Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 2, 1960
NUMBER 5, PAGE 3a-5a

Well Wishers

Luther Blackmon, Pasadena, Texas

Upon the death of Solomon the throne of Israel fell into the hands of his foolish son Rehoboam. Rehoboam's folly, combined with some other factors, brought into action God's plan to rend the kingdom, and Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, led ten tribes away and became the first king of the northern kingdom. The first capitol was Shechem, then Tirzah, and finally under Omri the capitol was established at Samaria.

But while Jeroboam was king he established places of worship at Dan and Bethel. This was for more than convenience. God had selected the place where Israel was to worship — the house of God in Jerusalem. But Jereboam knew that if these Jews were allowed to go back to Jerusalem three times a year to attend the annual feasts, he would eventually lose his hold upon them. And Jeroboam was a shrewd politician. He knew one important thing about nature. Man has always had a tendency to want a god he can see. Even in this day we are inclined to measure our spiritual progress by the size of the church building, the wealth of the membership, and the number in Bible study. Jeroboam made them golden calves, along with the altars, at Bethel and Dan. These calves were not meant to replace Jehovah. They were to be tangible representations of Him. But this tangible representation was something God had strictly forbidden in the second commandment. "Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image. . . ." With the breaking down of the barrier, it was only a matter of time until heathen idolatry moved in to stay. Dynasty after dynasty rose to power only to be blotted out in blood. Not a single good king ever reigned in Israel. Finally the Assyrian hordes "swept down from the north" and carried almost the whole nation captive beyond the Euphrates, and the sun of the northern kingdom set forever.

But while the people of the northern kingdom were worshipping at the altars in Dan and Bethel, God sent a man down to Bethel to cry against the altar there. In I Kings 13 the Bible says, "And behold there came a man of God out of Judah by the word of the Lord unto Bethel: And Jeroboam stood by the altar to burn incense. And he cried against the altar in the word of the Lord and said, 0 altar, altar, thus saith the Lord behold a child shall be born unto the house of David, Josiah by name; and upon thee shall he offer the priests of the high places that burn incense upon thee, and men's bones shall be burnt upon thee." Jeroboam reached his hand out to lay hold on the man of God and his hand withered. He implored the man of God and he interceded for him and his hand was restored. Then the king invited him to dine with him, but he refused, saying that God had forbidden him to "eat bread or drink water or return again by the same way he came". Then he started home.

At this point another character comes on the scene in these words: "Now there dwelt an old prophet in Bethel; and his sons came and told him all the works that the man of God had done that day in Bethel And he said unto his sons, saddle me the ass, so they saddled him the ass and he rode thereon, and went after the man of God and found him sitting under an oak." This chapter goes on to say that the old prophet, by lying, persuaded the man of God to return with him to his house and by thus violating the command of God, to lose his life.

Many lessons might be suggested in this chapter, but one thing stands out in my mind just now. Here was a man, an old prophet, living in Bethel, who knew that the thing that Jeroboam was leading the people in doing was wrong. Yet, so far as we are able to tell, he had never raised his voice against it. When he heard what the man of God from Judah had done, he was stirred with admiration for him. Though he evidently had not the courage to oppose Jeroboam's idolatry, he admired the man who had. His admiration for him cost the man his life, but I think that the old prophet did not plan it this way when he persuaded him to come with him. This seems evident from the fact that he requested that the man be buried in his own burial plot, so that when he died he could lie beside the bones of the faithful prophet. Perhaps the presence of this brave man either in life or in death, provided a measure of comfort to the troubled conscience of the old prophet.

In the past few years we have seen the attitude of the old prophet manifested many times. Some preachers and others whose influence would weigh heavily against the rising tide of digression that threatens the church, cannot find it in their hearts, it seems, to speak out. I have no right to judge their motives. Perhaps they do not think the matter is as important as I think it is. But it seems to me that a matter that is important enough to divide the body of Christ, is important enough for a man who cares anything about The Lord's Church to take a stand on, one way or another. How important would an issue have to become before one should stand up and be counted?

I am told that brother Larimore could not be persuaded to take a public stand against instrumental music for some time after the fight started. Brother Lipscomb urged him, in view of his great influence, to speak out against it. Lipscomb believed that Larimore could do more than any other man then alive to save the churches in the south from digression. Brother Larimore finally did speak out, but not until after many of the churches that might have been saved were lost.

Many intelligent men think that the church now faces an even greater crisis than she faced in those days. And I for one think that they are right. Because the same general attitude towards authority that brought in instrumental music and the societies is with us now. And what makes our present situation more dangerous is the prosperity of our times. Lipscomb and Larimore lived in the era following the ravage of the civil war, when the country was poverty stricken in comparison to our times. We are riding an unprecedented wave of material prosperity. With this prosperity to feed the spirit of collectivism and centralization that has taken roots among us, it isn't hard to see that we are headed for some mighty "big" things. Already it has come to pass that a simple unpretentious program of work by a congregation, like sending a thousand or two thousand dollars a month to support gospel preachers in other fields, and refusing to be tied in with any brotherhood wide campaigns, is unpopular. Such churches now are called "anti churches — whatever that means. Brethren have decided that churches functioning as they did in Paul's day just aren't capable of doing what the church should do. It was this sort of thinking that gave birth to Herald of Truth. And the Herald of Truth is just the first major step. If this "Million-For-The-Billion" program gets off the ground, you haven't seen anything yet. And it has just the fellows behind it to get off the ground, with the other fellow's money. (F. F. Mar. 1, 1960.)

