Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
June 25, 1959
NUMBER 8, PAGE 1,6b-7

Judas The Opportunist

Luther Blackmon, Pasadena, Texas

The drama of human redemption called for one character with the heart of a Judas. God has often used wicked men and nations where they could serve His purposes. The Moabites were used to chastise Israel. He said, "Moab is my washpot". But the fact that God uses nations like Egypt and Moab, and men like Pharaoh and Judas for righteous ends does not change the nature of their sins. God did not make Judas evil. He was evil because he did evil. He was not "a devil from the beginning" nor totally depraved. Peter said, "Judas by transgression fell, that he might go to his own place."

Judas became evil in the same way and for the same reasons that others, since Judas' time have become evil. He was afflicted with the same disease that has tainted the lives of countless millions since his day. He placed undue emphasis upon the things of the world, "the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye and the vainglory of life". 1 John 2:15-17 Because of this condition he became an avaricious opportunist.

Precisely what Judas hoped to gain when he accepted "this ministry and apostleship" is not quite clear, but it is likely that he thought the Lord was going to set up some grand earthly government in which he would secure for himself a place of worldly fame with its attendant riches. Whatever his plans were, it is certain that they had nothing to do with the spiritual aspects of the kingdom of Christ. He aimed not so high. He had little interest in the kingdom "not of this world". His ambitions were strictly selfish and materialistic.

As the personal ministry of Christ drew near a close, Judas became aware that his Master had no ambitions for such an earthly affair as he had envisioned. He was talking about being put to death and rising from the dead. Moreover, organized opposition among the powerful Jewish leaders was growing in intensity. They were out to get this man. If Judas is to be on the winning side he must act soon. He had spent three years of his life following this man, and he deserved something more than the paltry bits he had been able to snitch from the treasury. And he was not disposed to settle for a reward he could not see, in a world to come. He wanted his reward now. The "bye and bye" held no charm for him. If his conscience disturbed him at this point, he likely consoled himself with the thought that the Master's plans were too unrealistic and other-worldly to ever succeed anyway, and why should he not salvage something from the wreck of his ambitions. So Judas the opportunist went over to the side he was sure would win and took with him the price of his own honor, a trademark that has given the human race reason to remember him for nineteen centuries with unmixed loathing.

I do not think that any of my brethren are as bad as Judas. If you are ready to accuse me of that just hold on a minute. While it may be that we have not reached the depths of depravity that Judas reached, we must also realize that the sins that stained the heart of Judas grow out of the same temptations that surround all of us. We are not immune to the "lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye and the vainglory of life". Nineteen hundred years of sinning has not worked any improvement in human nature. And if we will be perfectly honest with ourselves we may find that, like the chief priests, we are sometimes inclined to esteem "the praises of men more than the praises of God". Developments of the last four or five years have provided a fertile field for this weakness.

A wave of post-war prosperity, coupled with some misguided zeal revived the old question of "cooperation" among churches of Christ. How can the churches, independent and autonomous as they were shown to be in the New Testament, cooperate to do a work greater in scope than they can do by each church acting independently? This question began to command the attention of some preachers and its possibilities challenged their energies. The question is not a new one at all. Campbell and some of his contemporaries decided that the church could not fulfill its mission with each congregation acting independently. They thought the Missionary Society was their solution. But Missionary Society is an ugly word now, so another way was found, the "Sponsoring Church". One young preacher received much publicity for "finding a way to enable churches of Christ, which have no national organization, to cooperate in putting on a national radio program", or words to that effect. Some sober-minded brethren cocked an eye at this ambitious program and questioned its scripturalness. Articles from preachers all over the country appeared in the Gospel Guardian pointing out the lack of scriptural authority for such. It is quite interesting to read the Gospel Guardian of six or eight years ago and see the names of the preachers that were then speaking out against this innovation. But those preachers, many of them, had not counted the cost. They had not reckoned with the pressure that can be exerted by big churches, papers, colleges and men in high places. Some preachers were quarantined. Others were given milder treatment. They were simply told that their usefulness would be greatly impaired if they continued to oppose such good works. Some of them must have thought it over pretty seriously, because several have now said they were wrong in opposing these arrangements, and are making faces at the rest of us who don't think that we are wrong in opposing them.

