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Contending for the Faith: That "Church of Christ Cultist on Osage St."

(Tim Cryer is a local Baptist with whom we had correspondence in the fall of 1999. ["A Baptist On Jeremiah 6:16," and "Baptist Preacher Responds To Our Review." E-mail me if you would like to have a copy of those exchanges]. Mr. Cryer never replied after the second review. However, he has written again. Below are the details about a young lady’s confrontation with "a Church of Christ Cultist on Osage St.")

Mr. Hafley,

Last night our church members were knocking on doors in Meadowlake Village carrying out the great commission of personal soul winning. I don’t know if you are familiar with this or not? One of our young ladies said she was confronted by a Church of Christ Cultist on Osage St., and I quickly thought of you. I just wanted you to know that this particular young lady has more of the Spirit of God in her little finger than you ever will. This young girl has given her heart and her life for the cause of Christ. What a shame someone so positive as her would have to cross paths with someone so negative and combative as you! Where is your fruit? What have you done for Jesus? All you know how to do is attack and belittle people. This young lady, Jennifer Spell is her name, goes out several times a week to try to reach the lost for Christ. How many doors have you knocked? How many people have come to know Christ because of you? I’m not talking about baptizing someone into your church, I’m talking about a real conversion like the one Jennifer had at an early age and is now producing fruit. Jennifer loves the Lord and as she seeks God’s will for her life I pray that she doesn’t encounter any more stumbling blocks like the one she did last night.

Tim Cryer, Victory Baptist, 1800 Archer, Baytown, TX, 77521, (281) 421-4862

Dear Tim,

Thank you for your letter. I appreciate the fact that you will not allow anyone to spiritually abuse one of your brethren or sisters. The Bible teaches that we ought to hold up the hands of those who teach the truth and neither endorse nor support those who would speak against the word of God (Prov. 17:15; 2 Tim. 1:8; 2 Jn. 9-11). Though I wish you had chosen to address our spiritual and scriptural differences by appealing to the word of God rather than giving vent to your feelings toward me, I understand your desire to defend those whom you believe have been unfairly and unjustly attacked and belittled (Acts 23:1-5).

Tim, you have charged me with a number of evil and sinful things. You imply that I am not familiar with "the great commission soul winning," that I am "a Church of Christ cultist," that in a "negative and combative" manner I "confronted" your dear sister, Jennifer Spell, that I have very little if any of the Spirit of God in me, that all I know "how to do is attack and belittle people," that I do very little to convert the lost, that those I do convert are not truly converted, that I do little for Jesus and produce no fruit, and am a "stumbling block" to those who do. Given the seriousness of those accusations, I bid you, as Paul did King Agrippa when he was being accused, to "hear me patiently" as I respond (Acts 26:3).

First, however, let me say that the harsh, critical, and judgmental tone of your letter surprises me. I thought you encouraged folks not to speak in such an accusatory fashion to others as they seek to convert them. Now, I do not know what Jennifer and her friend related to you, but, honestly, before God, nothing was said in the nature and manner with which you have responded to me. No abrasive or unkind words were exchanged between us. Neither of us raised our voices or spoke without a kindly smile. More about that later, but I think that Jennifer and her friend, who witnessed and took part in the exchange, will tell you that nothing cutting or unkind was said by any of us. Did we disagree? Assuredly. Were we "attacking and belittling" one another? Absolutely not!

Tim, as the record of our past correspondence will show, I have never referred to you in a demeaning manner. I have never made personal charges against your character. I have never impugned your motives or slandered your work and efforts as you contend for what you believe to be right. I have documented, with Scripture, our differences and have shown that your teaching does not accord or comply with what the Bible teaches, but I have never spoken against you as you have against me, criticizing and condemning me without providing proof to substantiate your cruel and caustic portrait of my life and character. Again, since you did not witness my study with Jennifer and her friend, your "negative and combative" words, attacking and belittling me, are all the more shocking.

Now, if that is the path you choose to pursue, if you wish to fire back at me as you have done, you may have the field to yourself. I will not return in kind; I will not react in that way. However, if you wish to reason with me, to "reprove, rebuke, and exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine," then "I am set for the defense of the gospel," and will study with you (2 Tim. 4:2; Phil. 1:17).

