Free In Christ

Finding Freedom in the Churches of Christ

Posts Tagged ‘Cecil Hook

Free In Christ: False Teachers

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Chapter 10 of Cecil Hook’s “Free In Christ” is about false teachers (or what we in the church of Christ call them anyway).

We have a tendency to think that any person who is wrong on any point of doctrine is a false teacher.  Cecil Hook didn’t think so and neither do I.

You see, false teacher describes the person’s character and not what they are teaching.  If a person is false than they are a false teacher (even if what they are teaching is true).  Cecil gives 6 examples in the book of people who were false teachers.  These were not people who made honest mistakes, they were people with false motives and evil intent.  These were false teachers.

Cecil also gives examples of people who were sincerely wrong about things but were not false teachers.  The one that comes to my mind is Apollos.  We are specifically told that Apollos taught the Gospel incorrectly until corrected by Priscilla and Aquilla but the idea that he was a false teacher is absurd.  Apollos was mistaken, but not false in the sense that the Scriptures seem to indicate would qualify one as a “false teacher” (there are many other examples given in the book for your review).

We have thrown around the term “false teacher” for far too long at innocent brothers and sisters who had Christ-like hearts.  Sure, some of their theology has been mistaken but they were not false teachers and should never be treated badly for trying to truly understand the Scriptures.

Remember, this book is available for free at Freedom’s Ring


Written by freeinchrist

May 25, 2010 at 8:00 am

Free In Christ: Our Creed

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In this chapter of Cecil Hook’s “Free In Christ”, he talks about the church of Christ’s insistence that we have no creed but the Scriptures.  Although this sounds good, we end up having an unwritten creed of all of our interpretations of the Scriptures that we bind on people and use against those who disagree with us.

Cecil than points out that when we baptized the convert, we only asked them one question:

“Do you believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God?” No inquiry was made of his convictions or practices relating to eating meats, the use of God’s name as a by-word, present-day demon possession and exorcism, praying for healing, killing in self-defense, midweek communion, or any other of the many issues listed in Chapter One which may relate to his faithful practice of the Christian life. Do the convictions and practices of such issues matter? Some, like days and meats (Romans 14) and circumcision (Gal. 5:6), do not. Some may be sinful, though their status is debated by sincere and studious disciples. Different convictions on debatable issues can be held without disrupting fellowship.

This is true.  We never ask people what their beliefs on doctrine are before accepting them into the Church.  We only ask if they believe in Jesus.  This is right.  Isn’t it strange that we let people into the Church who have no opinion on doctrine but think they can be kicked out for having a wrong opinion?  Doesn’t make sense to me.  The basis by which you enter the body (faith in Christ) is the way that you stay in the body.

Cecil than tackles an idea that has become common in church of Christ thought.  This thought is that if two people disagree than one must be right and the other wrong or they must both be wrong.  It is not possible that both of them are right.  To the legalist, they cannot both be right but to Paul they could.  In Romans 14 Paul clearly states that those who eat meat sacrificed to idols and those that don’t can both be accepted by God.  He also applies this to keeping holy days.  Both those that keep them and those that don’t can both be acceptable to God.

This shows that legalism and patternism were not what Jesus had in mind for the Church.  If there were a pattern, you could not have this variation and have both parties be right, but this is exactly what Paul says is the case.

Next, Cecil talks about Jesus as our creed.  This is one of the most important things that I have ever learned.  We don’t actually follow the Bible, we follow Christ.  The Bible teaches us about Christ so that we can follow Him.  We don’t follow a legal code.  We follow Jesus.

The last thing that Cecil mentions is the practice of giving incoming preachers a questionnaire to determine what their beliefs are but still insisting that we don’t use creeds.  It is quite ridiculous when you think about it.  Also, how are we ever supposed to learn anything new if the preachers we hire all say the same things.  I am more than ok with feeling a little uncomfortable sometimes in order to learn something about God that I didn’t know before.  The important thing, is that our teachers have faith in Christ and point the congregation to Him (and not to their own agenda).  A good teacher does what the Bible does: points us to Jesus.

