The Word Applied In Small Churches
"If I quit going on week end trips with my husband in order to attend services regularly, he will leave me." Such fear may exist in the heart of many a Christian married to a non-Christian, but it rarely, if ever, has been expressed more forthrightly. In the mind of the dear sister this was an extremely serious problem. She definitely did not want to lose her husband. How could I possibly encourage her to attend Sunday services regularly?
It was necessary to respond in some way, but how could I impress her with her duty and at the same time avoid putting down her husband? It is always appropriate to appeal to the Scriptures. We read Ephesians 5:22: "Wives, submit yourselves unto your husbands, as unto the Lord."
After that reading, I emphasized that she definitely had an obligation to be submissive to her husband. Then I said, "This passage requires your submission to your husband to be 'as (your submission) unto the Lord."' Having obtained her agreement, I pointed out that if submission to her husband was "as unto the Lord," then her submission "unto the Lord" necessarily must come first.
Next we read 1 Corinthians 7:13-15: "And the woman which hath an husband that believeth not, and if he be pleased to dwell with her, let her not leave him. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean: but now are they holy. But if the unbelieving depart, let him depart. A brother or sister is not under bondage in such cases. but God hath called us to peace."
With that reading concluded, I again emphasized that her first obligation must be to the Lord and that submission to her husband must take second place. I also pointed out that in case her faithfulness unto the Lord did cause her husband to leave her, she was instructed by this passage to let him go.
Realizing that she faced a heart-rending choice, I decided to take a calculated risk. I said, "I have never met your husband and therefore do not know him at all, but if you decide to begin attending services regularly, he will not leave you. If I am wrong about that, if he does leave you, he is not nearly as smart as I believe he is. I think that he is smart enough to know that he has a good wife and that if he was to leave you, he would not be able to find a better woman than you. I think he is smart enough to want to keep you."
He did want to keep her. She quit going with him on weekend trips and began attending Sunday services regularly. Her husband did not leave her and she was happier in her marriage than ever before.
In one church where I worked, the oldest member was a man who had been raised in a rural area where the churches only met on Sunday. He had obeyed the gospel late in life, but when he did, it was with a whole heart. However, he had never been able to see any need to attend mid-week services. Time and again we discussed his attitude and studied the Scriptures. In time he began attending the Wednesday evening services. Then I had to be away one Wednesday and the brethren became involved in a warm, if not heated, discussion. I was never able to learn exactly what took place, but it destroyed all that I had been able to accomplish with one dear brother. I have no knowledge of him ever again attending a mid-week service the rest of his life.
In one church with which I was associated, the brethren were in the habit of saying: "By faith this is the body of Christ" and "By faith this is the blood of Christ" when they offered thanks at the Lord's table. At that time, I was not acquainted with metaphors; thus, I was unable to explain that Jesus used them when He instituted the Lord's supper. (Yes, I had a college degree, but education is no guarantee that a fellow knows everything. Every preacher should take warnings.) I could only say that the bread and fruit of the vine are the body and blood of Christ in no way other than the way which Christ meant. Of course, that was no answer at all. However, I had some questions which I wanted those brethren to answer.
I asked, "Do you believe the bread and fruit of the vine become the literal flesh and blood of Jesus?" They did not. I asked, "Does the bread and fruit of the vine become the spiritual body of Christ?" They were not certain and would neither answer yes nor no. I pointed out that if the bread and fruit of the vine actually becomes the flesh and blood of Christ at all, it has to become that either literally or spiritually. They had denied the literal and, therefore, must either say that it becomes the spiritual body and blood of Christ or else actually does not become the body and blood of Christ.
Then I pointed out that we were all agreed that the church is the spiritual body of Christ (Eph. 1: 19-23). Therefore, the bread did not become the spiritual body of Christ. Thus the bread and fruit of the vine actually must not become the body and blood of Christ in any way. However, that was not the end of the matter. As is often the case, that only took care of a symptom, not the real problem. The problem was that they objected to using the word "represents." After a time, I preached a sermon on the Lord's supper and showed that the idea of memory - the bringing of something to mind - inheres in the word "remembrance."
I pointed out that any object used to cause something else to be brought to mind may properly be said to represent the thing it brings to mind. Then I appealed to those brethren to cease objecting to the use of the word "represents," in the offering of thanks at the Lord's table.
There was a knock at my door; when I answered, a preacher and a member of the church where he was preaching were wanting to talk to me. I was well acquainted with both of them. It had not been long since the preacher had printed an uncomplimentary article in the church bulletin about a couple who had quit attending there and had started attending where I preached. I had responded in our bulletin pointing out that the couple had not identified with us; that we had not been contacted by brethren of the other church about the matter and suggesting that the author of the article should get the facts straight, before printing such erroneous charges.
Now these two brethren had come to explain to me that due to the circumstances under which the couple departed from them, the church where I was preaching must not use the man in any public way (neither church had elders, at that time). After some discussion, I asked, "Has the church there withdrawn from them?" It had not. I asked, "Does it intend to withdraw from them?" It did not. Then I said, "If the church there is not going to discipline them, by what right are you demanding that we discipline them? As I see it, the way things stand, you are trying to meddle in the internal affairs of another church." It was one thing to tell me their side of the matter, but it was something else altogether, when they began telling another church how to deal with the situation.
A young couple were natives of the city where I was preaching, but they had learned the truth and obeyed it while away. Returning to the area, they identified with us.
Before their conversion, they had led very worldly lives and were still babes in Christ. She was highly emotional and from time to time would call me on the telephone to discuss some biblical subject about which she was very disturbed.
When I answered the telephone and heard her voice, I was not surprised. We were in the midst of a gospel meeting. The previous night two of her husband's aunts had been persuaded to attend the service. During the sermon that night, the preacher dealt with the sin of drunkenness and the sister wanted to know: "Why did the preacher have to preach on that subject, that night, of all nights, when my husband's aunts were present for the first time and probably will never come back, because they are two of the biggest lushes in the world?"
I pointed out that the preacher had no way to know that; he had preached on a biblical subject and there was nothing they needed more.
Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 16, pp. 487-488