By Cecil Willis
In the bulletins and religious journals which I receive, brethren continually are expressing amazement at the lack of knowledge on the part of some brethren. One’s amazement at the confusion and ignorance of the masses of brethren will be somewhat lessened if he will examine carefully what they are being taught. Judging from the bulletins that I receive, and from some of the sermons that I have heard, I am amazed that brethren have learned as much as they have.
Just today I was reading of a report of visits to services of liberal churches by Brother Robert McDonald of Pampa, Texas. He said that the sermons he heard could have been preached by virtually any denominational preacher in town. Brethren who refuse to see how bad things are in some places prefer to bury their heads in the sand, and to try to convince themselves that things are better than they are.
There are many gospel preachers, even among conservative churches, who do not use enough scripture during a sermon to make a decent “Introduction” to the sermons of many other real gospel preachers. Luther Blackmon gave me some advice many years ago that I have well remembered, and diligently have tried to put it into practice in my preaching. When I was a very young preacher, he told me: “Remember, brethren will get a lot more good out of your preaching if you spend five minutes telling them what the Word of God says and two minutes telling them what you think It means, than if you spend two minutes telling them what the Bible says and five minutes telling them what you think it means.”
Many years ago I heard G. K. Wallace make the following statement to a group of young preachers: “Young men, it is absolutely impossible to over-estimate the ignorance of an audience.” That statement rubbed me the wrong way at the time, but after spending twenty-five years trying to preach the gospel, I think now he was correct. His statement in no way implies that everyone in the audience is ignorant. But it would be very difficult for some of us to realize just how ignorant of God’s Word some, in nearly every audience, are. We take for granted that many understand certain things, merely because we have heard them so many times and understand them ourselves so clearly.
While holding a meeting in Terre Haute, Indiana about fifteen years ago, I walked to the rear of the auditorium on Sunday night after I had finished my sermon. Being a little “bone-weary,” I sat down on the back row. ”here were some present who had not partaken of the Lord’s Supper on that Lord’s Day, and so the opportunity to partake was offered. Several were served, with little or no explanation of what was being done having been made. A visitor to the services (a middle-aged man) leaned over to me and said, “What on earth are they doing up there?” That incident drove home to me just how little some really know about Bible teaching.
But the point I wanted to make in this article is that the reason why some brethren know so little is because they have been taught so little. Furthermore, some of the teaching that is done, is done in such a disorderly way that it is a wonder anybody learns anything at all from it. Just to present a real-life case-in-point, let me quote now from the bulletin of a congregation in Chicago, Illinois. Some of the preachers who read what I am about to quote will think I am “spoofing” them, and that such an incident really could not have happened with the teaching being done by a preacher in the Church of Christ. If it would do any good, I would give you the name of the author, and the address of the Chicago church from whose bulletin. I am about to quote. But just be assured that I really do have such a bulletin, and that it was published in all seriousness. In fact, for the benefit of some of you debating preachers, I might just mention that the author closed with this blunt challenge: “I will debate this issue.” I would almost defy you to tell me what the issue is, after reading his article. Space forbids me quoting all the article. It is single-spaced, mimeographed on legal-size paper, and the article fills both sides of the 11 X 14 inch page. It is all one paragraph! On the first side of the sheet, he cited 191 verses of Scripture, but you never saw such a jumbled up mess of twisted Scripture.
The title to this article is “A Sermon on a Fornicator and a Profane Person.” I shall quote it, punctuate it, and reproduce it precisely as given. Perhaps then you will understand why some of the brethren are confused. With teachers and preachers like this, who would not be confused? “This Supreme giver of life made and planed eternal life based on conditions Jesus Christ, The law of Christ that plainly set forth the nine Beatitudes are his saying, when he said, upon this Rock speaking of himself.’ and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Matt. 16:13-19; this is part one of this Supreme law of Christ, the second part of this Supreme law God granted him his requist when he said, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth; Go ye therefore and teach all nations baptizing them, In the name of the Father,’ and of the Son, and the Holy Ghost, teaching them to observe all things. What so ever I have commanded you to I am with you always even unto the end of the world. Matt, 28:1820. God the Father gave Jesus the power to pass and execute this law; Esau a profane person who sold his birth right for a morsel of food, this is the only grounds that a man or woman is freed to marry only in the Lord. No one Esau married out of the everlasting covenant; no two he sold his birth right for a morsel of food, and if we marry out of the eternal covenant wilfully knowingly we are lost eternally lest we let them slip. Heb, 12:14-17. On these basic fundamental principles: Abraham and Sarah set the stage with Isaac and Rebekah and Jacob and his wives Leah and Rachel; every thing was bought and paid for with Abraham’s money. God made an everlasting covenant with Abraham through circumcision of the foreskin; this covenant was never broken, so all the generations from Abraham to David are fourteen generations; and from David to the carrieing away into Babylon are fourteen generations; and from the carrying away into Babylon unto Christ Jesus are fourteen generation Gen, 17:7-I5; Matt, 1:1 7-18; Luke, 2:12-21; 3:21-23. Therefore owe no man, Under the Mosaic law of circumcision