Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 5, 1959
NUMBER 39, PAGE 8-9b

The Church And The World In Contrast

Howard S. McCutcheon, San Francisco, California

What the Bible has to say on this subject is clear. No one can misunderstand. What the brethren do about it today is another matter. Jesus first introduced this subject in the Sermon on the Mount, when he said, "Ye are the light of the world," and, "Ye are the salt of the earth." A city set on a hill cannot be hid. There is no way that the church can be the light of the world save by contrast only. If the church is like the world — until there is no appreciable difference — it cannot be the light of the world. This refers chiefly to our conduct and manner of living. So the apostle Paul says: "Be not conformed to this world: . . ." (Rom. 12:2.) The word "world" here is age. The argument is being made everywhere that times have changed and that, for the purpose of justifying the church in its worldly manners, to be "conformed" means to be like If we become so much like the world that we blend perfectly with it, how can we be the light of the world? The only hope of the church is to be different.

It is not enough for the church to preach "sound doctrine"; it must be sound also in the practice of it. Those who preach the "sound doctrine," therefore, should be sound, or else the church cannot be the light of the world. The church sustains the same relation to the world that the eye sustains to the human body. Jesus said that if "If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!" (Matt. 6:23.) He also said: "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works." (Matt. 5:16.) Therefore, the church is the light of the world, not in doctrine only, but in life — in practice. Christ himself said: "As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." (John 9:5.) He is no longer in the world, save only in the presence of his church, which is his body. His church must, therefore, reflect his life by walking in his footsteps. He suffered to leave us an example for this very purpose. And for the church to conform to this world or age is unthinkable. Instead of conforming to the world, we are to be "transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God." (Rom. 12:2.) This done, and at once the church becomes the light of the world and the salt of the earth. Perhaps one of our chief troubles with brethren today is their effort to fashion the church in such a way that it will be found pleasing to the world — to do as the world does, to blend into everything around it, to be a sort of chameleon.

Many of our brethren today can hardly stand to be different from the denominations about them. Our only hope to be of saving value to the world is by being a separate, peculiar people and dwelling alone. The apostle Paul, inspired of God, says: "Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship bath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? ... 'Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you. And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty." (I Cor. 6:14,17,18.) If the day was not different from the night, we would lose all the light we have. So also the church. It must be different to its surroundings. It cannot conform to the world and be different. Our relation to the world, then, is to be unlike the world. This is impossible as long as we do as the world does. There are many passages in the Bible which give some members of the church much trouble, not that they are hard to understand, but simply because they are wedded to their human institutional idols; the fads and styles of the present age, therefore, make it necessary that they nullify these passages or twist them and give them a perverted meaning. There would be no trouble at all in understanding what Paul meant when he wrote, "according to the eternal purpose which he proposed in Christ Jesus the Lord: that the manifold wisdom of God was to be made known to principalities and powers in heavenly places by the church." (Eph. 3:10-11.) That, "Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. Amen." (Eph. 3:21), if men had not substituted their arrangements for God's.

Many of our brethren in the church of Christ, who should be contending for the Bible, and it only, have adopted the same method of the denominations in the defense of their doctrine and practice. Certain passages must be explained away. If these brethren would strive as hard to get people to do what the Bible teaches as they do to keep them from it, the world would be much better off. Inconsistency destroys the power of the church and eclipses its light totally. Let the church cease to think of how the world does and how the denominations carry on, and turn to the New Testament in everything.

Moreover, we are told by the beloved John that "all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh ,and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world." (I John 2:16.) Think of the church then conforming to the world! Would it not be a nice aspect! How could it be the light of the world? Impossible. The apostle John further said, "that the world passeth away and the lust thereof:" (I John 2:17.) So if the church becomes like the world, it will pass away also. If some brethren don't believe that such can happen let them read what the Lord said about the church of Ephesus in the 2nd Chapter of the book of Revelation. The love of God, according to John, is not in that church that loves the world and the things that are in the world. This is rather a severe statement, but that is what God says about it. Therefore, it must be so. This word "world" means arrangement, beauty. The church and all its work is arranged after heavenly ideals and God's wisdom, not man's. Someone might say, but look how many churches of Christ and brethren in general have become liberal in these matters which are disturbing churches all over the country, certainly all of these churches and brethren could not be wrong. Certainly they could. All men might be wrong. A majority, great or small, does not make a thing right. The Bible is right, because God wrote it, and God cannot be wrong about anything. If any church is bent on doing something the Bible does not teach, then let not the brethren double the offense by twisting the Bible to support it. It is bad enough to do wrong, but much worse to make the Bible justify it. The church of the Lord Jesus Christ is a heavenly institution, and may God forbid that it should suffer in the house of its supposed friends.

Another very strong, striking passage is given by James. He said that "Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God." (James 4:4.) Instead, therefore, of trying to make the worship and work of the church after the fashion of the world, let us do our best to make it after the heavenly pattern found on the pages of the New Testament. The architecture of the world is one thing; that of heaven; another. God said to Moses: "See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount." (Heb. 8:5) Let us do as God commands, therefore, in His revealed will under a better covenant, which was established upon better promises.