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Do We Have a Choice?

By H. A. (Buster) Dobbs

religion, articles, christianity

The Bible is either God's word, or it is not. If God has not given a written revelation of himself, we are in hopeless darkness. There is no answer to the mystery of life. We are crushed under the relentless weight of multiplied complexities and unanswerable questions. Without a word from God, our lives are "pock-marked with needle holes but no stitching." There is nothing left but the live-for-the-moment theory: "Eat drink, and be merry, for tomorrow you die."

Yes, tomorrow you die. If there is no word from God to give us counsel and direction, then we must forever fret under the choking fear of death and all our lifetime be "subject to bondage." If the spark of life is forever snuffed out in the waves of the sea or a hole in the ground or a crematorium, then life is not worth the living. Why creak and groan and toil under a burning sun and in a dry and desert place if there is nothing after death? If there is no light at the end of the tunnel, it is not worthwhile groping along in the dark. Either the Bible gives the answer, or there is no answer.

We have no choice. It is the Bible or nothing. In all of literature there is no other book that can explain our being and destiny. All other "holy" books pale in the presence of the bright light that shines from the pages of the Bible. All other books that assert ability to feed the hungry soul of man are condemned and damned by the teaching of that one book. It is the Bible or nothing.

Reasonable people accept the Bible and honor all its claims. "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, And a light unto my path."

We lift our faces to heaven and, undaunted, we look to the future. The resurrection of Jesus gives us assurance. We believe his promise: "Marvel not at this: for the hour cometh, in which all that are in the tombs shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of judgment." There is no election. There is no alternative. There is no choice. It is the Bible or nothing.

Our good sense compels us to accept the Bible as God-breathed writing. When we look upon its pages, we soon understand that we must accept it all or none at all. It is either the very word of very God, or it is a sham. Who among men has the wit to say that one word of the Bible is from God and another word of the Bible is not from God?

The warnings of the "holy men of old who spake as they were moved by the Spirit of God" make it obvious that we have no right either to add to or subtract from what is written in the Bible. Paul wrote that we must learn not "to go beyond the things that are written." If we go onward and "abide not in the teaching of Christ," we are without God, without hope, without purpose.

I testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this book, if any man shall add unto them God shall add unto him the plagues which are written in this book: and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the tree of life, and out of the holy city, which are written in this book (Rev. 22:18-19).
For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass away from the law, till all things be accomplished. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 5:18-19).
But whoso shall cause one of these little ones that believe on me to stumble, it is profitable for him that a great millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be sunk in the depth of the sea (Matt. 18:6).
For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, lie is become guilty of all (James 2:10).

In the light of heaven's warnings it is reckless folly to talk of a core gospel as if there is a fringe that can be pardonably cut off. We must do the whole of God's will, or we have not done his will at all. To disregard what we may foolishly classify as an insignificant law of the Lord is to dishonor the lawgiver. The story of the man who picked up sticks on the Jewish Sabbath, the account of Nadab and Abihu, the tragedy of Uzzah, the rebellion of Korah, the leprosy of Miriam were written for our admonition "upon whom the ends of the age are come." The thundering voice of the Almighty tells us in trumpet tones and with the sound of rushing water that we dare not make the slightest change in his word. We are straightly warned not to tamper with divine revelation.

Mortals are not given the indulgence of changing anything whatever in God's word. We have no choice. God has spoken. Let us give the more earnest heed. "How shall we escape, if we neglect so great a salvation? which having at the first been spoken through the Lord, was confirmed unto us by them that heard." Who among men would be so vile as remotely to suggest altering, mutilating, adding to, or taking from the priceless truth of divine revelation. God's word is immutable. It is a quenchless flame. We will face it in the last great judgment when we give an account for the deeds of the flesh whether good or evil. God will render to every man according to his works.

The Bible says there is "one body" (Eph. 4:4). That one body is the church (Eph. 1:22-23). Accordingly, there is one church of Christ. We have no choice. It is the one church of Christ, or it is nothing. Denominationalism is division and, therefore, it is sin. Sectarianism is wrong and brings in its caravan eternal loss. If we reject the teaching of the scriptures about the exclusiveness of the church, then we have no reason to exist. If the churches of Christ are just another denomination among many denominations, we should close our doors, sell our property, give the money to the poor, and join the Baptists - or, better still, go all the way back to the pope. If one church is as good as another, and if the churches of Christ are like all the rest, and if salvation is in all denominations, then the churches of Christ are worse than useless. They are vain!

The conditions of salvation are etched indelibly upon the pages of an eternal book. No human has license to bind or loose anything not bound and loosed in heaven. Without faith we cannot come to God (Heb. 11:6). We will repent or perish (Acts 17:30-31). We will confess Jesus or be denied by him (Matt. 10:32, 33). We must be "buried therefore with him through baptism unto death: that like as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we also might walk in newness of life" (Rom. 6:4). In the water of baptism our faith saves us and "our old man was crucified with him, that the body of sin might be done away, that so we should no longer be in bondage to sin" (Rom. 6:6). We must not attempt to erase one word of heaven's instruction. Baptism is a burial and resurrection and, therefore, it is not sprinkling or pouring. Its purpose is receiving the remission of sins and, therefore, is not merely a sign of salvation already received.

We worship God in prayer, song, study, meditation, and sacrifice. The five acts of worship are inviolate. We must eat the Lord's supper, give money to the kingdom, preach the word, petition God with thanksgiving, and sing. The Bible does not authorize the use of mechanical music in the worship of the Almighty. It says, "Sing!" Sing is the limit of God's command. Singing ought to be the limit of our practice.

When God tells us to sing, that is a specific kind of music, and his silence as to playing a mechanical instrument is prohibitive. When God told Noah to make the ark of gopher wood and was silent about every other kind of wood, Noah was limited to the use of gopher wood in the building of the ark. The silence may also be permissive. God says, "Sing" and is silent concerning a songbook. The command permits the songbook, however, because it does not introduce another kind of music but only aids in singing. A child can understand this basic principle of scripture.

We must never turn aside from what God tells us to do. We must go along the King's highway, turning neither to the right hand nor to the left, until we have passed through this life.

Ye shall observe to do therefore as Jehovah your God hath commanded you: ye shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left (Deut. 5:32).
According to the tenor of the law which they shall teach thee, and according to the judgment which they shall tell thee, thou shalt do; thou shalt not turn aside from the sentence which they shall show thee, to the right hand, nor to the left (Deut. 17:11).
Only be strong and very courageous, to observe to do according to all the law, which Moses my servant commanded thee: turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that thou mayest have good success whithersoever thou goest (Josh. 1:7).
Therefore be ye very courageous to keep and to do all that is written in the book of the law of Moses, that ye turn not aside therefrom to the right hand or to the left (Josh. 23:6).
And he did that which was fight in the eyes of Jehovah, and walked in all the way of David his father, and turned not aside to the right hand or to the left (2 Kings 22:2).
Make level the path of thy feet, And let all thy ways be established. Turn not to the right hand nor to the left: Remove thy foot from evil (Prov. 4:26-27).
For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompense of reward, how shall we escape, if we neglect so great a salvation? which having at the first been spoken through the Lord, was confirmed unto us by them that heard (Heb. 2:2-3).
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father who is in heaven (Matt. 7:21).

Published April 1993