Written by freeinchrist

May 21, 2010 at 8:00 am

Free In Christ: Gospel And Doctrine

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[I am aware that I got some of the chapters mixed around but I think I’m on track now.]

In this chapter of Cecil Hook’s “Free in Christ” we get to a discussion on the difference between Gospel and doctrine. Also, he discusses the difference between preaching and teaching.

Cecil shows that preaching the Gospel (in Scripture) is always used to talk to unbelievers. It is evangelism. Teaching doctrine is always for believers. The two are different subjects and have different audiences.

I will not go into all the the verses or quotes from the book here but would encourage you to read it for the fuller discussion.

So, how has the confusion between preaching/teaching and gospel/doctrine influenced how we think today?

Written by freeinchrist

May 13, 2010 at 8:00 am

Free In Christ: Lawyers

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The next chapter of Cecil Hook’s “Free In Christ” furthers his coverage of the topic of legalism.  It is absolutely necessary that he does this because our traditional legal way of interpreting the Scriptures has led to most of the problems in the church of Christ.

Cecil sums up the traditional approach this way:

We in the Church of Christ have developed some strange concepts of Christ’s law. We seem to conceive of a system of law half revealed and half concealed in biography, historical accounts, treatises, personal letters, and prophecy. Clues to the laws are scattered through these writings to be discovered, pieced together, and interpreted by studious lawyers of the Word. We must not trust anyone else for this, we are cautioned, though his talents, training, and dedication may be much greater than ours. We must become lawyers ourselves. Lack of literacy or academic training is no excuse.  It is like a child’s puzzle — a maze. If you are astute enough, you can be among the spiritually elite who are able to work their way through the maze. But if you make a wrong turn, which most religious people presumably have done, then you will find yourself in the dead end of eternal punishment. That is the verdict, at least, the lawyers of the Word render as they put on their robes and sit in judgment of all others. The majority of the most learned, sincere, and devoted students of the Word are lost in the interpretive maze, while lots of us simple folk breeze right on through to eternal glory.
I couldn’t have said it better.  We seem to think that their is some kind of Christian Law hidden between the narrative of the New Testament that has to be picked out to be obeyed.  We have taken a story and tried to obey it instead of trying to learn from it.
Cecil then makes the excellent point that most Christians throughout history didn’t have a Bible to read anyway (and couldn’t have read it if they had one).  This means that they couldn’t be lawyers; they didn’t have the ability to pick all of the laws out of the story to obey them.  This is fine because their salvation was not contingent upon keeping laws and neither is ours.
Cecil then goes on to illustrate three errors that we have made in interpreting Scripture.
The Legal Approach (legalism), Inconsistency, Scholasticism (which I have called Backwards Theology).
Cecil’s example of the Legal Approach is to give this example of a disciple of Christ:
A disciple of Christ must be a man of faith and conviction. He must love his wife and
children and rear his children in the faith. He must provide for his family. He must pay
his debts. He must deal fairly with his employees. He must love his enemies. He must
read and study his Bible. He must assemble regularly and lay by in store each week. His
speech must be becoming of a disciple, etc.
This description may seem right but actually there is an error in every sentence.
A disciple of Christ does not have to be a man; it can be a girl. A wife and children are not necessary;
an unmarried person can be a disciple. He does not need a family to provide for to qualify. Neither must he or she have debts, nor pay debts if that person is destitute or disabled. Enemies are unnecessary to qualify. He or she need not be literate or scholarly, or attend services if bedfast, etc. Yet, each of these qualities was listed as a must.
When you read the 1st description you read it accurratly because you did not read it legally.  You understood it as a general description of a disciple; not a legal description.  Cecil (and I) encourage you to go and read Paul’s qualifications for an elder in 1 Timothy and Titus and see what might change if you read it like the first example instead of the second.
Inconsistency is when we don’t apply the same rules to similar cases.  The example that Cecil gives is that we ignore the fact that Paul wanted women to wear head coverings in 1 Corinthians 11 due to cultural differences but make women be silent according to 1 Corinthians 14 although culture has definetly changed in regards to this.
Scholasticism (or Backwards Theology) is reading our present day back into Scripture.  Cecil’s example has to do with treating Sunday as a holy day.  The churches of Christ have traditionally said Sunday was the only day you could take Communion (Acts 20:7) and give to the congregation (1 Corinthians 16:2).  Both of these are cases of Backwards Theology.  Luke never says that the meeting in Acts 20 was a regular meeting that ever happened more than at that one time and more importantly never says anything about Sunday being a special day for Christian meetings.  The Bible never says anything about this.  In 1 Corinthians 16, Paul is taking a special collection due to a Jewish famine and never even says that this practice is supposed to continue (he also does not give a reason why he chose the first day of the week).  The Bible never gives Sunday more than a passing mention and never makes it a holy day.

