What if We’re Wrong?

WHAT IF WE’RE WRONG?

“See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, Redeeming the time, because the days are evil.” (Eph. 5:15-16)

To walk “circumspectly” is to walk “cautiously” with “watchfulness every way.” I’ve chosen the Ephesians 5:15 text because that’s pretty much the theme of today’s message. We should always be on guard in every way, not just on guard against things from on the outside, but also continually checking and improving things on the inside.

Have you ever wondered if we might be wrong about the things that we believe? I have that thought cross my mind at times, not a lot, but it does pass through my mind on occasion. What if we are just plain WRONG about some of our most basic beliefs? What if the Bible is right, but our understanding of it is wrong?

Now, I realize that some proud and conceited brethren would never entertain such a thought. In fact, I often wonder if some of them ever entertain ANY thoughts of their own; but I certainly have such thoughts occasionally. Being human, I have been wrong about things at times, and I have had to repent and get things right, sometimes with my heart, sometimes with my head, and sometimes with both. So, in the spirit of I Thessalonians 5:21, it’s always good to conduct a bit of self-examining in regards to our beliefs and take nothing for granted.

You know, there are millions of professing Christians who think that basic fundamental Christianity is all wrong. I have a book in my library that condemns C. I. Scofield and everyone who has learned from him. The author even stated that all preachers should be required to attend seminary so as to avoid so many novices in the pulpits! In his view, that’s what Larkin and Scofield produced: novices in the pulpits. Like his Dark Age papal cousins, the man is all torn up over the fact that Larkin and Scofield placed Bible knowledge in the hands of common people instead of keeping it locked up for the elitist Nicolaitans. So, he and others like him are on a campaign to condemn all of us loose cannons and turn as many away from us as possible.

Such critics as the above author delight in dwelling on the technical points that they think will give them the winning edge of the argument(s), but what about the practical side of the argument? That is, even if we are wrong in some of our beliefs, WHAT HARM ARE WE DOING? I’ve checked my beliefs over and over very carefully, and I don’t think for a second that we are wrong, but for the sake of argument, WHAT IF WE ARE? Are we sending people to Hell? Are we producing infidels? Are we causing people to lose faith in God? In other words, even if we are in error, it is on the side of caution, not on the side of danger. By the grace of God, I’d like to illustrate this for you by addressing five beliefs that we embrace.

I. THE AUTHORITY OF THE KING JAMES BIBLE

If we are to believe our critics, then true Bible study and understanding must rest upon access to the text of Hebrew and Greek manuscripts. This, of course, eliminates most people since they do not have, nor will they ever have, such access. Therefore, “true Bible study and understanding” is limited to the elites who THINK they have superior knowledge to the rest of us since they have access to “the originals,” or at least they can come closer than the rest of us.

Now, how does that approach edify the body of Christ as a whole? The common people are kept in darkness while the elites strut around claiming superior knowledge. These people have had nearly 2,000 years to get all of their Greek and Hebrew fragments together and produce a perfect Bible for everyone, yet they haven’t done so. They haven’t done so because THEY DON’T WANT A PERFECT BIBLE! That would remove all power from THEM and put it in YOUR HAND, YOUR HEART, and YOUR HOME! God forbid! Then you wouldn’t need THEM! Then you wouldn’t need their latest money-making translation. No, you would have YOUR OWN BIBLE and your own Holy Spirit to bear witness of the truth it contains (I John 2:27!). Why, who knows, you just might start learning and growing to be wiser than all your teachers (Psa. 119:99).

Now, would that be so bad? Would it be so bad if everyone stuck with ONE BOOK that God has blessed abundantly and everyone had copies of that one Book in their own home? I believe we are spot-on with our KJV position, but even if we aren’t, at least we’re erring on the side of caution and doing more good for Christ than the proud Laodiceans who have no final authority other than one another.

II. THE RAPTURE

Based on a whole lot of Scripture, we believe that Jesus will soon reveal Himself to believers only by calling the church out of this world. Just as Lazarus didn’t have to wait until the “the resurrection at the last day” to be resurrected (John 11:24-26, 43-44), we will not have to wait until then either. That’s why Revelation 20:5-6 promises us the “first” resurrection over a thousand years before the last one. That’s why Jesus gives us John 14:1-3 and why Paul gives us I Thessalonians 4:13-18 and I Corinthians 15:51-52. We’re getting out of here, and it will be sooner, not later.

But what if we’re wrong about that? What if I’m all messed up with those verses and there’s just going to be one big general judgment day for everybody? If that’s the case, then all we are really guilty of is telling everyone to receive Christ SOONER rather than later! How is THAT such a crime?

