We Believe, Therefore We Speak!
A great need exists today for men with positive conviction-the kind that is based upon correct testimony which comes from God. There is then the further need for these men of conviction to have the courage to state that conviction in very definite terms regardless of repercussions or consequences.
There was a time when members of the church of Christ were identified by their ability and willingness to state that truth in no uncertain terms. They took their stand along side of the great apostle Paul who said, "We believe, and therefore we speak" ( 2 Cor. 4:13) . They kept back nothing that was profitable, but unafraid and unashamed they declared the whole counsel of God. They were keenly aware that by this means only could they be pure from the blood of all men, hence they took heed to themselves and to their teaching and diligently continued in it knowing that by this they could save themselves and those that heard them. They came to grips with every enemy whom they could engage in spiritual warfare. When wrestling with the spiritual hosts of wickedness in high places, they asked no quarter and gave none. In almost every encounter, victory was theirs. The church made its greatest strides and enjoyed its greatest growth in the face of severe opposition, whether that opposition was bodily persecution or religious resistance.
In spite of this fact and the fact that we have been the recipients of their victories, many among us today have lost their appetites for religious discussions and have fallen for the flimsy sentiment that has been propagated by the devil through the years that "we ought not argue religion!" For one to question another's religion is considered in certain so-called "best circles" as boorish, narrow-minded, bigotry, and an open show of intolerance. Civil liberty and divine authority have been confused. Because we live in a land that grants us the right to choose the religion of our choice, some have supposed that the word of God allows the same privilege. The idea is that "we are all just one big, happy family striving for the same goal, traveling toward the same place via different ways and means, and we will eventually all arrive at the sane destination. Hence how one goes is his own business and is such a personally sacred thing that it ought never be inquired into by any other; that religion is a closed door affair." The devil never had it so good! It would indeed be difficult to find an idea more diametrical opposed to the will and way of God than that. The devil alone suffers when the searchlight of God's word is turned upon his maneuvers which are performed under the secret cloak of tolerance and broad-mindedness. But this attitude has found its way into the church of the Lord and into the hearts of the members until religious controversy is, in the eyes of some, nothing but a relic of ancient history that should never be revived. Tolerance is preached and peace is supposed to be the result. Peace, that is, with each other. But just as in the days of Jeremiah when the people forsook God "from the prophet unto the priest everyone dealt falsely . . . saying peace, peace; when there was no peace" (Jer. 6:13-14), so it is now. Men may think they have peace in such circumstances, but they have mistook peace for capitulation. Having surrendered to the arch fiend of humanity, they may be at peace with one another, but they are at enmity with God. "What should a man give in exchange for his soul?" (Mark 8:37). Well, if he has the proper standard of values, he will give any and everything else to redeem his soul. That is what he should give in exchange for it, but many have traded their souls just to be like the nations about them in order that they might have the approval and the applause of the populace.
If we intend to be approved of God, we must stand upon approved ground. Let us notice the attitude of those New Testament characters approved of God and who were guided by the Holy Spirit of God when they spoke and see how they felt about religious controversy and what their attitude was toward religious error. Jude 3-4 says: "Beloved, while I was giving all diligence to write unto you of our common salvation, I was constrained to write unto you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in privily, even they who were of old written of beforehand unto this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ." Here we are admonished to contend earnestly for the faith-the gospel. In Phil. 1:16 God's Spirit led Paul to say: "I am set for the defense of the gospel." If it were becoming in Paul to defend the gospel, would it not be equally becoming in us?
Again in Acts 18:28 Apollos ";powerfully confuted the Jews, and that publicly, showing by the scriptures that Jesus was the Christ." But today the idea is that neither the Jews nor any body else ought to be "confuted by the scriptures," but that we should all get together and forget our differences and be tolerant of each other's religion. Neither the Holy Spirit nor Paul was up on, our modern ways and when "certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, saying, Except ye be circumcised after the custom of Moses, ye cannot be saved. And Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and questioning with them . . ." (Acts 15:1-2), but it is considered out of order and intolerant to dissent or question anyone's religion today. You will note that this was "no small dissension." If it were "no small" one, then it must have been a big one. So Paul thought and the Holy Spirit thought it was proper to engage in a "big dissension" when error was being taught. This same old soldier of the cross went right into the stronghold of Diana of the Ephesians and unhesitantly declared that "there are no gods that are made with hands" (Acts 19: 26). He did not falter in "persuading and turning people" away from error. Oh, it caused a big uproar and confusion in Ephesus, and Paul did not improve his popularity in that city, but he was maintaining that which he had committed unto God against that day. In Acts 23 Paul's affirmation concerning the resurrection from the dead caused another riot. Was the Lord displeased with him for causing all this unrest and commotion? Let the Lord answer that question as it is recorded in Acts 23:11"And the night following (the riot) the Lord stood by him (Paul), and said, Be of good cheer: for as thou has testified concerning me at Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome." Why, the Lord was back of it all. But today Paul would be considered a religious bigot.