Written by freeinchrist

April 27, 2010 at 8:00 am

Free In Christ: The Exercise Of Christian Liberty

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In this chapter of Cecil Hook’s “Free In Christ”, Cecil tackles six things that are very important in understanding our freedom in Christ.  Having already established that freedom in the preceding chapters, it is now time to deal with some things that would logically come up as we try to put that freedom into practice.

The first thing is:  Can amoral things and actions be sinful?  This comes up because with freedom we must decide which things are good for us and which are bad.  Under Law, these things were defined for us but now we must use what we know about God to make moral decisions for ourselves.

Cecil explains it like this:

“Our purity or defilement is not determined by what we see, hear, taste, our touch, but by our motive for seeing, hearing, tasting, and touching. Jesus explained that man is defiled by his thoughts rather than by what he eats (Matt. 15:1-20). Defilement is not in certain actions and things, but in improper use of and attitude toward those actions and things. Actions and things, generally speaking, are amoral. They have no inherent moral value. Is not this the point that Paul would impress upon us? “I know, and am persuaded in the Lord Jesus, that nothing is unclean in itself; but it is unclean for any one who thinks it unclean.…for the kingdom of God does not mean food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:14-17). Our purity of thought or defilement of purpose determines whether a thing is moral or immoral. Sin is not in things, but in people — in the heart. This is what Paul expressed when he wrote, “To the pure all things are pure, but to the corrupt and unbelieving nothing is pure; their very minds and consciences are corrupted” (Titus 1:15).

This is absolutely correct.  Things themselves are not sinful, it is people that are sinful.  What Cecil is getting at here is that an action can be right for one person and wrong for another based on their motive. Cecil gives many examples like a person using narcotics for medical purposes vs. the person using them for recreational purposes or a person becoming a preacher to boost their own ego vs. someone preaching to help others.  In both cases, the action is the same but only one person is sinful in each case.  We need to realize that it isn’t the action or thing that makes something sinful, it is the heart.

Next, Cecil gives some things limiting liberty in amoral things.  I will just post what Cecil wrote on this because it is only one paragraph.

“When a new kind of case is tried in the courts, it becomes a test case. The decision rendered toward it is used to judge all other cases which involve a like principle. There are two test cases in the Scriptures regarding Christian liberty. These both involve amoral things — the eating of food and circumcision. The verdict in regard to the eating of meats demands (1) that a Christian surrender his liberties if they put a fellow disciple in jeopardy, and (2) that his liberty be exercised with self-control. In regard to circumcision, the verdict forbids us to bind our scruples on others so as to limit their Christian liberty. These verdicts can be applied to everything which is of like principle today. (Read 1 Cor. 6, 8, 10; Rom. 14; all of Galatians; Acts 15).

Two great rules for governing our own liberty.  1.  Don’t practice your liberty in a way that will hurt someone else. 2. We are not allowed to limit another Christian’s liberty.  These are very important.