You say, “Melton, you idiot, don’t you realize that all this rapture teaching is discouraging people from preparing for the Great Tribulation!” Of course I realize that, but it doesn’t matter because the Bible never told us to prepare for the Tribulation anyway! It tells us to be ready to meet the Lord, but it doesn’t tell us to be ready for the Antichrist! We teach about the Great Tribulation and all that comes with it, so we leave no one in darkness about what’s coming. If we’re wrong about the Rapture and we all end up in the Great Tribulation, we’ll know more about it than most everyone there and we’ll probably lead a lot of people to Christ.

But if our critics are wrong, a whole bunch of people are being misinformed and unprepared spiritually for what’s coming, and many will end up in Hell because of it.

III. THE GREAT TRIBULATION

The Bible is very clear in stating that a terrible period of time is coming on this earth. It’s called the time of Jacob’s trouble in Jeremiah, it’s called the seventieth week in Daniel, and Jesus calls it “great tribulation” in Matthew 24:21. You can read all about it in Revelation chapters six through nineteen, and it’s not at all a pleasant read. This old world is approaching some very perilous times, and the wisest people on earth are those who receive Christ and escape this horrible time that’s coming. I have believed that for nearly forty years, and, like most of you, I believe it today.

But what if we’re wrong? Just for sake of argument, what if we are all mixed up and the tribulation period has already happened or it isn’t literal at all? All we’ve done is tell millions of people to GET RIGHT OR GET LEFT. How is that a harmful message?

Or what if the Rapture is really in the middle or at the end of the Great Tribulation? Again, all we’ve done is tell people to prepare for eternity by receiving Christ. How can anyone go wrong by receiving Christ today instead of taking their changes for a few more years? If we’ve erred, we’ve done so on the side of caution with the souls of men taking priority.

But if THEY have erred (be they mid-tribbers, post-tribbers, or no-tribbers), then millions of people could take their chances and end up being unprepared for what Jesus said would be the worst thing this world has ever seen. If I have to carry a wrong to the day of judgement, I’d rather it be one that helped more people than it hurt. I’d rather err on the side of caution than on the side of carelessness.

IV. THE MILLENNIAL KINGDOM

I have a whole eight part series on the Millennial Kingdom of Christ running several hours in length, so please don’t doubt my views on the coming kingdom. I believe Jesus is returning literally to a literal earth to reign a literal 1,000 years. I believe it literally, physically and visibly. I have believed that since shortly after being saved in 1979, and I believe it more firmly now than I did then. I reject post-millennialism and a-millennialism, and I believe and teach the pre-millennial Second Coming of Jesus Christ, just as most of you.

But what if we’re wrong? What if God is all done with Israel and the church gets all the kingdom promises? No problem! We haven’t told anyone to wait for the kingdom anyway since we are already in the kingdom spiritually by virtue of the new birth. We’ve been preaching for folks to get saved and live crucified lives for Christ today so they can reign with Him IN the literal kingdom when it comes (II Tim. 2:12). If there’s no literal kingdom, then they’ll still go to Heaven and be rewarded at the Judgment Seat of Christ for their service (I Cor. 3:11-15; Rom. 14:10; II Cor. 5:10). They win either way.

But if our critics are wrong, then the Millennial Kingdom IS coming and many of their shallow followers will not be ready because of the urgency for preparedness has been removed by their false teaching. They will be unprepared, as will most of their followers. Again, if we have erred, at least it has been on the side of caution.

V. THE DISPENSATIONS

Personally, I question the intelligence of anyone who rejects dispensational teaching. To me, to hear a man say, “I don’t believe in dispensations” is about the same as hearing him say, “I’m a brainless idiot.” The reality of some level of Biblical dispensationalism is so obvious that one has got to have a few loose screws to deny it. Any child can see that Adam and Eve lived differently than we live today. Any sound-minded adult, saved or lost, can see that Christians living today do not offer animal sacrifices at a temple or a tabernacle, and most any Christian living today knows perfectly well that Noah and Abraham didn’t preach, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house.” (Acts 16:31) We can ague all day about HOW MANY dispensations there are and just HOW SHARP the divisions need to be, but to categorically deny dispensations altogether just isn’t very bright. I have believed in basic dispensational truth since the early 1980’s, and I believe it more today than I did then, as do most of my brethren who continually study the matter seriously.

But what if we’re wrong? What if somehow we’ve all just gone too far with this thing and there is no dispensation of conscience, no dispensation of human government, no patriarchal dispensation and no kingdom dispensation. What if the lightweights are correct in saying that it’s all the dispensation of grace? I think that’s insane, but, for sake of argument, what if that’s true?

