From the Editor’s Notebook: Deciding the Doubtful

MIF 8:3 (May-June 1976)

From the Editor’s Notebook

W. Ross Rainey

Deciding the Doubtful

Christians, particularly young people, frequently ask if it’s right to do a certain thing or go to a particular place of entertainment. The question, “Since I’m a little short on cash, is it right to rob a bank?” is clearly answered in the Bible (see Exodus 20:15; Ephesians 4:28). There are, however, those problems of conduct which are not covered by some chapter and verse. As a result, it is often difficult to know what to decide in the area of doubtful things.

To begin with, four things should be kept in mind:

1. The Bible has either the definite answer to, or guiding principles for, every circumstance and problem in life.

2. While it is true that the Christian is “under grace” (Romans 6:14) — unquestionably the most exalted position of the ages—grace has its rules and the believer is “under…law to Christ” (1 Corinthians 9:21). Nine of the Ten Commandments are reiterated in the New Testament, where they are greatly widened in their application. The letters of Paul, the great apostle of grace, are filled with restrictions, taboos, and prohibitions (e.g., Ephesians 4:17ff; Colossians 3:5-4:1; 1 Timothy 4:6-5:1; 2 Timothy 2:11-26). Grace, or liberty in Christ, is not license, although some have twisted it in this way. Nevertheless, such a distorted view in no wise nullifies the motivating power of grace.

Charles C. Ryrie has aptly said: “Grace not only provides the motive but also the standard for conduct today. God has given clear instruction in His Word concerning the daily walk of the believer, and these teachings of grace, entirely separate from any other rule of life in the Scriptures, stand complete in themselves. Furthermore, these standards are the very highest in all of God’s Word, and although most Christians will admit this fact, there is sometimes ignorance of the specific criteria which God has set forth for the daily life under grace” (Our Hope, January 1953, p. 494).

3. There must be a willingness to do God’s will (John 7:17). The late Dr. Donald Grey Barnhouse used to say: “Perhaps ninety per cent of knowing the will of God is to be willing to do His will before you know what it is.”

4. Prayerfully believe that the Lord will guide you (John 16:13; Psalm 25:9; 32:8; 48:14; Isaiah 58:11).

Someone, whose name was not given, has suggested that most questions about doubtful things can be settled by the application of one or more of the nine tests listed below:

    1. The Personal Test: Will my doing it make me a better or worse Christian?

    2. The Social Test: Will my doing it influence others to be stronger or weaker Christians?

    3. The Practical Test: Will doing it likely bring desirable or undesirable results?

    4. The Universal Test: Suppose everyone did it. What then?

    5. The Scriptural Test:Is it clearly and expressly forbidden in the Word of God?

    6. The Stewardship Test: Will doing it involve a waste of the talents God has invested in me?

    7. The Family Test: Will doing it bring credit or dishonour to my family?

    8. The Missionary Test: Will doing it likely help or hinder the progress of the Gospel message on earth?

    9. The Common Sense Test: Is it good, plain, everyday, ordinary common sense?

Olympic Star Loses Medal

At the 12th Winter Olympic Games held earlier this year in Innsbruck, Austria, Mrs. Galina Kulakova, one of the Soviet Union’s greatest all-time sports figures, lost a bronze medal on February 9th. Why? Because she took a forbidden medicine to combat the flu-like illness that swept through Athlete’s Village. She was stripped of her bronze medal by the International Olympic Committee because a doping test showed traces of Ephedrine, a cold drug banned by the IOC.

Mrs. Kulakova, a triple gold medal winner at the 1972 Games in Sapporo, Japan,, and who holds the coveted Order of Lenin for her achievements, finished third in the women’s five-kilometer cross-country race last February 7th. She, like dozens of other athletes, had a cold, and took the commonly used decongestant supplied by a friend in the middle of the night. And she did not submit it to the Russian team doctor.

Prince Alexandre de Merode of Belgium, president of the IOC’s Medical Commission, was quite apologetic about taking the medal away, acknowledging that Mrs. Kulakova acted in all innocence. “It was such a small amount, it seemed almost an injustice,” The Prince said. “However, if we are to have a Medical Commission and rules, we must enforce them.”

This incident reminded me of the Apostle Paul’s words in 2 Timothy 2:5; “If anyone competes as an athlete, he does not win the prize unless he competes according to the rules” (NASB). Little wonder, then, in an earlier letter midst details depicting athletic contention, Paul said: “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. And everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air; but I buffet my body and make it my slave, lest possibly, after I have preached to others, I myself should be disqualified” (NASB).

The apostle was not fearful of losing his salvation; that is something absolutely and eternally secure for every believer. Rather, he was concerned about being disqualified in the Christian race, and as a result failing to win the prize, and this, with the possibility of suffering loss at the judgment seat of Christ (see 1 Corinthians 3:11-15 with Romans 14:10; 2 Corinthians 5:10).

Are we, as Christians, concerned about contending in the arena of faith according to God’s rules and regulations in His Word? We should be, else we in turn may lose our reward and thus suffer loss at Christ’s judgment seat in proportion to our disobedience and unfaithfulness in the present race set before us.

The Judgment Seat of Christ

In his book, Selections from our Fifty Years Written Ministry, Walter Scott wrote about the judgment seat of Christ as follows:

“There will be a vast amount of healthy work transacted at the Judgment Seat of Christ. The mistakes of time will there be rectified; wrong judgments reversed; misunderstandings corrected; ungenerous attempts to impute falsehood or evil where such did not exist exposed; and in short, persons, ways, words, motives, and acts will then appear in their true light and character. It will be a clearing-up moment, so that the Church and every member of the redeemed company will enter into the enjoyment of eternal blessing in the perfect knowledge that all has been fully brought out between the soul and Christ. Then in the eternal rest of God no cloud shall ever darken our sky; no unsettled question ever arise to dim the joy; no lurking suspicion ever cross the soul. Every difficulty and question between believers and God, and between brother and brother, must be righteously adjusted. False charges must be withdrawn in light of heaven, and every cloud and misunderstanding for ever removed. Wrong condemned, and right eternally vindicated! Personally, we have enjoyed the comfort and strength which manifestation before the Judgment Seat of Christ imparts to the soul, and that, too, amidst circumstances of trial, wrong, and unjust charge. Christ’s vindication of every injured saint and servant is most sure. In meantime, wait on God, be of good courage, and pass on in light of that coming day” (p. 58).