An Open Letter to Dr. Harry A. Ironside. In answer to articles “WRONGLY DIVIDING THE WORD”. Printed in “Serving and Waiting” February and March, 1935.
Chicago, Illinois, March 15, 1935.
DR. HARRY A. IRONSIDE,
My Beloved and Esteemed Brother in the Lord:
After reading your very interesting articles in the February and March editions of “Serving and Waiting”, I Kings 18:17 came to my mind:
“And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, Art thou he that troubleth Israel?”
About the same time I read these articles I was again reading that masterpiece of Sir Robert Anderson; and O what a contrast! What greater service could you render to your readers than to suggest that they purchase for themselves, and for as many Christian friends as possible, copies of “The Silence of God.” Just these brief quotations:
“My contention is that the Acts, as a whole, is the record of a temporary and transitional dispensation in which blessing was again offered to the Jew and again rejected.”
“The right understanding of the Acts of the Apostles . . . a Book which is primarily the record, not as commonly supposed, of the founding of the Christian Church, but of the apostasy of the favoured nation.”
These quotations set forth the reason for the lack of fellowship between you and the so-called “ultradispensationalists” or “Bullingerites”. I am neither an ultradispensationalist” nor a “Bullingerite” (with apologies to the friends of this most noble and spiritual servant of the Lord); but I am arraigned in your two articles, which is only a repetition of what you have done at Montrose, in Dallas, Gull Lake, Wheaton and elsewhere. I plead “guilty” to some of the charges and accusations contained in your articles, and to some of them I plead “not guilty” for all of the brethren you condemn ungraciously. Not one of the brethren has any “inspirational” difference with you: it is wholly a “dispensational” difference. Not one of these brethren you condemn relegates all of the Four Gospels, (or any other Scriptures,) wholly to Israel; only the messages and ceremonies and commissions and parables of those Gospels that were for Israel and not for the Body of Christ. They do this on the very same principle that you employed when you decided that the so-called Lord’s prayer is today undispensational. They do it on the same principle you have employed to eliminate from your church program at least fifty “things” Israelitish in the Four Gospels.
These brethren would not trouble you, if you would move off of Israel’s territory. As long as you remain a semi-Israelite, you will be bothered. We are troubling “Israel”. You have one foot out of Israel’s Kingdom program. If you will get your other foot out and come with us to see your high, holy, heavenly calling, seated with Christ in the upper-heavenlies, completely delivered from Israel’s religion, legalism and ceremonies, you will have your heart and mind set upon those things which are above, and how you will rejoice when you appreciate what it means to be complete in Christ. Brother, it is simply wonderful; too glorious for words to express. I was once where you are and the blessed Lord heard my prayer, “Lord plant my feet on higher ground.” The Lord did this for me, without any aid whatever from Dr. E. W. Bullinger. Six years before I ever heard the name Bullinger, before I had ever read a line of his writings, or even heard that he had written a line, the blessed Holy Spirit led me into the glorious truth concerning my position and possession in Christ, completely disentangled from all of Israel’s religion. “Come thou with us and we will do thee good.” Beloved brother, you cannot put us out of your Baptist church: we are already out. You may influence other members of the Body of Christ to disfellowship us, boycott us, disown us and persecute us; but you will only be repeating what the religious Christians did to Paul who remained in bonds for the Mystery. We are willing to suffer with our great apostle; so just go to it. But do not forget what will surely take place at the Judgment-seat of Christ. Inasmuch as you insist upon remaining with one foot on Israel’s territory, it might he apropos to quote a part of Romans 11:25, “A blindness in part is happened to Israel.”
I am not writing this to you as pastor of the Moody Memorial Church, although I may make some reference to your mutual relations. Neither am I addressing you as a writer for “Serving and Waiting”. I am writing to you as a brother in Christ. In no way would I involve the membership of Moody Church or the Lord’s people whom I serve as pastor. I consider it almost a spiritual crime to disturb the Christian fellowship of two groups of the Lord’s people who are in full agreement concerning the essentials of the Christian faith. The people at North Shore have been taught to hold you in high esteem as a brother in the Lord and as a servant of God. This pulpit has been open to you and still is. I had a number of real friends at Moody Church before you became pastor. I sincerely trust that the members of these two organizations will continue to be true friends in the Lord long after you and I have been removed, if our blessed Lord has not returned by that time.
I would not purposely misjudge you, but my honest opinion is, that you are confusing or covering the issue in your printed articles, in fact, emphasizing some differences of interpretation which do not really exist, in order to defend your own position on water baptism and pronounce your anathema upon some Christian brethren who have been led by the Holy Spirit to disagree with you. And, by the way, you surely will admit that Bible teachers have honest differences, will you not? You know full well that Mr. John Darby, Dr. A. C. Gaebelein, Dr. James M. Gray, Dr. William L. Pettingill and a multitude of gifted, spiritual men of God, have all written their views on the Great Commission, the very views that are condemned in your “Serving and Waiting” articles.
Are you going to be consistent and honorable and withdraw fellowship from Dr. Gray, Dr. Pettingill and Dr. Gaebelein, because they have written that the Body of Christ is not ministering under the Great Commission of Matthew 28:19 and 20? Was Mr. Darby a Bullingerite because of his teaching concerning the Great Commission? Be courageous and say in your next “Serving and Waiting” article that you disagree with all of these brethren and with every denomination in America on the subject of water baptism.
Is it not a fact that since the days of that most gifted man of God, Mr. John N. Darby, the Plymouth Brethren have been troubling “Spiritual Israel” in no small way? And who among real Bible teachers would say that “Spiritual Israel” should not have been troubled? You and I know that the Lord has wonderfully blessed the “Troublers”. Because of their faithful endeavors and unceasing opposition to human creeds and sectarian traditions, they have “dispensationalized” many sincere Christians, loyal denominationalists, away from legalism and covenant religion. These “Troublers of Israel” have brought many truth-seekers to the realization and knowledge of that Divine fact, that blessed fact that every Christian should know; namely, that God has in this world today one, and only one, Bible Church, which is the Body of Jesus Christ, the one Head. You will recall how beautifully this Divine fact is stated in your own book “Baptism”; page 38 (your quotation from another brother).
