Three Apples

James E. Farley

I was recently treated to a story from a denominational man who occasionally attends our services here. This man is a sincere sectarian and does a good bit of preaching and teaching in his church. He said that three men had each been given an apple. The trouble was that each apple had a rotten spot on it. My friend said that the first man ate the apple, rotten spot and all. The second man simply threw the apple into the trash because of the rotten spot. The third man ate the apple but was careful to eat around the rotten spot, and he then discarded the rotten part of the apple. My denominational friend then proceeded to tell me that this is how it is with teaching and preaching. He stated that some people will just take every word the preacher says and swallow it all, even when some of the teaching is not correct. Some people, my friend said, will simply discard all of the teaching of the preacher when only a part of his teaching is error. Then, said he, others will carefully select the good teaching and not heed the "rotten" instruction.

Now, that sounds like a good story, right? It sounds as if one could glean good lessons from this parable from my friend, but there is a problem with the story, and I pointed it out for him to carefully and seriously consider. I asked him, "What if the apple had no rotten spot at all?" I then said, "If a man is preaching only the Truth from the Bible, then there will be no 'rotten spot' in his teaching." With hand on his bearded chin, my friend pondered the scenario I had presented to him. You see, on this particular Wednesday night, my class was entitled, "Can We Understand The Bible Alike?" My friend had listened carefully. I could tell he was not comfortable with my lesson, for there were certain aspects of my message that opposed much of his basic and fundamental belief system. You see, my friend has to believe that we cannot understand the Bible alike and that there are certain things he would agree with and accept about what I teach, as he would also agree with and accept things from various sectarian preachers and teachers. Furthermore, he desires and even expects me to be like him in this respect. He has to believe and practice this in order to be a sectarian, a denominationalist. This concept has led to the "unity in diversity" movement among the sects and has resulted in their acceptance of relativism: "There aren't any absolutes; all things are relative; one man's ceiling is another man's floor," etc." My friend may even deny that he accepts this philosophy, but he has to acknowledge it to some degree in order to be what he is. This is why there are denominations; it is why there is so much division.

The fact is that we can know and understand the Truth (John 8:31-32; Ephesians 3:3-5; 5:17), and, if we truly understand the Truth, we will understand it alike. If two people really understand something, they both will understand it alike. If they do not, then one or both have misunderstood it. Two cannot disagree on the Truth and both be right. Both can be wrong, or one can be wrong and the other right, but both cannot be right. True Bible unity will come when people agree on the Truth. (Amos 3:3). True Bible unity will come when people speak the same thing and have the same mind and the same judgment. (1 Corinthians 1:10-13; 1 Peter 4:11). This is what our Lord desires, requires, and expects from those who claim to be His. (John 17:20-21).

When one claims to know the Truth on a particular point, some charge that he is being haughty and arrogant. I have even received this indictment from members of the church of Christ when I have said that we can know the Truth (and understand it alike) on such matters as marriage, divorce, and remarriage, for instance. Consider that the Truth is found in God's Word (John 8:31-32; John 17:17) and we are commanded to "preach the word" (2 Timothy 3:154:5). How could we possibly obey that commandment if we cannot know what is true and what is false? We are commanded to "try the spirits" and to "mark and avoid" those who teach contrary to the doctrine of Christ. (1 John 4:1; Romans 16:17-18; 2 John 9-11) How could we possibly do this if we did not have a Standard that we could understand alike? We are told that we must convert sinners from erring from the Truth, and, by so doing, we will "save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins." (James 5:19-20). How can this be accomplished if we cannot know what Truth is? According to this passage we can know the Truth, and we can know if and when one errs from it.

While it is certainly true that there is a good bit of "rotten" and corrupt teaching in the world of religion, we still can know the Truth from God's Word and be free thereby. People can be freed from the guilt, condemnation, and corruption of sin. (John 8:31-32; 1 Peter 1:22; 2 Peter 2:20). A misunderstanding of Truth will not free anyone! Preach the word! (2 Timothy 4:1-4; Mark 16:15-16). P.O. Box 285, Crum, WV 25669.


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