Mark 16:15

"Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature"

Praise of Men or of God?

In this last installment concerning what brother N. B. Hardeman viewed as dangers facing the church decades ago, we will be considering the fourth danger he listed: “A love for the praise of men more than the praise of God, lest they be put out of someone’s social circle.”
As far as getting to heaven is concerned, the praises of men are not to be sought, nor are they of any benefit! This is especially true if one is seeking praise of men instead of being concerned with what God teaches or desires. Paul asked a number of rhetorical questions in I Corinthians 3:1 when he asked, “Do we begin again to commend ourselves? or need we, as some others, epistles of commendation to you, or letters of commendation from you?” Another statement on this subject was given In II Corinthians 10:12:  “For we dare not class ourselves or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. But they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.” Then in verse 18 of the same chapter he says, “For not he who commends himself is approved, but whom the Lord commends.” Perhaps the individual would be more likely to speak more favorably of himself than others; and yet Paul shows that this is useless and vain. Now if I should not seek the opportunity to praise myself (“toot your own horn” as my mother used to say) why should I seek the praise of anyone else?  After all, God is the only one that we are to seek to please (Gal. 1:9-10).  
An example of what brother Hardeman is referring to is found in John 12:42-43: “Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.”   
And Jesus expounded on this subject again in the book of Luke: “Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you from their company, and shall reproach you, and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake. Rejoice ye in that day, and leap for joy: for, behold, your reward is great in heaven: for in the like manner did their fathers unto the prophets” (Luke 6:22-23).  He made it even plainer in verse 26 when He added, “Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.” Don’t believe I see any incentive in the Scriptures for being concerned with the praises of men, nor even the opinions of men.
So, after reviewing brother Hardeman’s suggestions of the dangers facing the church in his day, has the nature of man changed very much? Do we not face the same identical problems today that they did back then? Are not the same tactics used today to try to prevent the preaching of the plain, distinctive truth of the Scriptures? What is the answer? Preachers must continue to preach the Gospel without fear or favor (II Tim. 4:1-4). Elders must seek out men who are sound and who will assist in feeding the flock (Acts 20:28) and will hold back nothing that is profitable (Acts 20:20); and all should encourage and hold high the hands of God’s herald who faithfully delivers ONLY the message assigned by the King! (Rom. 10:15).
Before we leave this subject, let me also call your attention to one other statement of our Lord on this subject in His Sermon on the Mount. “Take heed that ye do not your alms before men, to be seen of them: otherwise ye have no reward of your Father which is in heaven. Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.” Is there ANY reward gained from praises of men? Yes, but only from men, and Jesus states there will be “no reward of your Father which is in heaven.”  Which will you choose?

Paul M. Wilmoth

Truth or Compromise?

The third danger listed by brother N. B. Hardeman, when he was asked about the dangers the church was facing, was “A disposition to compromise the truth and discourage sound preaching.”
I may be revealing my age, but when I was growing up, if you met someone and found out that he or she was a member of the Lord’s church, with few exceptions, all believed and supported the sound preaching of the Truth. Elders and members expected to hear nothing less than the Truth. Nor was the truth “sugar-coated” to make it sound more desirable. The preaching was plain, and it was distinctive. In Gospel Meetings you could expect to hear sermons on the identity of the church of the New Testament, sermons on Christian living, and the question, “What must I do to be saved?” was proclaimed often and clear enough that none could misunderstand it. False doctrines (such as “faith only,” “one church as good as another,” the use of instruments of music in Christian worship) were shown from the Scriptures to be false. Denominationalism was exposed for what it is, false religions started by men.  
In those days, it was not strange to see 30 or more responses to the Gospel; many of those converted were converted out of denominational churches when they heard the Truth presented exactly as God’s Word teaches it. Today, the question is often asked, “Why is the church not growing very much today?” Could it be because the Gospel is not being presented as plainly and distinctly as it was then? The “seed” is the “Word of God” (Luke  8:11). Maybe the reason we are not converting souls at the rate we were in those days is because we are not sowing enough “seed.”  
It does not take a man with the eye of an eagle to see that the Truth has been compromised today in many places. There is a famine in the land of sound Gospel preaching!  Folks want us to preach on things we all agree on, and leave off the things that divide us. That is like washing around an area where a cancer is growing and just ignoring the cancer itself. We will never all “speak the same things” (I Cor. 1:10) until we study the issues that divide us. Not preaching what the Bible teaches about baptism, music in worship, divorce and remarriage, dancing, and social drinking solves nothing. It only allows folks to be cheated out of learning the eternal truths on these subjects. 
Folks that were members of the Lord’s church used to be called “walking Bibles.” But today many of our preachers could not be justly called by that designation. And as far as discouraging preachers to preach the distinct Gospel today, preachers have been fired just for refusing to compromise the preaching of the Truth. Paul, in addressing the Ephesian elders said, “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). He had already said, “I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house” (Acts 20:20). Implied in this, preachers, is if we fail to declare the whole counsel of God, we are not free from the blood of those to whom we preach. And I for one, do not want others to be lost because I failed to proclaim all of the counsel of God! Preach it, and let them decide if they want to accept it or reject it, but preach it!
So, let none of us ever be intimidated or persuaded in any fashion to compromise the truth to any degree. We leave you with Paul’s statement that explains the degree that we should compromise. This statement explains how he dealt with false teachers: “To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you” (Gal. 2:5). Amen!