“It is a great truth that the Lord is teaching many over again in the present day, after it has been buried in the rubbish of ecclesiastical traditions for centuries that God has a Church upon earth. It is our part then, not to be making churches, but to acknowledge what He has already made. The various churches spoken of in the New Testament are but severally the Church of God in such or such a place. Nothing is owned but this; the Church of God. Membership is in this, and not in local bodies . . . Into this membership man cannot admit, but the Lord only . . . . Our part is only to bow to what He has done, and to receive one another, as Christ also received us to the glory of God. Now all making terms of admission is plainly out of the question, for we do not admit at all.”
Dear brother, have you turned your back on this glorious truth, which once you knew and cherished?
The Plymouth Brethren Dispensationalists, including our outstanding present-day Fundamentalists, are still troubling these Covenant Christians, “Spiritual Israel.” But at that, they are not really troubling them as much as “Bullingerism” (with apologies to the friends of Dr. E. W. Bullinger) is troubling the Plymouth Brethren and their adopted children, the Independent Baptist Fundamentalists. Moreover it can be truthfully said that these Brethren and Baptists are not taking it as graciously as the Covenant-keeping Denominationalists are. It is sad, but true, that many Dispensationalists are resorting to exaggerations and misrepresentations, as much as they are to the Word of God, in opposing servants of the Lord who are with them in the same Body of Christ by faith in the same eternal Christ and the same redemptive work of that Christ. That John Nelson Darby was one of the Lord’s most noble, most courageous, uncompromising servants and gifted teachers since the days of Paul and Timothy, no student of the Word of God will deny, if he has been a Berean in receiving Mr. Darby’s, printed messages and submitting them to the test of the Word of truth, “rightly divided”. How all Christians should praise God for that faithful servant who made such a valuable contribution toward the recovery or uncovering of some of the blessed truths concerning the one Body, truths long buried beneath that “ecclesiastical rubbish.” Who can begin to estimate the blessings that have come to the hearts and minds of thousands of God’s people who have been taught by Mr. Darby’s system of interpretation to understand, enjoy, properly appropriate and apply the Word of God. Mr. Darby was not only a dispensationalist, but from your viewpoint, judging from your “Serving and Waiting” articles, an “ultradispensationalist.” In your articles you have almost resorted to sarcasm and ridicule to condemn those who do not agree with you concerning the place of the so-called Great Commission in the program of God. In your paraphrasing of the Great Commission, to express the viewpoint of the Bullingerites, you have stated the position of Mr. Darby. You are thoroughly familiar with his writings and therefore you must have intentionally ridiculed him. Along with Mr. Darby you were likewise condemning the former editor of “Serving and Waiting”, Dr. William L. Pettingill, one of the outstanding Plymouth Brethren-Baptist Fundamentalists of the day. Dr. Pettingill teaches concerning the Great Commission the very position that you condemn. Have you disfellowshipped him for his difference of opinion? Was the Apostle referring to these men of God as “doters?” Did Paul have these men in mind when he almost wrote, “beware of “Bullingerism?” Is a brother in the Lord necessarily a “Bullingerite” because he cannot accept as marching orders for the Lord’s Church today the Great Commission?
I can see your point in earnestly contending for your position, for with the Great Commission placed where it properly belongs, you have lost your last prop to support Scripturally your own peculiar “water baptism” doctrine. I purposely refer to your “own peculiar” doctrine, because you neither represent the Baptist teaching nor any other denominational teaching on this subject. Do you not heartily endorse for Bible conferences your best Bible teacher friend in the vicinity of Chicago, with the knowledge that he immerses in water little babies? He is one of many of God’s devoted servants who teach “household baptism”, although generally with much timidity. Does not Dr. Gaebelein also believe in “household baptism” by immersion? If “believer’s baptism”, as you teach it, is Scriptural, then “household baptism” is unscriptural; and you are having fellowship with brethren who are doctrinally unscriptural. You also have fellowship in the Christian ministry with Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse, one of the Lord’s outstanding defenders of the faith, when you know that he teaches “Covenant baptism”, the sprinkling of adults and children and infants which takes the place of Israel’s circumcision. If what he teaches is Scriptural, what you teach is positively absurd, and vice versa. Refresh your mind as to your condemnation of sprinkling of infants in your “Baptism” booklet.
Do you not think that the honorable thing to do, is to write in “Serving and Waiting” that you do not agree with Dr. Gray, or Dr. Gaebelein, or Dr. Pettingill, or Dr. Shields, or Dr. Winchester or Dr. Barnhouse or your good friend Mr. Alex Stewart. Before you arraign other men of God, who are just as spiritual as you are, and who love the Lord Jesus Christ just as much as you do, and who know the Word of God just as well as you do, why not call the seven brethren just mentioned into a “Water Baptism” conference and reach an agreement with them on the one water baptism of Ephesians 4:5, and then we shall be happy to get seven of the “ultradispensationalists” to meet with you and see if we cannot get closer together as to the correct interpretation of the Scriptures concerning water baptism. Don’t say that it is a simple Bible study, for the present disagreement among real students of the Word disproves such an assertion. You say it has nothing to do with getting into the Body, or remaining in the Body, and yet you make more of, and say more about, water baptism than I any man I know of, and I know many Southern Baptists.