Second, I would encourage you to "hear me patiently," especially since you were not a witness to the friendly conversation that I had with Jennifer and her friend. Frankly, I can hardly believe that they painted such a picture of me as you described, but if they did, that is their right, and they will have to give account for it (Eccl. 12:14; Rom. 2:16; 1 Cor. 4:5; 2 Cor. 5:10).

Due to the seriousness of the charges and their implications against my soul, I shall give as precise and detailed account of our conversation as I am able.

"Carrying Out The Great Commission"

Before I relate the amiable meeting with Jennifer and her friend, I want to comment on your statement that your "church members" were "carrying out the great commission." Let me assure you, Tim, that I fully support anyone and everyone who faithfully is "carrying out the great commission." I have spent the major portion of my life in that grand assignment. However, let us note the principle items set forth in that "great commission." Surely, if we are going to carry it out," we must know what it entails and convey it as it was delivered (Jude 3). Let us note, therefore, the commission as Jesus gave it. After doing so, let us be sure that we are "carrying out" exactly and precisely what he charged or commissioned us to do. We must do this with great care, for the curses of heaven are pronounced against all who would in any way alter or tamper with it (Matt. 28:20; Gal. 1:8, 9; 2 Jn. 9).

"And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo,I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world" (Matt. 28:18-20).

"And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned" (Mk. 16:15, 16).

"And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem" (Lk. 24:47).

That is the "great commission" as given by the Lord. From it we learn a number of salient facts. First, Jesus Christ has all authority, all power (Matt. 28:18). Neither you, nor I, nor the Pope has any power or authority to legislate and prescribe the will of God. Second, it is for "every creature," every person, in "all nations" (Acts 10:35). Third, we learn that men must be taught (Jn. 6:45). They must hear the gospel before they can believe, repent, and be baptized, for "faith cometh by hearing" the word of God (Rom. 10:17). This, of course, excludes infants since they are incapable of hearing and believing. Adult "men and women" were the subjects of the great commission as first century disciples carried it out (Acts 8:12). Fourth, we see that those who hear the gospel must believe it before they can be saved and forgiven (Mk. 16:16). Fifth, they must repent before they can receive the remission or their sins (Lk. 24:47; Acts 2:38). Sixth, one must be baptized before he can be saved, for Jesus said, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved."

When Catholicism attempts to insert infants into the process, we simply point them to the words of Jesus in the "great commission" and insist that they are not the subjects under consideration. Likewise, Tim, when Jews and Muslims claim salvation apart from faith in Christ, you and I cite them to the words of Jesus in the "great commission," heaven’s declaration of independence from sin. Too, when some say that one need not be baptized in order to be saved, we simply cite the words of the Savior, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved."

In Luke 24:47, Jesus said that "repentance and remission of sins" were to be preached in his name, "beginning at Jerusalem." From Jerusalem in Acts 2, we learn how "repentance and remission of sins" were preached in his name. Peter, speaking as the Holy Spirit gave him utterance "said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost" (2:38).

There is more, Tim, but that, in essence, is the "great commission." In all kindness, but with all candor, those dear ladies who came to my door did not come with the same message given by the Son of God. As proof, I now relate to you the conversation we had on my front porch. You will note that what they told me was not in harmony with what Jesus said in the great commission.

About That Front Porch Exchange

Two nice, friendly ladies greeted me at my door. As I stepped out on the porch, one of them, perhaps it was Jennifer, asked me if I knew I was saved, and if I had asked Jesus to come into my heart as my personal Savior. I replied that I believed I did, but that I was not sure what she meant since the Bible no where speaks of asking Jesus to come into our hearts as our personal Savior. She smiled and said, "Oh, yes, there is," and quickly turned to Romans 10:9, 10-"That if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes to righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made to salvation."

I explained that the passage did not say we should ask Jesus into our hearts, but that it said we must both believe and confess Christ. Those are two things the sinner must do, not just one, but, I noted, there is more that one must do. I then said, "Let us turn to Acts 2 and see that in addition to believing and confessing Christ that one must also repent." The lady with a long, slender copy of the New Testament opened to Acts 2. (Privately, I noted that the publishers had highlighted verses 37 and 38.) We read the passage together. "Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do? Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost."

