By Cecil Willis
Christians are vastly outnumbered by those not Christians. It is to no fault of the Bible that many are not converted to Christ. As one goes forth and endeavors to preach the Gospel in such a way to get people to obey, he confronts many of the excuses men give for remaining disobedient to the commandments of the Lord. In this article, we want to investigate the validity of the excuses men use in their attempt to justify their disobedience. If you should be one of those persons hiding behind an excuse, we hope to be able to remove your blindness so that there will be nothing standing between you and your Lord.
We read of some other people who offered excuses for not doing something they did not want to do. There is a great difference between an “excuse” and a “reason.” One can give no reasons for not obeying the Gospel, though thousands of excuses have been offered. Jesus said, “A certain man made a great supper; and he bade many: and he sent forth his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready. And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a field, and I must needs go out and see it; I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them; I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come. And the servant came, and told his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor and maimed and blind and lame . . . For I say unto you, that none of those men that were bidden shall taste of my supper” (Luke 14:15-24).
These men had been invited to a supper, but obviously did not want to attend very badly, else they would not have offered the flimsy excuses they did. The first said, “I have bought a field, and must go and look at it.” Should we imagine that he bought this field without having first looked at it? Would a man buy a field he had never seen before? Not likely. But if he had, could he not have later looked over the field he had already bought? Would it not have still been there? Certainly. This man just did not want to attend the feast, and was looking for some excuse to justify his absence.
Notice the excuse given by the second man: “I have bought five yoke of oxen, and must go try them out.” Would a man buy oxen or horses without first trying them? We never did in my part of the country. But suppose a man were to have done so. If the man had already purchased the oxen, would not the next day have been as suitable a time to try them, if he had really wanted to attend the feast.
The next man’s excuse is amusing. He simply said, “I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.” He did not feel that he needed any other excuse.
There are millions of people that are just like these three men. They do not really state why they do not want to do what Jesus has commanded, but try to hide behind something else. So they fill the air with many excuses for their disobedience. We want to look at some of these excuses offered, and we will find that they are no better than the ones mentioned in this chapter.
There is a very great problem that confronts so many honest people; that problem is denominationalism. One church teaches one thing and another church teaches another. The person seeking to learn what God requires is told one thing by one person, and something else by another. So he does not do anything. Some do not obey the Gospel because there are so many different doctrines taught that they do not know which to obey. So they do nothing. The person seeking the truth reasons, “If men much wiser than I cannot agree upon the truth, how can I ever know what to do?” But my friends, do you think that God gave us a message that we cannot understand? Is He going to send us to hell for not obeying a message that is impossible for us to understand? God is not that kind of a God. A serious Bible student will never hide behind this excuse. The people of Berea were said to be more noble than those of Thessalonica “in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, examining the scriptures daily, whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11). If by an examination of the scriptures the Bereans were able to tell if Paul were preaching the truth, why cannot we also decide whether men today are telling the truth?
Many of these men who are anxious to guide us are blind leaders, and will cause us also to fall into the ditch. They are simply preaching what their parents believed, and only because their parents believed it. Let us not decide a certain doctrine is true just because a forceful speaker says it is. We should study the scriptures daily whether these things are so. God clothed His message in language which you can understand. The Bible plainly says we can. Jesus said, “If any man willeth to do his will, he shall know of the teaching, whether it is of God, or whether I speak from myself” (Jn. 7:17). And Paul said, “How that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)” (Eph. 3:3,4). Paul said we can understand. There is no need for our being hesitant to obey the will of Christ. If we study our Bibles and do what it says, and we will be right. We should not accept any statement as the truth just because some reputable and well-liked person tells us it is. We should search the scriptures daily whether these things are so.
Condemning Ones Parents
Another thing that holds many back from obeying the Gospel is that they feel that if they should become Christians, they would be saying that their parents are lost. But my friends, we must be as good as we think our parents were. If your parents had learned that a certain thing were untrue, would they have continued to believe it and to practice it? I am quite sure they would not. And one should be willing to follow the truth as he finds it in the Bible, regardless of its implications. If in the next generation, my sons should find that I had been in error on some points, as they very likely will, I would be a very disappointed parent right now, if I, for a moment, thought they would continue to teach what they know to be erroneous just because I believed it and taught it. They would be going contrary to my sincerest wishes if they should not preach the whole counsel of God regardless of my shortcomings.