And dear brother, make an honest confession: is it not true that you teach that water baptism is a beautiful symbol that your old man has been put to death and buried, and yet a discussion of that beautiful symbol will convince you more than any one thing that your old man is only “playing possum”, that he is very much alive. You know it is one thing to be religious and another thing to be spiritual. It is because “water baptism” is religion that so much confusion, strife, division and bitterness have resulted from including it in the spiritual program of that one Church to which you and I belong, and to which the saved members of more than three hundred sects, with their thirty different water baptism views, belong. Is it not true, that the devil has used water baptism as no one other thing to separate truly saved people, members of the Body of Christ? Is it not also true that the Lord intended that there should be unity among the members on the basis of one baptism? Must all other Christians acknowledge their error and say, “you are right?” Another beautiful symbol is washing one another’s feet. John 13:14. I know of nothing more Christ-like you could do than to wash the feet of the Lord’s servants that you have so ungraciously condemned.
Dr. Ironside, I think I am expressing the feeling of all of the so-called “ultradispensationalists” when I say that I exceedingly regret that you permit water baptism to disturb our Christian fellowship. With the exception of the Kingdom parables and a few messages, they would agree with you as to the appropriation and application of the truth of the Four Gospels for the members of the Body of Christ. We are trying to help religious people who are confusing Israel’s Kingdom program with the truth for the Body of Christ. You believe this should be done; by rightly dividing the Word of truth. Perhaps some of us unintentionally go too far; perhaps, you do not go far enough. Are you sure you are right and we are wrong? When we invited you to address our Berean Conference, held at North Shore Church February 11 to 15, 1935, we extended the invitation in good faith. There were present more than thirty Bible teachers and several hundred other Christian workers. You would have been given a hearty welcome, a cordial reception, a respectful hearing. We regret that you declined. We hereby extend it anew. With open arms and warm hearts we will receive you.
Do not think that we get any joy in this breach of fellowship with God’s servants with whom we agree on all of the doctrines of salvation. We believe in the verbal inspiration of the Bible and not for all the treasures of the world would any one of us for one moment eliminate from the program of the Dispensation of Grace one line between Genesis and Revelation that will fit dispensationally into the Lord’s message and program for His Body. We are agreed on this point; the disagreement is in the “fitting.”
We have been where you are; and we can plainly see the fallacy of our former position, when we were so much troubled with the seeming contradictions and inconsistencies in the Bible that one must necessarily find in your position. Surely you feel it your duty to help Christians who are carrying on a program that you consider Israelitish and undispensational, but your system of interpretation is faulty and leaves many doubts. The trouble is that the real cure is more painful than the disease to religious people or even semi-religious people.
“Art thou he that troubleth Israel?” Guilty, but sorry. We must be true to our convictions, even if you do persuade other Christians to disfellowship us. Surely the Lord wants completed the task begun by Mr. John Darby and his associates which has been abandoned by the Plymouth Brethren who have lost that aggressive, fearless, spiritual, zeal; that unsectarian spirit and noble purpose, that continual searching for forgotten truths and that loving fellowship that characterized that courageous, unselfish, uncompromising man of God. What do we behold now? Sectarianism among the Brethren; mutual suspicion and criticism; lack of love; fear of man; retrogression. Was the finality of truth again reached by Mr. Darby? If he were alive his answer would be, “by no means; finish the work that I have started”, that is, if he would thus take personal credit.
Is it not true that many former Brethren have so compromised with Interdenominational Fundamentalism that the “password” today seems to be “diplomacy”? Diplomacy in Interdenominationalism today generally means compromise or cowardice, the surrender of conviction, with total disregard for Galatians 1:10. It may be for popularity, people, purpose or pastorate. And of course it means goodbye to persecution. The persecuted have become the persecutors. Make the personal application, if you desire, dear brother. Remember what you knew ten years ago. You were then farther along than you are today. Have you taken away the key of knowledge, neither going in nor permitting others to go in? Many of God’s people are beginning to see the light. I beseech you not to use your influence to lead them back to darkness. You are a very popular man in Fundamentalists’ circles your responsibility is great. Let’s make our contribution toward the recovery of the Blessed truth of the Lord, getting God’s dear people completely delivered from their undispensational mixture of Israel’s religion so that they can appreciate and enjoy the peculiar ministry of our Apostle Paul, know the Dispensation of the Grace of God committed to him for us, and earnestly endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit and make all men to see what is the Dispensation of the Mystery. Through the faithful services of the followers of John Darby many thousands have been led to see the difference between Law and Grace, at least from Sinai to Pentecost. What a blessed ministry to lead the Lord’s people from under the law; but now if they are going to be led from under the law to under the water, the work will have to be done over. Is not Peter’s experience in Galatians 2:11 to 15 being repeated? James is still here. I could tell you about him.
We desire earnestly to obey Ephesians 4:3, “endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit.” Just how can this be accomplished among the saints who are members of the Body of Christ and at the same time members of denominational churches. Would you suggest Interdenominational Bible Conferences and make it a rule to keep quiet on dispensational and doctrinal differences? Would you have it agreed that none of the speakers refer to “eternal security”, “premillennialism”, “second blessing”, “tongues”, “healing”, “infant baptisms”, “Israel’s national redemption”, “baptismal regeneration”, “sinless perfection”, “Holy Spirit baptism”; but rather unite for sweet Christian fellowship and confine all teaching to the doctrines, concerning which all of the saints gathered are agreed. Perhaps, it will not be long until the true, uncompromising servants of the Lord will need to be constantly encouraged and comforted by those words of the Saviour “Wherever two or three are gathered in My Name.”
Is not the Word of God profitable for doctrine and reproof? Do not Christians need to be indoctrinated and reproved? If this cannot be done at an Interdenominational Bible Conference, is the conference of the Lord or only man’s doings?
