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G. C. Brewer on Grace


In 1946 Roy Key of Juneau, Alaska caused a small stir with his article "The Righteousness of God" in the January 24 issue of the Gospel Advocate. It promoted "some ideas," one reader wrote, "that I have not been accustomed to hearing." As a result, G. C. Brewer took up his pen to commend the article as substantially summarizing the Pauline teaching of the "righteousness of God” (Gospel Advocate, March 7, 1946, pp. 224+).

Apparently the phrase "not been accustomed to hearing" caught Brewer's attention since it was his own experience that many brothers were "astonished at this teaching" and others were "offended by it at first." Indeed, Brewer was concerned about both the ignorance and the "false teaching" that was prevalant concerning Paul's gospel of God's righteousness.

As a younger preacher Brewer had encountered ministers who denied the concept of imputed righteousness. He summarized the teaching of one of these ministers, whom he highly respected, as this: "You hear people talk about God's righteousness or Christ's righteousness being imputed to a man--of the righteousness of Christ covering a man like a garment, etc. This is all false doctrine. The Bible says, 'He that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous' (1 John 3:7); and David says, 'All thy commandments are righteousness.' So you see that a man who does the commandments of God is righteous--no one else is. You can have no righteousness except the righteousness that you do."

In his younger years Brewer fully embraced this teaching. He bought the party line as he was exposed to it and helped to promote it. He taught the same message and used the same Scriptures to defend it.

However, he "learned the truth on this point by studying Paul" when he began to study Romans to see what it teaches rather than studying "to find something to offset what someone else teaches." Brewer underwent a theological change from a legalistic concept of faith--a faith where we have no righteousness except our own so that we contribute to the righteousness that achieves for us a righteous standing before God--to an affirmation of the divine righteousness which is given to us through faith. It was a change from a legalism of works-righteousness to a Pauline doctrine of grace and faith.

Brewer noted that many of his contemporaries had made a similar change. They had begun in legalism but now teach a doctrine of righteousness by faith and "not by doing." As if to counter the charge that his teaching was innovative, Brewer reminded his readers that J. W. McGarvey, E. G. Sewell, T. W. Caskey, David Lipscomb and James A. Harding "knew the truth on this great question and taught it faithfully." "Harding," he adds, "was especially strong on this doctrine."

Brewer's article recognizes a cleavage in the American Restoration Movement over the doctrine of grace. One segment focuses on the righteousness which a person achieves by doing and another segment focuses on the righteousness which God grants a person by faith. It was a cleavage evident in mid-1930s when the Gospel Advocate published K. C. Moser's The Way of Salvation. This book was embraced by Brewer as "one of the best little books that came from any press in 1932" (Gospel Advocate, May 11, 1933, p. 434), but was rejected by Foy E. Wallace, Jr. as full of "denominational error on the gospel plan of salvation" (Present Truth [Ft. Worth, TX: Foy E. Wallace Publications, 1977], p. 1037). These two contrasting attitudes to Moser's book illustrate two distinct approaches to the "righteousness of God." Unfortunately, it is a cleavage that continues to exist.

Brewer called his preaching brothers to re-examine their doctrine of God's righteousness in the light of Romans and Galatians. He offered the prayer, "May the Lord forgive us all and let his righteousness not only supply our lack of righteousness, but also our lack of understanding of his word!" He counseled his readers, "Christ alone can save us. Trust him, brother."


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