By Daniel H. King
A genuinely touching scene is depicted by John in the twentieth chapter of his gospel: that of the grief-stricken Mary Magdalene at the empty tomb. It had not been her most immediate impulse upon arrival at the vacated crypt, to suppose that Jesus was resurrected. Instead, she guessed that either the Jews or the Romans or the two parties in conjunction had carried away the corpse of her Master. In answer to the question “Why are you weeping?” she replied, “Because they have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him” (vs. 13). In this reply and in succeeding verses, she evidenced considerable concern for the Lord. Though she thought Him dead, yet she would not have His body desecrated.
Mary’s sad plight ought to give rise to consideration on our part of a like situation. How much more saddened should we be; how much greater should be our alarm, at the fact that Jesus has today been “taken away” so that He cannot be located? At Christmas time every year, we hear a lot about the problem of Christ being “taken out of Christmas”. For my own part, I have never yet figured out how He could be removed from something in which He has never been scripturally or logically involved. I must admit that I have very little concern for Christ’s absence from Christmas. However, there are, some places where He belongs — but is not anywhere to be found. Consider a few of them:
Christ Has Been Taken Out of the Church
Jesus, not John the Baptist or any other, established the church (Matt. 16:18). Therefore, the name of Jesus at first was inseparably connected with that of the church: “the churches of Christ salute you” (Rom. 16:16).
With the proliferation of modern Protestantism, though, along with the constant fracturing and fragmenting of those bodies that compose it, there had been a constantly growing list of churches and therefore an incessantly changing list of names for those associations. Specific doctrines are attached to many churches as names, since that is the special feature of the group: “presbyterian,” “methodist,” “baptist,” “paedo-baptist,” “congregationalist,” etc. Sometimes the names of men are taken up and borne by those who profess the dogmatic stance of their standard-bearer and mentor: “Lutheran”, “Wesleyan”, etc.
How exceedingly odd it is that some call themselves after the name of the best man (Jn. 3:29) while they claim to be the wife of the bridegroom! Baptists have always found themselves in this awful predicament. The Bible teaches that the church is the pure and lovely bride of Christ (Eph. 5:32; Rev. 22:17). Would you feel comfortable with your wife’s taking the name of your best man? I should think that you would object with all due haste and intensity! You would likely suggest that there was an overabundance of emotional attachment to one for whom such was improper. Also you would probably claim with good reason that your bride was showing insufficient love for you and little concern for your wishes.
At times, the sacred name of the Savior has been attached to spiritual harlots who have no right whatever to wear it. The sign that hung in the front of the place of “worship” for the cult-leader- Jim Jones and his flock read “The People’s Temple of the Disciples of Christ.” What a blasphemous affront to that holy name! And most people can readily see this point when it is made in connection with People’s Temple. But its application is far broader than just this cultic and communistic group. It extends to all those religious affiliations and communions that wear His name, yet exist in virtual whoredom, showing no care for His will as found in His Word, prostituting their mission in this world, and extending to dying men everything except the bread of life. Israel played the harlot in days of old (Jer. 3i6~10) and dealt treacherously with God, her husband (Jer.4:20). Her bitter defeat and exile and the flames that ~ consumed Jerusalem and all of her cities should serve as a reminder that God is not soft or indifferent toward spiritual infidelity. Rather, He pursues the offender with relentless zeal both in this world and the next. Therefore, “Return O backsliding children, saith the Lord” (Jer. 3:14).
Our point is further proven by the observation that the name of Christ has been removed from those who claim to be Christians. They likewise allude to themselves with every conceivable designation aside from the simple name “Christian” which was appointed by the Lord’s apostles and prophets as the name they should wear (Acts 11:26; 26:28; 1 Pet. 4:16; 1 Cor. 1:12-16). Only the appellation chosen and subsequently affixed to His people by Jehovah Himself can possibly be acceptable to Him. Let me illustrate: If you were the head of a .large business enterprise, conceived and begun by you; and you found it necessary to go abroad to tend to other pressing matters after having appropriately titled your project; would you be pleased to return and discover that the board of directors had decided to change the designation you had selected and appointed for use? You would doubtless be infuriated! After all, you were the one who started the whole thing and the directors were supposed to be amenable to your wishes, not vice versa. The action they took in so radically and presumptiously rejecting your ruling would be tantamount to a rejection of yourself as originator and president of the company. The outright firing of the board of directors would be the thing that would follow. This analogy points out an important thing: God has chosen appropriate designations for Christians as individuals and for churches as collectivities. The replacement of those titles with names which better suit the wearers than the one appointed amount to an insult of the highest order and magnitude against the Lord who conceived us and designated us as He did.
