Written by Otis Charlton 1998 


For 33 years I served as an elder of the Smith Springs Church of Christ in Nashville, Tennessee. After having resigned from that position almost ten years ago, I still have the same shepherding concerns. I make no claim to having all of the answers facing the church today or at any time in the past. In this writing you will find observations of some teachings which trouble me and I urge you to careftilly consider them. Many times I use the wordings of others because they speak more clearly thanI about certain subjects. But, neither am I merely an echo of their thinking. I have used many helps wilich I felt were useful in my understanding of the facts, principles, and ideas which the inspired writers of the Bible intended.  

Often people accept the teaching of others (whether from the pulpit, television,etc.) without searching the scriptures for themselves to see if what they are hearing is the Truth. While it is important to listen and study with open minds, it is it is importantfor us to studyfor ourselves to see if what we are hearing is in accordance with God's Word. We need to be cautious and not accept "new" interpretations of Scripture as many of our brethren appear to be only wanting to breakaway from  anything regarded as tradition.  Our goal should simply be to continue to search for the Truth. [1]


Do not go where the path may lead Go. instead where there is no path and leave a trail. Ask yourself, 'Where am I, and where am I going?" Learn to say "yes" and "no" and then you have made a good start. Read the Bible slowly, frequently, and prayerfiifly, and learn the principles of interpretation. John 8:32 says, "You shall know the truth and the truth shall set you ftee." Real freedom and responsibility are inseparable. However, irresponsible freedom wffl not preserve liberty. No truth can be adequately or accurately comprehended until it is viewed in harmonious relation to every other truth found in God's word

Truth is truth, and whether we know it, believe it, accept it, or like it does not make it less true. Truth is absolute and is always consistent with itself, but opinion is truth filtered through the moods and prejudices of man. Although God is sovereign, there is no punishment or reward in this world as far as God is concerned--only consequences of the law of cause and effect. God has created and placed us upon the earth, our garden of Eden, where both good and evil exist. He made us free moral agents with freedom of choice where the laws of cause and effect apply. Facts are God's argument, and we must not misunderstand them. Everyone has a right to an opinion, but no one has a right to be wrong about the facts. Anyone who takes truth for his guide and duty for his end may safely trust God's providence to lead him right. We must read and study the Bible objectively, not influenced by emotion , surmise or personal prejudices. We must use deductive reasoning, moving from a general conclusion to a specific conclusion, which follows necessarily from the stated premises. The Bible should never be read subjectively, because using only particular facts to reach a general conclusion and using only a few facts pertaining to a certain principle will only lead one to a interpretation of the idea or principle.[2]

Given the depravity of the human heart, thirst launched by greed or power is insatiable. War has been declared by Satan, and his attack is more insidious and just as lethal as that of any superpower. If he can stir up the church against itself and create a commurty of strife rather than one of love and respect (even when brethren disagree over interpretation of the Scripture), then he can win the battle at least in a limited way without fijing a shot. God forbid! Let us not fight among ourselves, but rather exhibit a sincere respect for the honesty and sincerity of every believer in Christ. Let us be reminded of our Savior's prayer that we may "all be one". (John 17:20, 21) The discovery of what is true and the practice of that which is good are two of the most important accomplishments that will concern us when our life on this earth comes to an end. There are three reasons why man will accept something as true or false:
1. He may thitik it is or is not (no evidence credible). 
2. He may know it is based on one of man's five senses. 
3. He may believe based on revelation and adequate evidence.

We must search the Scripture daily as no man was ever endowed with a judgment so correct and judicious but that circumstances, time and experience would teach him something new. He would be apprised about those things with which he thought himself best acquainted, he actually knew nothing. Those ideas which appeared most advantageous were found to be altogether impracticable when bi ought into practice. We must always be on guard against the teaching of false doctrine. It must never be disregarded without protest or censure. One source of danger lying ahead is the increasing lack of Bible knowledge among Christians. We need to continually search the Scripture to see that what we are teaching is in accordance with God's Word. An example of this principle is being able to detect counterfeit money because of the knowledge of and familiarity with the real thing. A person who is ignorant of Bible teachings will soon lose his way and be separated from his Savior and God to be eternally lost. [3]

The shifting systems of some religious organizations continually change: positions on doctrine, but the gospel of Christ is the same forever. While false lights will be extinguished, the true fight will shine forever. So comprehensive are the doctrines of the 00 . spel, that they involve all moral truths known by man; so extensive are the precepts, that they require every virtue and forbid every sin. Nothing has been added or deleted from the Bible since the Word was spoken.

Man must continually search for Truth as his highest responsibility is to seek God and His righteousness. (Matt. 6:33) God continually reaches out to man by extending his love, compassior4 and grace. Man is justified by faith which brings him to obey the gospel of Christ in love. Paul states in Romans 1: 16 that "I am not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God unto (or in the direction of) salvation." If it is the power of God, there can be no other power. We are saved by grace through faith which comes by hearing the cospel ... the power of God unto salvation. There is a point at which man's intellectual powers fail and break down, and it is at this point of man's limited ability that the question of God and immortality begins. It is also where faith begins.