I would very much like to have your answer to these very interesting questions:
1. If a splendid Lutheran Christian would say to you, “I believe in the Lutheran doctrine that the sprinkling of infants is Scriptural and by that act the little ones become Christians and are then and there received into the Body of Christ, would you reply, “Now my dear brother, continue to believe what you do; I wouldn’t think of disturbing your fellowship with the Lutheran saints?” Your paragraph on infant baptism, in your Baptism booklet, is the answer. As a faithful servant of the Lord, you would teach him what you believe to be God’s Word. If he should accept your teaching, he would leave the Lutheran denomination. Would you be guilty of disturbing the peace of the Lutheran Church?
2. If a splendid Methodist would come to you with his “falling from grace” doctrine, would you not endeavor, as a faithful servant of the Lord, to lead him into assurance, and if he should accept your Scriptural teaching concerning the eternal security of the believer, and go back to propagate it in his Methodist Church, would he not disturb their fellowship? Would you not be the trouble-maker?
3. If a splendid “Disciple”, a member of the Christian Church, should come to you to discuss Acts 2:38, “Repent and be baptized for the remission of sins”, would you not endeavor to teach him from the Word of God that a believer should be baptized with water, because he has been saved; and not that he might be saved by the water baptism`? If you could convince him that “born of the water” had nothing to do with “water baptism” regeneration, what should he do: go back and disturb the other members of His Christian Church by teaching against baptismal regeneration, or withdraw from their fellowship? If he should decide either way, you would be accused of disturbing the fellowship. But you would have the satisfaction of knowing that you had done what you thought to be your Scriptural duty.
4. If a beloved brother of the Nazarene denomination should come back to talk with you concerning “the second work”, and you could teach him from the Bible that his doctrine is unscriptural; that it is impossible for any believer to lose his old nature or reach a state of sinless perfection in this life, and if he should accept your interpretation and return with joy to herald the good news to his fellow-Nazarenes, what would they do to him? What would they think of you? What is your plain duty in such a case?
5. If a truly regenerated brother affiliated with the Christian Reformed saints, should have a heart-to-heart talk with you concerning Israel and the Body of Christ, Postmillennialism and Premillennialism; if he should earnestly contend for his denominational position, that Israel and the Body of Christ are one and the same and that Premillennialism is heresy; and if, after much study of the Bible together this brother would say to you, “I believe you are right Israel is not the Body of Christ, but will be a kingdom after the Lord has removed His Body to glory.” You would say, “Praise the Lord; the brother’s eyes have been opened and he will no longer spiritualize away the precious truths of God’s Book”. But what about that dear brother when he breaks the news to his Christian Reformed pastor? “Persona non grata.” Plenty of trouble. A church trial: excommunication, unless he withdraws. Somebody has troubled Israel. “Art thou he that troubleth Israel?”
6. If an Episcopalian saint should come to you for light on ritualism and candlesticks, it would not take you long to show that they have absolutely no place in the Body of Christ. If honest, he would have to withdraw from his church. Would you be responsible? Would you not be justified in thus disturbing the fellowship of the Episcopalians?
7. If a Baptist brother would ask you to explain why the Body of Christ did not begin with John the Baptist, and why water baptism could not be a door of entrance into the Bible Church, and whether or not there is a Baptist Church in the Bible, and you should faithfully present the Word of God to him, would you not preach him out of all three of his beliefs? If all of his fellow-members should accept your teaching, would you not wreck that Baptist Church, which you know to be unscriptural? You would convince him, if he had an honest heart, that there is only one Body and that water baptism has nothing to do with getting into that Body, or remaining a member of that Body. What a disturber you would be!
8. If a Pentecostalist would like to hear from you the Word of God to show the error of his way, would you not delight to take the Word of God and show him that his “signs” and “tongues” and “visions” program is undispensational, by taking him from the “childhood” truth of Corinthians to the “manhood” truth of Ephesians? You would certainly deserve credit for such a noble work. But what would the other Pentecostalists think of you? They would say, “that Dispensationalist is disturbing our unity.”
9. If one of the spiritual brethren identified with the Christian and Missionary Alliance should ask you for an honest, frank expression concerning their “Four-fold Gospel”, “Jesus, My Saviour; Jesus, My Sanctifier; Jesus My Healer; Jesus, My Coming King”, could you not take the Word of God and easily show any honest seeker after truth that this doctrine is wholly unscriptural? Yet, you must admit that these beloved people are among the most spiritual of God’s saints. You believe they are sincere; but sincerely wrong. You would delight to lead the brother out of his error; and you should. But you would be a disturber of unity. They are Fundamentalists. Should you not keep quiet with “rightly dividing the truth” and allow them to go on in their fallacies?
10. Then this last case. So many of the Lord’s saints today, denominational and undenominational Christians, are troubled about Divine Healing. They have been taught from Matthew 8:17, James 5:14 and Mark 16:17 and 18, that healing of the Body is in the atonement, that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever, and the healing signs should be in the Church today and would be, if believers were more spiritual and faithful. You know there are thousands upon thousands of God’s saints who are troubled about this question today. When you show them from the Word of God that general healing is not in the atonement, that there is no efficacy in oil, and that the signs of Mark 16:17 and 18 followed during the days of the Apostles and then ceased except in far removed spots and extraordinary cases, you are, in their judgment, either an ultradispensationalist” or just a plain unbeliever. They surely think you are “Wrongly Dividing the Word”, especially if they have had an experience of healing without medicine. Should you keep quiet with the truth so that you may not offend any of these dear: children of God?
Now it is all right to so rightly divide the Word of truth as to take away from all of these children of God their cherished denominational specialties, or the gifts, visions, signs, tongues, which are so dear to them and so important in their testimonies and creeds, but when the same principle is applied to you to endeavor to make you give up an Israelitish ordinance that has done so much to disturb the fellowship of members of the Body of Christ, then you cry, “wrongly dividing the Word” and recommend disfellowship. “We dispensationalists can take from the Pentecostalists their baptismal regeneration, healing miracles and tongues and imposition of hands for Holy Spirit baptism; but the ultradispensationalists cannot take away our water baptism.” You have no Scriptural answer to Pentecostalism that will not do away with water baptism. The last Bible record of the baptism of any Christians—if indeed there is water in Acts 19:5— reveals the fact that those Christians received Holy Spirit baptism by imposition of hands and spoke with tongues. Acts 19:1 to 9.
