By Larry Ray Hafley
There is a new breed of critics. Unlike the complainers of the past, these critics are members of the church. This is not a new phenomenon.
And Moses spake so unto the children of Israel: but they hearkened not unto Moses for anguish of spirit, and for cruel bondage (Exod. 6:9).
But the Egyptians pursued after them. . . . And when.. . the children of Israel lifted up their eyes. .. they were sore afraid: and. . . cried out unto the Lord…. Wherefore hast thou dealt thus with us… ? For it had been better for us to serve the Egyptians, than that we should die in the wilderness (Exod. 14:8-12).
And the whole congregation of the children of Israel murmured against Moses and Aaron. . . and. . . said unto them, Would to God we had died. . . in the land of Egypt (Exod. 16:2,3).
And the people murmured against Moses, and said, Wherefore is this that thou has brought us up out of Egypt to kill us? (Exod. 17:3)
And when the people complained, it displeased the Lord … and his anger was kindled. . . Moses heard the people weep… and the anger of the Lord was kindled greatly; Moses also was displeased (Num. 11:1, 10).
And all the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried … And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron: and the whole congregation said.. Would God that we had died in the land of Egypt! Or would God we had died in this wilderness! And wherefore hath the Lord brought us unto this land to fall by the sword, that our wives and our children should be a prey? Were it not better for us to return into Egypt? And they said to one another, Let us make a captain, and let us return into Egypt (Num. 14:1-4).
“Shall We Return To Egypt?”
There are trials, troubles and tribulations in the church today “without were fightings, within were fears” (2 Cor. 7:5). Local churches face problems and challenges of all kinds. There is fussing, fighting and feuding which frustrates the faithful. There is injustice unfairness and unkind words and deeds at times abound. There are wraths, strifes, heresies, quarrels. There is envy, jealousy, gossip, ill will, evil speaking and evil surmisings. Brethren do “bite and devour one another” (Gal. 5:15). There are disgruntled disciples and belligerent brethren. There are false doctrines promoted by false brethren and false teachers. There are divided brethren and churches split asunder. The devil never sleeps; his demons (the two-legged variety) do his bidding.
Shall we return to Egypt? Shall we fold our tents, find a juniper tree and sit down with Elijah? Shall we mope and moan, gripe and groan?
Some would return to Egypt by changing the church. In coming sections of this series, we shall confront and challenge their changes. Presently, however, in the chart on page seven, we notice that there were sins and errors in the first century. There were inconsistencies and incongruities. Truly, “there is nothing new under the sun.”
Were there sinful, marital situations in the churches of the New Testament age? Certainly, there was (1 Cor. 5). What was the solution? Was marriage disdained and discredited? No (Heb. 13:4). Was God’s law regulating the honorable state of marriage softened and altered to fit the immoral lifestyles of contemporary culture? No, rather, men were instructed “in righteousness” (I Thess. 4:3-5; 2 Tim. 3:16). Men in the lusts of the flesh clamour for the gospel of accommodation. Men in trust of the Spirit call for the gospel of revelation. Today, when men see marital malfunction, they often seek to revise God’s laws in order to make them more acceptable, more palatable to men of corrupt minds, destitute of the truth. That was not done in the New Testament, and it should not be done today.
Were there sinful, corrupt elders in the churches of the New Testament? Yes (1 Tim. 5:19, 20). Paul prophesied that certain elders would “arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:29). What was the solution? Was it to deny the divine “office of a bishop” (I Tim. 3:1)? Was it to refuse to “ordain elders” (Titus 1:5)? No, despite the arrogance and apostasy of some, despite the ineptitude and incompetence of others, scriptural, godly elders were not disavowed. It was not done then, and it should not be done now.
When the poor were cared for, was there a case of covert covetousness? Remember Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11)? Did the apostles see that sin might occur in attempts to relieve the needs of brethren and “close down shop,” refusing all such future ventures? Obviously, they did not (Rom. 15:25-27). When things go awry, when essentially good men do evil things, should we cease to do right, and return to Egypt? Be not dismayed. Be not surprised. Some will point out sin and inequity, and will try to turn us from that which is right. Do not be fooled. Do not compound one sin by committing another. That is what some would have us to do, but the apostles did not follow that course, and neither should we.
