By Tom L. Ballinger
Like a team of mountain climbers, Bible students are trekking, steadily, upward to the dazzling heights of Biblical truth. However, some Bible-mountaineers halt their assent at certain heights for various reasons. The greatest danger they face, however, is not ascending to the higher peaks, but in turning back to the safety of their base camp.
Some want-to-be Bible-mountaineers leave their established base camp, whether it is Acts 2, or Acts 9, or Acts 13, or even Acts 18, and venture upward, fearful of what they might discover. Some of these timid souls―with trepidation, undertake the climb upward, hoping to view the panorama which Acts 28 offers. Once arriving at this breath-taking height, they immediately view it with joy, but just like the stony-ground-hearers in the parable of the sower, they have no root in themselves, endure the glorious view for awhile but when tribulation, or persecution arises because of the Word, by-and-by, they are offended, and they scramble back to their base camp where there is safety in numbers.
As Biblical-mountaineers, in order to “go on,” we must “let go.”
“Therefore leaving (letting go) the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection: not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands. And of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment ” (Hebrews 6:1-2).
Philippians 3:8: “Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss (the letting go) of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may (go on to) win Christ.”
We lose in order to gain. Forgetting where we are, we press on and upward. On any mountain climb, those who seek the summits know that the higher you climb, the fewer who will go with you. Those who have scaled to the summit of Mount Everest start the trek with many on the team. But, only two or three persevere to the peak.
My assent as a Bible-mountaineer began in 1968, venturing upward from a base camp of Acts 9 - the higher I went, many of my fellow-climbers fell away. They found more comfort and fellowship at the base camp.
The great mountaineers of the past, who scaled the heights of dispensational truth, blazed the trail for many of us, not only to follow, but to build upon. Often, the student goes beyond what his mentors have taught, and that’s how it should be. A true mentor would never instruct his students to “go no further than I’ve gone” in pursuit of the truth. No organization, or no man, has a monopoly on Biblical truth. Personally, I have learned many things from some Bible students with whom I don’t agree on many matters.
By God’s grace, we should try to be an honest seeker of truth. If we desire to be an honest seeker of truth, we reserve the absolute right to change, clarify, advance, or add to any idea we have ever set forth as being the truth. As a Bible-mountaineer, we should ever be seeking higher ground. Perhaps, some would say this is restlessness, but I would say this is moving from faith-to-faith. If we are mountaineers, trekking upward and onward, we must be willing to let go - change, clarify, advance, or add to any idea we hold. We shouldn’t let any doctrine become so precious to us that we are unwilling to let go when we are given additional light.
Dr. E. W. Bullinger certainly followed this precept. “If anyone would know what I believe upon a subject, he must find out what I believe now.”
We should keep in mind, as those who are scaling peaks of Bible truths, that we will never “get it all.” Remember what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13:12, “For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.” Many Biblical-mountaineers arrive at certain elevations and imagine, “I have arrived.”
We should never think, “we’ve arrived.” Notice what Paul, the pattern-man, said: “Brethren, I count not myself to have [arrived] apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting [letting go of] those things which are behind, and reaching forth [going on] unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you” (Philippians 3:13-15). What a challenging piece of advice!
In plainer words, we need to keep-on-keeping-on. Or, as the old hymn says, “I’m pressing on the upward way, new heights I’m gaining everyday.”
There is danger in drawing back.
Hebrews 10:38-39: “Now the just shall live by faith: but if any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him. But we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul.”
“Beware lest any man spoil [rob] you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the traditions of men, after the rudiments of the world …” (Colossians 2:8).
“Let no man beguile you of your reward …”(Colossians 2:18).
At the time Paul wrote 2 Timothy, all men had forsaken him and his testimony as the Lord’s prisoner - only Demas was named. Demas drew back, having loved this present world. Only Luke was with him.
Demas was a picture of a mountaineer who trekked along with Paul, only to draw back. He didn’t like the isolation of being with a man of God who the Christians, of that day, turned against. Demas retreated back to base camp. He loved the fellowship and security which traditional Christianity provided. Not the scorn and isolation which surrounded the testimony of our Lord and His prisoner.
It would seem that Demas bought into the idea that Paul was out of the will of God. As Bible-mountaineers, we, too, should expect no better than what the Apostle Paul experienced ─ not personal, physical persecution ─ but the persecution of silence and whispers.
Our sufficiency is in Christ Jesus. Our fellowship is with Him.
The first step of faith is taken personally and individually. As the walk begins, moving from faith-to-faith, God steps in and walks with us, leading and guiding us. He keeps showing the way as long as we acknowledge what He shows us (Ephesians 1:17). The acknowledging of the truth (2 Timothy 2:25) keeps us from the snare of the devil. Keep on acknowledging and pressing on and upward—while we await the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13).