PREACHING AS THE CALL TO ARMS…
The command of our Lord Jesus Christ to the church is to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature. It will be impossible to carry out this command without knowledge of what is the gospel.
We need not be in the dark for God himself has told us. As a matter of fact, it was God who proclaimed the gospel first of all. He came to Adam and Eve after they had disobeyed his commandment not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. They had allied themselves with the devil against the Most High, and this alliance would bring them death. It is then that God announces the good news: “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” I am sure that all my readers agree with me, that God is the only one who could correctly reveal the content of the good news. The gospel is a declaration of war. It seems to me that many who continually remind us of the mission command of our Savior, to go and preach the gospel to every creature, have lost sight of this.
By setting enmity between the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent, God draws a line. The woman and her seed on the one side and the serpent and his seed on the other, facing each other in a war that will end in the destruction—the utter destruction—of one of theml
We know that the victory will be won by the seed of the woman. But we also know that the struggle will bring bitter suffering, the bruising of the heel.
Our Lord and Savior makes it plain that he has come in recognition of the enmity established by God. He says: Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I came to hring the sword. It is this aspect of the gospel that is not sufficiently empbasized at the present time.
When the mission command is cited, the introduction to this command is often ignored. Jesus declares: “Unto me has been given all power both in heaven and on earth. Go ye therefore.”Preaching the gospel asks that we hail the Christ as the Ruler over all, who must be recognized as such. Those who in faith accept him as the King of kings and order their lives accordingly shall be saved. Those who refuse to acknowledge him shall be damned. He is the rider on the white horse, who goes out conquering and to conquer.
The gospel of peace is the call to battle. It speaks of a peace with God through Jesus Christ in a world that hates God. There is no neutrality possible. He who is not fen me, is against me. The Word which must be preached is a savor of life unto life, or a savor of death unto death. The preaching of the gospel is a declaration of war. It is for this reason that we are told by the apostle Paul to put on the whole armor of God. He admonishes Timothy to be a good soldier of our Lord Jesus Christ. And when he comes to the end of his life, he declares, “I have fought the good fight…I have kept the faith.” It is this emphasis of the gospel that is greatly needed in our day.
A fellow church-member and I get into an argument. Nobody else is present. We differ sharply and honestly. After a while he loses his temper and calls me “a hypocrite.” Of course, I feel offended. What am I to do? Scripture gives a clear answer to that question. The offense is both personal and private. To precisely that sort of offense Jesus addressed himself in Matthew 18:15–17, “If thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone; if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother. But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two mare, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established. And if he neglect to hear them, tell it unto the church; but if he neglect to hear the church, let him be unto thee as a heathen man and a publican.”
I am walking down Broad Street. Ahead of me is a saloon. Just as 1 pass it, out steps a fellow churchmember. I greet him and, a bit dazed, he returns the greeting. There is a distinct smell of liquor on his breath and his gait is far from steady. Beyond all doubt, he is “under the influence.” What am I as the sole witness to do? Does Matthew 18:15–17 apply here? To be sure, the offense was not directed against me personally and hence is not personal in that sense, but, being known to the offender and me alone, it certainly is private. Therefore I do not tell my friends about this incident, nor do I inform the minister, neither does it occur to me to rush to the next meeting of the elders in order to insist that they discipline the erring brother. Contrariwise, in the hope of both gaining my brother and saving his reputation I follow the procedure stipulated by the Lord Jesus in the aforesaid passage of Scripture. James 5:19, 20 also applies: “Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth and one convert him, let him know that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death and shall hide a multitude of sins.”
I am a member of the Christian Reformed Church. A minister of that church writes a book or a magazine article in which he denies a cardinal teaching of the Reformed faith—that from eternity God foreordained unalterably all that was to come to pass. That book or article is published. I read the published denial. Is it wrong for me in a book review or a magazine article of my own to reflect critically on the denial without previously having followed the procedure of Matthew 18:15–17? Most certainly not, for here is an offense which is neither personal nor private. Instead, it is a public offense against the truth. For that very reason the matter requires that I speak up without delay. And, while Christian love demands that I work and pray to the end that the erring brother may recant, I ought not to be dilatory about laying the matter before the proper ecclesiastical assembly.
