Passing The Baton

June 24, 2024
Jim Comte

Excitement is building as the eyes of the world will soon be focused on the athletes as they gather in Paris for the XXXIII Summer Olympics. Some athletes, particularly those on the US Men’s and Women’s 4 x 100 relay teams, will not want to repeat the disaster of the 2008 Beijing Olympics. During those games, runners on both teams dropped the baton in the hand-off, and their teams failed to advance. All hope of winning a gold medal was shattered. Shock, disappointment, and disbelief shook the runners and those watching.

Several years ago, a brother wrote me with this challenging comment. “What baton are we passing on to the next generation? They must understand the great doctrines of the faith including the biblical truths of the Church.” Sadly, in too many circles, the baton of “the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” is not being passed on to the next generation (Jude 3). Because of this, many are not established in the precious truths of God’s Word. Floundering in their lives personally and spiritually, they are being “tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting” (Eph. 4:14). The challenge is great and there are no easy answers. How can we pass on the baton of foundational truth and the principles of the New Testament Church to the next generation?

In his book “Come Before Winter” Chuck Swindoll writes, “We are moving toward an era similar to the Dark Ages . . . when copies of the Scriptures were chained to the pulpit in the secret language of the clergy . . . when the public was kept stone ignorant of the life-changing teachings of the truth. But I see one difference. In those days biblical ignorance was forced . . . in our day it is voluntary. Therein lies the saddest fact of all.”

In writing his first letter to young Timothy, Paul dealt primarily with the issues of false doctrine and Church principles. He closes his letter with these memorable and powerful words, “O Timothy! Guard what was committed to your trust, avoiding the profane and idle (empty) babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge – by professing it some have strayed concerning the faith. Grace be with you. Amen” (1 Tim. 6:20-21). There are two words that stand out in these verses – “guard” and “committed.”

Guard is “a banking term, indicating a treasure entrusted to the bank for safe keeping” (The Pastoral Epistles, Homes A. Kent, Jr.). Paul exhorted young Timothy to guard “what was committed to your trust.” This is in reference to the gospel, but in a broader sense, it refers to the doctrines of the Christian faith and Church principles.

Committed suggests “to bind as a promise or pledge” and a “dedication to a long course of action.” These precious truths have been entrusted to us and need to be safeguarded and passed on to the next generation. This is in opposition to the heresy and worthless speculation of false teachers, “avoiding the profane and idle babblings and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge.” I have put this note in the margin of my Bible, “Humanistic philosophies masquerading as truth or science falsely so called.” This falsely named “knowledge” claims to be superior knowledge but is in fact an affront to genuine spiritual knowledge. Sadly, the Word of God is manipulated to teach these humanistic philosophies.

Throughout my life, I have seen many who have defected from the local assembly to attend bigger and “better” places, where the “needs of the family could be met.” But have we ever questioned why this is? Many years ago, our family attended a vibrant, growing assembly where we were being “built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, In whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit” (Eph. 2:20-22). During those early and formative years, we grew in our appreciation of foundational New Testament Church truth because our elders wisely sought to pass on the baton of truth.

Two or three times a year the elders invited various brethren for a one-week series of ministry meetings, brethren like David Long, J. Boyd Nicholson, Frederick Tatford, and others. The elders would suggest that certain foundational truths be taught, as well as New Testament Church Principles. I remember David Long taking up the Kenosis Theory, “Did Christ empty Himself of His Deity?” Dr. Tatford often spoke on prophetic subjects.

One thing troubling believers at that time was the resurgence of “The Charismatic Movement.” Some assemblies lost attendees and some assemblies divided, never to recover. During this time, our elders made certain the “Doctrine of the Holy Spirit” was systematically taught by local brethren as well as having special meetings that focused on the “tongues movement and faith healing.” Our assembly did not lose a single person.

The elders wisely dealt with these truths, “for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ…that we should no longer be children tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting” (Eph. 4:12, 14).

During this time, I was directing the Youth Camp and remember walking down to the beach in the afternoon. I could not believe it! There was a good-sized group of young people sitting there with open Bibles discussing some of the truths they had been learning.
Our assembly sought to pass the baton of developing gift. From time to time, they wrote up an outline of an epistle and passed it out to the assembly. They asked various men, some who had never taken part publicly, to open the subject for 15 minutes at the mid-week meeting. A conversational study followed their opening. I remember that we were studying Ephesians and a young brother in his early 20’s was asked to speak from Ephesians 1:15-23. This was his first time speaking publicly. We were amazed at the gift he had, and how well he spoke. Because of this experience, he went on to develop his gift. It was not a “perfect assembly” but what assembly is? The elders at that time sought to pass on the baton of developing gift and establishing the believers in the faith.

Several years ago, a brother shared with me that at one time it was “The Vertical Church” – from God to His people. But now it is “The Horizontal Church” – “what is in it for me?” In Jude’s day, apostasy had set in, and he urged the believers to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). Jude was greatly concerned about the problems facing believers and spoke with force and authority warning them of subversive teachers. We ought to be concerned too. In The New Tolerance the author writes: “The surrender of the Christian church to the ideas and ideals of the new tolerance has begun in earnest and is proceeding with frightening speed…” (Josh MacDowell and Bob Hostetler, p. 174).

Are we passing on the batons of Foundational Truths, New Testament Church Principles, Christian Living, Gospel Preaching, etc.? The challenge is great in this Laodicean age. It is not an easy task, but these precious truths need to be entrusted to the next generation for safe keeping.
Are we passing on the baton of a biblical family? Sometime ago, I heard of a missionary family who were home on furlough. One Lord’s Day morning someone asked the wife where her husband and son were. She replied, “Oh, he is taking him fishing this morning.” What example did this father just pass on to his son? God is not important; the church is not important, but fishing is?

Parents, do you have a daily family devotion time with your children? More than ever, families need this time together. Also, when you enjoy a meal together, make time to talk to your children about their day. In one family a three-year old girl quoted to me Psalm 23 and John 3:16 with a few helps. This indicated that their family was spending time in the Word together.

“And you, fathers, do not provoke your children to wrath, but bring them up in the training and admonition of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4). This responsibility is primarily placed in the father’s lap. Our youth are being bombarded from every side. The assembly is only as strong as the family unit. Fathers do not abdicate your responsibility. Are you a wise and godly leader in your home? Parents, do your children ever see you praying and reading God’s Word? There is a huge but necessary responsibility to pass on this baton to succeeding generations.

Several years ago, a brother spoke at the Toronto Easter Conference on “The Company of the Committed” from Mark 8:34-38, where the Lord challenged His disciples to “take up his cross and follow Me” (v.34). He mentioned that there are three concentric circles pertaining to disciples in the Word of God:

  1. Curious Disciples – How many believers today are shallow and uncommitted in their spiritual lives? They never seem to mature.
  2. Convinced Disciples – How many Christians today are convinced of scriptural truth but are too involved with the cares of this life and the deceitfulness of riches to be involved?
  3. Committed Disciples – These are needed as never before. Paul challenged young Timothy, and may he challenge our own hearts, “This charge I commit to you, son Timothy.” What was the charge? “that…you may wage the good warfare” (1 Tim. 1:18).

Lastly, the aged Paul reminds him, “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2). Paul wisely passed on the baton of truth to the next generation. The challenge remains, “What baton are we passing on to the next generation?” Let us not fumble it!