February 20, 2013 by jmar198013
–Calvin Luther Edwards III, contributing editor for the Phinehas Page—
Last week, I attended the sixty-ninth annual “Full Armor of God” Lectureship, hosted by the Doogood Avenue First United Primitive Christian Church in Memphis. I had never been to a “Full Armor” lectureship before, but as I took my place last Sunday evening among the estimated three-hundred-and-twelve faithful brethren who filed into the massive, chandelier-lit auditorium for the opening ceremonies, I could feel quite a buzz of anticipation swelling amongst the other attendees. One of your charismatic types might attribute this sensation to the impending arrival of the Holy Spirit, but of course, we in the true church know that the Spirit doesn’t do like that anymore. He singed the apostles’ hair at Pentecost two thousand years ago, whispered some strict guidelines in their ears for them to write down, and then went back to heaven, where he belongs. No, we knew it wasn’t the Spirit–we weren’t expecting to see tongues of fire over anyone’s head or hear folks speaking in strange tongues (unless, of course, you consider 1901 ASV English or koine Greek as parsed by brother O. D. Gypsum a strange tongue). We came to hear all the liberals and digressives roasted over the fires of righteous indignation that had been lit under brother Merle Olley, head of the Department of Biblical Studies at Steed-Ramrick University in Cortez, TN, the keynote speaker for the evening.
Brother Olley was speaking on the subject “Grace: Who Needs It?” He said that God was more gracious than we could ever imagine just by sending Jesus that one time (per Titus 2.11-15), and we really shouldn’t expect him to go on being gracious every time we sin.
“Now I know that some of our so-called ‘progressive’ or ‘grace-centered’ brethren–men such as Mack Baldato in Abilene, or Strudel Harrison in Nashville, or P. Beauregard Jones in Malibu, are trying to tell you that God is love and what really matters is that we love one another. And I suppose they’re partly right. But brothers and sisters, I have news for you, and for them: 1 John is not the only book in the Bible! The book of Hebrews, chapter 12 and verse 29 says that God is a consuming fire! By their logic, since God is fire, we ought to set one another on fire, since God is love, so we ought to love one another.”
“Amen!” croaked a small man with a large hearing aid, who was sitting beside me.
“Sssssshhhhssshhhh!” hissed his wife, nearly losing her dentures.
A fat boy in a sharp suit waddled up to where we were sitting and whispered forcefully at the old man who’d said “Amen”: “Anymore outbursts like that and you’ll be asked to leave.”
Brother Olley continued this way: “See, God’s only just so gracious. You know John 3:16, that God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have e-ternal life!” Brother Olley’s delivery of that verse was rapid-fire; he can quote Scripture with the speed and force of a machine gun. “Now that’s all the grace a man or woman could ever need, folks!” He concluded, “And there’ll be no repeat performance of that, Hebrews 9:25-28. Essentially, the message of the Gospel is that we’ve gotten all the grace we’re going to get, so stop messing up! Or what? Should we continue in sin, so that grace may abound, Romans 6:1? Certainly not, because there’s no more grace to be gotten!”
This was met with thunderous applause. A couple of old ladies even whistled through their teeth. Brother Olley’s lecture sure made an impression on all of us. Caleb Coolidge, who writes for one of our monthly journals, New Testament Christianity Today, was supposed to be leading a group singing after Brother Olley’s lecture, but instead of singing, he got up there and looked out at us in a very sober manner and said, “Please secure a hymnal, an inkpad, and a rubber stamp from the back of the pew in front of you.” We did this, and then he said, “We need to put stamps on all songs that mention God’s grace.” The stamps were designed to look like those Surgeon General’s warnings on cigarette packages. They said, Warning: Singing this hymn may destroy your spiritual health. And thus “Amazing Grace” was blotted out of the hymnal. “Grace Greater Than My Sin,” gone. “His Grace Reaches Me,” disappeared. By the time we had finished putting stamps on all the songs that mentioned grace, there were no more songs left to sing, most of the others having been stamped out of circulation years ago. Well, there was one song left that was safe to sing. It was glued into the front cover of the songbooks: “The True Church,” by Brother Enos Crump, the greatest hymnist in our brotherhood (then again, there’ve only been about three or four to speak of). We made the rafters of the Doogood Ave. church building’s auditorium ring, singing, to the tune of the “Doxology”:
The true church is the only one
that honors God’s beloved Son.
The Gospel only we obey,
and instruments we do not play.
We must have sung that song ten times in a row. Of course, we probably would have sung ten different songs, but since brother Olley’s preaching opened our eyes to the truth about grace, we knew that we would be putting our souls in jeopardy if we sang any of the others.