Tom Roberts

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Associate Editorial

Have I Become Your Enemy?

Editor's Note:  Brother Roberts edits the Forest Hills church of Christ Communicator, a monthly mail out bulletin.  This article appeared in the May 2004 issue of that paper.  While local references are made, the principles are timely and important for all Christians to note.  As such, we appreciate the opportunity to give his article an even wider reading in this issue of Watchman.

"Have I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth?"
(Galatians 4:16)

Jesus, the wise and perfect Master Teacher was not gladly received by all who heard him. We must realize that Jesus always had the right attitude, chose the right words, expressed the truth, and spoke with clarity. But some resented the truth that he taught. "Therefore many of his disciples when thy heard this, said, 'This is a hard saying; who can understand it?' When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured about this, he said to them, 'Does this offend you?'" (John 6:60-61). Without debate, we can conclude that the fault lay with the listeners, not the speaker. Jesus taught the truth and some hated him for that very reason.

In the title text above, the apostle Paul acknowledged that some among the Galatian brethren also resented him. The Judaizing teachers who did not want the Gentiles to be included in the church fought the gospel and resented Paul deeply. We can know assuredly that Paul taught the truth and that the animosity displayed against Paul was wrong and sinful.

From these facts in the life of the New Testament, we can know with a certainty that when the truth is lovingly and plainly taught, those in error will have certain reactions. They will either "gladly receive the word" and repent (Acts 2:41), turn a deaf ear to it (Mt. 13:14-15), or fight against it (Acts 7:54).  In every case, truth will prevail because it cannot be denied. Resentment, animosity and fighting against the truth only reveal the flaws in those who oppose the gospel. "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words will by no means pass away" (Mt. 24:35). Anger against one who tells the truth is misplaced!

"The Communicator" is being mailed to approximately 1900 addresses in the Tampa Bay area (including a few hundred across the nation). While other efforts are underway to address the needs of the lost in our community and to "preach the whole counsel of God" (Acts 20:27), this bulletin has a more narrow focus. It is mailed to members of the church of Christ with the goal of opening communication about errors which are currently being taught that have the capacity to, and are, leading Christians into apostasy. We recognize that the subjects being discussed are controversial and that many are reluctant to deal with such matters. But every time truth and error collide, controversy will be a necessary ingredient and we must not be timid when souls are at stake. Every effort is being made to be kind, considerate and loving, but, in the end, truth must be taught and error identified. We make no claim to perfection with regard to attitudes, but insist that we are mad at no one, do not resent anyone, have no hidden agenda, and are open and willing to discuss these issues publicly and privately. We love the truth, love the church of the Lord, and love our brethren, individually. We have no desire to divide churches, alienate brethren, create confusion or inflate matters of no consequence. But, make no mistake, error is being taught and practiced in our area and the truth will open it to the light of examination. Error crosses congregational lines and truth must have the same right of way.

Many brethren in local churches do not know what the issues are all about. Apostasy is quietly being advanced in certain places, changes in doctrine are slowly being advocated, moral issues are adapting to worldly standards and many good brethren do not have a clue about what is going on. Fellowship with error and those who teach it has become widespread, hidden behind a friendly façade of brotherly love and acceptance of familiar names of well-known preachers. The church has gone to sleep and error is creeping in!

Some of the worst culprits among us are preachers. "My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment" (Jas. 3:1).  God is going to look more severely at those of us who teach and preach and we better not forget it. If we fail to speak out against error, if we fail to raise our voices when danger confronts us, if we love popularity more than the truth, we have a certain future of judgment from God. Are we moral cowards or bold preachers of the gospel? Do we allow sin to pass by unchallenged or do we speak out, regardless of the cost? Where are the watchmen of God?

"Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me. When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul. Again, When a righteous man doth turn from his righteousness, and commit iniquity, and I lay a stumblingblock before him, he shall die: because thou hast not given him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he hath done shall not be remembered; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Nevertheless if thou warn the righteous man, that the righteous sin not, and he doth not sin, he shall surely live, because he is warned; also thou hast delivered thy soul" (Ezekiel 3:17-21).

All of us are to "watch" (Mt. 24:42-43; 25:13; Acts 20:31; 1 Cor. 16:13; 1 Thes. 5:6; 2 Tim. 4:5). Not all watchmen are prophets, as was Ezekiel. Parents are to watch out for their children. Elders are to watch on behalf of the church. Christians are to be watchful for one another. And preachers are to watch in their work as evangelists. The sober warning given by Ezekiel about the responsibility of a watchman needs to be learned by our generation. God is going to require it at our hands if we allow sin to pass into the church without raising our voice. Be assured that this is as much your responsibility as anyone else.

What Dangers Will A Watchman See?

How does one recognize danger? The Bible tells us: "But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil" (Heb. 5:14). If you are a careful Bible student, if you know scripture, if you are familiar with the truth, you will recognize error when it appears. Can you tell the difference? Can you discern between good and evil?

In past issues of "The Communicator," we have been documenting areas of concern. Note again what we have been saying.

