Watchdogs or Hushpuppies

by David Baker

watchdog

Often those who find themselves in indefensible positions resort to “invective” for justification. One of the more popular invectives is for those who speak out against error and criticize false teaching is “watchdog.”

Now, it is funny that the usual criticism of “watchdogs” is that they are not kind in the way they deal with problems. It is resented that they should be critical or that they should communicate their concerns to others. It rarely matters whether the language used is kind or unkind, or what kind of spirit is manifest when a “watchdog” does his thing. The fact is that they have done it, and they have actually used such terms as “false teacher” with reference to those who teach that which is false.

The funny part is that “false teacher,” while it may not be pleasing to hear it used about oneself, is an entirely useful term. It describes one in terms of what he does, and it rarely is applied unless one persists in his teaching of error. That is fair. But “watchdog” is intended as invective, not a kind or descriptive way of putting things at all. Those who use it must make an effort not to sound bitter or superior. And it wreaks positively of what it is intended to criticize.

God’s answer to “watchdogs”

What does God say? “Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me. When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thy hand. Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul” (Ezekiel 3:17-19). God commends the function that some have decried as being “watchdogs,” but uses a more functional and less abusive term – “watchman.”

Those who take it upon themselves to speak for God are privileged to do so. With the privilege comes grave responsibility. “Be not many of you teachers, my brethren, knowing that we shall receive heavier judgment” (James 3:1). As servants of God we are entrusted with the spiritual welfare of the world, the souls of men. As each must answer to God, we must answer for how we have effected their answer. We have a responsibility to teach and to warn of those who teach error. If we cannot do that, then we dare not claim the privilege.

Paul reiterates God’s thoughts

Paul said, “And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather even reprove them” (Ephesians 5:11). Was Paul being a “watchdog” when he told the brethren to reprove those who work darkness? By the way, “reprove” makes an interesting word study. “But when Cephas came to Antioch, I resisted him to the face, because he stood condemned. For before that certain came from James, he ate with the Gentiles; but when they came, he drew back and separated himself, fearing them that were of the circumcision.

And the rest of the Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that even Barnabas was carried away with their dissimulation. But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Cephas before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest as do the Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, how compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?” (Galatians 2:11-14). When error is publicly proclaimed or endorsed, it needs to be publicly exposed. That is Paul’s teaching and his example. To do less is to neglect God’s will in the matter.

Watchdog’s must be heard

The best watchdogs are the ones who make the most noise. I had a friend once who had a vicious Doberman. He bragged that no one would dare rob his house because of the fear that dog would provoke. He came home one day to find his house empty and the dog chewing on a strange “soup-bone” while his mind was apparently “lost in space.” What good was that mutt? The dog the thief fears the most is the poodle or Chihuahua. Have you ever seen one of those that didn’t bark his head off.

The noise of exposure and contradiction the false teacher cannot abide. He must do his work unopposed by the light of truth. He searches out the dark corners of vulnerable ears to plant his seed. Those who would warn are called “watch-dogs” as though that classifies them as vile. But it is the dog that doesn’t bark – the “hush-puppy” – that is condemned in Scripture. “His watchmen are blind, they are all without knowledge; they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; dreaming, lying down, loving to slumber. Yea, the dogs are greedy, they can never have enough; and these are shepherds that cannot understand: they have all turned to their own way, each one to his gain, from every quarter” (Isaiah 56:10-11). Faithful servants are watchful. The best watchdogs are the ones who make the most noise.

Don’t Accept Generic Brands

Companies spend thousands of dollars advertising their brand. It seems to have become a necessity although most of the “brand names” are easily recognizable. But with the introduction of “generic” brands the manufactures want to be sure people are aware of “the real thing.” These generic brands are like their name brand counterparts, but you don’t generally see or hear the generics advertised. The greatest appeal of generic brands is that they do not cost as much. While the generics may be like the name brand, they are not identical, and the careful consumer can distinguish easily between “the real thing” and the imitations.

If we take the principle, the same could be said in the religious world. There is the “real thing” and the “generic.” While on the surface they look the same, a close examination shows the differences.

