As I continue to study and think about the Texas, Tennessee and Indiana Traditions within Churches of Christ in the first decades of the 20th century, I have been reading through the Gospel Advocate in those early years of the last century. I thought I would provide a sampling of what has interested me in the editorials of David Lipscomb in his 81st year of life. Here are few “gems.”
Opposing the Rebaptists of Texas. Lipscomb is still very much concerned about the sectarianism of the rebaptist position. He wrote several articles at the beginning of 1912 on the question. In one he thought the rebaptist position begat extremes among the Baptists and that Baptists and disciples had much more in common than different in their understanding of baptism. When a Baptist was accused by a Rebaptist of denying certain truths about baptism, Lipscomb thought it “imaginary” (remember that Lipscomb was a former Baptist himself).
None such ever occurred or will occur. Especially is this true in places and communities where the Bapitst have not had to struggle with the misrepresentations of our rebaptist friends. One extreme begets another, and the rebaptist extreme leads to this Baptist extreme. The two extremes lead to restrictions of both parties.
Rebaptists believed that one had to have a precise understanding that baptism was the moment of salvation (“for the remission of sins”) as a condition for the validity of the baptism. Lipscomb opposed this. One of the common arguments made by Rebaptists was that just as one had to understand the design of the Lord’s Supper to authentically participate, so one had to understand the design of baptism to experience authentic baptism. Lipscomb addressed this point in a poignant way that drew the argument into the larger world of how God deals with humanity in their weaknesses.
The example [the disciples at the Last Supper, JMH] is not very flattering to humanity, but one that very strongly commends to us the love and condescension of God. It invites us to love and humility, condescension and helpfulness, to the poverty and needs of humanity. Let us look in kindness and pity on human mistakes and infirmities and bless and help as we need help and blessing. The forbearing, humble, helpful spirit that leads us to help the weak, forbear with the ignorant, and lend an uplifting and helping hand to every child of mortality is as much a part, and a vital part, of the religion of Jesus as the belief of any proposition or truth connected with that religion. Man is much more intolerant and ready to condemn and repel the children of men from the helps and privileges of gospel truth than God is. Let one take the mental and moral condition of those who partook of the first Supper under the direction of Jesus and compare them with the intelligence and standing of those they reject and repel [those immersed to obey God, JMH], and he must feel the inconsistency. Our mission and work is to bury and hide shortcoming and imperfections in faith and life, and, while teaching the will of God as he gave it, to encourage the weakest and most feeble to walk in his ways as he has given it and as far as they understand it. The work of Jesus in the ordination of the Supper is often as much violated and set as naught as the rights of those who believe baptism is for the remission of sins. Let us cherish and walk in the spirit of Christ. Both Baptists and many disciples are sinful in their exclusiveness in religion.
The Sermon on the Mount. In a couple of series on the “religion of Jesus,” Lipscomb concentrates on the Sermon on the Mount. According to Lipscomb, ”our present and eternal peace depend upon doing what God commands in this Sermon.” There were many interesting observations in his articles. But I thought this one particularly noteworthy as it contrasted with what the Texas and Indian Traditions stressed–and a growing number in the regions of Tennessee.
The mission of Jesus into the world was to bring the world back under the dominion or rule of God, into his kingdom, under his rule or authority. This was the end or purpose of the mission of Jesus….So they were to pray, ‘Thy kingdom come,”—that his rule or dominion on earth be established. Many looking at this from its bearing on the teachings of this age conclude this prayer now should not be made. Those persons confuse the opening or establishment of the kingdom with its dominion, rule, or completion of its work of bringing the whole world under the authority and rule of God. The establishiment of the kingdom of God in the world and the completion or end of that work are two wholly different things or ends. So long as the world or any part of the human family are not in the kingdom of God and not in obedience to his law this petition may and should be humbly made for God to aid and bless the children of God in subjecting the world to him….When God’s will is done on earth as it is done in heaven, it will change the earth of woe and suffering into a heaven of bliss and joy.
Hermeneutics–The Function of the Gospels. One of the more surpsing but invigorating articles by Lipscomb was his discussion of the role of the Gospels, Acts and Epistles in New Testament theology. While many divide the New Testament at Acts 2 and derive their ecclesiology from Acts and the Epistles, Lipscomb insisted on the centrality of the ministry and teachings of Jesus in the Gospels. Hold on to your hat for this one.
To object to what Jesus psoke and made known before his death is to attack the genuiness and validity of any will from him. Jesus himself said: ‘The law and the prophets were until John: from that time the gospel of the kingdom of God is preached, and every man entereth violently into it.” (John [sic; but he means Luke, JMH] 16:16.) Those who fix the reign or law of Jesus Christ after the death of Christ need to study the teachings of Jesus.
All that Jesus Christ spoke or gave to the world consitituted a portion of the will of Jesus that went into effect after his death…The laws of Jesus Christ are given in the sayings and teachings of Christ recorded in the four biographies of Christ. [Yes, you read that correctly, JMH]
The law is given in the personal teachings of Jesus. The Acts of Apostles and the Epistles are the applications by inspired teachers of the king to the churches and the applications of the Bible to the facts of life as they arise in the world [occasionality? JMH]. These applications and exemplifications of the truths of the Bible to the workings of the world greatly help in the study of the Bible by the common people. But there is not a truth or a thought in the application of these parables that is not in the teaching of Jesus…Jesus is the lawgiver. The whole law of God to the world is taught by him. The Acts of the Apostles and Epistles explain what the teachings mean, but they do not add to or detract from them. A change or modification in the teachings of Jesus would be treason against him and God.
That is just a taste. More to come at another time.
 David Lipscomb, “Difference between Baptists and Disciples,” Gospel Advocate 54 (4 January 1912) 17
 David Lipscomb, “Jesus Christ and the Rebaptists,” Gospel Advocate 54 (11 January 1912) 45, 49.
 David Lipscomb, “The Religion of Christ Made Easy. No. 4,” Gospel Advocate 54 (28 March 1912) 401.
 David Lipscomb, “The Religion of Christ Made Easy,” Gospel Advocate 54 (7 March 1912) 305.
 David Lipscomb, “When Was the Will of Christ Made?” Gospel Advocate 54 (2 May 1912) 554.