Buy the Truth
Donald L. Norbie, Greeley, Colorado, USA [SEE PROFILE BELOW]
'Buy the truth and sell it not', is the strident cry of Proverbs 23. 23. Surely as believers we desire to know truth and not error so that we can think and live to the glory of God. We should give other believers credit for being similarly motivated. And yet we must admit that believers differ on certain doctrines of Scripture. How did the early church come to know truth and discover the doctrine they would follow? Paul urged that the meetings of the church be open for several to speak as the Lord led them. ‘Let two or three prophets speak and let the others judge’, 1 Cor. 14. 29. There was confidence that God could speak through gifted servants and there was confidence in the judgement of the assembly that His people could come to know the mind of God. Error would be corrected by discussion.
We see an example of this in the council at Jerusalem in Acts 15. The elders and apostles were gathered to consider the issue of Gentile admission to salvation and to the church. Must they become circumcised and live like Jews? There was ‘much dispute’, v. 7, an open discussion with various ones taking part. Then Peter stood up and told of his experience of seeing Cornelius saved without circumcision and law keeping. Paul and Barnabas stood and narrated their experiences in evangelizing the Gentiles. Finally James stood up with his suggestions for a solution. This found agreement with the whole church. The conflict was resolved through wise leadership under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
In the 1820's a number of men in Ireland began to meet together with deep spiritual concern. As they discussed Scripture they became convinced that the system of having an ordained cleric in total control of a local church was not biblical and that a group of believers could meet together to celebrate the Lord's Supper without an ordained clergyman present.
This was radical thinking and it resulted in a number breaking away from the state church to meet in a simple way. Later, the subject of prophecy became prominent in their discussions. Here, these same men did not find the same agreement as they did on church order. Some became strongly convinced of the coming of Christ to the air solely to rapture His people was a pre-tribulation event. J. N. Darby became a powerful exponent of this position and because of his extensive writing had great influence. Others were convinced the coming would be post-tribulation and believed the church would go through it first.
These men were all searching for truth. We would never once question their motives. They still disagreed on the details regarding prophecy but truths about the church were much clearer to them. Many today have been influenced by the views of these godly men.
The danger is that theology becomes fossilized. No longer is there an open discussion of Scripture. The correct interpretation was settled long ago, the understanding goes, and now one needs only to refer to the men of the past. Thus each denominational faction indoctrinates its ministers in the correct theology for its form of churchmanship. Luther is revered by the Lutherans; Calvin by the reformed churches and other groups have their patrons of the past.
While Darby, Muller, Chapman and others were great and godly men, they would be the first to urge believers today to study the word of God for themselves. There is always a danger in coming to Scripture with a rigid, theological grid. They would encourage us to do as they did, to meet with open hearts to discuss and to learn from the word of God.
There are considerable areas of difference among Christians today. Is it possible to be open to the views of others and to consider them? Could we cultivate the mindset of the Bereans, who 'received the word with all readiness and searched the scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so', Acts 17. 11. Can we not trust the Holy Spirit of God to lead us into all truth? Of course we can!
It requires love and patience to live in harmony with others who may disagree with you. Are we not told to receive one another 'but not to disputes over doubtful things', Rom. 14. 1. If one is part of a church where most have a differing position from yours on a minor point of doctrine, would it not be the part of grace to be quiet about the matter and not create an issue? Even Christ at times restrained His teaching because He said, 'you cannot bear them now', John 16. 12. If it is a major difference and one cannot be comfortable in that church then you should quietly leave. Hopefully you can find a fellowship where there is greater compatibility. However, take warning: you will probably never find a church where all agree completely with you! Be content to realize, 'We know in part and we prophesy in part', 1 Cor. 13. 9. Our knowledge in this life is always partial. 'Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God', Matt. 5. 9.
(This thought-provoking article does not seek to displace the gift and function of the gifted teachers in the assembly. These have been given to aid and implement the divine order and truth of God for His people, Eph. 4. 11-15. Editor).
AUTHOR PROFILE: Donald Norbie is in fellowship with the assembly in Greeley, Colorado, and is a commended full-time worker. A regular contributor to Precious Seed and other assembly magazines his ministry is widely appeciated throughout N. America and the UK.