Edification Is Fortification
Every year hundreds of people are baptized by gospel preachers, only to fall out of duty after a short time. I dare say that there are hundreds of people in Pasadena who were once baptized but who are now lost to the church, and worse still, lost in sin; lost in eternity if they die in that condition. Hardly a week passes but that I find one or more in the hospitals who admit that they have fallen away. This is a sad state of affairs. Peter said, "For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness than after they have known it to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. It is happening unto them according to the true proverb; the dog is turned again to his own vomit and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire." 2 Pet. 2:21-22.
No doubt some of those who fall away are people who have only gone through the form of obedience and who never had the proper attitude and conviction. You would naturally expect them to fall out as soon as the going gets unpleasant. They are like the seed that fell on the stony ground.
But there are many who drop out and are lost, whose failure is not entirely their own fault. We who stand in the forefront as leaders and teachers of the word must bear part of the blame. I am afraid that we have stressed baptizing people to the neglect of edifying those who have already been baptized. Don't misunderstand me. I am not minimizing any scriptural effort to get people to obey the gospel. I wish we could baptize a thousand times more than we do. But maybe we need to be reminded now and then the way to heaven has just begun when a man comes out of the baptistry. Most of his hardest battles are still ahead of hirn. It is from now on that he is going to need help and encouragement. His soul needs to be fed and fortified dailv with the "sincere milk of the word." There is no such thing as a strong Christian who is ignorant of the word of God. He may be a strong partisan, but he cannot be a strong Christian; not without teaching, and teaching of the right kind. This is the reason that I have devoted most of my preaching to the church in the last few years. Even in meeting work I preach a great deal to those who have already been baptized.
In carnal warfare an army moves up, digs in and fortifies its position, then moves forward again. On some occasions the commanding officer, too ambitious to cover himself with glory, has tried to move on to a quick and decisive victory without pausing long enough to make sure of his position, replenish his supplies and bring up reinforcements. On most occasions of this kind he has but moved on to be cut off, encircled and defeated.
So it is in the army of the Lord. To save souls is our business. And there isn't any way to save souls without preaching first principle gospel sermons: faith, repentance, confession, and baptism. But to keep them is equally important. And I don't know any way to keep them saved but to fill them with the word of God and try to keep them busy. This is a full time job for the leaders of the church. It also requires the cooperation of those, who are led. It cannot be done without their cooperation. If you have any talent at all for teaching, by all means develop that talent. God will hold you responsible for it if you don't. If you are already a teacher, then by all means get your lessons well in mind. Prepare yourself before you come to the class. The teacher who waits until Sunday morning to prepare a Bible lesson ought not to be teaching a class. He should be in one until he learns something about responsibility in the matter of teaching.
Teachers must "declare the whole counsel of God" and give the students a balanced diet; teach them to be able to understand WHY we don't use instrumental music; WHY we have elders and deacons instead of a "Pastor"; WHY we have congregational autonomv and do not have a denominational ecclesiasticism; WHY we have the Lord's supper Lord's day; WHY we have no synods, councils, conferences and conventions to make council laws in "Our Church." If we will teach these things as well as first principles, we will have fewer people in the church using such language as "Brother Blank is our Pastor" or I haven't been able to attend very much since I 'joined'." We will also have less worldliness in the church. A woman who knows what the Bible teaches about modesty and the place of woman in God's plan will not be likely to bring reproach on the Lord's church by going around in public half nude. Social drinking among members of the church will go back to the saloon to that select class of boozers where it was fifty years ago ... Members of the church will stand behind the preacher when he preaches against dancing, mixed bathing, and legalized adultery, instead of twiddling their thumbs and looking at the floor with that pained expression on their faces as is sometimes noted.
Yes, sir! It is no easy matter to fight the good fight of faith, especially in these days when every inducement is offered to give it up and live for the present. But some will make it if they have the right kind of teaching. That is our job. Let us be about it. "As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him. Rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving!"
Truth Magazine IV:5, pp. 16-17