of the foreskin this made you a Jew outwardly. For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, Romans, 15:l-6. Now that we have established the fact of the eternal covenant that never was broken; and this end the seed Jesus Christ was born, and this is the foundation on which Christ’s church and kingdom is established; and is built on the apostles, and prophets, Jesus Christ being the chief corner stone; that the seed the Word of God. Luke, 8:10-11; The Word of God the seed is able to build you up and save your soul. Js. 1:16-22. Now we have no more use for the circumcision of the foreskin only for health sake. For Jesus the seed is standing on the right hand of God. Acts 7:55; set on the throne in heaven. Heb. 8:1-2; 12:1-2, The seed is the Word of the kingdom of God; sown in the heart and minds of human beings, The eternal covenant is the circumcision of the heart without hands, This is a Jew inwardly. This circumcision of the heart came by Abraham the faithful. Gen, 26:1-5; Gal, 3: Col, 2:8-14; In Isaac shall thy seed be called Jesus Christ. Christ Jesus is the seed of a woman. Gen, 3:15; But when the fulness of time was come, God sent forth his son, made of a woman, made under the Law, Gal, 4:1-7. Jesus Christ said, I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, MY FATHER he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the Word which I have spoken unto you. John, 15:1-5; Joseph of Jacob interpreted the chief Butler’s dream about
a vine having three branches. Gen, 40:8-12; The Sceptree shall not depart from Judah, nor a law giver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be, Jesus Christ. The vine, and his ass’s colt unto the choice vine. Gen, 49:9-12; The trees went forth on a time to anoint a king over them; and they said unto the Olive, Fig, the Bramble, and cedar of Lebanon, and when they asked the vine to rule over trees. The Vine remained a question mark?. Judges, 9:815. The choicest Vine that men tried to mix with other vines only made the fruit of the worse. Isa, 5:1-3; and when the disciples and Jesus were eating the passover. Jesus took bread and blessed it, and break it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, eat; this is my Body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, drank ye all of it; for this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins: But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the Vine, until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s Kingdom. Matt, 26:26-29; Mark, 14:22-26; Luke, 22:16-20; 1 Cor, 11:23-34. Now that the Lord supper is taken from the vine. The next thing in order is the seed Jesus Christ: And I will put an enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel. Gen, 3:15. but when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his son, made of a woman, made under the Law. Gal, 4:4. Jesus we see, for verily he took not. on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham . . . .”
I tried to find as appropriate a place as possible to break off this quotation, but there was no appropriate place. More than this much more remained of the article. I found it somewhat like the country boy who was trying to read the dictionary, and commented: “Its an interesting book, but the author surely does change subjects frequently.”
O. K., now you debaters, line right up. This man boldly states, “I will debate this issue.” Who will be the first to take him on? Perhaps you are not even sure, at this point, what the issue is. Having read the whole article several times, I am not absolutely sure myself what the brother was seeking to prove. I think he was trying to show that it is unscriptural for a Christian to marry a non-Christian! With a fellow who uses Scriptures like this as their teacher, does anyone have difficulty understanding why just a few of the brethren might be confused on a few points? How would one of you debaters begin, if you were going to reply to such a speech?
I sent this article to John Clark in Louisville, and told him that I was thinking about using it as one of my editorials in Truth Magazine, and asked if he would suggest a title for it. He suggested that it might either be called “Lines From the Labyrinth of LSD,” or “Marijuana Mutterings on Marriage.” Either title seems appropriate to me. John even suggested we perhaps should secure permission to publish this article in tract form.
The only thing that I can remember that had the Scriptures more jumbled up was the tale some preacher told when I was a boy about an uneducated, country preacher who quoted from his favorite New Testament book, “The Book of Parables.” His recitation went something like this, as he told of the Good Samaritan:
“Well once upon a time a man went from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell among thieves and the thorns grew up and choked him. And he went on and didn’t have any money, and he met the Queen of Sheba, and she gave him a thousand talents of gold and one hundred changes of raiment. And he got in a chairot and drove furiously, and while he was driving under a tree his hair caught among the limbs, and he hung there for three days and three nights; and the ravens brought him food to eat and water to drink, and one night while he was hanging his wife came along and cut off his hair, and he fell or; stony ground and it rained forty days and forty nights, and he hid himself in a cave and he met a man who said, `Come in and have supper with me.’ And he said, `I have married a wife and can’t come now.’So the man went into the highways and byways and compelled him to come in and have supper with him. And he went on to Jerusalem and sitting high up in a window was Jezebel and when she saw him she laughed and they Hang her down. And he said, Wang her down some more,’ and they Hang her down some more. And they Hang her down seventy and seven times and of the fragments they picked up twelve baskets full. Now whose wife is she going to be in the resurrection because they all had her? Amen.”
Now I am aware that you preachers have your own version of this tale, but the first jumbled-up mess that I quoted is no tale. It is the sad truth. Do you think it just might be possible that we preachers are partly responsible for the confusion among some of the brethren? Or, do you think they deserve all the credit themselves?
Truth Magazine XIX: 16, pp. 243-246
February 27, 1975