By Irven Lee
Our Lord warned us of false teachers and of doctrines of men (Matt. 7:15; 16:12). The sin most often condemned in the New Testament is the sin of teaching or accepting a doctrine contrary to the doctrine of Christ and His apostles and prophets. The apostles’ doctrine and the doctrine of Christ are identical because the Spirit guided the apostles so that they could bind upon earth that which is bound in heaven.
In this generation, there are preachers for each false doctrine that is abroad in the land. The heretics contradict each other, and they contradict the teachings of Christ. Only those who are blinded by the god of this world can claim that all preachers are right since truth does not contradict truth. Those who say that one way is as good as another – and there are many that do say this – have little faith in God and little respect for His word. If all realized the power of the gospel, there would be none to defend the doctrines of men (read Matt. 15:8-14; Gal. 1:6-10; Rom. 1:16; James 1:21).
Preachers may have attitudes and dispositions that displease God and harm the church. It is also still possible for men to say and do not as it was when the apostles lived (Matt. 23:3; 27, 28). Envy, strife, anger, jealousy, and hate may be found in the hearts of many who stand before audiences to preach. Many who have preached to others will be cast away or rejected at the day of judgment (1 Cor. 9:27).
There may not be two people who are exactly alike physically, but there are some who are almost identical. Many resemble some of their neighbors. If we see a person at a distance, we may mistake him for some other person. I want to tell you about some preachers that I have known. Each one I describe will be very much like dozens of others, so I beg you not to name the men I mention. The men I describe may not be the ones you know. Reader, I am writing about some one else, so do not feel that I am telling on you. Any similarity is purely coincidental. The fact that some one may think that he can see himself in the word picture may cause him to be filled with pride, or he may be offended depending upon the description with which he can identify.
One preacher that lived several decades to bless my life and that of many others had a rather conspicuous impediment of speech. Through conviction and a strong desire to preach, he made the public proclamation of the word his life’s work. It is the truth that saves rather than the special skill in diction on the part of the speaker. Let us be lovers of good men even if they have problems in enunciation.
One man had great skill in expressing himself, but his wife could prove in the court by the testimony of the elders where he preached that he was a fornicator. He continued to preach being favored by the good graces of some who were no better than he. I hope there are not too many who will sue me for libel. Remember that I said that there are dozens who could fit each description given. Let each consider that I must be describing someone else.
One came on the scene years ago with little knowledge of grammar but with great love for, faith in, and knowledge of the Bible. His zeal, humility, and patience no doubt had their part in helping him teach the great plan of God for man’s redemption so that he baptized many hundred with his own hands. It was in spite of his handicap that he did so much good. I fear that people in this decade might be more critical of him. There are good reasons to overcome this weakness that one may accomplish more. Knowledge of grammar is more common now than in earlier decades, so people have a right to expect a public speaker to improve his skill in speech, but let us not forget the great men who did so much without this skill.
Much good work is now done by men who earn most of their support with their own hands. This is not the same as receiving full support from the church and then giving most of one’s time to some lucrative occupation so that he may satisfy his love for money. Selfishness is not a beautiful trait to be found in any one who claims to be a Christian.
Many wonderful servants of the Lord in past generations have given their lives to preaching without receiving the hire which the laborers deserve (1 Cor. 9:1-19). Things have now changed, and some are paid enough to live in special luxury. Why should this be? The preacher that is available to the highest bidder may not be the best man for the church that bids the most. There is a temptation in such cases for one to speak things which he ought not for filthy lucre’s sake.
Unfortunately, some of the faithful men of God are expected to give full time to the cause of truth, to live about as the brethren do who work at good salaries and with many fringe benefits, but they are not given enough to pay their necessary expenses. Brethren, it is not fair to keep such men constantly in a financial strain. Those who are supported need to learn to use good judgment in the use of their money rather than waste it on useless things.
One of the most pathetic stories about preachers is the story of one who seems to say the wrong thing every time he open his mouth. Common sense, wisdom, thoughtfulness of others, and humility are important. The lack of common sense is far more serious than some impediment of speech or physical handicap. There are those who appear to be egotists who would firmly deny it. The man of very poor judgment may have very little idea of how he appears to others. One who harms each church with which he works should not be supported to preach.
Let us mention the lazy man who searches until he finds support to work in some destitute area far away from those who support him, and when he gets there he works almost none at all. He is like one on a pension.
Let us all give thanks for the many young men who are devout, capable, and zealous in the work. The same temptations come to the young now that have come in the past, so we cannot claim perfection for all the young workers, but we should realize that there are many wonderful men working in the vineyard. Worthy young preachers and worthy older men appreciate each other. Each feels the need for the other.
Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 23, pp. 719, 725
December 6, 1984