The Golden Isles church of Christ

Weekly Bulletin

Volume 3, Number 3

January 19, 2003

Does Everyone Have a Right to His Own Belief?

by Mike Johnson


The answer to the above question is in one sense YES, but in another sense is NO.

To begin with, consider the question from a "constitutional" or "legal" standpoint. One does have a right to his own belief in matters of religion according to the law. One can believe in God if he wants to, or he can be an atheist. An individual can believe what he wants about the Bible; the government does not force us into a particular religious belief or doctrine, and we can be thankful for this.

On the other hand, does a man have the right to believe what he wants to before God? Can a person believe whatever he pleases with God's approval and without any consequences? The answer to this question is NO. In this sense, people do not have a right to believe what they want. Something must be authorized in God's Word for us to have a right to believe it or practice it.

Consider some Old Testament cases. Eve, for example did not have a right to believe what she wanted. She believed a lie, partook for the fruit, and was expelled from the garden (Gen. 3). Nadab and Abihu could not believe what they wanted either. They offered "strange fire" before God and consequently were killed (Lev. 10).

In the New Testament, we read where it is possible to believe a lie and be lost. II Thessalonians 2:11-12 says, "and for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: that they all might be damned who believe not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness." Thus, in view of the fact that one can believe a lie and be lost, it can be said that what one believes is important.

In John 8:31-32, Jesus said, "If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed: and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." Jesus also warned his disciples (Mt. 16:6) to " . . . beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and of the Sadducees." He was talking, according to verse 12, about the "doctrine" of these groups. Why this warning if a person can believe a false doctrine without consequences?

Further, Jesus pointed out that if people teach for doctrines the commands of men that they are worshiping God in a vain matter (Mt. 15:6-9), and that every plant not planted by His heavenly Father will be rooted up (Mt. 15:12-14).

II John 9-11 makes it very clear that what we believe is important and that people do not have a right to their own belief. Here John said, "Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds." We must abide in the "doctrine" or "teaching" of Christ. If we do not, we do not have God. Can a person who "does not have God" be saved?

In II Timothy 2, Paul spoke of two false teachers -- Hymenaeus and Philetus. He said (v. 17-18) that their word would eat as doth a canker, and that they had erred from the truth. The doctrine which they taught was that the "resurrection is past already" and they had "overthrown the faith of some." Was it important what these two men believed about the resurrection? How about those whose faith had been overthrown? It was important what they believed and taught!

f what one believes is not important, then why does the New Testament spend so much time condemning false doctrine? Consider the book of Galatians. If one's religious beliefs and practices are not important, please answer the following questions.

1. Why was Paul concerned about the Galatians being "removed from the gospel?" (1:6-9)

2. Why was Paul concerned about false brethren? (2:4)

3. Why did Paul withstand Peter to the face? (2:11)

4. Why was Paul concerned that the Galatians had ceased to "obey the truth?" (2:11)

5. Why did he say that some of the Galatians had fallen from grace? (5:4)

Yes, from a constitutional standpoint, we do have a right to our own belief, but that does not mean that God allows us to believe whatever we want. We must not confuse the two areas. Those who please God must abide in the doctrine of Christ.

Are Men Allowed to Have Long Hair Today?

by Mark J. Ward


To take a "page" from the approach that our good brother Mike Johnson took in his article elsewhere in this issue of The Bulletin, the answer to the above question, in one sense is YES, but in another sense is NO.

We have so many freedoms today in this great land in which we live. Freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, freedoms that some folks in other nations don’t even get to enjoy, even in 2003! But our question, listed in the title to this article, is not really concerned with whether or not a man today will be arrested by the civil government, for example, for having long hair. We are concerned with what God’s Word has to say about the matter.

If God’s Word teaches that it is wrong for man to have long hair, what should our attitude be toward that instruction? In I Corinthians 11:1-16, we have the following instruction from God, "1 Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ. 2 Now I praise you because you remember me in everything and hold firmly to the traditions, just as I delivered them to you. 3 But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ. 4 Every man who has something on his head while praying or prophesying disgraces his head. 5 But every woman who has her head uncovered while praying or prophesying disgraces her head, for she is one and the same as the woman whose head is shaved. 6 For if a woman does not cover her head, let her also have her hair cut off; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, let her cover her head. 7 For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man. 8 For man does not originate from woman, but woman from man; 9 for indeed man was not created for the woman's sake, but woman for the man's sake. 10 Therefore the woman ought to have a symbol of authority on her head, because of the angels. 11 However, in the Lord, neither is woman independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. 12 For as the woman originates from the man, so also the man has his birth through the woman; and all things originate from God. 13 Judge for yourselves: is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? 14 Does not even nature itself teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a dishonor to him, 15 but if a woman has long hair, it is a glory to her? For her hair is given to her for a covering. 16 But if one is inclined to be contentious, we have no other practice, nor have the churches of God." (NASB)

In light of these verses, isn’t it plain how God feels about man having long hair? Is there any scripture in the New Testament that would authorize man to have long hair? Let’s search the scriptures, read, meditate and reflect on them, and then make proper application in our lives. Thanks for reading. mjw

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