Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 7, 1964

Using The Church

Luther Blackmon

About a year ago I was approached in regard to joining a crusade against public gambling in Pasadena. I understand that it goes on at such public functions as the annual rodeo. It was also suggested that the elders of the church give their endorsement and get the church behind this move. As politely as I know how to do it, I declined. This is not because I think that gambling, public or private, is either right or uplifting to the community. I don't. But I had some reasons for declining to participate.

First, we have a state law that prohibits gambling. This is a matter for the city officials. If the people of Pasadena don't want gambling, then they should vote out the officials that don't enforce the law against it, and vote in some that will. If the people do want it, the churches will have a hard time stopping it by these methods.

As a citizen I have a right to vote on such matters as this; if selected I have the right to serve on a jury that tries the violator. As a Christian, I have a duty to refuse to participate in such lawlessness; as a gospel preacher, I have a duty as well as a right to preach against it and I exercise the right rather vigorously sometimes. If I voted in Pasadena, and the issue should come to local option vote, I would certainly vote against it. If I were selected on a jury to try a violator, whether preacher, priest, school teacher or what, I would be inclined towards a rather stiff penalty if I thought the accused were guilty. I don't even believe that gambling ought to be allowed for the purpose of raising money for churches and schools. But I do not have the right to involve the church of the Lord in a crusade to bring pressure on the city officials to clean up the city morally. And that is what this campaign is, if I understand the nature of it. Of course, the participation of the preacher would not directly involve the church, but indirectly it would. Preachers are selected to take the lead in these campaigns because it is presumed that they will influence the rest of the church. To this extent the participation of the preacher indirectly involves the church. But the endorsement of elders is another matter. When the elders of a church sign a petition, because they are elders, their action is understood as an official commitment of the membership of that church to the campaign. They have no more right to do this than they have to sign a petition to commit the church to the support of a certain candidate in a political race.

The Church And Morals

— The church has the obligation to "edify the saints," Eph. 4:12,16, and this would include teaching them good morals. But the church has no obligation to the world at all, except to save their souls by preaching the word of God to them and to set a good example. And by no stretch of the imagination can the work of the church he extended to include enforcing moral law on the people of the world. No inspired preacher ever delivered a lesson wholly on morals to an audience composed of people of the world. No New Testament church ever engaged to make a community a better place to live by enforcing moral law. When we seek to engage the church in such work, we are "using" it for a purpose it was never meant to serve. When the church does the work that God assigned it, preaching the gospel and converting people to Christ, better moral conditions in the community will result as the fruits of this work. But it is not the work of the church to promote campaigns for social and moral improvement in the community; to give the community an outside coat of moral respectability. To do so is to treat the symptom rather than the disease. Immorality is a symptom of a heart condition: Sin in the heart. When the heart is changed through faith and obedience to the truth, immorality will disappear. If the church had the power to force every citizen in the town to live a moral life, this would not take the sin from their hearts. They would still be sinners, out of Christ and lost until they obey the gospel. People are not made moral by the enactment of laws. The purpose of civil law (which is based on moral law) is to protect society from the lawless element who abuse and violate moral law. God is the author of civil law (Rom. 13:1-6 & 1 Pet. 2:13-14), as well as of the church. The Christian has ways of exercising his franchise as a citizen of this earthly government to restrain and punish lawlessness. But let him do it through the organization which God has authorized for that purpose and not through the church. The church was brought into existence for another purpose; a far greater and more important purpose. So then, let the church give all its time and strength to the work that God has assigned it, and leave the enforcing of civil law to the civil authorities .

— La Porte, Texas