We do not like even to think about such things as this, but to face the facts we must. But if I knew that my parents were going to be lost because they did not obey the Gospel, knowing my parents as I think I do, I know that they would not want me to follow them to a like destruction.
So what “Mom” and “Dad” believed should not be my criterion. It should be, like Samuel of old, “Speak, Lord; for thy servant heareth” (1 Sam. 3:9). We should say, “Command, and I will obey.”
“Better Than Some In The Church”
We sometimes hear a person say, “I would become a member of the church, but I am better than some in the church already.” I am sorry to have to confess that there are some people outside the church who live more upright lives than some within the church. But if you, reader, should happen to be one of these persons voicing the excuse we have justmentioned, you choose the poorest example of Christianity, and then declare that you are better than the worst in the church. Do you really think you are paying any compliment to yourself? Why not choose the best person in the church and compare yourself to him. Are you better than the best within the church? Let me, without hesitation reply, “you are not.” You are living in open rebellion to God. You are unsaved. Peter commanded the household of Cornelius to be baptized (Acts 10:48). Jesus commanded that baptism be preached to every creature (Mk. 16:16). If you have not been baptized for the remission of your sins, you have not obeyed Christ. Now, is the person who refuses to obey Christ a better person than the one who obeys?
Paul said, “For the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ also is the head of the church, being himself the Savior of .the body” (Eph. 5:23). If one has not obeyed the Gospel, he is not in the body, and therefore has not enjoyed the saving power of the blood of Christ. Now let me ask this: Is the person, who has obeyed Christ’s commandments and who has been saved, a more pleasing person in the sight of God than the person who stubbornly rebels, and therefore who is lost? Certainly so.
So, my friends, though one may be better than the sorriest in the church, be reminded that one can never he as good as the best in the church until he obeys Christ. And when that one obeys Christ, He adds him to His body which He purchased with His blood. Though he may be better than the worst of mankind, he still is not good enough to be saved unless he has obeyed the Gospel. And if he has any interest at all in the place Jesus has gone to prepare, he had better become a member of the body that Jesus saves. As long as he is outside the church built by Christ, he is unprepared to meet the Lord Jesus.
Cannot Remain Faithful
Many times I have been told by people, that they would become a Christian, but they were afraid they could not hold out faithful until death. People have told me that when they become a Christian, they want to live like one. But they feel that they could not live up to the high ideals of the Christian. Therefore they will not even profess the name of Christ.
In a way I can respect these people. The Lord wants people who take up the wearing of His name with a strong resolution that they will never drag it through the filthy pits of sin. He wants His people to be spotless and without blemish in His sight. In fact, His people, if they are to be saved eternally, must be like this.
But in another way I cannot respect these people. You know, there is a vast difference in saying that one cannot remain faithful, and in saying that one will not remain faithful. Most of these people who postpone becoming a Christian are people who know that they are not yet ready to quit sinning. It is not that they feel that it would be impossible for them to live a Christian life. It is simply that they are not yet ready to leave the pleasures of sin that they might enjoy affliction with the people of God. Sin is too enjoyable, too enticing for them to give it up. It has too strong a hold on them. They have sold themselves to the passions of sin, and are enjoying sin so much, they cannot see the beauties and the joys of righteous living. If you are one of these people, you have my sympathy.
But if there should be one who thinks he cannot remain faithful to Christ, he is indicating a lack of faith in the Lord. Did the Lord make him the kind of person that cannot cease from sin? If He made him this way, will He send him to hell for being what He made him? No, my friends. Jesus plainly teaches through Paul that “There hath no temptation taken you but such as man can bear: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will, with the temptation, make also the way of escape, that ye may be able to endure it” (1 Cor. 10:13). That is a sweet premise from the Lord, and it has never yet failed. There has never been one who has sinned, but that could have refrained from the sin. I have never committed a single sin that I could not have kept from committing. We are able, through the Lord’s strength, to endure. So, do not postpone your obedience to Christ because you think you lack strength to endure. The Lord will help you day by day. Do all you can, and trust Him.
Truth Magazine XIX: 56, pp. 883-885
December 11, 1975