Demas was commendably mentioned by Paul (Col.4:14; Phil. 24), but he defected and departed, “having loved this present world” (2 Tim. 4:10). Are all gospel preachers to be viewed with contempt? Is there no such thing as “the work of an evangelist” (2 Tim. 4:5)? There is an old adage, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.” Do preachers cause confusion and division? Sometimes. Do preachers hurt and harm the cause of Christ? Sometimes. Preachers have the proverbial feet of clay. They will fail; they will disappoint you, themselves and the Lord. Should we, therefore, do away with their function in the faith? Answer: “And the things which thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2).
Some preachers “make merchandise of you” (2 Pet. . 2:3). Should preachers not be paid? “They which preach the gospel should live of the gospel” (1 Cor. 9:14). The Lord’s supper was corrupted. Did they cease breaking bread? Spiritual gifts were misused. The church at Corinth abounded in spiritual gifts, but was filled with carnal greed. Did Paul deny all gifts of the Spirit? Did he see the abuses and tell them to do away with all spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 14:1)? See the scriptures on the chart. Are there corruptions today that need correction? Should we make the necessary repentance and seek to do right, or should we attempt to restructure the church of the Lord (Rev. 22:18, 19)? There are those who would cite sins and seek to turn us from truth. Beware of such men. “Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch” (Matt. 15:14).
Paul reproved and rebuked the doctrinal deviation of Hymanaeus and Philetus (2 Tim. 2:16-18). He documented and specified their false doctrine (“the resurrection is past already”) and told of its effects (“their word will eat as doth a canker [gangrene] . . . and overthrow the faith of some”). Paul fought the sect of circumcision and “gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you” (Gal. 2:5). It was an endless battle, a constant contention.
Do you ever get tired of the arguing and debating that goes on? I do! It never goes away. It is always there. “How long, 0 Lord, holy and true,” how long must we continue “proving and explaining,” reproving and rebuking false doctrine?
Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season, reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables (2 Tim. 4:2-4).
The answer of some is to “cease fire.” Halt the hostilities. Run up the white flag of surrender. When men lose faith in the truth, when they lose confidence in the firm foundation of God, they will not be able to have and hold to a militant spirit. They bend with the winds of change and compromise. Error is not anchored. It may be stubborn and resistant to truth, but it is not anchored, settled. There is a difference. Error sways and bends. It is a chameleon, a kaleidoscope of shifting, variation and equivocation. It is not rooted and grounded as truth is. Error may be adamant, unyielding, but it is not anchored, stable. Do not be confused. You may think that error’s hard headedness is a sign of steadfastness, but it is not so.
There is no substitute for truth. Friendliness and kindness are necessary attributes, but they cannot replace truth (Matt. 7:15). Zeal and good works are essential, but they cannot replace truth (Matt. 7:21-28). Unity and peace are good and pleasant, but they cannot supersede truth (Jas. 3:16; Prov. 11:21). You may worship where there is friendliness, kindness, zeal, enthusiasm; good works, unity and peace, and still go to hell!
Men wrested and twisted the scripture in apostolic days (2 Pet. 3:16). Did the apostles recommend that we do away with scripture in order to avoid this problem? No, of course not. Are there things that are not right today? Are there sins and sorrows? Surely, there are. Do we change the church? Should we substitute human traditions and teachings for the word of God? Few will say, “Yes, that is the answer,” but watch them. There are those who will sell the truth for the temporary comfort of Esau’s mess of pottage. “Spots they are and blemishes, sporting themselves with their own deceivings while they feast with you” (2 Pet. 2:13). In future installments, we shall unmask these men that you may recognize them.
Whats Wrong With the Church of Christ?
BAD: SO, NO:
1. Marriages I Cor. 5 1. Marriage I Tim. 5:14?
2. Elders Acts 20:28-32 2. Elders Acts 14:23?
3. Help Needy Acts 5 3. Help Acts 6; 11:27-30
4. Preachers 2 Tim. 4:10 4. Preacher 2 Tim. 4:5?
5. Pay Preacher 2 Pet. 2:3 5. Pay I Cor. 9:14?
6. Lords Supper I Cor. 11 6. Lords Supper Acts 20:7
7. Use of Gifts I Cor. 14 7. Gifts I Cor. 12:31?
8. Doctrine 2 Tim.2:16-18 8. Doctrine 2 Tim. 3:16-4:4?
9. Scripture 2 Pet. 3:16 9. Scripture 1 Pet. 4:11?