|Volume 22 Number 5 May 2020||
Ernest S. Underwood
Solomon wrote, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). Do you know the name of Timothy’s father? Neither do I. In fact, all that the Bible tells us about him is that he was a Greek—a Gentile. If his father played any part in the rearing of Timothy, the Bible is silent on the subject. Who, then, was Timothy, and why should Christians today be interested in or concerned about him? Let us notice the following.
We first meet this young man in Acts 16. Here it is recorded, “Then he [Paul] came to Derbe and Lystra. And behold, a certain disciple was there named Timothy, a son of a certain Jewish woman who believed, but his father was a Greek.” We are further told that this young man was well spoken of by the Christians at Lystra and Derbe.
Now, a question. From whom and by whom had this young man been trained or brought up, and what was the material used in his training? In his second epistle to Timothy, Paul wrote, “…when I call to remembrance the genuine faith that is in you, which dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and you mother Eunice, and I am persuaded is in you also” (2 Timothy 1:5). Later on in his second epistle, he wrote, “But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Jesus Christ” (2 Timothy 3:14-15).
Again, the apostle wrote, “But I trust in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you shortly, that I also may be encouraged when I know your state. For I have no one like-minded, who will sincerely care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are of Christ Jesus. But you know his proven character, that as a son with his father he served with me in the gospel. Therefore I hope to send him at once, as soon as I see how it goes with me” (Philippians 2:19-23).
There are many more references to the young man Timothy, but perhaps these are sufficient to allow us to ask a question. Why did the apostle Paul have such love for and put such trust in this young man? I believe there are at least two things that come into play to cause such an attitude in Paul. First, Timothy had a grandmother and a mother who loved him enough to teach him the Holy Scriptures, and he evidently gladly learned them. Second, from the first time Timothy met Paul until the death of this great apostle, Timothy had an example to follow who was worthy of imitating. By this example which he could follow and imitate in his training and life, this young man learned to be dependable.
Mothers and fathers ought to embrace all of the passages in both Old and New testaments that command and encourage parents, to “Bring up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). Yes, Proverbs 22:6 is a general statement of what will happen if one follows the stated action; however, it is also true that many, many parents, even in the Lord’s church, do precious little teaching their children the Word of God. Far too many times, the only time some sons and daughters receive any biblical instruction is in a 45-minute class at the church building on Sunday morning. Even then, many parents do not bring their children to the Bible study hour. Fathers and mothers, do you have a set time each day that you study with and teach those precious children that God gave you? A fair, and maybe a heart rendering question, might be, “Where would our children spend eternity if, today, they were to meet their Maker?”
T. Pierce Brown
Most parents know that there are at least two ways to ask a “why question.” When my oldest son was small, I would say, “Frank, it is time for you to go to bed.” If he replied, “Daddy, why do children have to go to bed before older people?” I would take him on my lap and explain. But if he whined, “Why do I have to go to bed before you?” he got a different response!
We may not be as conscious that there are at least two ways to answer a “why question.” One is with reference to a backward look that deals with “because of” something(s), and another is with reference to a forward look that gives a purpose for which the thing is done. We need to understand the value of both. A question debated by Lipscomb and McGary many years ago has not died, but Lipscomb, Srygley and many good and brilliant brethren of today overlook one or two very important principles that we want to notice today.
Almost 40 years ago I read everything I could find in the Gospel Advocate and Firm Foundation in the running debate concerning the question of baptism for the remission of sins between Lipscomb and McGary, but I do not recall Lipscomb adequately addressing the specific points we want to consider today. Both Lipscomb and Srygley were right in their conclusions that man can have no higher motive than to obey God and that one does not have to understand all the results, designs or purposes God may have behind any command. Yet, that does not adequately deal with the issue.
My conclusion that it is necessary to understand both ends of the “why question” for baptism to be valid is not based upon the assumption that one must “regurgitate a formula” or mouth some ritualistic statement, but it is based upon some scriptural principles that relate to any act of worship or obedience to God.
Let us examine in more detail both ends of the “why question.” A person may be baptized because Christ authorized it. Not only is that a perfectly good and proper motive of which there is none higher, if that reason cannot be given for any religious act we perform, then that act is not proper! If I do it because my mother believed in it or ‘my church’ teaches it, the act is invalidated, even if the church or my mother taught the truth about it! This is true simply because all that we do in word or deed must be done by the authority of Christ (Colossians 3:17)!