The Real Thing

After being arrested for healing a lame man and preaching the gospel, Peter and John were asked on trial before the Jewish council, “…By what power, or in what name, have you done this?” (Acts 4:7). Peter had already answered this question at least twice before they were arrested. To the lame man at the gate of the temple he had said, “In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene–walk!” (Acts 3:6). Later, when they were preaching on Solomon’s porch, Peter had proclaimed, “And on the basis of faith in His name, it is the name of Jesus which has strengthened this man whom you see and know” (Acts 3:16). So, when the Sanhedrin asked, “By what name,” the answer had already been given, but Peter was not ashamed to announce it again—“let it be known to all of you and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead–by this name this man stands here before you in good health.” (Acts 4:10). Notice that Peter did not offer some generic response of a power or name that was like “the real thing.” He didn’t point to some imitation that was close.

Conclusion

Then, Peter concluded his remarks with this definitive statement, “For there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). In that one affirmation of divine truth, the Scripture condemns all religious groups, “churches” and doctrines that do not conform to the name, authority and pattern of Christ.

Would you trust your soul’s salvation to some imitation or generic brand? Or is Christ your only authority?

Grace! Is It Possible To Fall

Most of our friends in the religious community want to tell us that when God decides to bestow His grace upon us, we have no choice in the matter. And once a man has entered God’s favor (been saved), his continuing to receive God’s grace is not conditional at all upon man’s teaching, actions or will. Article 9 of the Methodist Discipline states, “Justification by faith alone is a most wholesome doctrine and full of comfort.” I can see where “faith alone” would be a very comforting idea, can’t you? If that were true, you wouldn’t have to worry about anything you might do. In fact, it would leave you the option of doing anything you might desire. Things such as cheating, lying, committing sexual immorality (and all that it implies) or even murder might be engaged in without fear of any repercussions from God.

God’s Grace is Conditional

We see conditions placed on man’s continued salvation all the way through the Bible. In 2 Peter 1:10, Peter says, “…for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble…” In this verse never falling is conditioned by the word “as long as you practice.”

It seems somewhat strange that people believe this, in that we have so much evidence in the Bible, of God placing conditions on mankind. In Gen. 2:16-17 God told Adam, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; 17 but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat…” Is this not a command from God that Adam and Eve were required to keep? Because they transgressed that command (sinned), Adam (and Eve) were driven out of the garden and man was separated from God.

Grace must be Guarded

In Acts 8:13 Simon obeyed the gospel (called gospel of God’s grace in Acts 20:24). Yet after entering into a saved state he fell into sin as to be (1) doomed to parish, (2) having a heart not right with God, (3) needing to repent, (4) being guilty of wickedness, (5) poisoned by bitterness and (6) bound by iniquity. Some will tell us that he was not really saved, but the scriptures do not support such statements. Here is a man who entered the grace of God then turned to his own will and committed sin, refusing to abide by the conditions of the Lord and thus falling from grace. Either that, or with all the things mentioned here against him, he still goes to heaven. But in Revelation 21:27 we read, “nothing unclean, and no one who practices abomination and lying, shall ever come into it.” That means sin cannot enter heaven.

Also in Heb. 6:4-6 we read, “For in the case of those who have once been enlightened and have tasted of the heavenly gift and have been made partakers of the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, it is impossible to renew them again to repentance, since they again crucify to themselves the Son of God and put Him to open shame.” The writer here is speaking to those who need to go beyond the first principles of Christ (Heb. 5:12-14). It could not be the alien sinner since the sinner needs to obey the first principles not go beyond them. The writer is speaking to those (1) once enlightened, (2) who have tasted the heavenly gift, (3) partook of the Holy Spirit and (4) tasted the good word of God. Not one of these can apply to the alien sinner because the alien sinner has not tasted nor partaken of any of these and certainly not been enlightened, as the Bible throughout speaks of his state as “darkness”. Instead this is describing the child of God who has not born the proper fruits, with the warning he can fall away.

Letters are Addressed to Saved

Peter addressed his second letter to those who have already obtained faith of the same value (just as strong) as the apostles (2 Pet. 1:1). Would I be wrong in assuming that they were saved? After saying that they can pursue the course that will cause them to never fall (2 Pet. 2:10), he then points out that they can be “carried away by the error of unprincipled men” (2 Pet. 3:17). Surely it is clear that remaining in God’s favor (grace) is conditioned on continued obedience to Him. Either these spoken of could fall and be lost or Heaven will have some who have left faithfulness and embraced the error of the wicked. God knew that man would attempt to tamper with His will, so he left us clear statements to disprove these human theories. Read 1 Tim. 4:1-2 and Gal. 5:4.

