|Volume 17 Number 7 July 2015||
T. Pierce Brown (deceased)
A few days ago I received a book written by a man who claims to be a minister of the Gospel and a practicing homosexual. He gave many arguments (?) for his conclusion that homosexuality was not only condoned, but it was commanded! I do not want to take the time to refute his blasphemous contention that when the word “servant” is used in the Bible it suggests the activity of the one who serves homosexually, and when the word “Servant of servants” is used, it suggests the ultimate of Christlikeness in serving another’s homosexual advances and refers to Christ! But it does remind me of one who suggested to me that at least half the homosexuals would be saved according to the implication of Luke 17:34, “I tell you, in that night there shall be two men in one bed: the one shall be taken, and the other shall be left.” Two men in one bed must refer to practicing homosexuality!
If you think that exegesis is “off the wall,” let me point out some examples of sloppy exegesis (or eisegesis) which abounds in some things that come to our attention. I just read from an article by one who thinks he has the right to use instrumental music in worship (or do most anything else he wants), for the Bible says in 1 Timothy 1:9, “Knowing this, that the law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient.” He says this proves again that we are not under law but under grace (Romans 6:14). Of course it does not need to be proven again, for no Gospel preacher ever denied it. Both quotations abundantly prove (to him) that we have complete freedom in Christ to do whatever we choose, for there can be no law to restrict us. It plainly says that the law was not made for a righteous man, so Christians have no law since they are righteous men! It would be interesting to hear a discussion between him and those who claim that sinners are not amenable to law. Since there is no law of God that applies to sinners, and there is none that applies to the righteous, then God has nothing that applies to anyone – except perhaps some suggestions. God took Moses on the mountain and gave him Ten Suggestions!
Without trying to give an adequate exegesis of either Scripture just quoted, surely any thinking person can see that although the law that says, “Thou shalt not steal” was not made for a person who would not steal to save his life, that law still applies to him and forbids stealing. Surely any thinking person can see that although our salvation does not depend upon our having kept the law perfectly (for we would not need to be saved if we had not broken the law that causes us to be lost), salvation by grace still depends on our accepting that grace according to the rules and regulations (laws) God gave concerning it.
Ephesians 5:11 says, “Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” There are those who apply that to a person putting up a booth offering the Gospel message if it is in an area where someone might be upholding some false doctrine or practice. No doubt they would have felt at home in the company of those who criticized Christ for eating with publicans and sinners, and would feel perfectly justified in criticizing Paul for going into the synagogue (Acts 17:1) or into the Temple (Acts 19:26). That sort of person might well be expected to say, “There are songs in your songbook written by John Wesley. If you sing that, you are having fellowship with his false doctrine.”
I would not be surprised if some of these expert exegetes came up with this statement: “I have always had my suspicions that mixed bathing was wrong and sinful. I am even more convinced of it when I read a passage that makes me think that going out in the surf is also wrong.” Notice carefully Luke 21:34, “Take heed to your selves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting.” So, not only is mixed bathing wrong, surfeiting is condemned! This is about the caliber of argument our beloved brethren use who read about Jesus taking the cup and saying in Luke 22:19, “This cup is the new testament in my blood.” They have said to me, “It is plain that he had only one cup. If you have more than one, you are adding to what is authorized.” For a person who has reasoning powers, it is not too difficult to explain to him that when Jesus talked about “this cup,” he was not talking about the container, but the contents. He told them to drink the cup. We have discovered, however, that often when a person has already made up his mind that he does or does not want to do a particular thing, he is not nearly as concerned with the proper exegesis of a passage as he is with proving his point.
There are many other examples we could give, but these should be enough to cause you to examine the way you come to your conclusions. It may be true that some of those who are advocating a “new hermeneutic” do need a new one, for the one they are now using has not helped them any. However, I am still waiting to hear some specifics about how the new one will work that they think the rest of us need.
[Editor's Note: Brother Brown's reference to homosexuals may not be contemporarily satisfactory to some, but the late brother can hardly be responsible for shifts in political correctness since his passing. I suggest that the Reader go past the title and reflect upon the article itself to discover that the short essay is really about faulty practices in biblical interpretation. ~ Louis Rushmore, Editor]
What Are Disputable Matters?
Romans 14:1 in the NIV says, “Accept him whose faith is weak, without passing judgment on disputable matters.” The ESV reads, “As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions.” The ASV says, “But him that is weak in faith receive ye, yet not for decision of scruples.” The KJV renders the verse as follows: “Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations.” What are “disputable matters,” “opinions,” “scruples” or “doubtful disputations”?
Romans 14 was addressed to Gentiles who didn’t understand Jewish customs regarding food, drink and Jewish feast days (see verses 2, 3, 6). While these things were commanded under the Old Testament Law, they were abrogated in Christ and not obligatory for Gentiles (Acts 15:9-11; Ephesians 2:15). These Jewish customs became a problem for churches with Jews and Gentiles. Gentiles had no compunction not to practice Jewish customs and thought Christian Jews should feel the same. However, many Jews couldn’t abandon these Jewish practices because it would offend their consciences. So, Paul gave instruction to the church at Rome not to divide over these matters.
Paul wrote, “Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him” (Romans 14:3). The Jew needed to respect the right of the Gentile not to observe these things by not binding the Jewish customs upon the Gentile. The Gentile also needed to respect the Jew who desired to observe these things by not putting offensive things in front of him (such as pork). For them to do otherwise was to judge unrighteously. So Paul said, “Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant?” (verse 4). It is the Lord who judges such matters. “For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that he might be Lord both of the dead and living” (Romans 14:9), and it is to Him that we will all give account (verse 12). So Paul’s conclusion in this regard was this, “Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother’s way” (Romans 14:13).
To sum up, Paul’s discussion in Romans 14 concerned the observance or non-observance of Jewish customs. Under Christ, these were matters of personal observance since the law had been nailed to the cross (Colossians 2:14). So, disputable matters are not matters of obligation, but matters of personal conscience. The principles in this passage ought not to be applied to matters of right and wrong.
From this study, we learn there is room for disagreement regarding matters of opinion in the Lord’s church, and we learn not to divide over such things. Today, there are some among us who hold one opinion or another as a matter of personal conscience. Let us respect them and honor them as our brothers and sisters in Christ.
[Editor’s Note: Obviously, some matters are not merely opinions, but instead, they are topics about which the New Testament specifies something within its pages. What appears in book, chapter and verse – revealed, inspired revelation – cannot correctly be relegated to indifferent matters of opinion. However, extrapolations that go beyond what is written are personal opinions, which dare not become unwarranted tests of fellowship. Whenever possible, give your brethren the benefit of your doubt; be charitable especially toward fellow Christians. ~ Louis Rushmore, Editor]