Another Man of the Cloth Falls

By Larry Houchen

Top of the news reports and newspaper front page news recently have been the immorality of Jimmy Swaggart. Mr. Swaggart bases his multi-million dollar ministries in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He is associated with the Assemblies of God organization the same group affiliation as that of Jim and Tammy Bakker. Sin is sin in the sight of God, but the fact is that some sins and one’s influential position have deeper and more lingering consequences. A preacher is not above immorality or any other kinds of sins, but he is expected, as any other Christian, to conduct himself in a godly manner. The apostle Paul said to Timothy, “Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe” (1 Tim. 4:12). These are some lessons which we should learn from this and similar incidents.

Someone once said, “There is no honor among thieves.” About one year ago, the Jim Bakker-PTL scandal came to public awareness. Jimmy Swaggart was one of several who “blew the whistle” on Bakker. In the midst of the scandal, Swaggart portrayed himself as a “knight in shining armor” destined to cleanup the whole unfortunate situation. Jimmy Swaggart was seen by the public as being genuine and a dedicated servant of God. Mr. Swaggart was also instrumental in exposing a Mr. Gorman (also an Assemblies of God preacher) for immoral misconduct an act which would lead to Swaggart’s own demise. Mr. Gorman subsequently “turned the tables” on this would-be champion of morality and photographed Swaggart entering a motel room with a prostitute. Jesus, on the occasion of the scribes and Pharisees bringing a woman who had been caught in adultery, said, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7). Jimmy Swaggart obviously should have concentrated on preaching the gospel of Christ rather than on “throwing stones.”

Jimmy Swaggart sinned. Can he obtain forgiveness from God? Surely he can, just as any alien sinner can do (cf. Acts 2:38). Is he truly penitent? Only God can know his heart, however, the Bible does teach, “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits” (Matt. 7:1516a). If Mr. Swaggart reacts as Jim Bakker did in attempting to keep his PTL Ministry, we will see him preaching again in a relatively short time if he has anything at all to do with it. An injured conscience, not to mention common sense, would dictate allowing a reasonable amount of time to pass before ever attempting to preach again. If the Lord’s cause is foremost in Mr. Swaggart’s mind, he will forego both ego and a huge salary to retreat to the background for a reasonable length of time. We will just have to wait and see if Mr. Swaggart is truly thinking of the Lord’s cause or his multimillion dollar organization. Either way, the answer will eventually most likely be quite clear.

Both the Bakker and Swaggart incidents should impress us with the fact that our faith must rest in God and not in man. The Hebrew writer wrote, “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay said every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith” (Heb. 12:1-2a). Our earthly heroes have “feet of clay,” sooner or later they will disappoint us, but “Jesus is the same yesterday, and today, yes, and forever” (Heb. 13:8).

Christians take no pleasure in finding out that someone has sinned. It is, however, still true, “for everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, but he who humbles himself shall be exalted” (Lk. 18:14).

Guardian of Truth XXXII: 7, pp. 193, 215
April 7, 1988