Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 1, 1963

Churches Are Not Built By Just Fighting Error

Jesse M. Kelley

Opposition to error both within and without the church is both imperative and commendable — imperative because the word of God demands it, and commendable because of the righteous courage and zeal exemplified in performing it. Paul told Timothy to guard that which had been committed to him, and fight the good fight of faith. He was to both teach and reprove, instruct and correct. In teaching and preaching the gospel of Christ both instruction and reproof are contemplated. It is impossible to stand for something without standing against something. One cannot stand for truth and be in a position of accepting the "middle of the road" toward error; truth is opposed to error and one standing for the truth will oppose error. One standing for the all-sufficiency of God's church will stand against everything that would usurp its position in this respect. One standing for scriptural baptism must stand opposed — and zealously so — to the so-called "modes" of sprinkling and pouring. This is axiomatic.

It is encouraging to see such a commendable fight being waged against the multiplicity of innovations that have come into the church in recent years. There are thousands who have not been taken in by the promotions of men; they know the difference between the divine and human; they have become seated upon a "thus saith the Lord" and are zealously contending for the faith once delivered. But while such a commendable fight has been, and is, being waged, we think we can see a weakness in some quarters that is the direct result of the opposition that is being waged. This weakness is in the form of little or nothing being done in the direction of building up the local church in the positive aspects of Christian living and responsibility. It is quite likely that our intense spirit of reaction against error may dull our sense of responsibility in doing the very things in a scriptural way, that we censure others for doing in an unscriptural way. Let us illustrate: While we have opposed — and rightly so — the fanaticism of the "faith healer," some have gone so far in the opposite direction that they do not believe in praying for the sick at all. While the reaction against such fanaticism is commendable, it does not justify one taking another unscriptural position at the other end of the line. But we think there is real danger in this very thing happening with respect to opposition to the innovations so evident in the church.

It is commendable to oppose zealously the centralization of funds of many churches in the hands of one eldership for evangelizing, but in opposing this we may fail to evangelize at all. Simply opposing an unscriptural method of evangelization does not relieve a church of doing its own evangelizing under the oversight of its own elders. In opposing institutional orphanages, we may well neglect to teach the individual his duty in "visiting the fatherless and widows." We cannot afford to let reaction against, and opposition to error blind our eyes to our own responsibility in benevolence.

While we oppose the unscriptural benevolent societies of human wisdom in the visiting of the fatherless and the widows, let us be sure that we are visiting them in a scriptural way. It is easy to get over-balanced.

Contrary to the apparent thinking of some among us, churches are not built or made strong by just fighting error. A strong church may well die while fighting with all its might the errors and innovations in the church generally — if this is all It does. It must build on the solid teaching of Christian living, conduct, and responsibility. Elders must see to it that the "flock among them" over which they are "overseers" be fed the word of God. They must look first to themselves, then to those over whom they have been appointed. It is well to emphasize what is wrong with a certain procedure, but it is just as imperative that the right procedure be emphasized — not only emphasized, but performed. Some liberals have said, "I like the way I am doing it better than the way you are not doing it." This is ridiculous, but the sad fact of the matter is, there are some that are NOT doing it. This does not excuse or justify the absurd statement of the liberal; he will be condemned for the substitution of his way over God's way; but the person NOT doing the will of God will likewise be condemned, though he may oppose with all his might the innovation of the liberal. It is easy to "say and do not."

Those who went with Nehemiah to build again the walls of Jerusalem held a sword with one hand, but they worked with the other. There are lost souls in the world and weak members in the church. These must not be neglected. The church will die if they are — though It may oppose vigorously every error ever formulated in the mind of man. We must reprove, but also instruct; correct, but also teach.

Conservative brethren could do nothing that would please the innovators among us more than just to fight error. And we could do nothing that would be more detrimental to the church built by the Lord. Let us build as we fight; teach as we reprove. In this is the real strength of the church of God. Here is our salvation and the salvation of the church.

— Box 72, Newbern, Tennessee