Lack of Gratitude
David, in rejection with only 600 men with him, saved the lives of the inhabitants of Keilah (1Sam 23:1-12). How sad that the men of Keilah would deliver up David and his men to Saul, who unjustly wanted to kill David. The men of Keilah should have had a conviction that, under no circumstances would they ever deliver David to his unrighteous enemy. It was, however, more popular to side with Saul, since he was on the throne.
In our day, there have been assemblies that have failed in conviction because of a lack of gratitude to pioneers who sacrificed to see assemblies established, but it is more serious than that. It is a lack of gratitude to our Lord Jesus Christ. We are exhorted “to go forth unto Him without the camp, bearing His reproach” (Heb 13:13, KJV). Instead of heeding that exhortation, some have done all they can to take away reproach by making the assembly more like the denominations.
The apostles were unjustly beaten. We read of them “rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His Name” (Acts 5:41, KJV). What made the apostles superior to such suffering and overcomers to such cruel treatment? It was the value of the Name of Christ. The more that we value His Name, the more reproach we will be able to bear for Him. When we think of the reproach that He bore when He took our place on the cross, we should be willing to bear reproach for Him.
Lack of Courage
In Galatians 2:11-21, Peter and others failed through fear or a lack of courage. Peter was eating with Gentile believers, but when some came for James, he separated himself from them fearing those of the circumcision. Others of the Jews with him were similarly led away by Peter’s failure. “But when I saw that they concealed their true convictions” (Gal 2:14, Amplified), Paul rebuked Peter. “Rebuke a wise man and he will love thee” (Prov 9:8, KJV). How many of us are wise? Peter may not have loved Paul while he was rebuking him to his face, but Peter proved to be a wise man. Peter referred to Paul as “our beloved brother Paul” (2Peter 3:15, KJV). The Lord give us all grace to have courage in our convictions!
Caution in Convictions
We can be thankful for all the truth that we have learned in the assembly. However, any one of us can hinder effective testimony to the truths that we hold dear. Our convictions will have greater influence for good if we have care in our convictions.
Along with deep convictions, we should have deep sympathies, as did the Lord Jesus. “And Jesus when He came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd” (Mark 6:34, KJV). “Speaking the truth in love” (Eph 4:15, KJV) commends the truths that we hold dear. Frank Knox was saved through Baptist preacher Samuel Jardine. He told Frank Knox that if the first one to tell him about assembly principles had treated him more kindly, he might have ended up in the assemblies.
b) Refraining from undue dogmatism
I hope that you will read this paragraph carefully, for I do not want to be misunderstood. There are many things about which we should be dogmatic. Possibly, most things that we choose to speak about are things on which we can speak authoritatively or dogmatically because they are clear in the Word of God. We can be as dogmatic as the Word of God is clear to us. The only time when we should not be dogmatic is when the Word of God is not clear to us. If we are dogmatic about everything, even when God’s Word is not clear to us, sooner or later we will be found out, and then our whole testimony is weakened.
It is easy for me to say this now, but I believed it even before men reached the moon. I did not want anyone in assembly fellowship to say dogmatically, “They will never reach the moon.” I was quite sure that NASA was not spending billions of dollars to reach the moon if there were a real question as to whether they could even do so. It is easy to imagine what another believer or an unsaved person might think if he heard such a dogmatic statement. “Well, they were dogmatic about that and they were wrong. Maybe they are wrong about other things about which they are dogmatic!” Obviously, our whole testimony is weakened.
Something should be said for harmony between assemblies. None of us should be hasty about arriving at a conclusion on a controversial subject with good teachers on both sides of the issue. It is unbecoming for any of us to have deep convictions on a subject to which we have given only shallow thoughts. Even when we have studied the issue carefully in God’s Word for many hours and Scripture seems very clear to us, we should still be respectful of those with a different view on the topic.
I greatly appreciate the book Bible Problems and Answers by William Hoste and William Rodgers. The way in which they answer is very instructive. They point out why it cannot be one or two or three possibilities, then they clearly give what they believe to be the correct answer to the question. Some believers prefer this: “This is the answer and it can’t possibly be anything else”!
John Foster Dulles was Secretary of State in a critical period of US history. He made an observation that is helpful regarding all convictions. “When the US has a difficult decision to make, those who do not know all that is involved can quickly arrive at a decision as to what to do. But for those who know all that is involved, it is much more difficult to come to the right decision.” The reason some do not like the answers given in Bible Problems and Answers is that they do not know all that is involved in the question.