You will admit that we need neither the imposition of hands nor water baptism to receive the Holy Spirit. According to Ephesians 1:13, believers immediately become members of the Body of Christ by a baptism that identifies them with Christ in His death, burial, resurrection and position in the highest heavenlies? Does not Paul say “Be ye followers of me; even as I am also of Christ”, and in the same Epistle, “Christ sent me not to baptize”? I Corinthians 11:1 and 1:17. You should know that your explanation of I Corinthians 1:17 does not satisfy any spiritual man of God who wants to be honest with the Word of God and with himself.
Should not a careful study of the Second Chapter of Colossians convince any student of the Word of God that the baptism burial there has nothing to do with water? If the member of the Body of Christ is complete in Christ, why should he add religion to completeness? If there is any water in the Sixth Chapter of Romans, is not the water the cause of the effect there? That death baptism with Christ into His death cannot be water. Water baptism is what one man does for another; the all important thing is what the Father, Son and Holy Spirit do for the believer. Why is it, in your book on Baptism, that you endeavor to support your teaching concerning water baptism with Acts 2:38, and thus quote the verse: “repent and be baptized every one of you in the Name of Jesus Christ.” etc.? Why did you not explain the Etc.? Because you would have explained away your teaching and supported the teaching of the Disciples and Pentecostalists. Is this not almost handling the Word of God deceitfully? Add the words, “for the remission of sins”, and you will have the signification of the water.
Dear brother, your ultradispensationalist brethren may have spiritual hydrophobia; but no more than you have hydrodementia. It must be that water baptism has far more importance than you attach to it, or far less.
Concerning the signs of Mark 16:17 and 18 and the gifts of I Corinthians 12:8 to 11, would you welcome into the membership of your church some Christian who is sure, by experience, that he has the gift of healing, or the gift of miracles, or the gift of tongues, and who would tell you in advance that he was eager to exercise his gift among the other members of your church? I know what you would do, even if he could slip into the membership. You would want him out; because you would know the gift would not be genuine. Do you think it is pleasing to the Lord to say that one of these gifts may be found here and there in the remote parts of the earth, once or twice a year, and leave anxious souls in doubt as to whether these gifts are absent because of the low spiritual state of believers and unbelief? Can we not show definitely why the signs of Mark 16:16 to 18 and the gifts of I Corinthians 12:8 to 11 are found today only in the counterfeit and are undispensational? If undispensational; since when? At least since Timothy was instructed to drink wine for his sicknesses. Since the written revelation of the Mystery in detail the gifts and signs have never been in the Church as they were in the Book of Acts.
While you are refusing to obey the Lord and make all men see what is the dispensation of the mystery, the Pentecostalists and healing and sign fanatics are playing havoc with the Church and with precious souls which they are subverting with a perverted, mongrel Gospel, giving to members of the Body of Christ Israel’s kingdom program.
And just to think that you should endorse in your Church Paper a woman preacher who has so perverted the gospel of grace, with a mixture of legalism and the kingdom gospel that she has left people in a state of utter confusion! You would not have done this several years ago, dear brother.
Inasmuch as all of the saved members of these various denominations mentioned above are in the same Body of Christ with you, inseparably eternally linked to the Head and destined to appear with Him in glory, is it not rather unfortunate that these doctrinal differences do exist and do disturb the unity and fellowship of the members of the Body of Christ? What fellowship do the Lutherans enjoy with the Baptists, or the Nazarenes with the Plymouth Brethren, or the Pentecostalists with the Presbyterians?
Most assuredly you believe it is both the duty and the blessed privilege of a Bible teacher to use the Word of God and endeavor to show the members of the different denominations their unscriptural or undispensational doctrines. But when the attempt is made to show you that your “water baptism” doctrine is undispensational, of course, that is carrying the thing too far. This may suggest that you have reached the finality of interpretation or the application of the dispensational principle. You and I believe with all of our hearts in “eternal security”, but to deal thoroughly and convincingly with the subject we must deal with more than forty different Scriptures. Moreover in dealing with such Scriptures as “he that endureth to the end”, “strive to enter in”, “if we sin wilfully”, “the one and the branches”, the parable of the talents, we must use the dispensational principle and show from the Word of truth, “rightly divided”, that these Scriptures to Israel concerning their kingdom gospel and religion cannot be applied, with the sanction of the Holy Spirit; to members of the Body of Christ, called with an holy calling, “not according to our works, but according to His grace and purpose which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began.” II Timothy 1:9. It requires the handling of more Scriptures to prove “eternal security” than it does to prove that water baptism is not for this period of Gentile favour.
In defending your position concerning water baptism you depend just as much upon the traditions of church fathers, denominational creeds and the good feeling that you experienced when baptized, as you do upon the Word of God, “rightly divided”. Do we not meet this same problem in trying to correct Arminianism, “second work of grace”, and “infant baptism?” Do not the healing Christians use a number of disconnected Scriptures, undispensationally gathered from Old Testament and New Testament Israelitish programs, plus a healing experience, plus some testimonies recorded in church history, to prove their unscriptural healing theories? You will admit that church history, other than Bible Church history, and the personal experiences of Christians, with visions, signs, gifts, healings and water baptism, cannot determine to the satisfaction of any truly spiritual student of the Word of God just what Scriptures are for the appropriation and application of the members of the Body of Christ in this dispensation.