Well, if that’s true, then we have still managed to get a whole lot of people interested in the Book, and we’ve helped a whole lot of people to make some sense out of apparent errors and contradictions in the word of God. How can that be a bad thing? We’ve given more people faith in more Scripture than the dispensational doubters could ever hope to give. The passages that they skim over or ignore completely are expounded on by us, and many have an increased faith in the word of God because of it. By teaching a sensible and balanced dispensational approach to the Scriptures, we have awakened thousands who had been put to sleep by the limited revelations of people like Matthew Henry and Adam Clarke. If not for the dispensational teaching of Larkin, Scofield and Ruckman, this preacher and writer may very well have remained in spiritual darkness believing that naïve and childish “soul winning” was all that really mattered in Christianity since that’s about the only thing that I was taught for the first few years of my new life in Christ.

I thank God for steering me in the right direction. When I prayed the second most important prayer of my life by asking God to teach me the Bible, I’m sure glad that He didn’t send me to Bob Jones University, Tennessee Temple or Hyles-Anderson. God answered my prayer by bringing me in touch with ONE MAN, a rock-solid KJV dispensationalist who was a real man, unlike the sissies I had been hearing, and he could teach more Bible in an hour than most could teach in a week. If my connection to Dr. Ruckman had never been made, I’d likely have lost interest in spiritual things and became a Sunday morning Christian at best. Dispensational teaching and rightly dividing hasn’t hurt me one bit. To the contrary, it has made ALL the Bible user-friendly to me and allowed me to feel at home in any of its 1,189 chapters, and there are thousands of other believers who will echo the same sentiment. If we are wrong, it has been largely for the better, and we have no regrets.

But if our anti-dispensational critics are wrong, then they will one day give account to God for keeping millions of people in spiritual darkness, often believing the entire Old Testament to be a “dead Book” that isn’t worth reading, believing that the book of Revelation is too complex for common people to understand, and then spiritualizing everything else in the Bible that they can’t comprehend.

If we’re wrong, then at least we played it safe and erred on the side of caution. If they’re wrong, then they have blundered terribly and caused tremendous damage to the cause of Christ and to the souls of men.

– James L Melton

Bible Baptist Church

Spiritual Swimming

SPIRITUAL SWIMMING

“Afterward he brought me again unto the door of the house; and, behold, waters issued out from under the threshold of the house eastward: for the forefront of the house stood toward the east, and the waters came down from under from the right side of the house, at the south side of the altar. Then brought he me out of the way of the gate northward, and led me about the way without unto the utter gate by the way that looketh eastward; and, behold, there ran out waters on the right side. And when the man that had the line in his hand went forth eastward, he measured a thousand cubits, and he brought me through the waters; the waters were to the ankles. Again he measured a thousand, and brought me through the waters; the waters were to the knees. Again he measured a thousand, and brought me through; the waters were to the loins. Afterward he measured a thousand; and it was a river that I could not pass over: for the waters were risen, waters to swim in, a river that could not be passed over.” (Ezk. 47:1-5)

The waters that issue out from the Lord’s house serve as a type of the Holy Spirit (John 7:38-39), and we learn that some of God’s people are ankle deep in the water of God’s Spirit, some are knee deep, some are loin deep, and some are swimming.

To swim is to have one’s feet off the ground and rely totally on skill and the mercy of the river. Both are important, and a man won’t do much swimming if either turns against him.

Having the feet off the ground, of course, points to the fact that the Christian ought to be heavenly-minded (Col. 3:2). The swimming has to do with moving and being productive for God.

In the account of Paul’s shipwreck, we read that everyone made it to land safely, but not everyone swam to land. Some just floated to land by hanging on to boards and broken pieces of the ship (Acts 27:43-44). That’s what’s going on in modern Christianity. All born-again believers in Christ will make it to heaven’s shore, but some won’t be swimming. They’ll be floating in on the broken boards of Laodicea: religious emotionalism, political correctness, religious correctness, contemporary worship, the ecumenical movement, campground Christianity, etc. There aren’t many swimmers around these days.

Abraham was a swimmer, but Lot was a floater. Lot was saved, but that’s about all he was, and that’s about all any floater is. If you want to be a floater, suit yourself. You’ll certainly have plenty of company. But you can be a swimmer, if you’d like.

I believe it was Jack Hyles who said there are three kinds of people in this world: those who make things happen, those who watch things happen, and those who don’t know what’s happening. The ones who make things happen are the swimmers. The rest are just floaters.

If you want God to use you to make things happen, you need to learn to swim. Floaters only float and watch. You need to do some swimming, if you plan to make things happen. Regardless of your gender, your size, or your age, you can swim for God, and He wants you to swim. Maybe a few pointers can be helpful . . .

I. GET INTO THE WATER

You can’t learn to swim by watching or listening to others. You can’t learn it in a classroom. You must get into the water and learn swimming first hand.

By the way, that is always a step down, isn’t it? Whether you step down into a pool, down into the water at a beach, or you walk down the river bank or creek bank to the water, it is always a step down.

That pictures salvation in Christ. The sinner must humble himself by stepping down from his pride and self-righteousness and stepping into the kingdom of God by receiving the Lord Jesus Christ.

