Larry Ray Hafley


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Short Gems from Larry's Pen


"Give Satan An Inch"

On the sign in front of the Baker Rd. Baptist Church, Baytown, TX, the following maxim recently appeared: "Give Satan An Inch, And He'll Be A Ruler."

The expressed sentiment is true, for "Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin" (John 8:34). "Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness" (Romans 6:16)? However, the message on the sign is contrary to Baptist doctrine. Here is how.

First, Satan cannot become a "ruler" to the lost, to alien sinners, for he is already their ruler, their "father" (John 8:38, 41, 44). Hence, since he is already their ruler, it cannot be said to sinners that if they give Satan an inch he will be their ruler.

Second, since Baptists do not believe that a child of God can fall from grace, it cannot be said that Satan will be "a ruler" of the saved. If he were, the saved would be of Satan. As such, they would be lost, for "He that committeth sin is of the devil" (1 John 3:8).

So, to whom does the Baptist sign apply? To whom will Satan "be a ruler"? Since he is the ruler of the sinner, his being a ruler cannot be contingent upon their giving him an inch. Since, according to Baptist doctrine, the saved cannot fall away and be lost, Satan will not be a ruler over them even if they give him "an inch." To whom, then, based on the condition of giving Satan an inch, will he be a ruler? Will a Baptist explain?


Did You Ever Wonder About...

We know a good bit about some folks in the Bible, but did you ever wonder about what happened to them? Men like Nicodemus, the woman of Samaria, the blind man of John 9, Zacchaeus, the rich lawyer, Joseph (Jesus' disciple, who buried him in his own new tomb), Lazarus, the brother of Mary and Martha whom he raised from the dead. Ever wonder about what happened to them? Me, too.

It is useless to speculate. It may be dangerous to get carried away thinking of what may have happened, but putting the brakes on rambling curiosity is hard to do.

First, why are we not told more about them? That our curiosity is not satisfied is why, in part, I think the Bible cannot be a purely human production. Would men have written a book and have left that wonderment unrequited? No, men would have gone to great lengths to fill in the gaps. Human historians would have told us what happened to the eunuch when he returned to the palace of Candace. I cannot conceive that the lives of Lydia and the jailer would have been amputated from our view. Could men have closed a book without telling us what happened to (excepting the Lord himself) its most illustrious personage, Paul? I think not, but Luke did.

Second, the design of God must be considered. The cases mentioned served their purpose. For all we know, Nicodemus may have been a great man in the early church, but there were many such men and women whose names can only be read "in the Lamb's book of life." The account of his interview with the Lord was drawn of God for our benefit. Nicodemus was not listed because of his standing but for what God planned for us to know. When that aim was accomplished, he was taken from the stage of sacred drama. We have no doubt the same is true of others we have cited — Joseph of Arimathaea, the eunuch, Lydia, Zacchaeus — they entered the scene, made their point, and were withdrawn, never to be heard from again. Why? Because they themselves were not the focus.

Third, we must remember that many cases of conversion, many men, and marvelous miracles were not selected for demonstration and declaration. John cited seven or eight miracles in his gospel, but said he left out "many other" ones (John 20:30, 31). The Spirit chose the ones he wanted for our use.

Likewise, of all the acts of the apostles, only a few were selected for us to savor. Yes, we have the arresting narrative of the eunuch and Cornelius' conversion, but how large would the book of Acts be if it delved into all the details of particular, personal stories which lay hidden in such words as, "many of them which heard the word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand....And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith....And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed and turned to the Lord....But the word of God grew and multiplied" (Acts 4:4; 6:7; 11:21; 12:24)? How many thousands of stories like that of the eunuch and the jailer were excluded by the Divine penman?

Thus, when we see those given to us, we must treasure them, not as idols of wonderment, but as the reality, the finality, knowing that they were twice chosen of the Spirit before they were revealed to us.

Fourth, and finally, what of the failures of faith? In Acts 4:16, we are not left to wonder about those who stubbornly resisted the truth. Many of those who said of the word and work of the apostles, "we cannot deny it," but we are going to do so anyway, are seen obeying the truth at last (Cf. Acts 4:14-18; 6:7). That much of our curious thirst is slaked, but what of King Agrippa and Felix — did they ever again agonize over their souls? And what of the murderous men who accompanied Saul of Tarsus to Damascus to kill Christians? They heard a voice; they saw the heavenly light which was more brilliant than the noon day sun, and they led their blind and startled leader into town "by the hand," not to destroy but to pray.

This is all we know of those men. Tell me now, have you ever wondered about...


