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Vol.  9  No. 11 November 2007  Page 12
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T. Pierce BrownTruth and Error

By T. Pierce Brown

    Jesus said in John 8:32, “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” There seems to be an increasing number of influential and scholarly brethren who are teaching, “You do not have to know the truth to be made free.” Their reasoning goes like this, if I understand it properly: “No one knows all the truth. So if one had to know all the truth to be made free from sin, no one could be free from sin. For example, when we were baptized, none of us knew all the blessings that God promised His children. He could, therefore, believe all sorts of error, such as that he was saved by faith only, and still he would be made free from sin as long as he was baptized with the notion, attitude or opinion that his baptism under those circumstances was obedience to God and would please Him.” I suggest it would be more fitting for those philosophers to give an exegesis of John 8:32 and tell exactly what truth a person has to know to be free from what thing or things rather than simply to deny the truth Jesus spoke.

    Of course, a person does not have to know all the truth about oak trees in order to be free from wrong ideas about how to raise peanuts. Nor does one have to know all the truth about everything God revealed in order to be saved. It has often been pointed out that those on Pentecost, the eunuch, the jailer and others knew very little, yet they were saved. We gladly admit it.

    Now the question can be stated more sharply: “What truths must one know in order to be saved from sin?” Suppose that one learns that Jesus was a wonderful, loving person, a son of God, willing to die for his principles and for all humanity. That is truth. But he has not learned that Jesus was the only begotten Son of God, born of a virgin, proved himself to be divine by the miracles He performed and by His resurrection. He may not even know the difference in the idea that Jesus is a son of God and Jesus is the Son of God. In fact, if you ask him if he believes in the resurrection, he will answer, “Yes,” but he does not believe that Jesus bodily came forth from the tomb. To hear some brethren talk, you would conclude that you have no right to ask him any questions except, “Do you believe Jesus is the Son of God?” Then you baptize him because he has come to think that God wants him to be baptized, but for what or on what basis, he has no idea. Is anyone willing to affirm that since he knew truth about Jesus he was therefore saved?

    We are forced to conclude that when Jesus made the statement in John 8:32, He was stating a principle of great importance, and it involved this idea: When you know the truth about any aspect or area of life, salvation, health, business or anything else, that truth will make you free from the dangers and consequences of your former ignorance in those areas. But that truth will make you free in those aspects only if/as/when you properly apply those truths. Take the matter of health, for example. If you know the truth about the causes and cures for cancer, you can be free from cancer, only when that truth is understood and applied. If you know the truth about how to make money or succeed in business, only to the extent that you apply those truths will you be free from debt or failure. If you know the truth about who Jesus is, what His purpose was on earth, and how that purpose is to be realized, then you can be free from error when you apply that truth as Jesus directed. If you know the truth about what sin is, what the consequence of sin is, how to get rid of it and apply that truth properly, you will be made free from sin.

    Now let us suppose you learn what sin is, and that the wages of sin is death. You assume (believe) that you can get rid of it by confessing, “I believe that God for Christ’s sake has forgiven me of sins.” Is that the truth? If not, can it make you free from sin? If so, why do we not just teach that and cease pretending to be the Lord’s church? If not, is one made free from sin by a proper application of the truth that relates to freedom from sin? Note that he is not made free from sin by an understanding and application of the truth about how and when to take the Lord’s Supper. But who will be so bold as to affirm that he is made free from sin by believing a lie and obeying a lie, though his motive was to obey the Lord? We know there are many who are that bold, but we have yet to see the logic or scriptural basis of their assumptions.

    Keep in mind that Saul, who was chief of sinners, had the best motive in the world when he was persecuting Christians. He meant to obey God, and was trying to do it with all his power. One may say, “The difference in that and being baptized is that being baptized is a command of God, and killing Christians was not.” If one can prove that just being baptized, even in obedience to a false doctrine, is a command of God, then one might have a valid point. Our point is that merely having the right motive—to obey the Lord—does not necessarily mean that one has obeyed the Lord. It is very difficult for us to see how one could be accursed for teaching a false doctrine about how to be saved (Galatians 1:1-9) and yet a person could be saved by obeying that false doctrine. However, if someone will be kind enough to write in response to this showing how and why we should believe that, we shall be happy to learn better.

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