The next thing:  Our liberty is limited by self-control.  Cecil explains it like this:

“Man must never be brought under the control of amoral things. “‘All things are lawful for me,’ but not all things are helpful. ‘All things are lawful for me,’ but I will not be enslaved by anything. ‘Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food’ and God will destroy both one and the other” (1 Cor. 6:12-13). Paul is saying, “God has created the body with its appetites, cravings, and desires, and at the same time God created good things to satisfy the desires; let the desires be fulfilled in moderation and self-control, not slavishly being ruled by the desires.” Both the appetite and the meat to satisfy are amoral. They have no special significance before God. “But food will not commend us to God; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse; nor, if we eat, are we the better” (1 Cor. 8:8). Applying this principle to all instincts, desires, drives, or cravings given by God, we see that none are evil within themselves.

Realizing that our hearts make something good or bad takes the legalism out of the faith.  If our hearts are right then so are our actions.  If our hearts are wrong, so are our actions.  It is as simple as that.

The next thing:  Our liberty is limited by charitable regard for others.  Back to Cecil:

“Love would constrain a disciple to surrender his liberty in amoral things if they prove to be destructive to a brother. “All things are lawful for me; but not all things are helpful” (1 Cor 6:12; 10:23). “Do not, for the sake of food, destroy the work of God. Everything is indeed clean, but it is wrong for any one to make others fall by what he eats; it is right not to eat meat or drink wine or do anything that makes your brother stumble” (Rom. 14:20-21). Urging that we be above blame in exercising our liberties, Paul exhorts, “So do not let what is good to you be spoken of as evil” (Rom. 14:16). “Happy is he who has no reason to judge himself for what he approves” (Rom. 14:22). Freedom must not destroy others.

We are free to practice our freedom as long as it doesn’t hurt another Christian.  This should be the way that we want it because we should love our brethren more than our freedom.  If we love freedom more than we have truly missed the point of Christianity.

The next thing: liberty of others must be respected

We need to leave other Christians alone and not bother them about doing what they think is right.  Although I do not believe the church of Christ view of instrumental music, I don’t go into the building on Sunday morning with my guitar and interrupt the service.  It would be I who would be of wrong heart.  The people are worshiping with their hearts and what they are doing is appropriate as long as their hearts are appropriate.  I also don’t agree with other congregational (outside the church of Christ) practices but I do not try to stop them either.  These practices are right as long as the heart behind them is right.  Even if the practice came from an impure place, it may have become pure through new usage.  Even if the idea is doctrinally incorrect, the heart can make the practice right even if it was once wrong.  It is only matters of the heart that I would truly concern myself with when it comes to trying to change a person’s practice (I would however suggest different practices if I thought they would benefit a fellow Christian but would not stop a practice because it wasn’t approved under a supposed pattern)

The last thing:  evil displayed with the good.  I’ll let Cecil explain this one

“Must a thing be shunned because evil is displayed with the good? Again, purity of purpose determines the case. Only the good will be sought by the pure in heart. But evil is everywhere. In one form or another it is presented in the newspaper, on the radio, on television, in movies, in fiction, in history, in the Bible, in the school, in places of business, on the job, at the game, in the church, and in the home. In all of these things our purpose is to accept the good while holding misgivings toward the evils incidental to the good. The desirable rose has thorns incidental to it. Although the thorns are detested, we do not let them prohibit enjoyment of the rose. In enjoying the rose, we learn to avoid the prick of the thorn. So the presence of that which is undesirable does not eliminate our liberty to enjoy that which is good.

Written by freeinchrist

April 1, 2010 at 8:00 am

Free In Christ: Something Greater Than Law

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Business SchoolIn this chapter, Cecil Hook basically lays out what many have called “The Sabbath Principle”.

Jesus often broke the Sabbath to show that a command should be obeyed only if the reason for the command remains in tact.  Keeping a command for its own sake is not what God wants.  I made this same point in the book series “Roles” where I talked about how we should stop obeying Paul on the role of women because our reason for restricting women is different than his was.