In their Church Order Commentary Van Dellen and Monsma say quite correctly: “Public sins are to be reported to the Consistory forthwith, not because the general office of all believers has no duties to perform in such cases, but because of the public offense given, which offense must be removed as soon as possible, and because the sin is already known to many and therefore its immediate revelation to the consistory cannot be termed uncharitable. Fellow believers must certainly show concern when one of their number errs. They should admonish the erring also in case the sin committed is public. But the public offense. the blot upon God’s Church and His sacred name must be removed as soon as possible, and that can only be done publicly. Consequently public sins are to be reported to the consistory forthwith” (pp. 305 f.).
R. B. KUIPER
THE INCONSPICUOUS SEED
“Mainstream Protestantism is involved in unpublicized informal discussions, presumably the first ever, with representatives of a cult,” so a recent news item appearing in Christianity Today informed the reading public. “Talking as friends” are representatives of the Christian Science movement, the United Presbyterian Church and the United Church of Christ. While the committee bas made no official statement, one member, a Presbyterian layman, has said that he believes the members of the cult to be part of the body of Christ.
To those caught up in the winds of ecumenism this might sound like a noble move. Of course, we must hasten to add that there is no hint in the news release of talks for the purpose of union. Nevertheless, the very idea of discussions carries with it some very distressing thoughts. Could it be that this represents a new tack in the circles of ecumenicity? If so, or even if not, it appears that the whole antithesis between darkness and light, error and truth is lost and today fellowship can be had without reference to Scriptural principles.
Even more distressing is the knowledge that men trusted with leadership are making statements that contradict God’s revelation. We cannot believe that the ideas of these churchmen are acceptable to all the members of the denominations represented. Nevertheless, it appears that the works of Belial are gaining in popularity.
We can be thankful that we are not involved with such a movement, but we cannot be at ease. These notions in the denominations mentioned did not come into being overnight. They grew from a seed planted inconspicuously. Ought we not be a bit more careful and prayerful that such seeds are not given an opportunity to grow among us? Do we sometimes complacently say, “It can’t happen here”?
A weed begins to grow but we reason that it will do no harm. Perhaps a few complacent saints of another generation had this same attitude about their beloved denominations. But the shocking thing is that it did happen! And now look: there is confusion as to what is truth and what is error. Perhaps we ought to open up the Bible again to read the book of Jude and the numerous other warnings from God as well as the sound counsel in doctrine.
It is November; the society season is in full swing but still there are empty seats. To elders, pastors and society leaders alike comes the same reason from most of the absentees, “I am so busy, I have no time.” Repeated appeals bring no results. This is a common problem in every congregation. But could it be that there is an answer?
A while back an article gained the national eye which indicated that those who say, “I can’t afford it,” are merely making clear what their values are in life. Perhaps this principle has a far wider application, and the same is true with our time as with our money.
How interesting it is to watch those whose stock answer to society attendance is “no time.” In place of Men’s Society, ladies’ meetings and other adult activities in the church comes a vigorous program of bowling, coffee drinking and a general mad social whirl. The young people soon learn to make the same excuse. There is little time for Young People’s Meetings and it is an effort for them to drag their feet to catechism. Yet, time abounds for the busy school program and for the many community activities, as well.
Ah, but really, why is there no time? Perhaps there are some legitimate reasons but in many cases, I am afraid, it is because there are other, more important things to do with our time than to go to a church meeting especially to study the Word. How strange this is. We say that we love the Lord with all our hearts, souls and minds but some of his sheep apparently do not love him with their time. I guess that it all depends on what we value most.