Do you not think that “whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them” should apply in our dealings with one another in doctrine? Should you try to correct a man in the matter of speaking with tongues, if you are not willing to be corrected in the matter of water baptism? Did not Paul thank God for two things in I Corinthians; first, “I spake with tongues more than ye all”, “I baptized none of you, except . . . a few?” It was at a time that I was used of the Lord to lead a poor deluded Pentecostalist away from tongues that the Lord used the same Scriptures to lead me away from water baptism. It was done on very much the same principle that He led you away from the so-called Lord’s prayer for this age. You admit that it was Israel’s kingdom prayer. You also admit that water baptism was a kingdom ordinance instituted when John the Baptist preached to Israel, baptism unto repentance for the remission of sins, water baptism that Christ might be made manifest unto Israel. John 1:31.
Dear brother Ironside, remember your so-called “ultradispensationalist” brethren esteem you highly and praise God for your fruitful ministry. But they love God’s Book more than they love you. They acknowledge that you are the most popular Bible teacher in the land among Fundamentalists, that is, among Plymouth Brethren-Baptist Dispensationalists. This in itself may not be a very good sign. You will admit that it is quite a contrast with Paul’s confession, “buffeted, reviled, persecuted, defamed; we are made the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day.” I Corinthians 4:11 to 13. You will recall how the Galatians turned against him, and how the Corinthians disowned or discredited him. You will recall how he suffered as an ambassador in bonds for the Mystery. You know that most doors then were closed to the Mystery, as they are today. It is because of your influence that we consider you the greatest hindrance to the recovery of Body truth in this country, that is, among the brethren referred to. You know the cry is still, “have any of the rulers believed on him?” We know what it is to take a stand with Paul and permit nothing, not even a tank of water, to take away the offense of the cross. We know what it is to suffer with him. We believe in the eternal Deity of our Lord Jesus Christ and salvation wholly and solely by the infinite grace of God on the basis of the shed blood of the Lord Jesus: we know we have been made accepted in Him, chosen in Him before the foundation of the world. we know that we are complete in Him, and with Him “one flesh”.
We believe that by one baptism into the death of our Saviour we are identified with Him in death, burial and resurrection and are seated with Him where there is no water. And we believe in a spiritual walk on earth worthy of our vocation. In sailing with Paul we remember I Corinthians 13:11 and endeavor to obey Philippians 3:13 and 14. Therefore, we are not guilty, with many of you Fundamentalists, of making a religious-spiritual “Jekyll and Hyde” out of Paul by accusing him of compromise and duplicity in becoming a Jew to the Jews until the Nation Israel was set aside with the close of the Acts period. If Israel was set aside with the twenty-third chapter of Matthew, as you teach, and Paul was out of the will of God when he became as one under the law, he certainly was the most inconsistent Christian leader during the days of the apostles, and prevaricated when he wrote II Corinthians 2:14 and II Timothy 4:7. Brother, if you would get God’s truth concerning Israel and the Kingdom, you would not bring these false charges against the Apostle Paul who had to stand against the Fundamentalists in the first century, as we do today, to keep the message of grace freed from religious entanglements.
Now, as to the setting-aside of the Nation Israel, you say that took place when the Lord Jesus called the rulers “a generation of vipers; serpents” and said “your house is left unto you desolate.” Matthew 23:31 to 39. Did not Peter on the day of Pentecost address the same serpents, the very same nation when he said “let all of the house of Israel know?” In what sense was Israel’s house more desolate during the “Acts” period than it was during the days of the Lord Jesus on earth? Did not Peter address the same generation of vipers when he called them “children” in Acts 3:25? The rulers were a generation of vipers when the Lord began his public ministry. Luke 3:3 to 11. The Father’s house was a den of thieves while Jesus of Nazareth was a Man in the midst of Israel. In what sense did the Nation Israel have a kingdom in the Gospels that they did not have in the Book of Acts? Did not the Apostles preach Christ daily in the temple after the resurrection of Christ? Acts 5:42. Did not the Nation Israel still have access to that temple twenty-five years after the resurrection of Christ when Paul wanted to reach Jerusalem to help them celebrate Pentecost? Acts 20:16. Why did God delay the judgment pronounced in Matthew 22:7? Why did Peter say, “unto you first?” Acts 3:26. Why did Paul say “unto the Jews first?” Acts 13:46, Romans 1:16 and Acts 18:6. In Matthew 23:31 to 39 the Lord Jesus bitterly denounced Israel as “serpents”. He had called the Greeks, “dogs”. Matthew 15:25 to 28. Would you paraphrase Romans 1:16 and say: “unto the serpents first and also to the dogs?” Why should serpents come before dogs? If Israelites were serpents in Matthew 23:34, why were they not serpents in Romans 1:16?
Did the Holy Spirit address Israel as “serpents” in Acts 3:14 to 26? No, they were there addressed, “ye are the children”: and what tender mercy was there extended them! Why? Because the Lord Jesus had prayed on the cross, “Father, forgive them.” The Father had heard that prayer and was willing to wipe out everything and offer them the return of His Son from heaven to set up the Messianic Kingdom, if they would but repent.
This has been taught by Dr. Scofield, by Dr. Gaebelein, by Dr. Gray, by Mr. Darby, and by many of God’s faithful servants. Were they all “doting”? Would you call them “Bullingerites?”
Have we not lost the importance of the “Therefore” in Acts 3:19? The kingdom is there offered to Israel, because of two facts, as stated in Acts 3:14 to 18; because Christ’s death was foreordained and prophesied, and because, on the basis of the Lord’s prayer on the cross, Israel’s murder of Him was to be considered on the grounds of ignorance, and forgiven if the nation repented. Now, if they would repent, Christ would bring the “these days” spoken by all of the prophets from the days of Moses and Samuel. Acts 3:22 to 26. The “these days” prophesied by Moses and Samuel are not the same as the “these days” of Ephesians 2:15 to 3:11. Did Samuel know any thing about the Body of Christ? Can we find in the Four Gospels an offer of the kingdom more definite than in Acts 3:19 to 26? Is not that the most definite bona-fide offer to the Nation that was made?