Cecil puts it this way:

Jesus explained, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath.” The
law was made for the good of man. Man was not made to fit arbitrary laws. If, in a
specific instance, our efforts to keep a law hinder or prevent the principles of justice,
mercy, faith, or love, then the higher principle must take precedence. The principle is
greater than the law intended to promote it.
Some may think that Hook is beating a dead horse this being the fourth chapter in the book that specifically deals with following the principle of the law instead of the command, but it is highly important that he do this.  One of the biggest problems in the church of Christ is that we think that we have to obey a command just because it is written in the New Testament.  This is not what we were supposed to do.  Cecil doesn’t talk as much about being led by the Spirit (instead of the Scriptures) as I think is necessary but his points are still very good.
Cecil goes on to explain how “the Sabbath Principle” should be applied to contemporary issues like abortion, “pulling the plug”, and divorce and his solutions show that love should be the ultimate concern in all of these.

Written by freeinchrist

March 24, 2010 at 8:00 am

Free In Christ: What Is The Law of Christ

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Cecil Hook continues his book “Free In Christ” by asking:  What is the law of Christ?  This is a very important question because we know that whatever the law of Christ is, we should be following it.

In this chapter, Cecil asks four questions.  The first one is:  Could one be saved by works of the law?

Any Christian with any knowledge of Scripture would say that nobody could be saved by keeping the Law of Moses. This is why we needed Christ.  But what about law in general?  Can it save?  Cecil answers this way:

The law had a weakness: it could bring death, but not life. It made nothing perfect (Heb 7:18f). It promised life but proved to be death (Rom 7:10) because a person was required to keep all the law or be cursed (Gal. 3:10f), and none could keep it all. So all had the sentence of death.  That same weakness prevents any law from saving. Law has no power to save. John assures us that all of us sin (1 John 1:8f). James adds, “For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it” (James 2:10). If we keep 99% of the law but fail in the remaining one percent, what happens? We are back to zero! So it is all by grace! If one is to be saved, it must be totally by grace. One cannot be saved partly by law keeping and partly by grace. If grace saves only to the extent that one is able to keep law, then none can be saved. If one could keep all the law, he would need no grace. Our traditional exhortation to the one who fails to keep all the law is “Try harder!” While giving lip-service to grace, we frustrate disciples by urging that they must attain it by keeping all the law — or making a passing score, whatever that may be.  The claim of justification by law keeping was “another gospel” of Galatians 1:6-9. Any effort to be justified by legal means is a falling away from grace (Gal 5:4). Grace is not a quality of law.
The second question is:  What is the nature of our relationship with God?
The Spirit makes us new creatures in Christ. “But now we are discharged from the law, dead to that which
held us captive, so that we serve not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit” (Rom. 7:6). This new relationship is accomplished through the new birth (John 3:3f), by which we are all sons of God through faith (Gal 3:26f), and in which our life becomes hidden with Christ in God (Col. 3:3). It is not a legal relationship, but a spiritual one.
This could not be any more true.  We follow the Spirit and not a written code.
The third question:  What is the New Covenant Rule of Action?
It is love which God in His grace infuses into our hearts. “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit which has been given to us” (Rom 5:5). “We love, because he first loved us” (1 John 4:19). God initiates the principle of loving action, writing His law upon our hearts.
The principle (rule of action) that we live by is the love that Christ pours into our hearts through His Spirit.  We are led by the Spirit to love God and others.  This is what God wants from us and this is it.  A written code cannot accomplish this because it could never be exhaustive enough to include every loving action to both God and people.  When we love God and people we have done EVERYTHING that God wants us to do.
The last question:  What is the law of Christ?
It is not the New Testament,  it is LOVE.
This is what I have been trying to say all along.  Thanks Cecil.

Written by freeinchrist

March 19, 2010 at 8:00 am