Great Truths, Circumstances
Unchallenging circumstances have seldom resulted in great accomplishments (Jas. 1: 2-4). In fact, the Christian is promised tribulation and persecution (Acts 14: 22; 2 Tim. 3: 12). Controversy is part of the nature of Christianity (Eph. 4: 3-6, Phili. 1: 16, Jude 3). In the environment of great effort and resistance, many great Bible truths have begun. Realizing the origin of many wonderful truths should silence the often heard complaints such as, "I do not believe in controversy " and "controversy is not Christian." Let us consider some great Bible truths begun in controversy.
The doctrine of Jesus' resurrection. I Corinthians chapter fifteen is considered to be the resurrection chapter. It is in this chapter that we find such statements as, "But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that sleep" (vs. 20). Paul's teaching, though, was initially prompted by controversy. Paul is actually challenging and refuting the doctrine of "no resurrection of the dead" (vs. 12). The wonderful facts and teaching relative to Jesus' resurrection are the result of the refutation of the false teaching of some at Corinth.
The doctrine of new life in Christ. Paul taught those at Rome that one is baptized into Christ (Rom. 6: 3, 4). Water baptism typifies, if you will, Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection. " as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life," Paul explained (vs. 4). The old man of sin and the new man is put on in baptism (vs. 6). It is in baptism that one officially ceases being a servant of sin and becomes a servant of righteousness (vs. 17, 18). Intelligent reader, do you realize and appreciate that this rich teaching was occasioned by false doctrine and is actually set forth to refute damnable error? The erroneous teaching was, "What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound?" (vs. 1).
The doctrine that God must be worshipped in spirit and in truth. Jesus taught, "God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth" (Jn. 4: 24). Resident within this short statement is set forth the nature of God, the act of worship, and the essential object and nature of man's worship. However, even these words of Jesus were originally actuated based on controversy. Jesus is in conversation with the Samaritan woman. She had a very different concept of God and worship (vs. 20). Samaritan theology perverted the nature and worship of the true God, being an admixture of the Jewish scriptures and paganism. When Jesus enunciated his now famous words, he was refuting the Samaritan woman's errors.
The doctrine of the finality of the faith. After enjoining unity, Paul stated that there is "one faith" (Eph. 4: 3, 5). A large percentage of denominationalism is founded on the concept of ongoing and latter day revelation (click here to read about Mormonism). Current man-made religions can not point to the New Testament for their authority because they are not found in God's word, in teaching, name, or concept. Hence, the need for latter day revelation. However, we read, "Beloved, while I was giving all diligence to write unto you of our common salvation, I was constrained to write unto you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3, ASV, see addendum). This contend for the "once for all delivered faith" exhortation is found in the context of controversy (vs. 3, 4). Jude is actually warning those to whom he wrote of the presence of false teachers and how they must contend for the gospel system. Thus, we have a plain truth about the sufficiency of the faith being uttered because of the arrival of false teachers.
The great doctrine of repentance and baptism for the remission of sins. Peter taught, "Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2: 38). "For the remission of sins" is from the Greek "eis aphesin ton harartion" and means sin is to be released or dismissed. The essential means of this dismissal of sin is repentance and baptism (to learn more about "for" in Acts 2: 38, click here). This command and promise that results in remission of sin is in the circumstances of great controversy. Peter and the apostles have been accused of being drunk (vs. 13). Peter's sermon is not only didactic but also defensive (vs. 14-41). Peter charges them with murdering the sinless Son of God (vs. 22-36). It is, therefore, in this setting of severe disputation that the announcement and conditions regarding salvation is made.
We should not thrive on controversy. However, we must appreciate the contribution controversy has made. Great Bible truths such as Jesus' resurrection; new life in Christ; God's nature and how worshipped; the finality and sufficiency of the faith; and remission of sin and many more were all originally taught in situations involving controversy. (Perhaps you would like to visit the Apologetics and/or Polemic Exchange features of Bible Truths, click on to go there.)
Addendum: Mr. W. E. Vine makes the following comments on the expression "once for all delivered" found in Jude 3: "hapax denotes (a) "once, one time," 2 Cor. 11:25; Heb. 9:7,26,27; 12:26,27; in the phrase "once and again," lit., "once and twice," Phil. 4:16; 1 Thess. 2:18; (b) "once for all," of what is of perpetual validity, not requiring repetition, Heb. 6:4; 9:28; 10:2; 1 Pet. 3:18; Jude 1:3, RV, "once for all" (AV, "once"); Jude 1:5 (ditto); in some mss. 1 Pet. 3:20 (so the AV)." (Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words.)