There is one further thought that comes to mind along this line. The name or authority of Christ has been taken away from Jesus, and so He has been removed from the faith and practice of a majority of people. All that we are to do should be done in the name, that is, by the authority of Christ (Col. 3:17). Yet, He has been supplanted from His rightful place of authority in a variety of ways, Creeds, disciplines, missals, councils, synods, presbyteries,-and a whole host of other human devices have been concocted by fruitful imaginations. And the result has been more than a mere weathering away of divine authority. Rather, the outcome is a veritable disappearance of respect for the Bible as God’s law with a concomitant growth of concern for human judgment and public opinion. “Man is the measure of all things!”
Christ Has Been Taken Out of the Pulpit
Men-pleasing preachers have always posed a problem. The prophets perpetually worried over prophetic leadership that represented only a “rubber stamp” of political leaders and offered no moral guidance above affirmation of the status quo. With a storm gathering on the northern horizon that spelled doom for Judah, they preached “Peace, peace” when there was no peace (Jer. 6:14). The sword entered the body and was reaching for the vitals (Jer. 4:10). Yet they proclaimed that all was well.
In our own day, we are plaqued by men who wink at every sort of evil, who will not cry out against any thing. These men are not the sons of the prophets; they do not represent the legacy of Paul or Peter or Stephen; their chief lent is to foster “social Christianity,” clear all of the ‘rns, and generally fulfill the objectives of a watered down form of Marxism. The materialism exemplified by spires that pierce the heavens, ornate and ostentatious furnishings, priceless stained-glass windows, pretentious organs and pianos, etc., never strike such men as a fundamental contradiction of the pomposity which they wear as shamelessly as they do their turned-back.-collars.
The major concern is to “pastor” a large church, hold a prestigious place in the local ministerial alliance, draw a fat salary, and climb the ladder of ecclesiastical politics to the top. Men like Paul would not do for the churches which they serve; he had too little respect for ecclesiastical diplomacy (2 Cor. 13:2; 2:17). The content of his message was “Christ and him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:1-5). not good literature or pious poetry, not jokes and lively stories, not platitudes or Shakespeare. The “whole counsel of :God” was his chief consideration (Acts 20:27).
Statisticians reveal to us the reason for much of this. They tell us that the majority of modern denominational -preachers have given up faith in the inspiration of the Bible; most deny the virgin birth, the incarnation, the resurrection, and the miraculous elements of the Bible. Hence, they protest the authority of Scripture and consider Shakespeare just as reliable as a guide for moral excellance. They have taken away my Lord and I know not where to find Him!
Christ Has Been Taken Out of Christian’s Lives
The apostle Paul said that Christ was living in and through him (Gal. 2:20). The key for the child of God as he further points out, is that he ought to live his life while in the flesh by faith. Elsewhere he simply explains that we should walk by faith and not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7). This remark could be generalized to include all of the five senses of the human body, hearing, touch, taste, and smell. The sensory equipment of humankind is insufficient to supply him with understanding in spiritual matters. It requires revelation by the Spirit (1 Cor. 2:11-13).
Absolute honesty may seem inexpedient in the modern era; the good neighbor policy demanded by the Master may appear foolish; good citizenship and moral purity may be viewed as obsolete and out of date; but the God of heaven personified every one of th-use traits and a multitude of other marvelous virtues in the person of Jesus Christ. If those virtues are absent in my life and in yours, then we have taken away the Lord too. And – I don’t know where else to find Him save in the lives of Christians. The world has always considered Him forgotten, except when they see Him in us.
Mary Magdalene was tearful in her concern that the body of the Lord might have been desecrated by his enemies. Are we similarly concerned that the name and authority of the Master has fallen into disrepute at the hands of His supposed friends? If so, there are certainly many things that we can do to express our anxiety:
1. Let His church wear His name without being solicitous that denominations and their advocates have blighted it.
2. Let Christians proudly wear the name that is above every name, that of Christ, without reservation or qualification.
3. Let Christ and Christ only be preached from the pulpits of every land. Moreover, the doctrine found in His word should not in any way be distinguished from His person (I Tim. 6:3; 2 John 9). Preaching the doctrine of Christ is the same as preaching Christ.
4. Let Christians bear the image and impress of the person of Jesus in their everyday lives.
So, God will be glorified and His children will be saved. Otherwise, neither will result.
Truth Magazine XXIII: 33, pp. 538-539
August 23, 1979