David Lipscomb (1912)–More Gems

The octogenarian David Lipscomb, knowing his last years were upon him, intentionally broached subjects and pressed points that he hoped would shape the future of the church. Here are few examples.

Debates Need to End. Lipscomb thought that debates between “Baptists and disciples” needed to change or cease. They needed to stress the commonalities more than the differences. He believed much more united them than divided them.

It has been a growing thought in my mind for some years that the end or purpose of debates among professing Christians should be changed. Now they debate to see how much and how far they differ. Each tries to make the faith of the other look as bad as possible. That is not a kind and fraternal way of treating each other. Doctor Loftin and Brother [F. W.] Smith have been discussing the differences between the disciples and the Baptists. In doing this they were compelled to observe the points of agreement. Without the knowledge of either of them, I propose that they discuss and show the points of agreement between them. They both believe in the Bible as the word of God; in God, the Father; in Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Savior of the world; in the Hooly Spirit, who came to the world to guide men in the paths of salvation. They both believe in faith, repentance and baptism into Christ….The controversy is as to the point at which, in his mind, God forgives the sins of one coming to him. Does man’s knowledge of the point at which God forgives sin hinder or help God in forgiving when the sinner comes to the place in the path of obedience? [1]

General Booth and the Salvation Army. Lipscomb’s preference for the poor is on full display as he comments on the death of William Booth (1829-1912), the founder of the Salvation Army.

But he was not a man to be laughed out of his work. His work was a much-needed, but neglected, work. It was a God-approved work. God has instructed his children to preach to the poor. They were not, are not, doing it. When the world saw Booth, a man of faith and energy and life, engage in the work, they responded promptly to his call and helped forward his work. He has moved the whole religious world on this point of preaching to the poor. That was a needed work. It is a work, an effort in a direction to which all should respond. All should magnify the work of preaching to the poor and helping the needy by all speaking well of, and encouraging in a right way, the work ordained by God. The work of helping and preaching to the poor should be exalted and magnified by the children of God leading in and exalting that work, by Christians doing it in God’s appointed ways and through the provisions he has made. [2]

Humble Obedience. In his continuing war against rebaptism, Lipscomb constantly stressed the nature of true obedience. It was not a matter of perfect or precise understanding but about trust (faith). This piece goes to the heart of his argument against rebaptism. Saving obedience is not about precision, perfection or even fully accurate understanding. It is about the mercy of God.

The letters to the churches show much weakness and many mistakes and wrongs among Christians in the early ages of the church; but not once do we find a person rejected or required to do his work over again for weakness of faith or misunderstanding requirements. To do this is something new under the sun, and is of man, not of God. I had rather go before God realizing my weakness and liability to sin, trusting him for mercy and pardon, than to go relying upon my good understanding and obedience to the perfect will of God. I hope and trust to be saved, not by the fullness and correctness of my understanding of God’s will, but by his love and mercy to all who want to serve him. [3]

“Poor in Spirit” the Key to Unity. This comment is from 1911 but it dovetails with the previous point. Again in conversation with Rebaptists, he stressed that their sectarianism is destroying not only the unity of God’s people but undermining the priority of faith.

The first prerequisite for entrance into the kingdom of God is, one should feel ‘poor in spirit.’ He must feel his own lack of spiritual power or resources before he can come to God in an acceptable spirit, in a spirit that God will accept. The spirit that feels its poverty, its helplessnesses, its need of guidance and strength, is the one that God looks on with pity and compassion and is willing to lift up and guide.”

We have pleaded for the union of Christians. Our work has been felt. Are we fit to still lead on in this work? While emphasizing truths connected with this union, have not we become sectarian ourselves? Many have espoused a common sectarianism with the churches around us [the Disciples of Christ, JMH]. Are not many others moving into a sectarianism in opposition to others [the Rebaptists, JMH]? Let us be humble and faithful, looking to God for help and guidance, and not be self-sufficient.