How could there have been a kingdom without the fulfillment of David’s prophecy concerning the resurrection of Christ as recorded in Acts 2:25 to 31? David was a prophet of God and foretold facts concerning his kingdom, and Christ on that throne, that were promised to him by God, with an oath. The sins of those under the First Covenant had to be taken away by the death of Christ so they could have their eternal inheritance, Hebrews 9:15. Otherwise they would not have been prepared for Christ’s forever kingdom. Luke 1:32 to 34. The Prophecy of Joel, concerning the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, had to be fulfilled before there could be a realization or fulfillment of the promises to Israel concerning the Messianic Kingdom. Therefore, we must be puzzled as to how the Lord could have taken the throne of David before He went to the cross of Calvary, or before the happenings of Pentecost. When we believe this, we can better understand the words of the Lord Jesus Christ as recorded in Luke 24:25 to 27, “O fools and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have written; Ought not Christ to have suffered, etc.” If the Lord Jesus was saying in the Book of Luke, “I will take David’s throne before I go to the cross, if this Nation will accept Me,” then we cannot understand why He should have called them “fools” when they said, “we trusted it had been He that should have redeemed Israel.” Were they not fools because they did not understand His statement recorded in Luke 18:31 to 33. “They understood none of these things.” Luke 18:34. Most of us do not seem to understand them any better than they did.
What is the difference between the Kingdom calling, the Kingdom hope, the Kingdom program of the little flock of Luke 12:33 who were to sell their possessions and give the receipts away and the larger Kingdom flock of Acts 2:41 who were to do the same thing? Acts 2:45, Acts 3:34. Why do we not obey this command today? Why do we not preach today Acts 3:19 to 21 or Acts 2:36 to 38?
Perhaps you know that Dr. C. I. Scofield, several years after he had published his Reference Bible, believed that Israel was not set aside until Romans 11:8 to 25 and Acts 28:25 to 28. This can be learned by reading A. E. Bishop’s message “Tongues and Signs not God’s Order For Today”, published and distributed by the Moody Colportage Assn. of Chicago.
Perhaps you know that Mr. John Darby taught that the Gospel of the Glory of God was not fully revealed until the “Acts” transition was closed and Israel lost the place of special Divine favor.
It would be quite interesting to have you deal with Matthew 19:28, Galatians 2:7 to 9, and Acts 28:28 in your messages in “Serving and Waiting”. Will Paul be with the Twelve Apostles when they shall sit on twelve thrones to judge the twelve tribes of Israel? Will that not be when Christ shall sit on David’s throne on earth? Why was it that when Peter and his associates were instructed to confine their preaching to the “circumcision gospel” and the “circumcision people”, that the Book of Acts ceased to record their activities? Why was it that the Book of Acts closed with a quotation from the sixth chapter of Isaiah; to divide the fourteen Epistles of Paul?
Why was it that after Paul pronounced God’s judgment upon Israel in Acts 28:25 to 27, his Israelitish observances during the “Acts” period were by him considered dung? Philippians 3:8. Would Paul have said at the time of Acts 21:18 to 28 or Acts 23:1 to 6, what he said in Philippians 3:5 to 8? Something had happened, yes a radical change.
After I have read your next “Serving and Waiting” article, which is to cover the Book of Acts, I want to answer it in a message entitled, “Dr. Luke or Dr. Ironside.”
As Christians we are told to grow in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ and I can truly say that that has been my earnest desire and aim ever since the day I was saved while reading the Bible. But now you would hedge us in and say, “thus far but no farther: I have reached finality: if you go beyond my interpretation of Acts and Ephesians and Revelation, you are an `ultradispensationalist’ or a ‘doter’, and we will have to put you out. If you do not agree with us as to when the Body of Christ began historically, as to when Israel was set aside or that Israel cannot be the Bride; if you do not teach that water baptism is a beautiful symbol and testimony, you are a `Bullingerite’.” “I must discredit you with my audiences and use my influence to keep as many people as possible from hearing you.”
Dear brother, you are only employing the tactics of Rome to keep their people in ignorance. Candidly I believe this is the principal reason why you will not gather with an open Bible with a company of Christians and Bible students, and have men of God, who have gone on from “childhood” to “manhood” truth throw the search-light of Divine truth on some of your teaching. Do you not teach that the “sheep flock” of the Tenth of John is the Body of Christ, that Peter received the revelation of the Mystery of the Body in his housetop vision, that Paul received the revelation of the Mystery at Damascus, that the Twelve Apostles had the Mystery of the Body before Paul did?
Now as to the Body of Christ, although we disagree as to the Mystery, we both are sure that the Body is here, and it is quite important to get some more sinners in it, if we can be of help toward that end. But it is very difficult for me to believe in the light of Ephesians 3:3 and 3:8, that the Pearl of Great Price and the “This Flock” of John 10:16 can be the Body of Christ. The “This Flock” of John 10:16 was certainly the “This Flock” of the days of Christ on earth. That Flock was the subject of prophecy. Jeremiah 23:2 and 3 . . . . 31:10, Ezekiel 34:6 to 20 . . .36:37, Ezekiel 37:24, Isaiah 40:11. The Body of Ephesians was not. I admit that others were added to that prophesied Flock on the day of Pentecost and thereafter. But if that Flock became the Body of Christ on the day of Pentecost, I find great difficulty in identifying that Body as the Body of Ephesians 3:6, which no prophet of Israel foretold. Ephesians 3:5. Surely we must know the difference between the “One Flock” of John 10:16 and the “One New Man” of Ephesians 2:15. The “This Flock” of John 10:16 was with Christ on earth at the time He said, “I will build my Church.” If the “This Flock” was the Body of Christ, then why teach that the Body of Christ began historically at Pentecost? It should not be difficult for any student of the Word of God to study and compare Luke 3:5 to 11 . . . 12:32 and 33 with Acts 2:36 to 37, and see that the Flock of Luke was also the Flock of Acts 2:41 and 4:4, but it is quite difficult to believe that either is the One New Man of Ephesians 2:15.
