[color=#0000FF" size="3" face="times]Now you may never have heard of the "Five-Finger Exercise," but that is only because you have not heard or read the message of the change agents at work among us. It is one of their favorite points of ridicule when they are trying to discredit those churches of Christ that are not willing to march in their parade.
They are referring to an illustration or way of teaching first used by Walter Scott and by many other preachers since his day. It was in 1827 that young Walter Scott was sent forth by the churches of the Mahoning Association to evangelize in the Western Reserve. Without funds for paid advertising of his meetings, Scott would visit school houses and ask permission to speak to the children. To get his message safely home to their parents, he would have them hold up their hands and repeat after him. He promised he would teach folks about faith, repentance, baptism, remission of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Each finger would represent one of these five steps of salvation. So effective was Scott's preaching and his simple method that thousands of other men have use some variation of it ever since. It is impossible to calculate the thousands who have been saved after seeing this illustration in their time of instruction.
Now a new generation of preachers has arisen who have scanty bible knowledge and are abysmally ignorant and unappreciative of our past history. Desirous of being looked upon and accepted as respectable denominationalists, they ridicule Scott's simple illustration and make light of those who believe and teach that Christ has set forth five conditions of salvation.
Because the Bible declares it, we believe and teach that (1). Without faith it is impossible to be well pleasing unto God (Heb. 11:6); (2). That faith comes from hearing the word of Christ (Rom. 10:17); (3). That God commands all men every where to repent (Acts 17:30); (4). That to be saved we must confess Christ (Matt. 10:32); (5). That baptism is prerequisite to receiving remission of sins (Acts 2:38). After attending denominational seminaries or filling their minds with denominational literature, change agents have been persuaded that such simple biblical teachings are old fashioned and unsuited for theologians such as themselves and sophisticated postmoderns. They prefer the doctrines of Luther and Calvin that offer salvation by grace through faith, before baptism. Some wonder if baptism is really a necessary factor in man's salvation? How can they introduce their new gospel and new ideas about salvation to an audience that long ago learned and still believes that Christ ordained those five basic steps to salvation? They try to shake their belief by poking fun at and ridiculing the illustration. They scorn those they sneeringly call "Five Steppers." They imply that all who hold this view of salvation or use this method of teaching are really ignorant and outdated for our postmodern world.
The fact is, those change agents who ridicule Scott's illustration will not win in their life time the number of souls the famous evangelist won in a year. Using his homely illustration he was winning and baptizing up to 1,000 souls per year. He planted scores of new congregations made up of those he won to Christ. For the simple message of salvation revealed in the New Testament, change agents would substitute a human doctrine which proposes but a part of what Christ's apostles taught about the matter. "By grace have ye been saved through faith" is certainly a true statement (Eph. 2:8-9), but it is not the sum of what the Holy Spirit has said on the subject of salvation!
We do not say that Bro. Scott's five finger illustration is inspired, but the truth it conveyed is. You can still use it in explaining to your neighbor what God expects him to do to be saved. You can use the faulty message of the change agents and leave your neighbor unprepared to meet God. [/color]
John Waddey, Editor
Christianity: Then and Now