John 10:28-29 reads, “I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” Some will raise the question, “doesn’t this prove that one cannot fall?” The forces of error will use many passages to try and lull people into security. What is said in John 10:28-29 is true; no man, no force, not even Satan himself, can forcibly remove a child of God from God’s care. No one who hears the voice of the Lord and follows Him is going to fall. And no power can remove such from God’s hand. But in the points, we have already made God’s Word speaks of those who decide to refuse to hear, refuse to follow, and willfully persist in entering a sinful way. No one snatched them from the Lord’s hand: they willfully departed. There is no doubt that one who abides by the conditions of God is enjoying God’s grace and will be saved eternally. Conversely one who decides to not continue in God’s Word will fall from grace (favor) and be eternally lost. Remember Peter’s admonition: “as long as you practice these things.”

Also See:

Remembering the Resurrection Annually

by Richie Thetford

The calendar reads “Easter Sunday.” As a result, many people throughout the world will be attending the “church of their choice” to remember the resurrection of Jesus. It won’t be the “normal” service, but rather a “special” service of remembering the resurrection of our Lord that no doubt will include different plays, skits, and dramas. The world calls this day “Easter Sunday,” the day of our Lord’s resurrection from the grave. But is it really?

I don’t recall reading anywhere in the Bible of the day nor the special celebration of the resurrection mentioned. Yet many “good intentioned people,” honestly believing that they are commemorating the resurrection of Christ, celebrate this “holy day” having no biblical authority whatsoever for the practice. Because of tradition, most people today believe that Easter has always been observed from apostolic times and is authorized in the scriptures. But how could they get such an idea?

There is an unfortunate translation in the King James Version of the New Testament which has, perhaps, led some astray. The Greek, pascha, is translated by the word “Easter” in Acts 12:4. This same word is properly translated in other versions and in every other passage where it is used in the King James Version, as “Passover.” Undoubtedly it was mistranslated here in Acts. And even if the word was properly translated, there is still no authority here for the observance of anything. That is why “Easter” as we know it is celebrated without proper Bible authority. The text of Acts 12:4 was in regard to the apostle Peter when he was put into prison during the days of Unleavened Bread or “Passover” as the NKJV, ASV, NASV, and NIV indicate. It is obvious that this passage of scripture is referring to the seven-day Passover festival. There is no place indicated in the New Testament that a “yearly” celebration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ was ever practiced. Yet today, thousands of people remember Him only this one day per year and they make it a grand festival.

Where Did “Easter” Come From Anyway?

The word “Easter” is derived from the Anglo-Saxon word “Eostre,” the name of the goddess of spring. Sacrifices were offered in her honor at the first full moon that came at the time of the vernal equinox. By the 8th century, the term came to be applied to the anniversary of Christ’s resurrection (ISBE, Vol 2, page 6). There has been much controversy about the time of this celebration. The Jewish Christians and Gentiles could not agree on a set date. But as time passed an increasing number of people celebrated the anniversary of the resurrection on the first day of the week annually. By the 7th century the practice of religious groups had become universally uniform. The agreed upon time is now the first Sunday following the full moon that comes on or after the vernal equinox and that date was set as March 21st. This is why there is a variation in Easter dates from March 22nd through April 25th. There has even been talk among the different religions as setting the date permanently on one Sunday between March 21st and April 25th.

The Proper Remembrance Of Jesus

I’ve filled you in on the history of this word “Easter” so that you will understand that it originated as a pagan holiday festival and later became a yearly festival to remember the resurrection of Christ among different religious groups across the world.

The Lord’s church does not celebrate “Easter.” Members of the Lord’s church celebrate the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ on the first day of every week as we are instructed in the New Testament. We can turn to the book of Acts and read: “Now on the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread…” (Acts 20:7). We have an approved example from this text that lets every Christian know when one is to partake of the emblems which represent Christ’s shed body for us. It says the first day of the week. It does not say “The first day of the week, once a year!” In 1 Corinthians 11:23-29, we can further understand the significance of this memorial feast that we partake of weekly. We learn that it represents the body and blood of Jesus and it says, “For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death till He comes.” Again, how often should a Christian eat the bread and drink the cup? The first day of the week! There are many religious denominations out there today that do not partake of the Lord’s Supper once per week. Some will do it bi-monthly, others monthly, still others just once or twice per year. Any individual that is striving to do “all the oracles of God” (1 Pet. 4:11), must understand that God sets the standard (rules) that we must go by today – not man (Acts 5:29). The New Testament is our standard. I urge you to examine the Bible, and then look at what you may be practicing in your religion, and then determine whether it is from God or from man!