By Webb Harris, Jr.
The apostle Paul spent about three years in the magnificent city of Ephesus, preaching and teaching the word of God to any and all who would hear. The Bible says that as a result of Paul’s labors, “so mightily grew the word of God and prevailed” (Acts 19:20). In Acts 20 a speech is recorded which Paul addressed to the elders of the church in Ephesus. Therein he informs them that he would never see any of them again. Persecutions awaited him in Jerusalem, where he was hurriedly traveling. He warned them of false teachers, “grievous wolves” that would not “spare the flock.” He commended them to the word of God’s grace. And he spoke to them these words concerning his past work in their city: “Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:26,27).
It is not impossible that Paul remembered the word which God spoke to the ancient prophet Ezekiel: “. . Hear the word at my mouth, and give them (Israel) warning from me. When I say unto the wicked, thou shalt surely die,” and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at thine hand” (Ezek. 3:17,18). Ezekiel understood that it was his duty to speak the word and warnings of God to the people.
To refuse to do so would be to cause them to remain ignorant of God’s will and Ezekiel would be responsible for their condemnation.
Do you understand the word of Paul in Acts 20:26,27? He had declared all the counsel of God to the Ephesians. Thus, if they would not submit to God’s will, it would not be Paul’s fault. He had done the duty of a preacher. He had proclaimed the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
Some Things Most Preachers Won’t Tell You
Today in the 20th century we are bombarded on every side with preachers and spokesmen representing an almost endless number of religious bodies. It must be admitted that many of these preachers are, indeed, telling us some of God’s word. They are diligent to tell us of God’s love, Jesus’ deity, and the need for righteousness. But are they, like Paul, telling us all of God’s word? Are they preaching the whole New Testament of Jesus Christ, or just the portions that suit them?
Following are seven things that the Bible tells you, that most preachers won’t tell you.
1. Most preachers won’t tell you what Jesus taught about religious titles. Since many preachers wear titles like “Reverend,” “Father,” “Rabbi,” “Pastor … .. Friar, ” etc., they hesitate to share what Jesus said in Matthew 23. As Jesus condemned the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees, He noted that they loved to be called “Rabbi” in public. Such elevated them as special men, in some way more righteous and pious than others. The Savior said, “But be not ye called Rabbi; for one is your master, even Christ. And all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth; for one is your father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters; for one is your master, even Christ” (Matt. 23:8-10). It is also important to note that the psalmist said of God, “Holy and reverend is His name” (Psa. 111:9). When men want to be heralded as “reverend,” they are treading on blasphemous ground.
Spend some time looking at how the apostle Paul refers to himself in his epistles. Never does he assume a religious title, or for that matter, even a “Doctor of Divinity.” What was good enough for Paul, Peter and James, ought to be good enough for men today.
2. Most preachers won’t tellyou what the Bible says about the organization of the church. The organization of most denominations is very complex. Generally, the structure begins wth the President of a national board. His headquarters is responsible for overseeing groups of representatives or delegates from different regions. And this continues to branch itself downward into the various congregations.
What most preachers won’t tell you, is that this type of super-structure is found nowhere in the Scriptures. The book of Acts tells us that the disciples went everywhere preaching the word. We focus on the apostle Paul and his co-traveler Barnabas: “And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they had believed” (Acts 14:23). Every congregation had its own elders. Peter said to elders, “feed the flock of God which is among you” (1 Pet. 5:2). These leaders were not answerable to some district board, but to the Lord and His word! The Bible teaches that the headquarters of the church is not in Washington or Timbuktu, but in heaven. For Christ is its head (Eph. 1:22).
3. Most preachers won’t tell you what the Bible says about women preachers. Every year, more and more women are laying claim to those aforementioned titles: “Reverend,” “Pastor,” etc. Not only are these women disregarding Christ’s teaching about such designations, but they are rebelling against what God says about the role of women in Christ’s church.
In 1 Timothy 2:11,12 it is written, “Let the woman learn in silence with all subjection. But I suffer not a woman to teach, nor to usurpauthority over the man, but to be in silence.” Many preachers will tell you that Paul’s reasoning was based upon that day’s custom and social practice. Such an argument sounds acceptable until we allow Paul to tell us, himself, why he teaches as he does. Hear him: “For Adam was first formed, then Eve. And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression” (1 Tim. 2:13,14).
Though the Bible speaks plainly, most preachers bow to social pressure and refuse to tell us what God says.
