The epistle of First John is written to Christians as a message of encouragement and reassurance. A group known as the gnostics (“the knowers”) was troubling the Christians of that day. These “knowers” claimed to have special knowledge that the ordinary Christian could not possess unless they imparted it to them. This was a source of great concern for John’s audience. This is why John’s message in chapter 1 is filled with words to reassure their faith: “That . . . which we have heard . . . seen with our eyes . . . looked upon . . . our hands have handled” (v 1). These words were designed to bring to them the fulness of joy (v 4). In chapters 2-5, we find the word “know” (or some form thereof) more than 30 times.
Tragically, a new gnosticism has reared its ugly head among our brethren. One of the most disturbing (and annoying) aspects of liberalism is the elitist attitude exhibited by so many liberals. They parade their Ph.D.’s and flaunt their “scholarship” as a defense of their false doctrines. “Where did you get your Ph.D.?” was the reply of one well-known liberal in response to a brother’s challenge to his error. A preacher-friend of mine was talking with a youth minister who was “restudying” the instrumental music issue. My friend asked the young man if he had read the book, “The Instrumental Music Issue” by Everett Ferguson, Jack P. Lewis, and Earl West. The young man replied, “Yes, but it was so shallow. There was no real scholarship in the book.” This is easy to understand, seeing as Ferguson only holds Ph.D.’s in History and Philosophy from Harvard Divinity School; Lewis only holds two Ph.D.’s, one from Harvard and the other from the prestigious Hebrew Union, and West has a Ph.D. from Indiana State University with a major in American History and minors in Philosophy, and Renaissance, Reformation, Medieval, and English history. The young critic had received his “education” from ultra-liberal Abilene “Christian” University. (Incidentally, the youth minister had already introduced the instrument into the youth devotionals and was looking to introduce the same into the worship. It is not uncommon for liberal brethren to “restudy” issues out of step with the Bible and the restoration plea, particularly Instrumental Music, Women’s Roles in the Church, and Divorce & Remarriage. In truth, they have already made up their minds, and are simply buying time to prepare their membership for the change of direction. Thus, it is not surprising when they “come out” on the other side of the fence of truth after their “studies.”)
During one of our School of Bible Emphasis classes at Winfield, William Woodson addressed this very point in noting how modern-day gnostics in the church ridicule the works of restoration giants such as Alexander Campbell, Moses Lard, David Lipscomb, and J.W. McGarvey (who a London newspaper described as “the ripest Bible scholar on earth” at the time of his death). The Gospel Advocate Commentaries are also held up to liberal ridicule. Brother Woodson assured us the works of these men were both sound and scholarly, and challenged us to read Lipscomb’s commentary on “The Gospel of John” for the wealth of information to be found therein. (Where scholarship is concerned, there’s not a liberal alive who’s worthy to stoop down and untie brother Woodson’s shoes.)
A few weeks ago, I was studying Matthew 16:18 and the false doctrine of the papacy of Peter. One of the research tools I often use is Vincent’s Word Studies in the New Testament. In his book, Vincent applied the phrase “upon this rock” to Peter. However, looking at Vincent’s using PC Study Bible, Deluxe edition 3.0c, there are editorial remarks which take issue with his position. I do not know who made these additional comments, but of the eight different works cited by the editor in defense of the opposing position, here are six of the men and the works cited: James M Tolle, “Was the Apostle Peter a Pope?” (cited twice); The Alexander Campbell-Purcell debate; Foy Wallace Jr, Bulwarks of the Faith; Leroy Brownlow, “Discussion Between a Preacher and Priest”; James D Bales – The Sufficiency of the Scriptures; and L.G. Tomlinson, Churches of Today. All six of these men are members of the Lord’s church. I was thrilled to see our brethren quoted as authorities in the Scriptures. Christians and gospel preachers often use and quote the works of denominational scholars; it was nice to see the shoe on the other foot.
God gave His Word to all mankind to be understood by each one. While men may pursue higher learning in religious disciplines, one can rest assured that the gist of the Bible can be grasped by any diligent Bible student. Timothy knew the scriptures from childhood (2 Tim 3:15). The Bible is a book to be searched (Acts 17:11) and rightly divided (2 Tim 2:15). Don’t let liberal elitists and modern-day gnostics intimidate you! “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12).