When we talk about loving and defending the truth, what do we mean? Do we mean loving what we have always heard or presently believe or do we mean that we love and want the truth no matter what we may find it to be? We must approach Bible study not only to prove what we already believe but to be taught by God. What do we do when we come across a scripture that we do not understand? Do we ignore it, find someone to explain it for us, or prayerffilly meditate upon it? We should pray about it, ask God to help us understand it, and be willing to change our mind if the evidence is significant. 11 Timothy 2:15 says, "Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." Also, in I Peter 3:15 the writer says, "But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear."[4]

It is easy to embrace the thinking of other men, however, we must disregard the persuasions of others as we search for the Truth. We should read the Scriptures with an open niidd and vathout preconceived and prejudicial notions. We should never study to an argument but sincerely search for the Truth. What is true about anything does not depend upon oui- capacity to befieve and understand. It must be faced, lived with, acted upon (pro or con) many times every day. Most difficulties in which we find ourselves are consequences of decisions we have made for one or more of these reasons:
1.  We do not know the truth. 
2.  We do not recognize the situation to which truth apphes. 
3.  We wilefully violate truth because it does not suit us to observe and comply with it.

Our own search for Truth must be continuous if we are to know God's will. Henry Clay once said, "I would rather be right than President." A principle is a basic trutk- a rule is a standard of measurement. A piinciple requires fiberafity; a rule says one tenth. A principle says forgive-, a rule says seven times.

In Isaiah 1:18 the writer says, "Come let us reason together." We need to be guided by the fight of reason and principles, for irrationally held truths may be more harmful than reasoned error. Reason is the power to think, judge, and draw logical conclusions. It is man's using of intellect as opposed to emotions, feelings, instincts, intuitions, or prejudices. Acts 17:30 says, "Md the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men [there are no exceptions] everywhere to repent." In II Corinthians 6:1-2 Paul says, "We then, as workers together with Him also plead with you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For He says: 'In an acceptable time I have heard you, and in the day of salvation I have helped you.' Behold, now is the accepted time-, behold, now is the day of salvation." [5]

Why is it that some who claim to be led by the Holy Spirit contradict others who also claim the same thing? If the Holy Spirit is given to every Christians then should we not all speak the same thing since lives in each one of us? Since the Bible is our blueprint, it follows that we must first learn the truth before we can obey. The claim of the direct operation of the Holy Spirit on the heart or some revelation by the Holy Spirit in conversion is false doctrine. How can we test whether it is false? Let us observe these characteristics of the Word of God through which the Holy Spirit operates. Can the Holy Spirit accompfish more separate and apart firom the Word?
Psalm 19:7 - "The word is perf~ct, converting the soul."
Psalm 19:8 - "The word is that which enlightens man's soul."
2 Timothy 3:16, 17 - "The word is that which furnishes the man of God completely."
2 Timothy 3: 15 - "The word makes one wise unto salvation."
John 5:6 and I Peter 21:22, 23 - "The soul is begotten by the seed, the word, the truth. The Spint is truth."
John 7: 63 - "The words I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life."
John 17:17 - "Sanctify them through thy word, Thy word is truth."
I Peter 1:22 - "The heart is purified by the word."

The Gospel preached by the apostles was revealed to them by the Holy Spirit. A convert must first hear the Gospel which is the power of God unto salvation. The word, the gospel, and the seed of the kingdom are interchangeable. The English word gospel comes from the Anglo-Saxon godspel which meant "good tidings, through godspel, or god-story." In the New Testament the word gospel refers to Christ's message. In later times it also came to refer to the first four books of the New Testament. We need to study to know God more fully, to know His truth more thoroughly, and to walk with him obediently. [6]


Christ purchased the church which is the "pillar and ground of truth" with his blood.(l Timothy 3:15). "Christ is the head of the body, the church." (Colossians 1: 18). "The Lord adds to the church the saved." (Acts 2:47). Those outside of His body are lost. To be saved you must have faith. "Without faith, it is impossible to please God." (Hebrews 11:6). Acts 17:30 commands all men to repent. Acts 2:38 reveals that man must be baptized for remission of sins. I Peter 3:21 says, baptism does also now save us." Once we have accepted Christ as our Saviour and have been baptized for the remission of our sins, we must continue in His Word and five for Him, being continually cleansed by His blood.

Faith in an all wise, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent, and personal God elevates the soul, purifies the emotions, and sustains human dignity. We cannot rely on probability. Biblical faith must be a certainty or it is nothing at all.

We are all creatures of habit to some extent. We first form our habits which in turn form us. When we have practiced good habits for a while, they become easier and become part of us. Christian behavior consists of good habits. One example of this is the habit of meeting together for worship and fellowship with the people of God. (I have been a Christian for 72 years and have never known a person who habitually absented themselves fi-om the public worship who did not later regret it.)