4. Most preachers won’t tell you what the Bible says about music in worship. Did you know that the first Christians sang praises to God without the use of mechanical instruments like organs, pianos and guitars? The Bible instructs, “speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart, to the Lord” (Eph. 5:19). Did you know that mechanical instruments of music were not introduced into worship until the early 7th century?
While we are not subject to the teachings of mere men, it is extremely interesting to note that John Calvin, Adam Clarke, John Wesley, Martin Luther and Charles Spurgeon were all publicly out-spoken against the use of instruments in worship.
It is often argued that since David used a harp to praise God, then it is scriptural for Christians to use pianos and drums today. But we will do well to remember that we are not governed by the Mosaic law that governed Old Testament Jews, like David. We live under the New Testament of Jesus Christ! And nowhere does the New Testament tell us that Christians are authorized to use violins and fiddles in their worship. “. . . teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Col. 3:16).
5. Most preachers won’t tell you what God says about financing the church’s work. Since most preachers engage in car washes, bake-sales, cake-walks and carnivals to raise funds for their churches, they won’t tell you what the Bible says about “fund raising.” There are two instances in the New Testament of funds being raised so that the church could function. In Acts 5:32-37 we see the saints in Jerusalem selling what they had, and putting the funds into a “treasury.” It is impressive that they would sell what they owned, before they would beg from the unconverted community. The instructions of 1 Corinthians 16 are not much different. “Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay him in store, as God hath prospered him” (1 Cor. 16:2).
Men can devise hundreds of schemes to raise money for the church. The only problem is that God has designed only one: Christians giving on Sunday, in proportion to the blessings of the previous week.
6. Most preachers won’t tell you what the Bible teaches about “salvation by faith alone. ” This doctrine has its roots in Martin Luther’s rebellion against the Roman Catholic Church’s selling of indulgences. He recognized that salvation was not to be had through buying one’s way to heaven, or even through impressing God with works of merit. Salvation is offered through Jesus Christ.
If preachers would be content to tell us that salvation is by faith, they would be speaking in harmony with the Bible. However, most feel a need to insist that man is saved by faith only. But hear the Bible: “Ye see then how that by works a man is justified and not by faith only” (James 2:24). Be impressed that the only time the phrase, “faith only,” is found in the Bible, we are being told that we are not justified by “faith only.” Indeed, faith that does not motivate one to work, is not saving faith. “Faith without works is dead” (James 2:26). If modern preachers desire to speak “as the oracles of God” (1 Pet. 4:11), they need to eliminate talk of “salvation by faith alone” from their lips.
7. Most preachers won’t tell you what the Bible says about baptism. No topic has been subject to more perversion than the topic of baptism. Proponents of the un-biblical doctrine of “salvation by faith alone,” having decided that salvation is imparted to men at the exact instant of belief in Christ, have come to teach that baptism is non-essential to salvation. Quite to the contrary, Peter instructed men and women, whose hearts had been pricked by the wonderful story of Jesus, to “repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ, for the remission of sins” (Acts 2:38). Modern preachers may say what they will; the apostle Peter made baptism a necessary step in one’s quest for forgiveness. Jesus instructed His apostles to “go ye into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved. He that believeth not shall be damned” (Mark 16:15,16). Most preachers will tell you that “he that believes is saved and ought to be baptized if he so desires”; we ought rather to stand upon what Jesus says.
It is significant, too, that baptism is administered to one who believes on Jesus Christ; not to infants incapable of possessing such convictions. “And the eunuch said, ‘See, here is water. What doth hinder me to be baptized?’ And Philip said, ‘If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest.’ And he answered and said, ‘I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God… (Acts 8:36,37). People who are truly interested in what the Bible says concerning baptism must read Romans 6:3-5, Galatians 3:26-27 and 1 Peter 3:18-22. If a man’s teaching does not conform to what the Bible plainly states, that man is a false teacher.
Paul wrote to Timothy, “take heed unto thyself and unto the doctrine” (1 Tim. 4:16). Preachers, of all men, have an obligation to stand firm upon what God has revealed in His word. It is a shame when they refuse to speak only where the Bible speaks. The situation which rinds a man declining to tell others what the Bible says, is a poor situation. The grave danger inherent, is that people will assume that their preacher speaks “the whole counsel of God” while he is whittling the word down to nothing but meaningless trivialities.
Indeed, many preachers offer us college degrees, soothing speech and firm handshakes. But few give us the pure, uncompromised word of God. “Howbeit, in vain do they worship me,” said Jesus, “teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Mark 7:7).
Contact the church of Christ in your area. The truth shall make you free (John 8:32).
Guardian of Truth XXX: 15, pp. 449, 469-470
August 7, 1986