Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 4, 1955

Have Brethren Changed?

Floyd Embree, Ontario, California

Much has been said and written of late concerning brethren changing their positions and some have even gone so far as to declare that if a gospel preacher has changed his mind on something that he is no longer fit to be a teacher or preacher, but that he ought to quit preaching and do something else awhile. Apollos was a preacher (Acts 18:26), but he was wrong on one point which he preached, namely, baptism. He learned the truth on the matter, but there is no record that he quit preaching, but rather to the contrary, he continued o preach the truth. (Acts 18:26; I Cor. 1:12.) He corrected the error in his preaching, however. (Acts 18:27-28.) Should Apollos have quit preaching and started doing something else because he had been wrong on a thing and had changed when he learned the truth? Some brethren would undoubtedly say, Yes.

I wonder however, how many gospel preachers have changed their positions on PRINCIPLES in the past few years? I believe that I have known the principles set forth in the New Testament on giving just about ever since I started preaching, but I have to admit there were some principles on giving that I have only recently learned to apply. Did I change on the principles of giving when I learned to apply these principles?

I have known since a child what the New Testament said upon the subject of baptism. But there were some principles involved that I later had to learn to apply. Have I changed on baptism? I now preach some things concerning baptism that I once did not know.

I have preached on the church ever since I started preaching, and I knew what the New Testament said about the church, but quite frequently there has been a principle taught that I had not known how to apply before. Have I changed on the principles of the New Testament church?

I have always believed and taught that the New Testament church was an autonomous body; that the government of the local congregation is the highest authorized by the Lord on the earth, and that the local congregation is separate from all congregations, and is separate and independent of all other institutions on the earth. I still believe this principle. But I must freely admit that there were a few things in regard to this principle that I did not know how to apply. When I start applying a principle I have known, but have been unable to apply the principle to the situation, have I become unsound, unstable and unfit to preach the gospel? Absolutely not. I would be unfit to preach if I did not apply the principle when I learned how.

I believe that most of my preaching brethren today are still sound in principle. Many of them may be unable to apply some of the principles of the New Testament to the situation. If a preacher starts to apply a principle to a situation he had not before been able to apply, would you say that brother is unsound, unstable and unfit to preach the gospel? Has he changed in principle? He has changed in application, but not in principle. The man who has not learned to apply principles of New Testament teaching to situations as they arise has not grown.

Brethren, if Apollos could stop preaching error on a subject and start preaching truth which he had learned, why in the name of reason should one of my brethren be branded today as unstable and unfit to preach when he sees an error he has made in preaching and starts correcting it? I would like to see the color of the man's eyes who has preached very long and has always correctly applied the principles which he knew and has never been wrong in a thing in his preaching!

If a man knows New Testament principles and departs from these principles, he has apostatized, and when he has apostatized, he should stop preaching for his error will cause many to be lost. A few brethren have departed from principles. When a man takes principles he has believed all along and starts applying them to situations which he has been unable to make application to before, he is not unsound, unstable or unfit to preach the gospel. He is more qualified now than ever before. Brethren, is one unsound today, and unworthy to preach the gospel because he has learned to apply a principle he once did not know how to apply? We need to think on these things before we start "branding" our brethren as unsound, unfit and unworthy to preach the gospel just because they have learned how to apply a principle.