Before I could comment, the other lady said, "I don’t believe we have to be baptized to be saved." I pointed to the passage again and said that it says we must repent and be baptized "for the remission of sins." I then asked them to turn to Acts 22:16, and I read it aloud, too. "And now why tarriest thou? arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord."

Immediately, with a kind smile and a twinkle in her eye, the lady said, "The thief on the cross was saved, and he wasn’t baptized." I said, "No, he was not, but if we do not have to be baptized because the thief was not baptized, do I have to believe and confess that God raised Christ from the dead?" "What if," I continued, "I argued that since the thief was saved without being baptized, I also may be saved without confessing that God raised Jesus from the dead because the thief never made such a confession? Would you ladies say I was saved if I would not confess that God raised Christ from the dead" (Rom. 10:9, 10)?

The lady said, "Oh, I believe we need to be baptized." I said, "Yes, Ma’am, but that was not the gist of the point you were making." I then reminded her that she had contended that since the thief on the cross was not baptized that we need not be baptized to be saved, either. I repeated the parallel argument, "Now, if that is true, and if the thief was saved without being baptized, may we today be saved without confessing that God has raised Christ from the dead since the thief did not confess that, either."

The ladies, it appeared to me, were not sure how to answer the reply to their argument on the thief on the cross. With that, the ladies turned and were gone. As we parted, all of us expressed mutual good wishes with the hope that we each would continue to study the Bible so we could go to heaven when we die. The counter point I made to their argument went unanswered.

Tim, if you would like to answer the argument I made, I would be happy to consider it. If you have an answer, surely you will not leave me in error. If you have the truth, and I am teaching false doctrine, I beg you to show the fallacy of my reasoning from the Scriptures. I am sure the ladies would like for you to show me the answer since they were not able to do so. Will you give me your answer to the argument, Tim?

I was careful to speak quietly and kindly. I believe those ladies will tell you that my manner was not out of place, and that I was not ugly or unkind to them in any way. There were no accusations or recriminations between us. There were no frowns, nor was there any "body language" that indicated the least bit of rudeness or unfriendliness. Before God, Tim, that is the truth. That is what happened on my front porch, on or about June 20th, 2003.

Coming "To Know Christ"

Tim, you asked, "How many people have come to know Christ because of you?" Since Paul said that it is God, and not we ourselves, who "giveth the increase," I think we may safely ignore the question with respect to numbers (1 Cor. 3:6). Let us, rather, focus on the issue of how one comes "to know Christ."

First, we both agree that one must know the Lord before he can be saved. "And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent" (Jn. 17:3). Second, knowing God requires our obedience to the gospel. "Verily, verily, I say unto you, If a man keep my saying, he shall never see death" (Jn. 8:51-Note that "life eternal" in 17:3 is equal to "never see death"). "And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him" (Heb. 5:9-Observe that "eternal salvation" is equivalent to "life eternal" and "never see death" mentioned in the two previous passages).

Therefore, if I would come "to know Christ" and have "life eternal," I must "keep (his) saying," and "obey him," for only those who do so are said to have "eternal life." Further, the Holy Spirit said, "And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments" (1 Jn. 2:3). I cannot "know Christ" and come to him if I do not keep his commandments: "He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him" (1 Jn. 2:4). Only those who "keep" or obey his commandments truly may say that they "know the Lord." Only those who "keep" or obey his commandments truly may know that his love has saved them: "But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him" (1Jn. 2:5).

One of the Lord’s commandments is that men repent and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ "for the remission of sins" (Acts 2:38; 10:48). Peter "commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord." That baptism "in the name of the Lord" is "for the remission of sins" (Acts 2:38; 10:48). Or, as Ananias told Saul of Tarsus, "Arise, and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord" (Acts 22:16). Tim, do you do as the apostle Peter did? Do you "command" men to repent and be baptized in the name of the Lord for the remission of sins? Remember, "He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him" (1 Jn. 2:4).

"About Baptizing Someone Into (My) Church"

Tim, you spoke of some who are not truly converted and "about (my) baptizing someone into (my) church." Let me address that. First, I do not have a church. It is not mine; it is the Lord’s. He built and purchased it with his own blood (Matt. 16:18; Acts 20:28). May I say with all kindness that the church he built and bought with his precious blood was not a Protestant denomination. It was neither Baptist, Methodist, Pentecostal, nor any other kind, for those churches were unknown before the 17th century. In fact, there is no mention of any Baptist Church of any kind in any literature written before 1600 A.D. However, we can read of "the churches of Christ" (Rom. 16:16).

