July 18, 2018

“The Speech of Ashdod”

By Leslie Diestelkamp

It has been my privilege to preach in more than a dozen states in the last twenty-seven months. Everywhere I find many encouraging and satisfying qualities among God's people. But one thing prevails almost everywhere that is disturbing and that it seems nearly impossible to correct. Brethren are borrowing too much of the speech of the denominations about us. In the long ago, when Jews had defiled their genealogy by marrying wives of Ashdod, Ammon and Moab, their departure was betrayed by the speech of their children who "spake half in the speech of Ashdod" (Neh. 13:24). Nehemiah "contended with them and cursed them and smote certain of them" (Neh. 13:25).

Today many of the Lord's people betray their ignorance and/or their carelessness by using the speech of the various religious neighbors whose doctrines and ideals may have penetrated farther than we think into the Lord's church. The use and/or misuse of such words as "Pastor," "Reverend," "sacraments," etc. illustrates my point. Such expressions as Joined the church," "the elder of the church," "our church" etc. are out of harmony with the New Testament, at least in the manner in which they are so often used. But to me the real "speech of Ashdod" shows up in the misuse of the word "church."

Everywhere brethren say, "We built a new church" (but Jesus said he would build it -- just one -- Mt. 16:18). Others say, "They have such a beautiful church" (but Paul said it should be glorious and holy, without spot, wrinkle or blemish). Some brethren say, "This is my week to clean the church," but I always tell them that is a job that is too big for any man. One bulletin from a near-by congregation stated: "Church and Parsonage Painted: At this time the painters are about half finished with the painting of the church . . ." (But Paul said it should be sanctified and cleansed -- Eph. 5:26, 27).

If some would defend such use of the word "church" because the dictionary defines it as a building, then by the same authority, "Pastor" means a preacher, and "Baptize" means to sprinkle or immerse. I have no quarrel with the dictionary, for it defines words as they are used today, but that does not justify a Christian in using a word in complete contradiction to its Biblical use. Of course the people in the pews are not to be blamed very much, for they simply imitate the language they hear from the pulpit. Gospel preachers everywhere very often use the word "church" to refer to the meetinghouse it is, figuratively, "the speech of Ashdod." Paul said, that Titus should use "sound speech" (Titus 2:8). It is still right to "speak as the oracles of God." We would do well to remember the old motto, "Call Bible things by Bible names." If we are not going to plead for the same faith and the same church that is described in the New Testament, then we should put down our Bibles and pick up the creed books and we should close our meetinghouse doors and join some denomination nearby. If we are going to plead for the same faith and the same church described in the New Testament, then let us make that plea in Bible Language and quit defiling the body of Christ with unsound words that carry nothing but false concepts into the minds of all people.

Indeed, "Let the church be the church," as someone well expressed, and let it be, even in our minds, a body of saved people, and not a material building made by men's hands.

Truth Magazine VIII: 11, p. 3
August 1964