By Larry Ray
Ours is an age in which style and symbolism have replaced substance. Kindly gestures are given when kindly deeds are demanded. The Bible speaks of this empty husk philosophy in these words, “If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, and one of you say unto them, depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?” (Jas. 2:15, 16) “Let us love not in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth” (1 Jn. 3:18).
The physical example is readily recognized, but the Holy Spirit used it to illustrate spiritual truth regarding the nature of faith (Jas. 2). This lesson and its application are needed in the church today. There are those who whine and whimper, “There’s not enough love shown in the Church of Christ.” Who can disagree with that general complaint? Is it ever possible to show too much true love? However, this is not what the whiners mean. Their concept of love is syrupy sentimentalism; it is transparent symbol-ism, not solid, certain substance.
What the complainers desire is preaching that results in an emotional “feel-goodism.” They want worship to be an “experience of joy,” an ecstatic “rush” that makes them feel good about themselves. The term “feel” is a favorite of those “whose god is their belly” (Phil. 3:19). Listen for it. It will help you to discover the essence of their motivation. It is a “touchy-feely” religion. It concentrates on making people “feel good about themselves.” It is concerned with how people “relate” to what they have “experienced.” On the other hand, the gospel strips man of his self esteem; it reduces him to his lowest common denominator; it shows him his naked wretchedness, his bankrupt soul, his blindness and ignorance. It does not stroke his back or sympathetically pat him on the head. No, it pricks him in his heart; it stuns his conscience with remorse and regret. It enlightens his intellect. It does not want a man to “reflect” on how he “relates” to what he “feels.” It causes a man to reason, to understand, to repent and obey (Acts 2:37,38; 8:30,31; 26:18). See chart on page 9.
Are our critics showing love when they accuse us of not showing enough love? When we point out sins and errors, we are accused with not showing enough love. “There’s not enough love shown,” they say. Is that a loving charge? If your doctor saw a large tumor in your body, would he be showing love if he said to himself, “He needs an operation. It will be painful and expensive. I love him too much to put him through all of that. I will prescribe aspirin.” Would that be showing love?
“He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes” (Prov. 13:24). “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby” (Heb.12:11). The teacher that spareth the rod of truth hateth his students, but he that loveth them chasteneth them early and often. Now no chastening correction by the word of God appears to produce joy when it is first administered; nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.
Context of “Love”
“Now I Paul myself beseech you by the meekness and gentleness of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:1). Those are sweet, tender words, but notice the words that immediately follow “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ” (2 Cor. 10:3-5). Is “the meekness and gentleness of Christ” incongruous with the language of warfare and destruction? Some would have us to believe that it is. They have a perverted concept of love. They will not, therefore, see the “pulling down” and the “casting down” of false doctrines as being “loving” acts. Paul knew that first hand, saying, “though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved” (2 Cor. 12:15). The more love he showed them the less he was loved. It is true today. Those who do not know the nature of true love will accuse you of not “showing enough love.”
“Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children: And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet smelling savor” (Eph. 5:1, 2). Those are gentle, loving words. Notice their context. Begin with Ephesians 4:17 and read through 6:18. The ardent appeal that they “walk in love” “as dear children” is sandwiched between blunt words of command and condemnation. Was Paul following his own advice? Was he walking in love as a dear child of God when he spoke of people’s “ignorance,” “blindness” and “shame”? Is it possible for us to heed his command to “walk in love” as a dear child when we obey his command to “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove (expose) them” (Eph. 5:11)? Well, is it?
Count the admonitions to godly living. How many “negative” reproofs and commands are given in the context of Ephesians 4:17-6:18? Was Paul specific? Did he cite certain, specific sins? Did he directly say that if one did certain things that he could not be saved? You know he did! Was he showing “love” when he did so? May a preacher today do the same thing and show love? Some say that he is “not showing enough love” if he “tells people what to do and what not to do, and that if they do not, they are going to hell.” They think that walking “in love” forbids specific naming of sin and warning of its condemnation if men continue in it.