"God Spoke To My Heart"

Many proclaim their personal salvation because "God spoke to my heart and saved me." Why not accept such a claimant? Why do we not believe their testimony and receive them into the temple of God?

First, if we accept their claim, how do we deny similar visions and visits when given by Jews, Muslims, and pagan witch doctors? They, too, have had "experiences" with Deity. Upon what basis do we denounce their cases as fraudulent and deniable while pronouncing ours as faithful and reliable?

Second, Scripture shows that one's devout faith in his "divine" encounters is not determinant; that is, they do not establish the truthfulness of one's appeals. (a) Beyond doubt, the prophets of Baal believed their Lord was the true God (1 Kings 18:21-40). Also, beyond doubt, they were wrong! (b) The people of Samaria sincerely felt that Simon was "the great power of God," but they were in error (Acts 8:9-11). (c) Remember Saul of Tarsus? He believed that he was right in opposing the cause of Christ (Acts 23:1; 26:9-11). His experiences and personal testimony did not justify him. Despite his earnest enthusiasm, he was acting "ignorantly in unbelief" (1 Timothy 1:13). Later, the Lord spoke to him, but not to save him. Ananias was sent to tell him what he must do to be saved (Acts 9:6; 22:16). (d) One can deceive "his own heart" (James 1:26). He may, therefore, deceive himself regarding whether or not God has "touched" his heart. The Holy Spirit verifies this conclusion. "There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death" (Proverbs 14:12). "O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps" (Jeremiah 10:23).

Third, in no New Testament case of conversion did God speak to a man to save him. Neither by direct communication nor by angelic agency did the Lord ever speak to and save anyone. "Faith cometh by hearing," by hearing "the word of faith" as preached by the apostles; we are brought to belief "through their word" (Cf. Jn. 17:20; Rom. 10:8, 14, 17). Though it does not please some men, it has "pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe" (1 Cor. 1:21; 4:15; Jas. 1:18; 1 Pet. 1:23).

Objections

  1. "Didn't the Holy Spirit fall upon people in Acts 2?" The Spirit came upon the preachers, the apostles, not upon the audience (Acts 1:26-2:4, 37). Through the words of the apostles as given by the Spirit, men were led to faith and obedience (Acts 2:37, 40, 41; Cf. Jn. 17:20; 2 Cor. 4:7; 5:18-20). It is so with us today. We have the apostolic word in the New Testament. We "hear" the apostles as those in Jesus' day "heard" Moses and the prophets; that is, through their writings (Cf. Luke 16:31; Acts 13:27; 15:21; 2 Thessalonians 2:15).

  2. "But what about the Ethiopian eunuch?" In this case, "the angel of the Lord" and "the Spirit" spoke unto the preacher (Acts 8:26, 29). So far as the treasurer knew, no heavenly intercession was involved. The Lord spoke to the eunuch, but he did so through human agency-"Philip preached unto him Jesus" (Acts 8:35).

  3. "An angel of God spoke to Cornelius!" Yes, he did, but what did he tell him (Acts 10:3-6; 11:13, 14)? The angel told Cornelius, "Send...for Simon, whose surname is Peter; Who shall tell thee words whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved." Peter, not the angel, nor the Lord, spoke the words by which Cornelius was saved. Peter said it was "by my mouth" that Cornelius "should hear the...gospel and believe" (Acts 15:7). Cornelius knew he must hear Peter's words in order to know the commandments of God-"We are all here present before God to hear all things that are commanded thee of God" (Acts 10:33; Cf. 10:48).

Conclusion

The consistent pattern of the accounts of conversion in the name of Christ included the preaching of the gospel to the sinner. There is no exception to this rule. "When they heard this, they were pricked in their heart....And with many other words did he testify and exhort, saying, Save yourselves from this untoward generation. Then they that gladly received his word were baptized" (Acts 2:4, 22, 29, 37, 40, 41). "They...so spake, that a great multitude...believed" (Acts 14:1). "And many of the Corinthians hearing, believed and were baptized" (Acts 18:8).

Note a negative argument to this point. Paul spoke of Jews who had forbidden him "to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved" (1 Thessalonians 2:16). If he had spoken to them, they could be saved, but since they forbad his preaching, they could not be. "Then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts — (Why does he do this? Why does he take the word out of their hearts?) — lest they should believe and be saved" (Luke 8:12).

Before one can trust in Christ and be saved, he must hear the gospel (Ephesians 1:13). That faith comes by hearing the word of God as found in the New Testament. It can be received in no other way (1 Corinthians 4:6, 15; 15:1-4, 11).

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