The Simplicity Of The Gospel
We are about to grow up and become respectable. We are very much concerned about a good many things that were once matters of indifference largely. Some things are vital now that we did not formerly possess. Twenty-five years ago, or a little over, you couldn't find many more preachers than that among the churches of Christ that had college degrees. There has not been a so-called "Christian" college that could confer degrees much longer than that. Up until then the battle of "contending for the faith" and planting the kingdom of God all over the country had been waged and won by men who had specialized in a knowledge of the Bible. The only equipment they had was a thorough knowledge of the Word of God and the ability to tell others in the plainest of language what it taught and cite chapter and verse that taught it. The shoulders that had borne the burden of the struggle to propagate the religion of Christ were strong and broad. They were the shoulders of giants skilled in the use of the Sword of the Spirit.
Many of those great preachers have gone on. Some are still here. One could only list them partially and incompletely. How many of those men, even if they were in their prime, would be acceptable to the churches today? In many of the congregations would they appear too uncouth, uneducated, unpolished to fill the need now? How many of them could fill a place teaching the Bible in one of "our" schools? Is it too radical to say that such men and such preaching would fall far below the standard expected and required by many congregations now? It would be surprising to know just how far below present standards among some brethren they would come. Yet from among those men, uneducated according to university standards now, yet schooled and skilled in the word and service of God, it would be easy to select dozens, any one of whom knew more Bible, built more strength into the church, established more congregations, won more people to the Lord, routed more false teachers and false doctrines, than all of our "educated ministry" put together would in a life time.
Education of the right sort is needful but if it comes to a choice between P. H. D's. and R. F. D's. so far as their contributions to the cause of truth is concerned, you would have to give the decision to the R. F. D's. Yes, we have grown, but shouldn't we wonder if it has been as healthy a growth as it should have been? There is much talk and clamor about an "educated ministry" today but the kind of an education needed for building real strength into gospel preachers for preaching and defending the truth is not the kind most of the talk has in mind. To learn a lot about philosophy, sociology, pedagogy, psychology, or something else and very little Bible is certainly not the kind of equipment that counts for the most in Gospel preaching. Would it not be far better rather to know the Word of God and just a little about the rest of these matters
Human Philosophy And Divine Wisdom
We need to read and re-read, again and again, some of the pointed passages on this theme. Think of the emphasis given to the simplicity of the Gospel in such as the following passages:
"And a highway shall be there and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein" Isaiah 35:8.
"In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit, and said, I thank thee Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes:" Luke 10:21.
"For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect. For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God. For it is written, I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and will bring to nothing the understanding of the prudent. Where is the wise? where is the scribe? where is the disputer of this world? hath not God made foolish the wisdom of this world? For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom: But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jew's a. stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness; But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men. 'For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God path chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; And base things of the world and things which are despised, hath God chose, yea, and things which are not, to bring to naught things that are: That no flesh should glory in his presence. But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: That according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord." 1 Cor. 1:17-31.
From whence then comes the idea that such a great accumulation of human wisdom and learning will be a help in preaching the Gospel? Human wisdom and philosophy conflicts with divine wisdom and when a man pursues his education-according to worldly standards to the very highest degree, he has but an accumulation of material which he must lay aside in order to rest his faith upon the Word of God and effectively preach the gospel of God's Son.
All of the above passages emphasize the simplicity of the gospel and its revelation. Human wisdom is foolishness in the sight of God. Yet men on every hand are rejecting what God says for what they think. "I know the Bible says that, but I think" is a common remark.
If one does not trust in his own thinking, he is apt to put confidence in what someone else thinks and men on every hand are rejecting the word of God for what Dr. So and So thinks. He is a very learned man with a P. H. D.; T. H. D.; B. D.; D. D, et cetera, and that means he is smart enough that I can afford to take what he thinks rather than what God says.
Still others go by what the brethren are thinking and doing. They are willing to follow almost any trend in "organized religion" regardless of what God has said. They are blind followers of the blind, taking for granted every step of the way and allowing their faith to rest in men rather than the word of God. Here is the truth of the matter, God has not left human redemption up to man's thinking but has rather made it to depend on man believing. God has thought the way of salvation out for us. What we think will only interfere with our being governed by the mind of God. There is a lot of difference in our doing the thinking and the believing. Some of us have grown smart and wise enough that we think we must help God do the thinking in religion. But we haven't for "God chose the foolish things of this world that he might put to shame them that are wise" and "Christ sent me to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect," said Paul, and again, "And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God."
The basis of our faith then must be the simplicity of the word of God and not human wisdom or learning. Paul warned, "Take heed lest there shall be any one that maketh spoil of you through his philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ". Col. 2:8. Human philosophy and divine revelation just don't get along together. Perhaps that is the reason why all the uncertainty, doubt, unbelief, double talk, etc. is coming out of some religious schools these days. They have learned so much of what men think and know so little of what God has actually said. They are specialists in everything but real Bible knowledge. You try to insist on them confining themselves to the simplicity of the gospel and they will call you a "dictator". Therein lies the danger of an "educated ministry" which we hear so much about these days. If a simple plow hand preacher is sometimes tempted to give people the benefit of his own wisdom instead of telling them what God says, what will happen if you send him to a "graduate school of religion" and make a P. H. D. or a T. H. D. out of him? He will be mighty apt to decide that everybody should listen to him, including God.
The Roman Catholic institution affirms that the Bible is an unsafe guide in the hands of the people and that it is not safe for each man to try to understand it for himself. The power to understand and make known what God has said in his word lies, according to them, in the Catholic clergy. This, of course, means in effect that that the Bible is not a revelation at all but that the power of revelation is in the clergy. It is entirely possible that such an idea in a little different form might be growing in the minds of many today even among the churches of Christ. We are at least moving in that direction when we depend too much on worldly wisdom in an "educated ministry". We need to restudy the simple characteristics of nobility in the sight of God that was manifest in the Bereans.
"These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so." Acts 17:11.
We cannot afford to make a part of our faith anything that we cannot read for ourselves in the word of God in language plain enough to understand. That of course means that we are going to be "narrow" and "dogmatic" and in the eyes of many "sectarian" and "bigoted" but in the face of every charge that is hurled we can remember that what men call by such names, God calls nobility.