"Generous "Innocent" Error"
Robert F. Turner
I once preached for a young congregation in Indianapolis, that met in a building purchased from the Christian Church. As the 1940 Easter season approached, a wealthy Christian church lady who visited with us occasionally made a very generous offer.
"I would like to move the electric organ from my house, at my expense, to your church," she said; and I will leave it there, and donate my service as organist, until this young church is able to obtain a suitable instrument of its own."
The kind lady was perfectly sincere, and innocent of ulterior motive. This made it difficult for me to explain to her --- without hurting her feelings --- that we did not want her organ, or one we might purchase; that there was no N. T. authority for the use of such in the worship.
And 25 years later this spirit of "innocent error is found among nominal members of the Lord's church. One wishes to install a kitchen in the church building, at her own expense, to facilitate church parties and social fellowship. Another will give a farm, or great sums of money, to establish some church-related society, or build a "church camp. Often -- perhaps most of the time -- these generous people mean well. They simply lack a proper understanding of the Lord's church and its work. We could call them "ignorant and "liberal --and perhaps accurately describe their state (as was true of the Indiana organist). We may thus warn others of the error, and whip the party into line, but it is doubtful that this will help those "zeal-without-knowledge would-be donors.” Nor is this an indictment of plain speech. In fact, it would tax the wisdom of Solomon to reject some offers, explain the scriptural reason for the rejection, and make everyone like it. Sometimes greed enters the picture.
Sometimes those who know better lack the principle and character to say "No!" And there are some so sensitive to the feelings of others they had rather ignore the word of God than to cause trouble in the church. (???)
Liberal and "Middle-of-the-road churches today are filled with a host of good people, innocent in error." They accept without question your sermons of generalities --- about the Authority of Christ, Congregational Independence, "Bible Things in Bible Ways” etc. (they love slogans, and "Church of Christ” terminology falls like gentle rain upon their upturned, smiling faces.) But make specific application of Bible principles to current practices in the church, and the smile is erased, and they are "hurt."'
The cold facts are that many nominal members of the church are untaught concerning some of the most basic characteristics of the N. T. church. Further, their "innocence" is fallacious--it does not justify their error. They refuse opportunity to study issues in the light of God's word, or to believe in the completeness of the divine pattern. They lack nobleness (Acts 17,11) and in a real sense are willingly ignorant." (2Pet. 3:5) Neither their zeal nor their generosity alone will save them. What is to be our attitude toward these people? Certainly not hate, nor vindictiveness. We do not wish to hurt -- in fact we are hurt to learn that our brethren react so violently to suggestions that we study God's word together. Our "heart's desire and prayer, to God is that they may be saved.” (Rom. 10:1-3) We do not believe we are perfect, nor set ourselves as the rule for judging others; but the TRUTH must be taught, and we must remain free to teach and practice what we believe to be the truth. And God shall judge us all. (Rom.l4: l2).
Lessons from Genesis 4
by Jeff Curtis
Sin is a violation of God’s law (1John 3:4), whether it is oral law, written law, or the law that is written on man’s heart (Romans 2:12-15). Having been made in God’s image, each person had a built-in moral consciousness. From the earliest times, before writing was invented, God communicated His will to mankind, as He did to Adam and Eve, Cain, Noah and others.
God’s commandments were not unreasonable rules and prohibitions intended to deny people happiness in life. To the contrary, God provided His laws as guidelines to an abundant, fulfilling life. Sin has never been a matter of breaking impersonal laws; sinners ultimately break themselves by disobeying divine commands.
Alienation Within: Sin has destructive consequences in the human soul. It causes alienation at the deepest level of man’s personality. The sinner finds himself experiencing a civil war in his innermost being. Paul describes this conflict in Romans 7: 19, 23, 24; “19 For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice.” “23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 24 O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”
This type of struggle takes place in all human beings, to a lesser or greater degree, depending on how the person deals with sin. The individual who tries to cover up sin, pretending to be righteous while persisting in a sinful and destructive lifestyle, becomes a kind of spiritual schizophrenic. This appears to be what happened to Cain: By working hard as a farmer and bringing some of his crop as an offering to God, he pretended to be a good son, both responsible and religious.
However, lurking beneath the surface were all kinds of resentful, hateful, and jealous feelings that he nurtured against his brother Abel. He was angry with God, possibly for driving his parents out of the garden of Eden and making life difficult for all of them. Certainly, he was angry with God for accepting his brother’s sacrifice and rejecting his. Instead of confessing his sins to God and seeking forgiveness that could have brought about healing to his soul, Cain allowed his personality to disintegrate in an explosion of rage. When he could no longer control the stress and alienation of his hypocrisy, Cain murdered his brother. He tried to cover up his wicked deed and then lied to God, denying any knowledge of what he had done.
Alienation from God: When Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, spiritual alienation occurred; they were separated from God. They were afraid of His presence and tried hide from Him. So, it was with Cain: When the Lord confronted him with his crime and punishment that he would receive, he complained the he would be hidden from God’s “face,” as a fugitive and wanderer in the world (4:14).
The language of 4:14, 16 implies a physical distance, as Cain moved farther away from the garden of Eden. This physical distance symbolized the spiritual separation of one who had fallen out of God’s favor because of rebellion against Him (Job 13:24; Psalm 13:1; 44:24; 88:14; 132:10). Because of Cain’s sin, he had turned away from God’s “face” or “presence.”
When a sinner repents, seeks God’s grace and forgiveness, and is restored, God’s face is said to “shine” upon him again (Psalm 80:19). In other words, the alienation (separation) ends, and the individual once again experiences God’s favor and blessings (Numbers 6:24-27; Psalm 4:6; 44:3; 80:3,7,19; 89:15).
The alienation (separation) that Cain experienced was due to his stubborn, unrepentant attitude. God is always ready to receive and forgive sinners who turn back to Him in obedience. If Cain had spent the rest of his life away from God’s presence and His “face” was never to shine on him again, it was because of his stubborn pride. His hardened heart prevented him from availing himself of the salvation and blessings that longed to give him.