Turn the question around. Does a man show true, Bible love if he refuses to tell men that their specific sins (cursing, drinking, immorality, dirty jokes, etc.) will cause them to be lost? Men who secretly love darkness rather than light will tell you that we are “not showing love” when we “condemn people” by citing their sins. Those who are “walking after their own lusts” will strive to convince you that we are not walking in love when we do as Paul did.
Did Paul show love when he “withstood” Peter “to the face, because he was to be blamed” (Gal. 2:11)? “But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all. . .” (Gal. 2:14). Was Paul showing love when he openly rebuked Peter and Barnabas? Was he? May we do so today? May we point out the errors of Peter, Barnabas, Guy Woods, Edward Fudge, Charles Holt or Homer Hailey and show love when we do so? Often those who are in sympathy with the erring brother’s doctrine will say that we are “not showing enough love” when we expose his teaching. Do not be moved away from the truth by such a charge. “Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?” (Gal. 4:16)
Whats Wrong With The Church of Christ?
“Theres not enough love shown”
- Is That A Loving Charge??
- Dr. Prescribes Aspirin Rather Than Surgery Is That Love?
- Prov. 13:24
- Context of “Love”
A. Eph. 5:1,2– 4:17 — 6:18
B. 2 Cor. 10:1 — Z0:3-5
- Did Paul Show Love? Gal. 2:5, 11-14
- 1 Jn. 2:5; 5:3; 2 Jn. 6; Jn. I4:15, 2l -24; 15:10, 14
- Make Critic Explain, Be Specific
Is it possible to “earnestly contend for the faith” and manifest love? Is it an either-or choice, or may we do both? To the Thessalonians, Paul said, “We were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention …. But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children” (1 Thess. 2:2, 7). Thus, one is not necessarily being mean and hateful when he boldly op-poses error “with much contention.” Critics would have you to believe otherwise, but do not be misled.
Commandments, Obedience And Love
Critics say, “We need compassion not commandments; we need love not law.” To them, showing love and compassion is the antithesis of preaching the law and commandments of God. They want to apologize for the demands of truth. They see this as being caring and compassionate. They see us as being cold, hard, harsh, unloving and uncaring. They imagine that we have no sympathy for the “felt needs of the whole man.” The following article by Dennis Gulledge illustrates this point.
We are facing a crisis with respect to the home in our land. Divorce is running rampant and the merciless toll upon men, women, children, the church, and the nation is devastating. How can the church help?
We must be compassionate toward those who have problems. But we must teach them God’s will regarding the home, marriage, divorce, remarriage. The false doctrines some are teaching do not help, but hinder. We must not be guilty of trying to accommodate the sins of the world, but teach people that forgiveness of sins comes through repentance and correction of the evil ways of life.
Because so many marriages have been broken without scriptural grounds, and because so many have remarried without God’s permission, some think the solution is to teach a different gospel regarding the subject. The truth, and only the truth, makes us free (John 8:32), not the ways of the world.
The preceding was written by James W. Boyd.
The May 1989 issue of the Christian Chronicle carried an article entitled, “Singles: Churches Encouraged New Ministries,” written by Joy L. McMillon. In it she says, “Clusters of churches have established divorce support groups, and some churches are down-playing the age-old difficulties with divorce and remarriage.” Question: How are these churches “down-playing the age-old difficulties with divorce and remarriage?” Answer: “Mike Washburn, singles minister at Richland Hills (Texas), says he presents the `five or six varied views’ of the question of marriage, divorce and remarriage to his group. `If some of the greatest minds in the church disagree on this subject, I am not going to come down definitively and say this is the way it is. I want our singles to have as many facts as they can (and) then wrestle with their own consciences.’
Does the fact that great minds differ on a subject, any subject, inhibit one from teaching the clear truth on that subject? God forbid! Does the fact that there are various views on the church, baptism, the second coming of Christ, instrumental music in worship, etc. demand that we preach a smorgasbord gospel, and say, “Here it is, folks, you can wrestle with your own consciences and decide what you want to accept”? Of course not, but this is what is done, by some, with the divorce and remarriage issue. Logic would demand that we do the same with everything else. We need the truth on this subject, and nothing else (Power, June 1993, p. 3)!
