A Medley of Matters
The above title was borrowed from brother James P. Needham's former column, which created much interest and received many deserved compliments from readers. Since such a title allows a logical rambling with brief notes, short articles and concise comments on a variety of matters, I have purposed to write occasionally under this heading. I trust that such will be of interest and benefit to our readers.
The Bible way to draw men to God is through the gospel of Christ, which is God's power to save (John 6:44-45; Rom. 1:16). It will draw all who can be drawn to God. But many religious leaders want to draw people to their churches by other means. Recently in Lake Wales, Florida, the Methodist pastor offered green trading stamps to induce attendance. Oh, the drawing power of green stamps. But we recommend that he try the gospel of Christ, God's only power to draw and save, instead of green stamps and false doctrines of Methodism.
This reminds me of some of my brethren who evidently think we need the gospel and special inducements offered by the church to draw and keep people, such as social functions, entertainment programs, church kitchens, recreational rooms, Camps, Sports events, Youth Hobby Shop, et cetra. This demonstrates a weak, wavering faith in the gospel as God's power to draw, save and keep. Those who are drawn and kept by other means are unsaved, 'worldly and worthless to the church, yea even dangerous for they will clamor for their playthings in every church, which defile God's temple. Brethren we must have quality first, quantity second.
While in an Akron, Ohio, meeting this year I read an unusual article in the Akron Beacon Journal (April 27, 1960), which might be of interest to the reader. It stated that the sheriff had received a letter from the editor of the official journal of the Apocalyptic Church of America in California, asking whether they could hold their annual convention in Columbus, Ohio. The unusual thing was that this church advocates and practices nudism in its services. The letter stated that nudism would not be practiced during the week but that "our birthday suits are our Sunday go-to-meeting suits." The old excuse of "I don't have a thing to wear to church" cannot be used by their absentees! The preacher could simply juggle a few words and say, "You don't have to wear a thing to church! " I wonder if they consider their "birthday suits" modest dress as required by God. I am unable to see how no dress could be modest dress!
According to the way some brethren and sisters dress (or undress) they do not have far to go before they could become eligible for membership in this church!
"And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration. Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reason that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. Wherefore, brethren, look ye out among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business. But we will give ourselves continually to prayer, and to the ministry of the word" (Acts 6:1-4).
These apostles were not minimizing the importance of serving tables, nor were they objecting to doing this kind of work. But since they were already engaged in the important and great work of the "ministry of the word" it was not "reason" that they "should leave the word of God, and serve tables." Hence others were appointed who could do the work just as well, leaving the apostles free to continue in their work. The King James translation, "reason" is rendered "fit" with a footnote of "pleasing" in the American Standard Version. It would not have been "pleasing" to cease the ministry of the word to serve tables.
It is not fitting or pleasing today when congregations require evangelists to leave the ministry of the word to "serve tables." Many preachers are so loaded down with "table" duties that little time and strength are left to study, preparation and preaching. Many brethren, for example, expect their preacher to select, purchase, store and distribute the class literature, keep all records, oversee building upkeep, open and close building for all activities, buy supplies, see about advertising and yard mowing, publish, fold, address and mail the bulletin, plan and promote all programs, visit socially, and a thousand other things. Paul did not tell Timothy to do the work of a purchasing agent, secretary, elder, deacon, janitor, yardman, entertainer, et cetera, but "the work of an evangelist" (2 Tim. 4:S). It is not a matter of the preacher being lazy or unwilling to help, but of being free to do the work of an evangelist. "Table" work can and should be distributed among the members, thus giving all an opportunity to work, allowing the evangelist to devote himself to the "ministry of the word." If all of the body works together rather than requiring one member to do practically everything, then neither "table service" nor the "ministry of the word" will be neglected. I believe that brethren and preachers should re-examine the work of an evangelist as revealed in the Bible and follow its teaching so as to accomplish the most good in the kingdom. Think on these things brethren!
Jesus said, "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye tithe mint and anise and cummin, and have left undone the weightier matters of the law, justice, and mercy, and faith: but these ye ought to have done, and not have left the other undone. Ye blind guides, that strain out the gnat, and swallow the camell" (Matt. 23:23-24-ASV).
"The articles here mentioned, mint, anise and cummin, were herbs grown in small quantities and used chiefly for flavoring. To pay tithes of these was to be scrupulous to the last farthing, for the tithe was scarcely worth the trouble of removing it from the garden" (McGarvey.) Jesus endorsed this scrupulous tithing while condemning their failure to perform the weightier matters.
Concerning straining out gnats, McGarvey states that "reference is had to the custom of straining wine as it was poured into the drinking cup, lest a gnat, which was an unclean insect, should be swallowed. While thus particular about the gnats, if a camel were in the cup they would swallow him. The hyperbole is an extravagant one, but the more impressive on that account. The fault exposed does not consist in straining out the gnat, but in swallowing the camel. Jesus would have us to swallow neither the camels nor the gnats."
Every unscriptural doctrine and practice, whether "gnat" or "camel," should be carefully and immediately strained out. But oftentimes the "gnats" and "camels" have become idols to many and they resent and resist any effort to strain them out. They mock and ridicule those who would destroy their idols by laughingly saying, "they are straining at a gnat" and "they are just trying to split hairs." But it is right and needful to strain out the gnats! It is good to split the hair if half of it is bad! (See Matthew 23:23-24.)
There are four classes of people in religion: (1) Those who strain out gnats and swallow camels; (2) those who strain out camels and swallow gnats; (3) those who swallow both gnats and camels; (4) those who strain out both gnats and camels. Blessed is the man who strains out both and swallows neither! Blessed is the man who diligently pays "mint, anise and cummin" without omitting the' "weightier matters of the law."
Truth Magazine, V:5, pp. 13-15