‘For remission,’ or ‘into the remission of sins,’ occupying its God-given place among other blessings leading to obedience, is a wholesome doctrine, full of comfort and blessing; but, taking out of it place and exalted above other blessings and favors promised by God, it becomes a party ensign and hinders rather than helps forward the union of God’s people and the salvation of the world. God makes all of his truths helpful in leading men forward in the work of salvation, yet he demands that his requirements should all be treated alike, each occupying the place assigned it by God himself. To exalt one promise or one duty above another is to mutilate and subvert the plan of salvation and hinder rather than help to save man. Faith in Jesus Christ as the great, leading, far-reaching principle that molds the life and leads to and helps every act of service, God has placed before and above all other services of man. The acts of obedience that grow out of faith, as fruits of faith, come in to complete and finish the character and life of the believer, and to fit it for a home with God. [4]

Overemphasis on Baptism? What does it mean to preach the Word? Lipscomb saw among his contemporaries some dangerous tendencies and he called them back to the fundamentals of Christianity—the Sermon on the Mount. Once again, for Lipscomb, the gospel is not simply the death and resurrection of Jesus, it is the good news of the kingdom breaking into the world to transform lives as into the image of Christ.

Every spiritual system as a standard of excellence to which it proposes to bring man….The Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5, 6, 7) gives the theory and rules of life to attain that standard. The principles laid down in the Sremon on the Mount, lived up to as Jesus did, would produce the life he lived….That Sermon is the perfection and consummation of the gospel of God to the world. To teach and preach these truths and principles to man is to bring the gospel in its fullness to man

There is no virtue in believing, repenting, and being baptized unto the remission of sins, and then doing nothing to left up and help men as Jesus labored to help them. Nothing short of the full life of Christ as an example and help to man is the gospel. How few of us realize this truth! When we preach faith, repentance, and baptism, we satisfy ourselves and teach others that we have preached the gospel, and those who act on these teaching think that they have obeyed the gospel. Hence the immense number who come into the church and imagine their salvation is secure and do nothing more. Young men often come to the Bible School and want to get up sermons that will enable them to debate with the sects. To qualify a young man to debate with the sects is nine times out of ten to make him a sectarian. Having truth does not hinder sectarianism. A man may hold the truth, not in the love of it; he may hold it to build up his party, not to honor God and save sinners. Sectarianism is sinful whether it is based on the truth or not. Training young preachers to debate is not to educate them in the needed Bible teaching. Often it is hurtful to a young man’s usefulness and his after life to make a debater of him. The debating spirit is often not the Christian spirit. The spirit that suffers and stands steadfast unto the end is the one that God [5]

The more I read Lipscomb the more I appreciate his heart for the poor, the humility of his spirit, his earnest desire to obey God in every thing, and his hatred of sectarianism. 


[1] David Lipscomb, “A New Discussion Proposed,” Gospel Advocate 54 (19 Dec 1912) 1377.

[2] David Lipscomb, “General Booth,” Gospel Advocate 54 (19 Sept 1912) 1049

[3] David Lipscomb, “God is Best Pleased with the Humblest and Most Obedient Trust in Him,” Gospel Advocate 54 (30 May 1912) 671.

[4] David Lipscomb, “Religious People Hard to Move,” Gospel Advocate 53 (2 March 1911) 268-69.

[5] David Lipscomb, “’Preach the Word,’ Gospel Advocate 53 (25 May 1911) 587, 590.

6 Responses to “David Lipscomb (1912)–More Gems”

  1.   K. Rex Butts Says:

    There is one issue that I know on which I disagree with Lipscomb but there is so much I am in agreement with him. And hhooowww much I wish our fellowship would listen to him more, then and now.

    Grace and peace,


  2.   rich constant Says:

    the more i have been beating my head on rom.8-11 the more i come to the conclusion that most of my life has been one of debate, and the charactor attributes assosated with that type of teaching.
    remember thir sins and lawless deeds no more
    i pray almost every day that god helps refine me into the likeness of his son.
    self righteousness of the “get it right”
    being replaced by faith that a merciful god raised his son from the dead according to scripture that i might have HOPE in His promise of LIFE.


    blessings to you john mark and all.
    as we enter these next few days.

  3.   John Mark Hicks Says:

    Thanks for your encouragement, Rich. I appreciate your focus and interest.

  4.   WesWoodell Says:

    Very interesting. Especially the ‘overemphasis on baptism’ part.

  5.   Gardner Says:

    I suppose our challenge is the same as Lipscomb’s – to have a merciful and humble spirit in dealing with those with whom we disagree, without giving any aid or sympathy to their teachings, such as Calvinism, that have confused and disoriented people for centuries.

  6.   rich constant Says:

    now then …
    john mark
    IF you TRULY appreciate my focus(?)and interest.
    teach me Calvinism in a Root conceptial way that EVEN I CAN GET…
    now mind you i not trying to use twist your words…

    hows that for a twisted aginda Gardner.. 🙂

    blessings all

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