By Mickey Galloway
In referring to the backbone of the church I have in mind the firmness, the moral courage, the stand for the truth, the spine of the church itself. There are certain “straws” that we should be alarmed about because they are breaking the church’s back. What are some of these “straws”?
Sin Is Ignored
Worldliness is not rebuked and lukewarmness is prevalent. In 1 Corinthians 5, Paul rebuked the Corinthians because fornication was among them and they were not alarmed. The apostle Paul tells them, “And ye are puffed up and did not rather mourn, that he that had done this deed might be taken away from among you” (1 Cor. 5:2). Lukewarmness is not to be tolerated. God certainly will not tolerate it. Revelation 3:16 says concerning the church at Laodicea, “So because thou art lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold I will spew thee out of my mouth.”
Lack of Conviction
Men either act from conviction, because they believe a thing with all their heart, or from convenience, because a thing is as easy to do as not to do and there is an advantage to be gained from doing it. Why do you attend the assemblies? Is it because you want to worship God (cf. John 4:24; Psa.122:1)? Is it a matter of conviction (cf. Heb. 10:24,25) or are other things more appealing because they are more convenient? Have you obeyed the gospel from the heart (Rom. 6:17) or have you not found a convenient time?
Conviction is illustrated in the decision of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego as they spoke to king Nebuchadnezzar. When asked if “it is of purpose . . . that ye serve not my god nor worship the golden image which I have set up,” these brave young men responded, “. . . Be it known unto thee, 0 king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.” These were determined to do what is right regardless of the consequences. May the Lord increase their kind.
Changes in Preaching
Efforts are being made to change our preaching, re-model the gospel and modernize the church. I was in the audience when a young man spoke disparagingly of those who would preach on such things as “adultery, instrumental music and institutionalism.” This young man stated that “these things are not relevant to salvation anyway.”
Others have stated “that God does not expect us to be completely, doctrinally correct.” Statements such as these emphatically illustrate the truthfulness of the apostle Paul’s statement to Timothy, “Preach the word; be urgent in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching. For the time will come when they will not endure the sound doctrine; but, having itching ears, will heap to themselves teachers after their own lust; and will turn away their ears from the truth, and turn aside unto fables.”
What Is the Cause of Such Dangerous Tendencies?
Certainly the cause can be attributed to any number of things. Possibly it is success which makes it easy to outgrow our plea for simple New Testament Christianity. Maybe it is that we have less opposition. Once it was hard to be a Christian because of great hardships and persecutions which apparently strengthened the early church (Rom. 5:3-5). There is little indoctrination and that is certain to result in tragic consequences. The church is filled with people who know little about the doctrine of Christ and thus fail to abide in his doctrine (2 Jn. 9). Maybe compromise with our religious neighbors in attitudes toward doctrine and morality has shared in causing these modern trends within the church.
What Is the Solution?
The solution is greater respect for the authority of the Scriptures and more firmness in practicing New Testament Christianity. Consider: Jude 3; Ephesians 4:14,15; Titus 1:13,14; Galatians 1:6-9. From these it is evident that truth is fixed, unalterable and unchangeable. Preaching truth is certain to disturb some. Paul asked the Galatians, “So then am I become you enemy because I tell you the truth?” (Gal. 4:16) Genesis 1:1 disturbs the atheist. Exodus 20:3 disturbs the heathen. Hebrews 11:6 disturbs the moralists. Yet Paul told Timothy to preach the word (2 Tim. 4:2). Paul commanded the Ephesians to “stand” (Eph. 6:13,14). One cannot stand for something and not stand against some-thing, for truth stands against error.
There is a valuable lesson to be learned from the past. Apostasy soon came in the first century church as was prophesied (1 Tim. 4:1-3; 2 Thess. 2:3,4). What has happened can happen again if we allow too many worldly straws to collect on the backbone of the church.
Guardian of Truth XXXVIII: 16, p. 8
August 18, 1994