Are commandments, obedience and love incompatible? What saith the Scripture? The Holy Spirit equated these items thusly:
1. “For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love” (Gal. 5:6). What avails? What is profitable? It is definitely not circumcision or uncircumcision, so, what is it that truly matters? “Faith which worketh by love.” Now, listen to the echo of this passage.
2. “Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God” (1 Cor. 7:19). What matters? What is important? It is not circumcision or uncircumcision, so, what is it that really counts? “The keeping of the commandments of God.”
“Faith which worketh by love” is the same as “the keeping of the commandments of God.” To do one is to do the other. If we stress “the keeping of the commandments of God,” we are not neglecting or ignoring “faith which worketh by love.” We are establishing it! We should be complimented, not criticized and condemned.
If we are not showing enough love and compassion when we preach the divine demands of gospel obedience, will someone please explain the following passages to me?
If ye love me, keep my commandments…. He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me. . . . If a man love me, he will keep my words. .. . He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings (Jn. 14:15, 21-24). If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. . . . Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you (Jn. 15:10, 14). But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected (1 In. 2:5). For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments (1 In. 5:3). And this is love, that we walk after his commandments (2 In. 6).
Suppose we asked the Spirit of God, “What is love?” What will the Spirit tell us? “For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments” (1 In. 5:3). What does your spirit tell you? “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. …We (the apostles) are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us (the apostles); he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby (in this manner, in this way) know we the spirit (the teacher) of truth and the spirit (the teacher) of error” (1 In. 4:1, 6).
The real problem of the critics is that they chafe at the commandments they know they must obey. They resent them, and they resent those who call the commandments to their attention. They are of the world. They cannot fulfill their own lusts and be obedient to the gospel at the same time, so they seek a loophole, a way out. They will redefine “love” and create an ephemeral emotion of their own invention. They will speak so sweetly, so tenderly of love that you will never suspect their true motives. You will never believe that they want to redefine adultery, that they want to alter the work and worship of the church and replace the substance of the word of God with the symbol-ism of emotion. They want to applaud a baptism, accept the impenitent homosexual under the guise of compassion and softly hum a hymn while the Lord’s supper is being served. With tears in their eyes, they will bless and receive a couple who have been unscripturally divorced and remarried. They will tell you that “love compels it.” “These hurting people need someone who cares,” and, of course, they “care.” They care not for what the Son of God said (Matt. 19:9), but they “care” more than those who would “kick such people out in the street and refuse them a `church’ home.”
They will excuse their acceptance and compromise saying, “Every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God” (1 In. 4:7). They will not tell you, “And hereby we do know that we know him if we keep his commandments” (1 In. 2:3), or that “ye know that every one that doeth righteousness is born of him” (1 In. 2:29). No, they will not tell you that, for to do so would mean that they would have to define love according to the Bible and not according to their own values.
Let me give you a word of warning regarding those who call for more love and compassion and for less obedience to the commands and ordinances of God. If you openly oppose them, if you challenge their presuppositions, if you unmask their fraud, hypocrisy and deceit and show the true nature of love from the Bible, they will turn on you with vim, venom and vengeance. They will use every carnal weapon to abuse you. These same ones who speak “great swelling words” of love and compassion will show you very little of it! You will receive anonymous calls, cards and letters. You will be misrepresented. Your motives will be questioned. You will be called a troublemaker. It will be said of you that while they agree with “most” of what you say, your manners and methods are so hateful and despicable that no one can listen to you. Yes, these “loving,” “positive” people will manifest their true colors. Be kind, firm, patient, strong, resolute. Do not do anything that would tend to confirm their charges against you (1 Pet. 3:16). Stick with the Bible. Pray for them.
Guardian of Truth XXXVIII: 4, p. 8-11
February 17, 1994