I know that you teach that the sheep who will inherit the kingdom described in Matthew 25:31 to 38 are not to be members of the Body of Christ. To those sheep the Shepherd-King will say, “inasmuch as ye have done it unto them, ye have done it unto Me.” This nullifies your argument that the Lord was talking about the Body of Ephesians because He asked Saul, “why persecutest thou Me?”
I admit that it is unfortunate that Dispensationalist-Fundamentalists cannot unite against Ritualism, Modernism and Fanaticism, but if you are the doorkeeper and exclude from fellowship those who do not agree with you as to revelation of the Mystery, as to when Israel was set aside, as to water baptism and your interpretation of The Revelation, I presume some will have to remain without the camp. And it is not news to you that the number of those who refuse to pay your price of admission is increasing monthly.
Remember the precious truths of Ephesians and Colossians were so long lost that the task of recovering them is by no means an easy one. Truth has come back on the installment plan against tremendous opposition from Christians who were not satisfied with Christ without religion. History is repeating itself. Romanism against Luther: Church of England against Wesley; United Denominationalism against Darby. Look at the recently organized Independent Fundamentalist Organization; it has already assumed the attitude of a denomination. It is but another wing of the new denomination, the “Plymouth Brethren-Baptist Fundamentalists,” in control of immersionists who exclude from their speakers’ platform those who would lead saints to the pure message of grace, without water, and they engage a Baptist preacher to condemn, in their monthly magazine, those who would obey Ephesians 4:3 and Ephesians 3:9. It is impossible for a believer to obey either of these commands and hold on to water-baptism.
Surely you are agreed with me that there are very few true Berean Bible students, that is, sincere, unprejudiced Christians who, with honest hearts, are willing to receive the Word of God and then diligently search the Scriptures to see whether the teaching is sound doctrine and in accordance with II Timothy 2:15. Are not most Bible teachers religious or spiritual parrots, “me too” preachers? How many Bible teachers are there, even among the outstanding Fundamentalist leaders, who have repeated their statements over and over until they have persuaded themselves that they are really Scriptural, whether or not they are? One of your old acquaintances said that he could find everything that you taught until recently in the writings of the Plymouth Brethren, but should one say that you are teaching “Grantism” or “MacIntoshism” or “Jenningsism”? But it is all right with you to brand other teaching as “Bullingerism”. If apologies are in order at the Judgment seat of Christ, I am sure you will apologize to Dr. Bullinger.
Fight earnestly for the faith, brother, but do not foul your brother and fellowservant, a man of God who loved the Lord just as much as you do. If water baptism stirs your carnal nature to make you so ungracious, instead of aiding you to endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit, it surely cannot be the “one baptism” of Ephesians 4:5. Surely from your viewpoint water baptism should make a man more spiritual and gracious, especially if it be considered a watery grave, and yet it seems to me that it works the very opposite with you. Forgive me, if I misjudge you. In your church you seem to defend the ordinance with considerable apology, emphasizing over and over that it has no merit, in no way affecting the believer’s membership in the one true Church, which is Christ’s Body, and still you would use this ceremony to encourage strife and stir up discord among members of the Body of Christ. We are in the Body of Christ: we cannot agree when the Body began historically; we cannot agree when Israel was set aside: we cannot agree an water baptism. Neither can we surrender our God given convictions. But why can we not be good warm Christian friends in spite of these differences?
Concerning your book on Revelation, I have read your book on this subject and found it rather interesting in spots, and no doubt it contains much truth, but much of it, in my humble judgment, is a travesty on sound exegesis. I believe you would be wiser to make your apologies to men here than to the Lord hereafter. You and I know that these fantastic speculations draw the people. It takes an expert Scripture juggler to get the Body of Christ out of the Second and Third Chapters of Revelation into heaven, identified with saved Israelites of the Old Testament in the Fourth and Fifth Chapters, and then separate them at the end of the Book and locate the Body in a place that is described as belonging to Israel. Little wonder we have lost the thinking Postmillennialists.
My epistle to you is quite lengthy, and even then I have not covered all that I wanted to, but perhaps more in my next. In the meantime, inasmuch as we are members of the same Body, united to the same Head with Whom we shall appear in glory, let us pray earnestly for each other and keep busy in our God-given task of preaching the unsearchable riches of Christ to sinner and saint. I am sending you my latest message entitled, “the Bible Church, the Baptist Church and the Brethren Church”, which I hope you will take time to read. The Lord richly bless you in your Bible study and Bible teaching.
While you are flaying those who do not agree with you concerning the great commission, in “Serving and Waiting” do not forget to say that you are doing so in a magazine that formerly belonged to Dr. Pettingill who heartily disagrees with you as to the great commission. Are you going to put him out too?
May all the readers pray earnestly that this seeming unpleasant controversy will result in shaking loose many of the sheep like Christians from following blundering human teachers and get them to the Blessed Book, in the spirit of meekness, to search the Scriptures as never before. I have scores of letters and oral testimonies from preachers and Christian workers, that they have been provoked as never before to Bible study during these recent months of controversy; so you see that all of this may prove a real blessing. If you were what in the language of the world is called a “good sport”, you would write to “Serving and Waiting” and ask them to send a copy of this letter to every one to whom they send your most prejudiced articles. I shall do all in my power to give this as wide a circulation as possible; and shall await your next article before writing letter Number Two. May much good result from our free and frank discussions, but let us refrain from bigotry and ungracious slander of God’s grace preachers.
Let us in no way involve the North Shore and Moody people in this controversy. The work that God has established at these two centers is far more important than their pastors. I want all of our people to still be your friend; and through all our open frank discussions let brotherly love continue.
Yours Accepted and Complete in Christ.
J. C. O’HAIR.