“SON OF MAN, I HAVE MADE YOU A WATCHMAN”
From time to time, I feel compelled to deal with matters of a controversial nature, especially erroneous views and false teaching being advanced in some churches of Christ and often “incubated” in various institutions of higher learning connected with the church. I use my Facebook page, my “Hugh’s News & Views,” and other venues to point out that which I believe is contrary to God’s word, but I am aware that some of my brethren would prefer that I not do this. They think it is “hanging out our dirty laundry” for all the world to see, and they would rather I not do that. I am sorry that they feel this way, but the erroneous views and false doctrines are publicly disseminated (via the pulpits of churches, lectureships, journals, and books), so why should the warnings not be publicly disseminated as well?
I, of course, am not the only one who is warning of the aberrations in doctrine and practice now facing the church in various places, but if everybody felt about these matters as some seem to feel about them, I wonder if anyone would ever lift a voice in protest and refutation of what the false teachers are advocating. I never see from the pen or hear from the pulpit of some otherwise very fine brethren any protest concerning the error now facing the church or any refutation of it. Perhaps they are doing this and I just don’t know about it. Hopefully, this is the case.
As for myself, I know that at best I have only a few years left to serve, and I consider myself fortunate to continue to be blessed with opportunities to preach, teach, write, encourage, exhort, and warn. I have no ill feelings toward any of my brethren who think differently about the response that should be made toward false teachers, and I can only hope that they have no ill feelings toward me for the way I choose to respond. God commissioned Ezekiel to be a watchman for the house of Israel (Ezekiel 33:1-20), and our times cry out for a host of Ezekiels today to warn spiritual Israel, the church. (I would urge all to read and reflect long and hard on the Ezekiel text cited above. It is a sobering passage of divine scripture.)
I am not all negative and I do not believe in being all negative. I believe in being positive and preaching positive sermons and writing positive articles, and I do that. There is so much positive truth that needs to be taught, and I genuinely applaud all who provide that kind of teaching. At the same time, we are burying our head in the sand and refusing to face the facts if we think there is not much error emanating from the elderships, pulpits, and classrooms of many churches professing to be of Christ, and from the Bible Departments of various colleges and universities that claim a connection to the Lord’s church. And, sadly, there seems to be among some of them an air of superiority that they have “advanced” and arrived at a more “enlightened” view than the rest of us on those matters that are now separating brethren in many places.
Negativity is not inherently bad. I am not an auto mechanic or an electrical engineer, but I know that a car battery must have both a positive and a negative post, and that without either the battery will not work and my car will not run. G. K. Wallace, my now deceased but still highly esteemed Bible professor, once observed that eight of the Ten Commandments are negatives (Exodus 20:1-17). Before one becomes too critical of negativity (i.e., becomes too negative about being negative!), he needs to think through some things lest he be guilty of indicting the wisdom of God Himself!
Paul urged Timothy to “reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and doctrine,” and went on to say that the time would come when “they will not endure sound doctrine” (II Timothy 4:2). He reminded Titus that “there are many unruly and vain talkers and deceivers . . . whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not . . .” (Titus 1:10-11). In dealing honestly with the text of scripture, one will be forced to preach both positively and negatively. In relevant application of scripture, one will be forced to refute error wherever it is found—in the church or out.
It is readily acknowledged that rebuke, reproof, and correction should be offered with tact and in the spirit of Christ and that a lack of such does not tend to encourage and promote unity among brethren. But false doctrine and false practices do not promote unity among brethren either, but rather are causes of disunity (Romans 16:17)! Yet some speak in glowing terms of being tactful and having the spirit of Christ while seemingly overlooking the spiritually fatal danger of false teaching and false practices.
No individual Christian, local church, brotherhood publication, or Christian institution of higher learning (including its Board of Trustees, administration, faculty, staff, Bible Department, lectureship committee, or student body) should feel that they are above criticism and correction. In fact, all of us should welcome such, for that is the only way that fidelity to the Lord can be maintained. When any of us are found to be wrong—in our teaching, in our practice, in our thinking, in our attitudes, in our conduct, in our concepts, in our terminology—we should welcome and humbly accept correction and adjust accordingly. No one should think that he is above such, but rather should heed the admonition, “Be not wise in your own conceits” (Romans 12:16c, KJV).
Preachers of the gospel are watchmen! Elders of the local churches are watchmen! Editors of gospel publications are watchmen! Board members and administrators of Christian schools are watchmen! Christian fathers are watchmen! Let us be bold and courageous in our service to the Lord. Let us not be “ashamed of the gospel of Christ” (Romans 1:16). Let us not be afraid to “contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). Let us “Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong” and “Let all that [we] do be done in love” (I Corinthians 16:13-14). If I know my own heart (and I believe that I do), that is my sole intention and desire, and it explains why I sometime speak and write as I do.
December 5, 2017