Second, no one is ever baptized into the Lord’s church who remains unconverted (Acts 2:38-41, 47; 1 Cor. 12:13; Eph. 2:16; 3:6; 5:23). The Lord does the adding to his body when he saves and sanctifies them "with the washing of water by the word" (Acts 2:38-41, 47; 1 Cor. 12:13; Eph. 5:26).

Third, let us see what a "real conversion" includes. Certainly, we agree that one cannot be saved apart from the death of Jesus (Eph. 1:7; 1 Pet. 1:18, 19). The endless love and boundless grace of God is the basis of all hope for eternal salvation (Jn. 3:16; Eph. 2:5, 8, 9). "Real conversion" requires that we not simply say, "Lord, Lord," but that we actually do his will. We learn this by comparing Matthew 7:21; 18:3; and John 3:3, 5. In these passages, the object is to "enter into the kingdom of heaven." Jesus says that one must "do the will" of the Father, that one must be converted and become as a little child, and that one must be born again. In other words, with child-like obedience, one must consent to do the will of God before he can be converted, changed, or born again.

If one has not done the will of God, that is, if he has not done what the Lord says he must do, he cannot be converted, changed, or "born again." He cannot enter the kingdom. "And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say" (Lk. 6:46)? "He that obeyeth not the Son shall not see life" (Jn. 3:36, ASV, NASB).

In Acts 3:19, the sinner is told to "repent…and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out." In Acts 11:24, some "believed, and turned unto the Lord." In Acts 26:20, Paul said that men should "repent and turn to God." Observe, please, that "turning to the Lord," follows both belief and repentance. When one believes and when one repents, he has not yet been turned to the Lord, for Scripture says there is something following both repentance and faith which is called, "turning to the Lord." They "believed, and turned." Their turning or conversion did not occur when they believed, for after they believed, they "turned to the Lord." Their conversion did not occur when they repented, for they were urged to "repent and turn." What is it that follows both faith and repentance that results in one’s conversion and in his "turning to the Lord"?

"Repent…and be converted that your sins may be blotted out" (Acts 3:19).

"He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved" (Mk. 16:16).

"Repent, and be baptized…for the remission of sins" (Acts 2:38).

Tim, if that is not a scriptural description of "real conversion," please explain why it is not. Surely, Tim, if I am not truly converting people but am only "baptizing them into my church," as you imply, please point out to me how I have misused the Scriptures so that I may understand what "real conversion" is. Will you do that for me, please?

About That "Church of Christ Cultist" on Osage St.

Tim, this is one of the nicer things you said about me, though I know you did not mean it to be so. In general, a cultist is defined as one who "shows devotion" to a religious cause. Indeed, I am devoted to the church of the Lord, the one we can read about in the Bible. Since it is possible to "despise the church of God," it is also possible for men to love the church, the blood bought, Spirit filled, heaven bound body of the Son of God (1 Cor. 11:22; Eph. 5:25).

Through the years, many like yourself, have attacked and belittled the church–"concerning this sect, we know that every where it is spoken against" (Acts 28:22). Still, it remains as "the pillar and ground of the truth," "a spiritual house," "a glorious church" (1 Tim. 3:15; Eph. 5:27; 1 Pet. 2:5). Jesus is the Savior of his body, the church (Eph. 5:23). Tim, I would just as soon be the man who drove the spear into the body of the Son of God as he hung there, bleeding and dying upon the cross, as I would to be the man who would denigrate and castigate his spiritual body, the church. If you feel comfortable speaking of the Lord’s church in that manner, indirectly calling it a "cult," that will be your decision. As for me, I dare not (Cf. principle of Acts 10:15).

When Saul of Tarsus persecuted the church, he persecuted Christ (Acts 8:1, 3; 9:5). Likewise, when you (or any other man) speak against the church or body of Christ, you are persecuting the Savior. (Cf. Ex. 16:2, 8, 9-those who murmured against Moses, murmured against God).