We are shaped and fashioned by what we love. Love never falls; love gives itself, love is not bought. Love never reasons but gives freely and abundantly, We can give without loving, but we cannot love without giving. Every individual has responsibilities to carry out and influences to exert which are peculiarly their own.[7]


The more we study, the more we discover how little we know and how great the magnitude is of the unknown. In Proverbs 4:7 Solomon says, "Wisdom is the principle thing, therefore, get wisdom and with all thy getting, get understanding." He also says in Proverbs 9: 10, "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." John 8:32 says, "And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free."

Socrates asked, "Where are the wise? Is it because I alone of all the Greeks know that I know nothing?" To be wise in reality is knowing how little we know. It is amazino, how much we have to know before we realize how little we know. Wisdom is a very powerful resource. It involves discipline, diligence, and self-control which provide perspective and strength in coping with life and the unpredietability of circumstances. Accurate knowledge is the basis for correct opinions, and we must study to gain a thorough insight into a subject. The storing or leaning, of facts is the first step, using each fact as a ladder to climb to the sumit. Probability is derived from principles, but truth or certainty is obtained only from facts. We walk by faith, but we must have adequate evidence or it is mere superstition. If we know only one side of a matter, we usually know little of that, and prejudice sees only what it wants to see. It is the reason of foolish people while God's word is the  standard.

The gospel of Christ is the power of God unto salvation. The object of preaching is for teaching and edification. We cannot spare the luxury of believing that all things beautiful are what they seem to be.

We must study the Bible. Some great Americans of the past have expressed their belief in the importance of Bible study. Benjamin Franklin said, "Youtig man, my advice to you is that you cultivate an acquaintance with and have a firm belief in the Holy [8]

Scriptures. I think Christ's system of morals and religion as He left them with us is the best the world ever saw or is fikely to see." Cordell Hull said, "Humanity desperately needs today a moral and spiritual rebirth, a revitafization of religion. There is no sure way to this supreme goal save through adherence to the teachings of the Bible." Abraham Lincoln said concerning the Bible, "I am profitably engaged in reading the Bible. Take all of this Book upon reason that you can and the rest by faith and you will and die a better man." Andrew Jackson said, "That Book is the rock upon which this republic rests."

The Bible is the only source of all Christian truth, the only rule for daily Christian living, and the only book that unfolds the reality of eternity. There is no book fike the Bible for excellent wisdom. It contains more true sublimity, more exquisite beauty and all other books in whatever age or language they may have been written. No writing has ever been found in any age since the beginning of time which did so highly exalt the public good as the Bible. Knowledge of God's Word is more valuable than advanced degrees from institutions of higher learning. Bible truths have the power to awaken intense moral feetings in every human being. They can send a pulse of healthful feeling through all domestic, civil, and social relations. They can teach men to love right and hate wrong and to seek the welfare of others before their own.

The Bible is the greatest blessing bestowed by God on man. It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth for its content. it is all pure, all sincere, lacking nothing. The Bible can be understood in the plain and obvious meanings of its passages. Its true meaning is not a mystery, and the process of interpretation is governed by general principles. God offers man a choice and he must decide whom he will serve. We cannot serve God and mammon. (Matthew 6:24). God has no sons who are not servants. [9]

Living a Christian life means that we must feed the hungry, clothe the naked, visit and cheer the sick, and seek the lost. Christ is the world's only hope of being saved eternally, and the Bible is the only source of all Christian truth. The Bible teaches the best way of living, the noblest way of suffering, and the most comfortable way of dying. Jesus's sermon on the mount was the greatest sermon ever spoken. It is the spiritual 'Sffl of Rights," the 'Magna Carta" of the church. He spoke with authority and His message was clear and concise. The subject is the kingdom of Christ and its righteousness, and it contains a new and higher law -- a law of love.

The Bible contains the mind of God. It is given to us in this life and will be opened at thejudgment. It proclaims the way of salvation, the doom of sinners, and the happiness of believers. Its doctrine is holy, its histories are true, its precepts are binding, and its decisions are immutable. It contains light to guide us, food to support us, and comfort to cheer us. We should read it to be wise and practice it to be holy. Christ is its grand subject, our good is its design and the glory of God is its end. It should fill our memory, rule our heart, and guide our footsteps. it should be read slowly, frequently, and prayeruly. It is one thing to read the Bible through, something else to understand it, and another to do God's will as it is revealed in it.

We must remember that false teaching and the neglect of proper instruction results in apostasy which is always lurking, keeping God's people from serving Him. It has been true in the past and it is still true today. You remember that the days of Joshua were glorious. His influence was so great that "the people served the Lord all the days of Joshua" (Judges 2:7). But then, at the age of one hundred and ten, Joshua died. "And there arose another generation, which knew not the Lord" (Judges 2:10).

One generation served the Lord while the next did not. How swiflly things can change! What brought it all about? The answer is quite simple. Children grew up without proper instruction. Note the order of progression as it related to ancient Israel: [10]

I will scan and post all 42 pages.