Christianity was born in controversy and thrives in discussion and has made its greatest inroads against the errors and dogmas of men when Christians were willing to carry the fight to the enemies of truth instead of being lulled to sleep by a false sense of peace and tranquility thus tolerating the devil and compromising with error. Those early New Testament Christians "believed therefore they spoke!"
But with the passing of time, we say, and an increased desire for "goodwill," members of the Lord's church have been bartering their heritage for a mess of pottage. They have traded prophecy for philosophy; sound doctrine for human dogmas; the fixed preaching of the apostles for the wavering applause of the populace; and have surrendered the "old, old story" for vanity and vain-glory.
This attitude was first reflected in a minority of members who had recently immigrated from the devil's kingdom without have withdrawn their affection from it. They complained about the "dogmatic preaching," the length of the sermon, the "negativism" which it contained, and were generally embarrassed to have their associates attend a gospel meeting and hear the plan of salvation diligently set forth. "Such preaching," they said, "will drive people away." For social reasons, business relations, and family ties, they apparently were more interested in waving the ensign of Baal than in holding aloft the "blood-stained banner of Prince Immanuel." They spent their time apologizing for the "ancient landmarks which our fathers set" and reveling in what they supposed was their great spiritual maturity and broad-mindedness, while the Lord's church was suffering reverses at their hands from which it would never re
These sweet-spirited citizens who attempted to maintain allegiance to two kingdoms at the same time and went limping between two sides were at first, we say, in the minority, but in the church's effort to match the denominations cubit for cubit in stature, ways and means were employed that filled the church with these unconverted members who are definite in but one point, and that is their dislike for those who insist upon a thus saith the Lord for all that is believed and practiced.
As the churches' membership grew, composed largely of those with these liberal tendencies and apologetic attitudes, pressure began to be applied to the hard-hitting preachers to step down; to "eliminate the negative and accentuate the positive" in their preaching. They were assured that those members with itching ears would heap to themselves those teachers that would turn from truth to
fables. If a preacher refused to conform, he was relieved of his support and threatened with excommunication, but if he would tone down his preaching and polish up his manners so that no offense would be given even to the totally depraved in his audience, then he would receive some sort of "pontifical blessing" from those in high places and the tag of quarantine would be removed. It had its effect. There have been some "takers."
While this transformation was being demanded by the masses in the pews, the brethren's "theological seminaries" were busily engaged in grooming preachers to fit into this glamorized pulpit with the "new look," which they themselves were helping to build. So the hard-hitting gospel preacher that contends earnestly for the faith and exposes religious error for the counterfeit that is, is being replaced by the suave diplomat with a radiant personality who in deep scholarly tones pours forth from the pulpit sermonettes composed largely of pep-talks, poetry, promotional schemes, current events, and book reviews. And when necessity is laid upon him to say something affecting the eternal destiny of people, he is about as irresolute and uncertain as that milk-toast preacher who told his audience that unless "they repented partially, and reformed in a measure, they might be damned in some degree!" This trend is fast producing preachers that will be broad enough to "bid Godspeed to every ism that has stolen the name Christian with which to cloak its spiritual reformity," while they assist in disfiguring and defacing the beauty and dulling and staining the glory of God's last gift to lost humanity-the church of the Lord Jesus Christ!
Redemption from this condition will be found only in a diligent study of the word of God, a renewed interest in and respect for it, plus an attitude of complete satisfaction with it. With this disposition and effort, genuine faith will be generated' that will move men to proclaim once again the "whole counsel of God" and will further urge them to speak out bodily against every form of error.
If all would return to the Bible and maintain the "unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace," it thrills our hearts to think of the victories over Satan that could be won for truth and righteousness in this generation as the people of God marched in a solid phalanx against the forces of evil. But with the majority of the brotherhood protruding over the precipice of apostasy, the words of Whittier keep returning to our minds: "Of all the sad words of tongue or pen, the saddest are these: `It might have been.'" "We believe, therefore we speak."
(Note: the above article originally appeared in Bro. Weaver's paper, "Spiritual Life." We commend these comments to your careful consideration and profit.)
Truth Magazine, V:11, pp. 17-19