II Corinthians 2:14 says, “Now thanks be unto God, which always causeth us to triumph in Christ, and maketh manifest the savour of his knowledge by us in every place.” In Christ: that’s where the victory is, and that’s where you can do some serious swimming.

But some people never do learn to swim for that very reason: they won’t get into the water. Some don’t want to get wet; others don’t like the water temperature, and others are just scared. So they never learn to swim. The fact that others have adjusted and are swimming just fine doesn’t seem to matter to them. They simply refuse to get into the water.

Many sinners are the same way. They can give you a dozen reasons for not getting saved, but it all boils down to one simple fact: they refuse to step down in order to step way up.

II. LEARN TO RELAX

I remember my father trying to teach me to swim. He couldn’t do it because I wouldn’t relax. He’d say, “Now, boy, you’re going to have to relax. I’m not going to let you drown, so relax.” It didn’t help a bit. I was as stiff as a board and would sink every time. I didn’t learn till I was probably in my late teens.

That’s like the Christian who spends his life doubting his salvation. He has a testimony just as solid as can be, yet he still worries about going to hell. You can show him verses on eternal security, but he still doubts his salvation. Did he (or she) pray right? Did he repent right? Did he believe right? His testimony doesn’t match that of someone else, so he thinks maybe he isn’t really saved. What’s wrong with a Christian like that? He refuses to relax and enjoy his salvation. Instead of swimming in the water, he keeps trying to figure out if he’s really in the water. He’ll never swim in Christ until he conquers that fear. II Timothy 1:7 says, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.”

III. KEEP YOUR HEAD UP

When you swim, the only part of your body that stays above the water is your head. The arms go in and out of the water, but the head stays up all the time, takes in fresh air continually, and leads the way.

So it is with spiritual swimming. Colossians 1:18 says, “And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.” A real Christian swimmer sees to it that his “head” stays up, and he regularly takes in the fresh “air” of the Holy Spirit. Christ must be exalted so that He might lead the way and get the preeminence in all things. If Christ is not preeminent, then you are not a swimmer. Like that bunch in Acts 27, you are a floater.

If you cover a candle, the flame can’t breathe, so you smother it. If you put your head under water, you can’t breath. So it is with the Christian who fails to exalt Christ in his life. The waters of this present evil world smother him, and he becomes a floater. Keep your head up.

IV. GRAB ALL THE WATER YOU CAN

You don’t swim because you’re in the water; you swim because you pull yourself through the water. This is done by continually reaching out and grabbing water and not stopping.

Some Christians never learn to swim spiritually because they never reach out and grab anything spiritual. They attend church and tolerate spiritual activity, but they don’t want it enough for themselves to reach out and take it. Consequently, they are nothing more than floaters.

Paul told young Timothy to “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold on eternal life, whereunto thou art also called, and hast professed a good profession before many witnesses.” (I Tim. 6:12) A Christian swimmer must lay hold on eternal life. One can be on a horse and just sit there without holding on to the reins, but he won’t go anywhere like that. One can be in a pool and float around all day, but he won’t do any swimming until he starts grabbing some water. One can be in Christ without laying hold of eternal life, but he cannot be a good Christian swimmer until he starts claiming some promises and taking some spiritual strokes for God.

Proverbs 30:28 says, “The spider taketh hold with her hands, and is in kings’ palaces.” The spider may have been in the kingdom already, but she wasn’t in the palace until she took hold with her hands. Friend, in material things, live on the least, but in spiritual things, reach out and grab all you can. Be a first class swimmer for the glory of God.

V. KEEP MOVING

A swimmer’s arms and legs must keep moving. He doesn’t have to move them aggressively, but he does have to keep moving. It’s similar to riding a bike: you don’t have to work fast, but you do have to work steadily. As someone has said, “If you don’t go on, you’ll go off!”

Paul told the Galatians, “Ye did run well; who did hinder you that ye should not obey the truth?” (Gal. 5:7) They had been swimming, but they stopped. Paul went on to tell them in verse 25, “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” It doesn’t say to run in the Spirit, nor does it say to sit still. The command is to walk. Isaiah 40:31 says much the same thing. There are times for flying and running, but the normal day-to-day thing is walking: “But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.”

Our Christian duty is to press forward day by day, not to reach a place of satisfaction and then stop. If we are going to be good swimmers for God, we must never yield to any temptation to stop moving forward. If we stop moving, we start sinking. That’s why these emotional-based Christians never amount to anything. When they start feeling good about their service to God, they stop. With them, it isn’t about swimming and getting somewhere for God; it’s about getting enough good feeling to sustain them for another week or two.

God help us to be good and faithful swimmers. Anything less is either floating or drowning, both of which are unacceptable to our Lord.

 

-James L. Melton