Having the proper “because” behind the act is not enough. Suppose one says, “I take the Lord’s Supper because Christ commanded it,” but instead of doing it as a memorial service (1 Corinthians 11:25), one does it as a sacramental act of transubstantiation in which divine grace is presumed to be automatically conferred upon one as he cannibalizes (eats) the literal flesh of the Lord! Is that valid or approved? Surely not! The reason is that if God revealed the reason that we are to do the act, one must act for that reason in order for the command to be valid. Note carefully: God may have other reasons for which He commanded the act, and other results that would be accomplished by the act, but we do not have to know about those.
Let us try to clarify that point by a simple illustration. Suppose Christ says, “Go out in the backyard and dig for worms, and we will go fishing.” If I went to the back porch to read, and you ask me “Why?” I might reply, “Christ said, ‘Go out’ and there is no higher motive than to obey Christ.” That is true, it but does not touch the issue. Even if I went out in the backyard to dig for gold, you might ask, “Why are you digging?” I might reply, “My Lord said, ‘Dig’ and besides, I want to find gold, buy a boat and go fishing with Him, for I love to be with Him.” All that might be true, but it is beside the point. The principle behind all of this is that if God specifies the place, time, manner or purpose of my doing something, and I do not do it at the place, time, manner or for that purpose, I have not obeyed my Lord—no matter what my motive may be! If God did not specify, then that is a different matter.
Notice carefully: There may be other reasons or results Jesus had in mind when He commanded me to go out to the backyard and dig for worms. 1. He loves me and knows I need the exercise. 2. I would have to find a shovel, which I would need for later activities He has in mind for me. 3. The place I dig would make a good flower bed. I may or may not know anything about those reasons, results or designs He may have in mind. However, if He has specified that I dig for worms, I could not possibly be obedient to Him if I did not dig for worms, no matter how much I claimed to love and obey Him! The situation would be even worse if I knew He said, “Dig for worms,” but thought I already had enough worms, and dug because I thought He wanted to put a flowerbed there!
We must conclude that it is illegitimate exegesis, illogical argument and unscriptural reasoning that leads us to conclude that as long as one says he is performing an act in obedience to the command of Christ, the performance is valid and proper. Note carefully: Although the only proper answer for the background reason for any religious act is “because Jesus authorized it,” that does not, of itself, validate the act.
Also, one can give a proper answer to the other end of the “why question” regarding baptism, and say, “For the remission of sins,” and neither does that, of itself, validate the act. The Roman Catholic might answer that and mean, “I had water sprinkled on me for the remission of my sins (to remove my Adamic nature).” A Mormon might say it, and mean, “It is the act by which a faithful Latter Day Saint is entitled to enter the seventh heaven and procreate throughout eternity, but it has nothing to do with being saved.” A Baptist might say it and mean, “I was baptized for remission of sins which I received when I accepted Jesus as my personal Savior. But I certainly do not believe I need it to go to Heaven!” None of these could have “obeyed from the heart the form of doctrine delivered” (Romans 6:17-18)—the Gospel—and then made free from sin at that point.
We thought that the principle, “If God authorized the kind of instrument on which a melody is to be made, any unauthorized instrument is wrong and sinful” was well understood, believed and taught by faithful Gospel preachers. Yet, the principle is broader than the use of mechanical instruments in worship or the purpose of baptism. The principle has to do with everything God authorized, and although stated above, may need to be repeated for emphasis. If God specified a way to do a command, one must do it that way, or the action is invalid, no matter what one’s motive may be! If you have the wrong motive, it is invalid, even if you did it the right way! The same is true with regard to the time, place, manner, amount, purpose or anything else that God specified. A simple (and perhaps simplistic) way of putting it would be, “If it is not done right—the way God authorized and specified—then it is wrong!”
[Editor’s Note: A person can err by doing the right thing for the wrong reason (Acts 19:1-5). Likewise, someone can make the mistake of doing the wrong thing for the right reason (Romans 14:23). Christianity requires each individual to do what is authorized for the correct reason (John 4:24). ~ Louis Rushmore, Editor]