Much of this pressure is exerted, and especially east of the Mississippi, by the Gospel Advocate. The present Advocate, though shining in a borrowed light, is still a potent factor. It is a potent factor because it enjoys a reputation that was built by men of deep conviction and faith in God's plan; a reputation built over a period of nearly a hundred years. My own grandfather was led to obey the gospel, some seventy years ago, very largely through reading the Gospel Advocate, along with his Bible. It is ironic that the paper that has done more perhaps for the cause of Christ than any other, now becomes the champion of innovation. A hundred years from now some historian will write that "the largest single factor in leading the church of Christ away from its course after the restoration movement, was the Gospel Advocate." The present editor would like folk to believe that the paper has not changed, but one has only to read some of the old copies to know that this is purely for propaganda purposes. For example, note the following:

Early in 1910 plans were discussed for launching a cooperative effort to place an evangelist in west Tennessee. The elders of the church at Henderson were to serve as the "sponsoring" elders. David Lipscomb was editor of the Advocate then. Of this he wrote, "Now what was this but the organization of a society in the elders of this church". Of this same plan J. C. McQuiddy said, "I disapprove the meeting at Henderson because it was represented by brother Smith as proposing to do mission work by making the elders of one church the board to take the general oversight of work in which other churches were equally interested. This is a combination larger than the organized church of the New Testament the only organized body ordained by Jehovah for doing mission work." Both these quotations from Earl West's articles on "Congregational Cooperation".

In the G. A. December 31,1931, F. B. Srygley said, "The work of the elders stopped at the church in which they lived and labored. The elders had no authority to take charge of the missionary money or any other money or means of any church except the one over which they were overseers. Elders of one church should not try to get hold of the money that has been contributed by others to direct for them in foreign fields or other places."

In the G. A. November 3, 1932, H. Leo Boles said, "There is no example in the New Testament of two or more churches joining together their funds for the support of the gospel... the fact that we have no statement of scripture which authorizes it ought to be sufficient to convince all that God did not want His churches to work that way." One week later, November 10, 1932, brother Boles said, "There was no common fund for churches, no "Central Church" with a treasurer to receive the funds from other churches ... no call from any church to other churches to help them do the work which fell in their province to do . . . there is no example in the New Testament of two or more churches that cooperated in having the gospel preached."

Brother Boles explained in these articles that when a church does its own work, it is cooperating with every other church that is doing the same thing. He said this is the only kind of cooperation that is authorized in the New Testament.

Now, if the editor of the Gospel Advocate wants to tell us that he thinks that Lipscomb, Srygley, McQuiddy and Boles were wrong about this, let him say so and then try to prove it by the Bible. But to insist that the policy of the Advocate and the tenor of its teaching have not changed, smacks of something that I don't like to say.

The Lord has forbidden us to sit in judgment on our brother's motives. We can only judge his actions according to truth. I think it very likely that most of the men who have confessed their error and changed their attitude in regard to the controversial issues, have done so because they honestly became convinced that is was better to go along with these promotions than to oppose them and split the church, which, it seems, opposition to them will inevitably do. These big things have captured the fancy of most of the brethren. We have "moved from across the tracks". Pride in his accomplishments is the wine of every man's success, and pride can be a mighty big factor, even in the church.

It may be hard for some to believe, but those of us who still oppose these things are also interested in saving souls, and we hate to see the church divide. But if it comes to a choice between compromising the truth or letting the church divide, men of conviction have no more alternative than those brethren had who opposed the Missionary Societies and instrumental music nearly a century ago.

If I may pose a question to those brethren who seem to think that it is better to "go along" with the Sponsoring Church, the human institutions and the social craze that threatens to make the church into a sort of glorified social center in order that we have peace, rather than oppose these things and have disunity, it is this: Just how far are you willing to go to have peace? Mark it down, the pressure campaign has just begun. The next objective is the 'college in the budget", and they will get it in. Church hospitals are in the mill. And why not? If the church can establish and maintain institutions in which to feed, clothe and educate children, why should it not build hospitals to take care of the sick ones? And if the church is obligated to care for everyone to the extent of its ability, why should these hospitals be limited to the orphans or to the "saints"?

If your attitude is "peace at any price", you had better keep your convictions fluid because you are in for some changes. I don't think "anti-Christian education" and "anti-sick folks" will sound any better than "anti-cooperation" and "anti-orphan children".

If a man is convinced that his position is wrong, he should change and embrace the truth on that point. But if he cannot give any scriptural reasons for his change in a matter as important as this, he ought not to be surprised if someone suspicions that he is a victim of the same temptation that afflicted Judas.