An Exchange Regarding God's Commandments    


     The following discussion took place on a large Internet discussion list, primarily made up of members of the progressive Church of Christ, many of whom are preachers.  The discussion pertained to the importance of God's commandments in the matter of unity and fellowship with God and with fellow Christians.  I have changed the names of the actual participates to John, Jack, Jim.  The below is only a small sample of the a few of the posts that were made.  I am making it available to you so that you can examine the lawless spirit that is prevailing in some camps. 

     In this first post by "John," I have asked John regarding his stance as pertains to God's commands and unity and fellowship.  Here was his reply:  (Please be sure to read, "God's Commandments - Some Accomplishments.")

John replied thus:

"This takes us back to our difference of opinion. I do not believe UNITY is brought about by compliance to a list of doctrines or practices. I have explained my reasons for this in great depth. Unity is in a PERSON, not a POSITION."

Don replies:

Hence, John believes the New Testament is authoritative but that its teaching does not have to be obeyed in order for man to have unity and fellowship with God and with his brethren. Herein lies our basic doctrinal difference (John mentions "list of doctrines or practices" in the context of the New Testament; hence, I must understand this to be his reference). I have pointed out that what is the use for John and me to discuss specific items or commands when John does not believe commands have to be obeyed. I am some what confused regarding John's stance. I have thought John did believe "the commands" have to be obeyed, but the way he has again answered my probative question, apparently he does not believe in the essentiality of obedience to the commands of God.

I too believe in obedience to a person, the person Jesus Christ. However, I know from the scriptures that one cannot obey and focus on Jesus Christ without obeying and focusing on the commands of Jesus. We are told regarding the man from Ethiopia and Philip that Philip, "preached unto him Jesus" (Acts 8: 35). We then immediately read that the sinner asked, "...what doth hinder me to be baptized?" (vs. 36.) It is evident that with this primary obedience to the gospel, yes, one "obeys the gospel" (Rom. 10: 16), that the Ethiopian began his experience of unity and fellowship with God. Have we forgotten about such simply verses as, "he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him" (Heb. 5: 9). I have repeatedly pointed out that the happy combination is, "obeyed from the heart that form of doctrine" (Rom. 6: 17). The "form of doctrine" of the verse refers back to "baptism" (vs. 1 ff.)....

Don Martin


Don Martin to Jack and the list (John pressed me for one command that I think can be disobeyed by man.  I never understood John's point, since John believes God's commands are not essential, I should have been asking him for one example of a dispensable command.  At any rate, Jack has sought to help in the discussion):


Hello, Jack, I hope all is well with you. You wrote:

I will gladly give you an example of ONE area that I believe is to be practiced by Christians but because of a lack of understanding by some Christians is not practiced. The area I am speaking of is the Lord's Supper. I take it weekly but it is not a salvation issue in my opinion. Furthermore, I have no problem with people taking it during the week.

This is just my opinion. Now I have given you one example.

Don answers:

Thanks for the help, Jack. I do believe that because of some root differences between John, you, and me, we do have different applications. As I have affirmed from day one, I only teach and attempt to motivate people to obey every command. We all painfully know that from time to time Christians fail. This is where God's grace enters, fortunately (Eph. 2: 8-10). However, I could not use your illustration. I believe the matter of the Lord's Supper is one that is indeed basic and must be obeyed in order to enjoy unity and fellowship with God and other Christians. I believe the Christian is to weekly and on the Lord's Day partake of the Supper (Acts 2: 42, 20: 7). I, therefore, could never endorse those who practiced something to the contrary.

Jack, where do you draw the line? How about those who use coke and crackers for the elements? Would this be a fellowship issue with you? How about the doctrines of transubstantiation and consubstanciation, would this pose a problem? I suppose it all comes down to where we draw the line.

Jack, I want you and the list to know that I am perfectly aware that I sin and depend on God's grace. However, I must humbly strive to keep all of God's laws and teach others to do the same (cp. Matt. 5: 19). My mind is on, I trust, how I can better serve God, not which laws I can omit. Keeping God's commandments and laws is a pleasure for those who truly love him (I Jn. 5: 3).

I do thank you again for your help and I do not mean to be rude in not using your example.

Have a good weekend.

Don Martin


Don Martin to Jim and the list:


Jim wrote:

I never ceased to be amazed that people argue that commands must be obeyed to be saved, when it is as clear as day that the Corinthian church had all sorts of problems, and yet Paul still called them "my beloved brethren" (I Cor. 15: 58).

Don replies:

     "3: And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. 4: He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. 5: But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. 6: He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked" (I Jn. 2).

Don Martin


Don Martin to John and the list (in this post, I attempt to encourage John to agree to an exchange in Bible Truths where there will be rules to follow):


When I published the debate rules for Bible Truths and offered propositions, John responded as follows:

Yes, Don, we on ..... are a rowdy rabble of reformers and revolutionists (for the most part). So were the freedom fighters in the Colonies. While the British lined themselves up in orderly fashion in their fancy red coats, like gentlemen, we hid behind trees and gunned them down. We lacked structure and discipline, and we weren't "gentlemen" .... and we won our freedom!!

I have little use for structured, regulated debates. I place great value, however, on open, free and frank discussion among brethren. On this list I offer you the latter, brother!! If you're willing to take off the fancy red coat and hang it on a tree, and come on down into the dirt with us common folk, we'll open our Bible together and discuss the issues which divide us until the cows come home!!!

Don answers:

The rules for formal exchange on Bible Truths are not open for change. I came to John's list and attempted to abide by his rules (lack of rules). In view of the chaos of John not directly answering me but answering me to some one else and expecting me to hunt down his posts and try to apply them to the context of our exchange, I finally stated that I did not see the need to continue in such an unstructured climate. However, I did answer all of John's questions and I did so in the exchange format. For the offer to come to Bible Truths and for attempting to be structured, John calls me a legalist. John, I am sorry this is your attitude.

John further stated:

Don, I am not the least bit interested in moving our discussion over to your forum, and then turning it into a structured, regulated debate. I prefer discussion over debate. Even the published debates which I have had on marriage, divorce, and remarriage, I made sure were simply two brethren DISCUSSING the matters about which they differed. No rules, just two brethren with open Bibles, and hopefully open hearts and minds, examining the Word together "to see if these things be so." Forget the rules and regulations.

Don replies:

John, as far as the exchange propositions are concerned, I was willing to work with you, had you simply responded by saying "I do not like the propositions." Perhaps we could have mutually agreed on propositions and had a good, orderly exchange for thousands to have read, compared, and studied. As it is, you have declined such an exchange. "I have little use for structured, regulated debates," you stated. You also wrote:

Just look at some of this nonsense, Don:
A. Each installment will be ideally four pages long, not to exceed five pages.
B. Formatting: Format/paragraph/line spacing, multiple 1. 5, 14 point font, Times New Roman.
C. Page set up: Top 1", bottom 1", left 1", right 1".
D. Each installment will ideally be prepared in Microsoft Word (Processor) meeting the foregoing requirements, and sent by regular e-mail in plain text.

This whole thing smacks of legalism!

Don answers:

John, I have no ill feelings. I am truly sorry that I have failed to get you to see within you err regarding God's authority, commandments, and structured lives. I remind the list members that they can read and study the pure and full truth of God's word in Bible Truths.  There will also be formal exchanges for those who appreciate order and structure as opposed to free thinking and chaos.

Thank all of you who have followed the discussion between John and me. I also thank those of you who have emailed me privately and encouraged me in this endeavor.

John, please accept again my apologies for not causing you to see some of the basic truths taught in God's word. It is time for me to move on.