Quality Versus Quantity

By Irven Lee

“From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (John 6:66-69). The Christ had proven to honest hearts that He was of God by the miracles which He did (John 3:2). Peter and others could say, “We believe and are sure that thou art that Christ.” In John 6, He made some claims and statements that would separate those with honest hearts from those with closed eyes and stopped ears. Many turned back and followed Him no more. Our Lord was looking for quality rather than quantity. He was looking for worthy followers rather than nominal followers.

On other occasions He spoke only in parables. By explaining these later to those who wanted the truth, these parables became very useful ways of teaching the “mysteries of the kingdom” (Matt. 13; Mk. 4; Lk. 8). This method of teaching kept the message from those who would not learn.

“Who hath ears to hear, let him hear. And the disciples came and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: for this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear” (Matt. 13:9-16).

It took much time and much teaching for the apostles to understand the nature of the kingdom (Matt. 16:21-23; 18:1-4; 20:20-28). Our Lord taught them diligently and did not disown them, because they listened without offense. They had ears and would listen. When they went out to bind upon earth the things that are bound in heaven, they were guided by the Holy Spirit. They spake as the Spirit gave them utterance (Lk. 23:49; Acts 1:6-8; 2:1-12; Gal. 1:11, 12; 2 Pet. 1:22).

People who loved not the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness were not forced to accept the word. They could believe a lie if they preferred (2 Thess. 2:8-12). The god of this world blinds the minds of some, but he would flee if people would resist him (2 Cor. 4:3,4; 1 Pet. 5:6-9). The task of the church is not to try to please these who are ever learning and yet never come to a knowledge of the truth. These people are lovers of their own selves and of pleasures more than lovers of God (2 Tim. 3:1-13). If we please such people by our preaching, we are not servants of God (Gal. 1:10). We should preach the whole counsel of God and let those who will accept it (Acts 20:20,26,27). It is truth and only the truth that can make men free (John 8:30-32).

Usually the undesirable chaff is blown away by the preaching of sound doctrine (2 Tim. 4:1-5). For that reason, there should be able preaching and effective reproof before the whole lump is leavened with the leaven of malice and wickedness (1 Cor. 5:1-13). If bold preaching does not bring about the correction of error, there should be firm action by the church (1 Cor. 5; Rom 16:17,18; 2 Thess 3:615; Tit. 3: 10,11). The church should not allow the name of the Lord to be blasphemed because of the misconduct of unholy brethren (Rom. 2:24).

Indifference, worldliness, errors in doctrine, and bitterness are tools which the devil uses to defeat the good work the church is intended to accomplish. It is always a sad time for the church when a dominant element within the church is so conscious of numbers that it would have the church tolerate sin and compromise with error. In the long run, the church becomes much stronger when there is proper effort made to please God rather than the special effort to please men.

The church suffered very much from persecution in the days of the apostles. Such persecution would evidently do much to purge it of hypocrites. Some were led to say that the blood of the martyrs was the seed of the kingdom. The church grew rapidly in the period of much suffering. In the parable of the sower, Christ mentioned the word as being the seed of the kingdom (Lk. 8:11). In the explanation of the parable of the tares, He said the “good seed are the children of the kingdom” (Matt. 13:38). With these statements in mind, and with the understanding of what is meant, we might be able to go along with those who have said that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the kingdom. The beauty of holiness is wonderful to behold when the church is like a city set on a hill.

A denominational church that is bold in its stand for high morals may become the largest group in its area. The social gospel groups with modernistic preachers have won the disgust of the young and of the very world they have sought to please. Some years ago before the digressive spirit hit the church, it was a fast growing group over the land. It is a foolish thing for brethren to copy decadent Protestantism which is killing Itself in its own liberalism. The Captain of our salvation would have His soldiers put on the whole armor and fight a good fight. The gospel does not become more powerful when it is watered down by human wisdom. Every Christian needs the whole armor to withstand the wicked on in our vulgar and corrupt world.

Guardian of Truth XXVIII: 18, pp. 556, 568
September 20, 1984