of the law. They are in no sense meritorious. They are extensions of faith. Luther and Calvin have both been quoted to the effect that, “Man is justified by faith alone; but the faith that justifies is never alone.” I have not looked up the sources of this, but if they said it, despite how vehemently I disagree with Reformed theology, I agree with that.
We can present other examples. It is not DC to speak of the kingdom of heaven as future. Every novice knows that the kingdom is the church and it exists now. The problem is that the Old Testament Scriptures have many references to God’s kingdom in existence long before the church was established and the New Testament Scriptures speak of the kingdom as Future. (Check I Cor. 15:50; Gal. 5:21; 2 Tim. 4:1, 18; 2 Pet. 1:11.) The fact is that God’s kingdom is past, present and future. It has always existed; it exists; and it shall exist eternally.
To speak of being led by the Holy Spirit or indwelt by the Spirit without observing that such is through the word is not DC. Never mind that the word makes such references numerous times. I am convinced that the Spirit operates through the word in conversion and Christian growth. It is my studied conviction that when the Bible speaks of the Spirit in us (or Christ in us, God in us, we in Christ, etc.) it refers to relationship with deity, not spatial occupancy. But even if this is true, does it mean that the Holy Spirit does nothing apart from the word? I do not mean to be irreverent, but, is the Holy Spirit just a retired author?
The Holy Spirit is God! Is it not highly presumptuous for us to assert what the Godhead is limited to? What part does the Holy Spirit play in providence? I’m sure I don’t know. One old hymn states: “I know not how the Spirit moves, / Convincing men of sin, / Revealing Jesus thro’ the word, / Creating faith in Him…” I think we used to sing, “Creating faith within.” But it was altered for some reason. One hymn book published by brethren changed the wording more radically: “I know just how the Spirit moves”! Now, I’m quite generous when it comes to making allowances for poetic expression in the songs we sing, but I’ve always cringed at that one. The audacity! To declare that we know just how God operates! But, that’s OK. That’s DC.
To suggest that we can have security and assurance in our salvation and know that we are saved is not DC. It makes
some folks real jumpy if they hear that. But the Scriptures teach it so DC can jump in the fire! John declared, “These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life…” (I John 5:13).
Now, that doesn’t mean… Well, never mind. John didn’t stop to explain it, so why should I?
By Ken Green on Thursday, January 20, 2011
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