I recently heard an interesting lecture by Alan Highers about some lessons we can learn from Restoration history (http://bit.ly/1AgrDub). The lecture included a number of engrossing and inspiring stories. One such story had been relayed to Brother Highers by G.C. Brewer, a great gospel preacher, about an event from his early preaching days:
(Image from the cover of The Christian Youth 2.11 [October, 1912]).
There was a time in American church history when, if a gospel preacher went into a community to hold a gospel meeting, he would be challenged by various religionists in the area. (Debates were much more common then.) When G.C. Brewer was holding a gospel meeting at Liberty Hill in Walker County, Alabama, he visited the local general store. The folks at the store soon realized that Brewer was the young, visiting preacher. One man wanted to ridicule the Bible’s teaching on baptism, and asked Brewer if he had read Acts 18:8, which reads: “Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord, together with his entire household. And many of the Corinthians hearing Paul believed and were baptized.” The man then said to Brewer, “If you will tell me where the Bible says that Crispus was ever baptized, I will give you my horse and buggy.” The folks at the store chuckled, thinking that they had the young preacher “on the run.” Brewer replied by asking, “Will you read First Corinthians 1:14?” The passage says, “I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius.” The opponents of the truth were surprised and embarrassed that Crispus, the very person about whom they made the challenge, was said specifically to have been baptized.
Of course, Brother Brewer didn’t take the horse and buggy.
The point, of course, is not that we should study the Bible merely in order to win arguments or so that we can impress our friends and neighbors. Rather, we need to be ready to give an answer for our hope (1 Peter 3:15) and build our confidence in the truth of the Gospel (Romans 1:16). As Brother Highers points out, the two passages that Brewer put together also show that the word “believe” is used in a comprehensive sense in the New Testament. The word translated “belief” or “faith” (pistis) connotes trust and leads so directly to obedience that it may be used to stand for compliance with the will of God. (The Greek word pistis means “persuasion, i.e., credence; moral conviction” (Strong’s Concordance). Faith without works of obedience is dead (James 2:17).