Larry Fain
Larry H. Fain

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Associate Editorial

Sin is Never Conservative

"And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven" (Matthew 16:18-19).  In this first Bible reference to "the church" Jesus promises to build it on the foundation of His deity. Having made a construction reference in regard to the church, he completes the figure by promising to turn over the keys to those who would live in that church. Interestingly enough, in verse 19, He does not call it a church again, but rather He uses a synonym for it and calls it "the kingdom of heaven."  They are one and the same.

The keys to be used in entering the kingdom, or church, would also involve inherently that which fits in the figure of a kingdom, that of rule, or authority. The possessor of the keys would have power to bind and loose. That is a function of law, to restrict behavior or to allow behavior — binding and loosing — restricting, allowing. Law permits or prohibits behavior. Such is the basic premise of law. Those that want to contend that the kingdom and church are not the same neither understand law, construction, or grammar, much less the scriptures. Why would the Lord promise to build His church and then promise the keys to something else? When builders complete their construction, they turn over the keys to those who will use that which is built. Jesus promised to build His church and then promised to turn over the keys to that church to those who would use it first, the apostles. Peter opened the door of the kingdom, church, to jews first at Pentecost and then to Gentiles in Caesarea when he preached to Cornelius and his household. The same thing happened on both occasions. The keys were used, the door of opportunity was opened, and penitent, faithful believers went through the door through baptism into Christ. Acts 2:47 affirms that those entering the door were added to the church.

Some people have a problem with law. They prefer not to have restrictions placed on them or they dislike others having permission to do certain other things. Given those personal dislikes, some even try to change the law. Reference Matthew 7:21-23. Jesus there said that those who behaved outside the authority of law would not be allowed to enter the kingdom, the church. This would come as disastrous news to those who thought they had lived an exemplary life of self serving rituals in the name of religion. It will also come as similarly disastrous news to those who bind where God has not bound and loose where God has not loosed.

The Lord and His apostle Paul both spoke of unity. Jesus prayed for it while Paul pleaded for it"I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word; "that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me" (John 17:20-21).   "Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment" (1 Corinthians 1:10).  The unity here is complete, just as is the unity between Jesus and His Father described by Paul as of the "same mind and the same judgment." This is not a unity of pretense or a unity of convenience. This is unity of purpose, unity of mind, unity of faith.

Conservative and liberal are interesting terms. Some see them as describing binding and loosing, where conservatism is binding and liberalism is loosing. Such is not the case. Conservatism is leaving things the way they are and have been. Liberalism is the concept of change for no good reason. The reason for change is perceived as good. We never want to question motives. Ultimately, however, liberalism is always lawlessness, action without authority (1 John 3:4).

Some sins are viewed, erroneously, as missing the mark on the "conservative" side. Historically there are to be found issues where "brethren" have erred, binding where God has not bound, and having that be called "conservative." Illustrations: the "one cup" position is viewed as a conservative issue as it binds the use of only one container in the distribution of the fruit of the vine in worship. I know of no one who would say that the use of one cup would be sinful, but that attempts at binding that behavior definitely would be missing the mark of scripture and therefore sin. Again, "brethren" have erred seeking to bind the position that a local church is prohibited from employing the services of a located preacher to carry out its mission to evangelize and edify. Certainly a local church does not sin if it does not employ such men, but withholding fellowship from those who do is extreme. Again, it is viewed by some as a conservative departure. Thirdly, some hold the position that there is no exception in the law for Christians in regard to divorce and remarriage. What is the basis for such a position? And why is that called "conservative"?

The problem with each of these issues is that they seek to bind where God has not bound. The container issue is a non-issue. The scripture does not exist that instructs us on containers.  Any other issue drawn into the discussion of containers is moot. The Bible is silent. The command is to drink (1 Corinthians 11:25). We drink that which symbolizes the blood of Christ and reminds us of it being shed for us for the remission of our sins.

The work of the church includes, but is not limited to, preaching the word. Paul was supported to do this work, (cf. 2 Corinthians 11:8).  He cites the command of the Lord,  "Even so the Lord has commanded that those who preach the gospel should live from the gospel" (1 Corinthians 9:14).  So who is it that can come along and say that such is sinful? Is that conservative? Does it seek to conserve that which is written? "Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other"  (1 Corinthians 4:6).

The final illustration is that of those who say the innocent victim of adultery in a marriage has no recourse of divorce. The real issue here is the heart of the problem in all these issues. To contend that the exception cited by Jesus in Matthew 19:9 and Matthew 5:32 is not applicable to all men is simply to deny the truth that Jesus spoke the will of God that will judge all men in the last day (John 12:48). Never can we say that the words of Christ do not apply to us or any other man and call that conservative.

Often times when issues such as these are raised, some will cry "irrelevant" or "boring."  Why do we really need to study history? I asked that question of my father when I was in the seventh grade. He was right then and now that we must learn the principles of history so that we can learn from both the failures and successes of those who lived before us so that we can be better people. Improvement is always the goal.

We have issues today that plague us that go back to the very principles of the instrumental music question, the missionary society question, premillenialism, the one cup, the no Bible class question and on and on. I remember when I was a new Christian in the early sixties in Texas hearing great men of God speak of the divorce issues. I actually heard them say that we in Texas did not really have to worry about that as it was a "coastal" issue and would not make it to the middle of the country, not in the Lord’s church anyway. Those good men could not have been more wrong in their prognostications. Who would have ever dreamed that so-called "gospel preachers" would ever say and preach that the days of Genesis one "could not be literal"? That same adolescent child who wondered about studying history would get bored when a sermon on evolution was introduced. Who believes that stuff? Why preach on that? Everybody knows that, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth"  (Genesis 1:1).  If the Bible said it, it had to be true. Oh to be naïve and 14 again.

Twenty seven years ago, when I began to preach the gospel, I knew life would not be easy. I did not want it to be. I wanted to serve the Lord with all the abilities with which God had seen fit to bless me. Oh to be naïve and 24 again. I believe that most can relate to the sentiments of Jude when he said in verse three of his short epistle, "...I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation..." It would certainly be great if we could spend our time writing and basking in the joy of our common salvation, but, like Jude, we find " necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints." Creation; fellowship; adultery; the deity of Christ; and now we are even being told that hell is not eternal and the serpent was not really what the Bible says. Who could have ever imagined the depths of sin to which "brethren" would sink?

When men want to bind what God has not bound or loose what God has not loosed, there is sin involved. Call it liberal or call it conservative, the Bible calls it sin. If it is not right it is wrong, and if it is wrong it is sin, and if it is sin, it separates us from God (Isaiah 59:2), and if we die separated from God, a Devil’s eternal hell will be our home.


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