And while you are waiting for this big one to jell, take a look at the convention of twelve churches in the Wichita Falls area. (F. F. Jan. 19, 1960) Two men were chosen from each of twelve congregations to form a "Steering Committee" to discuss plans" for a "cooperative work" among these churches. "And to return to their congregations for the approval or disapproval of their local elderships". What's wrong with that? Well, what would be wrong with a state-wide "Steering Committee", with delegates sent from each church in the state or nation to "discuss plans" for a "cooperative work" among churches of Christ? Not anything wrong with it that isn't wrong with it that isn't wrong with one that was held in Wichita Falls. This is just another reminder of the scriptural statement that "as a man thinketh in his heart so is he". When brethren start thinking in terms of universal church action, they will finally and inevitably find a way to put it into action.

Add to this the problem of the social gospel, church-building gymnasiums, recreation centers, church-kitchens, sponsoring baseball teams, "fellowship halls", etc; the effort to get the schools into the treasuries of the churches even more than they now are; the increasing emphasis on pomp and show, an example of which is seen in a recent article by a preacher who was ecstasy over the church where he preaches have been able to purchase a building fitted with a $60,000 pipe organ which will be used for funerals and weddings, a $10,000 window, $18,000 chimes and other considerations, all of which will add much prestige to the church that bears the name of the lowly Galilean who "had no place to lay his head"

It seems to me, brethren, that if the church is to remain true to her charter, we have some fighting to do, and I think the church is worth fighting for.

Some preachers tell us in private conversation that they can see grave danger in these things, and that they certainly don't endorse such, but they preach week after week, and hold meetings all over the country in churches that are promoting these things and never say a word against them publicly. Their actions seem to say, "We wish you fellows well who are opposing these things, but we can't afford to get mixed up in it."

Some men just wave the whole matter aside with a casual, "I am preaching just what I have always preached". This phrase, "I am preaching just what I have always preached" is becoming very popular, but it doesn't tell the whole story. I remember when premillennialism became a hot issue in the church. Some men who had always preached and debated the establishment of the kingdom on Pentecost, found it necessary to preach it with new emphasis. Times demanded it. Others said little about it except to criticize those who were fighting it for their "unchristian spirit". Maybe there were harsh words, but that didn't excuse a preacher for refusing to preach against false doctrine. But when such a preacher's soundness was questioned, he indignantly replied, "I have always preached that the kingdom was established on Pentecost". Was that enough? I don't think so. Accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative is not Bible doctrine. As far as principles are concerned most all of us are "preaching just what we have always preached". The thing that has brought on the trouble is that some of us have begun to apply what we preach to our own practice. We always "preached" that the congregation is the organization authorized to do the work of the church. As long as we just applied this to the organizations of the denominational world, everyone was happy. It was when we started applying it to "our" organizations that trouble came. We have always "preached" that the oversight of elders is limited to the congregation (membership, work and resources) where they are elders. As long as we just "preached" this, things were peaceful. It was when we began applying it to programs like Herald of Truth and the sponsoring church plan of mission work that the trouble started. We have always "preached" that the mission of the church was evangelism, edification and benevolence, and that pie suppers and baseball teams did not fit into this anywhere. That was when other folks were doing it. Now that "we" have embraced these things, clothed them in new raiment and given them a new name, "fellowship", they assumed a spiritual mien, and woe to the preacher who opposes them! You can still "preach" just about what we have always preached, if you will just "preach" it and not try to practice it. However, even this is becoming more unpopular. If you don't think so just lay it on the line and emphasize the things mentioned above: the all sufficiency of the church — limitation of elder's oversight — mission of the church — and you won't have to apply it to anything — just "preach what we have always preached", and then see if you don't observe some brethren looking at the floor with an uneasy and pained expression on their faces — maybe twiddling their thumbs nervously. If you happen to find yourself in this tense situation, however, you can relieve the tension by saying something sarcastic about "antis".

Some of the fellows have said, "I don't go along with a lot of things that the churches are doing, but I am not going to be lined up on either side". If he means "lined up" in a party spirit, I don't blame him. But if standing for the truth "lines him up" how can he do otherwise? Paul's obedience to Christ "lined him up" with the "sect everywhere spoken against", brought him persecution and death. But it also brought him the crown of life. These brethren say in effect, that their sympathies are with those of us who "don't go along" but their association and hence their influence is with those who are promoting the things they say they "don't go along with". I think perhaps they are in hopes that this business will finally straighten out of itself. But he who is disposed to look upon this unhappy business as a "tempest in a teapot" has not reckoned with the forces in the conflict. Personal ambition, pride, and material wealth on the one side and almighty truth on the other. Nothing short of complete capitulation and compromise by those who oppose the innovations will ever bring peace this side of complete separation. May the good Lord forever keep us from that kind of peace.