Error is being taught about Creation and Genesis 1-2. Shane Scott and Hill Roberts have advocated that the "days" of Genesis 1-2 "cannot be literal" but are figurative, allowing time for the "big bang" theory, stellar evolution to occur, and eons of time to pass before man appeared in Eden. When Hill Roberts passed out a CD-ROM at his Florida College lecture advocating this error, the administration not only allowed it to happen but have not, to this date, exposed his views as the error it is. Instead, Scott and Roberts have been defended and supported by the Bible faculty and administration.  Did you know this?  Does it disturb you?

Error is being taught about Genesis 3. Marty Pickup taught in the 2003 FC lectures that we should at least consider that there was no real serpent in Genesis as a beast of the field. Rather, we should consider that the entire story was a pagan myth inserted by Moses to explain the existence of Satan and the origin of sin.  Marc Gibson (Lakeland Hills church) and Harry Osborne (S. Livingston  church) pressed him on this error and he refused to state that a literal serpent was present in Eden.  He has also raised the question of the canonicity of 2 Peter and Jude in another lecture.  Were you aware of this?  Does it disturb you?

Error is being taught about fellowship with sin.  Bob Owen preached at the Temple Terrace congregation in a lectureship in Sept. 1993, clearly advocating fellowship with the error being taught on the divorce issue. Though he disagreed with Hailey's views (among others), brother Owen taught that we should not make such error a test of fellowship. Earl Kimbrough's tract, "How Shall We Treat Brethren With Whom We Disagree" (which advocates continued fellowship even when we differ) was distributed and commended.  He stated: "I'm talking tonight about fellowshipping. And I'm doing it in a context of a series of discussions on the marriage question."  He further stated: "So let me suggest in the Scripture there are some cases discussed in detail where brethren had some differences of conviction.  They differed in their belief.  They differed in their practice.   And yet they not only could continue to fellowship, but they were taught by Paul, the Lord through Paul, that they should continue to fellowship."  In Concord, NC in  February 1995, He taught (concerning Romans 14): "So in Rome and in Corinth you had brethren who differed in what they believed.  You have brethren who differed in their practice.  One believed it was a sin to eat meats that had been sacrificed to an idol, so he wouldn't eat them.  Another believed that those meats were acceptable and he did eat them.  Now the fellow who thought it could be a sin to eat those meats had to look at the other fellow and think he was sinning.  Had to.  In Rome, the fellow who thought it was a sin to eat any kind of meat would have to think you sinned if you ate a piece of meat.  And yet Paul taught them that they should accept each other."  This view of fellowship with error is based on his erroneous view of Romans 14 and it has been widely accepted in this area. Attempts to have a public discussion on this subject have been ignored or rejected.  Are you aware of this?  Does it disturb you?

Error is being taught about Romans 14.  Romans 14:1 through 15:7 contains a discussion about matters of liberty (1 Cor. 8:9; 10:23). Such matters of liberty are neither commanded nor forbidden to be practiced, but allowed, if expedient. The text identifies such matters as "clean" (v. 14), "good" (v. 16), and "pure" (v. 20), not inherently sinful. But many (such as Ed Harrell and Bob Owen) are willing to include sinful practices, such as doctrinal error on divorce and remarriage, in this context and "receive one another" (v. 1). The effect of such error will be to allow many sinful practices to be received and false teachers to be fellowshipped.  Are you aware of this?  Does it disturb you?

Error is being taught about unity in diversity. Christianity Magazine (no longer published) contained a lengthy series of articles by Ed Harrell in which he defended fellowship with brother Hailey and advocated "unity in diversity". Notice: "Within certain limits, God grants to Christians the right to a private conscience in matters of 'faith.' I believe that right is discussed in Romans 14. However, whether or not one accepts my exegesis of that passage, honest minds must acknowledge the reality of a past and present Christian world that tolerates contradictory teachings and practices on important moral and doctrinal questions." ("The Bounds of Christian Unity," May 1990, 134) In past decades, Carl Ketcherside and Leroy Garrett advocated this same error. It led them into complete apostasy and fellowship with denominations of every kind.  Are you aware of this?  Does it disturb you?  Are you ready to embrace unity in diversity?  Many in this area have accepted it fully.

Are You Watching Or Have You Closed Your Eyes?

Much documentation can be supplied as to the reality of these dangers. If you want to verify the truthfulness of these charges, look at Watchman Magazine on the internet ( and research these issues. Congregations in the Tampa Bay area (and around the nation) have encouraged these dangers by allowing error to be taught and having fellowship with those who are advocating unity in diversity. The facts are there for all to see if blindness does not close our eyes.

We continue to invite readers to read and study the word of God, investigate these issues with discernment and not be influenced by anything other than the word of God. Be of the same sentiment as the Bereans of old who "searched the scriptures daily to see whether these things were so" (Acts 17:11). Truth has nothing to fear from honest investigation. We remain open to brotherly discussion of these issues. May we hear from you?

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