Paul M. Wilmoth

Please God or Men?

We continue to examine the answer brother N. B. Hardeman gave when he was asked many years ago about the dangers facing the church. Today we are considering the second of the things he listed as dangers, and asking if this is still a problem today.  He listed “a tendency to make the church a social club for entertainment.”
The world we live in has changed tremendously in the past 70 years. When I was growing up very few had a telephone in their house, and those that did generally had to share it with others on a “party line.” The idea of personal phones, and personal computers was unheard of. Folks would actually talk to one another when they met. Today, it seems that a lot of folks have lost the ability to carry on a conversation, even with their family members.  
Growing up in the 50s and 60s, worship was a sacred privilege. There was an atmosphere of reverence when the church assembled for worship and for Bible Study. The coming of the “age of technology,” has had an effect on the entire population of the world today; there is a desire for the spectacular, and today’s devices must be bigger and better tomorrow; and that effect has also rolled over into our worship and has lead many to abandon the sincere, reverential worship “in spirit and truth” (John 4:24) to the point where it is little more than entertainment. A denominational visitor to our services one time remarked that our worship was dull.  This individual was used to standing and waving the hands when singing, dancing in the aisles, high-tech bands, and flamboyant preachers that claimed everything from the Holy Ghost speaking through them, speaking in tongues, to the ability to do all sorts of miracles. So sincere, reverential worship seemed dull.  
Sad to say, but this attitude has also been adopted by some of our brethren as well. One of the first indications of this years ago was replacing Bible Study with the study of the Andy Griffith Show. Several fell in line. Then there was the use of “praise teams,” “puppet shows,” and “drama teams.” And now it seems that many desire to be entertained rather than to just simply worship God. After all, it draws the crowds!
I remind you of a rhetorical question the Holy Spirit asked through the pen of Paul when writing to the churches of Galatia, “For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? or am I striving to please men?” (Gal. 1:10a). He then follows that question with this inspired statement: “For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ” (Gal. 1:10b). It seems apparent that Paul is saying it can be one way or the other, but not both ways. We can either seek the favor of men or the favor of God. Today we can either seek to “reprove, rebuke, and exhort with all long suffering and doctrine,” as Paul commanded (II Tim. 4:2b), or we can follow the requests of folks today like those of Isaiah’s day, who say, “Do not prophesy to us right things; Speak to us smooth things, prophesy deceits” (Isa. 30:10). The only problem, is when we fail to follow God’s divine pattern for worship and doctrine, we are no longer pleasing God (II John 9-10).
I would love to see the church grow in number, but we must never give in to the ways of the world in attempt to achieve that goal. Paul’s statement in Romans 12:2 applies to our worship just as it does to our conduct before the world. Paul said, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

Paul M. Wilmoth

A Light Regard for the Bible

Last week we began looking at a statement made decades ago by N. B. Hardeman when asked about the dangers facing the church. He stated, “First a lack of Bible knowledge and a light regard for what it says.” Let’s examine his statement that folks have a “light regard for what the Bible says.”
Men have always ridiculed the preaching of the cross. Paul detected this same light regard for the preaching of the Truth and wrote, “For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God” (I Cor. 1:18).  Men have always had the tendency to ignore what God says, and do what they want instead. Paul wrote, “For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God” (Rom. 10:3). And he further explained when he wrote, “Because that, when they knew God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but professing themselves to be wise, they became fools” (Rom. 1:21-22).     
No matter how wise one is, (or how wise he believes that he is), when he leaves God and His Word, and leans upon his own wisdom or the wisdom of this world (James 3:15) he makes a tremendous mistake. It is a tremendous exaggeration of his own worth and his own wisdom and his own ability. Jeremiah recognized, “that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps” (Jer. 10:23). And Paul says, “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools” (Rom. 1:22). Paul also states that “the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men” (I Cor. 1:23). Christ on the cross appeared to be weak in the eyes of people; but that "weakness of God was stronger than men” and everything that men could produce. And as far as wisdom is concerned, the wisdom-seeking Greeks could not discern the most profound wisdom in all history, not even after it had been preached to them! Despite this, however, the rolling centuries have vindicated the truth which Paul here proclaimed.
Paul makes another statement about wisdom in I Corinthians 1:19; he wrote, “For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent” (I Cor. 1:19).   People often glorify the arrogant, proud, mighty and successful, but Christ was patient, meek, humble and submissive. And there are two reactions to the mystery of the cross on the part of two types of people who behold it. The two types are those who are perishing and those who are being saved. To the former, the cross is foolishness, but to the latter it is the power of God.  As an illustration of God's power contrasted with human wisdom, Paul cited Isaiah 29:14 where Isaiah, referring to the failure of worldly statesmanship in Judah in the face of the Assyrian invasion, states a principle that the wisdom of man is no match for the power and wisdom of God.
Wisdom of God brings salvation; wisdom of the world by the arrogant and proud brings destruction and  this is true of any and all who have a light regard for what the Bible teaches, but have set their own wisdom on their manmade throne. 
How do YOU regard the Word and Wisdom of God?

Paul M. Wilmoth