Before I close this section, did one of the ladies tell you "she was confronted by a Church of Christ Cultist on Osage St.," or are those your words? Your letter indicates that one of the ladies said it ("One of our young ladies said she was confronted by a Church of Christ Cultist on Osage St.") I am curious. Did she actually say that to you in those words, or is that your description?

About My Being A "Stumbling Block"

Of course, no one should be an impediment or a hindrance to those who are sincerely striving to go to heaven and who are seeking to save others also (Prov. 28:10; Rom. 14:13; 1 Cor. 8:11-13; Thess 2:16; 2 Thess. 3:1, 2). So, if I am guilty of being a "stumbling block," I should be rebuked. However, Tim, you cited no proof of your allegation. What did I do or say that was a "stumbling block"? Be specific. Cite Scripture. Show how I was a "stumbling block" to the young ladies.

(1) Was I a "stumbling block" when I gave them passages from the word of God to read? (2) Was I a "stumbling block" when I sincerely and kindly challenged their conclusions and understandings, as described above? (3) Was I a "stumbling block" when I told those young ladies that there is no passage in the Bible which tells us to say a little prayer and ask Jesus to come into our hearts as our personal Savior? (Since there is no such passage, how was I a "stumbling block" to them?) (4) Was I a "stumbling block" when I had them to read Acts 2:37, 38 and 22:16-"Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, Brethren, what shall we do? And Peter said to them, Repent, and let each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit….And now why do you delay? Arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on His name"?

Tim, please connect points numbered "3" and "4" above. In point number 3, I told them the truth. Contrary to their assertion, there is no such passage. In point number 4, I simply had them to read the word of God. Think about that, Tim. How does that make me a "stumbling block"? Now, had the situation been reversed, then, yes, I would have been a "stumbling block" to them. For example, if there were a verse which says that in order to be saved, "thou shalt simply pray and ask the Lord to come into thine heart," I would have been a "stumbling block" when I denied it. Too, if the Bible said, "Repent and be baptized because you already have been forgiven," I certainly would have been a "stumbling block" had I denied that and said the very opposite. But, that is not what occurred, is it? No, I spoke the truth and tried to correct their sincerely held error, yet you revile me as a "stumbling block" because I corrected their incorrect assumption and cited plain passages of Scripture.

Tim, if my insistence on obedience to the word of God makes me a "stumbling block" to your cause, then, yes, I confess, I am, and always will be, a "stumbling block."

A Plea For An Open Bible Study

Both of us cannot be right before God. If I am teaching a "works" oriented salvation, as defined in Ephesians 2:8, 9, and Titus 3:5, I cannot be saved, nor can those who hear me be saved (1 Tim. 4:16). On the other hand, if you are not submitting to God’s plan of making men righteous, then you are in danger of the judgment as are those whom you are misleading (Rom. 10:1-3; 2 Jn. 9). "If the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch" (Matt. 15:14).

Accordingly, Tim, I want to extend to you a cordial invitation to address the church which meets at the corner of Pruett and Lobit here in Baytown. We would be happy for you to come and express what you believe the Bible teaches, especially concerning how men are saved by grace through faith, or any other Bible subject in which you believe we need instruction. Or, if you prefer to show them what an awful, sorry fellow I am, that will be fine, too. The church needs to know if they are harboring and protecting such a man as you described me to be (2 Tim. 2:16-18; 4:14; 3 Jn. 9).

I suggest that you come and speak to us on the following topic:

The Scriptures teach that salvation is by grace through faith alone, before and without water baptism. (Though one should be baptized, he should be baptized after he is saved, not before.)

I know I dare not ask, but if it would be agreeable, I would be happy to come and speak to you and your brethren at Victory Baptist on this subject:

The Scriptures teach that water baptism, to the penitent believer, is "for the remission of sins."

Tim, even if I am not welcome to address your brethren, you are still welcome to speak to us on the themes noted above, or on any other teaching wherein you believe us to be in error. We have nothing to hide and are open and receptive to those who would instruct us in "the way of God more perfectly" (Acts 18:26). It should not be difficult to find a mutually agreeable time for you to speak to us. (Should you, Tim, not feel qualified for such an effort, we will grant the same privilege to other evangelists, pastors, or teachers at Victory Baptist.)

I look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.


Larry Ray Hafley

(P.S. Copies are being sent to Jennifer Spell, Victory Baptist, and to the members at Pruett & Lobit.)