Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
November 2, 1950
NUMBER 26, PAGE 1,15b

Rather Dull

Cled E. Wallace

As I read my New Testament, the emphasis some of the brethren are putting on spirituality and spiritual power is rather dull. In seeking to exalt the kindness and love of God which occupy a supreme place in the divine scheme of things, there is a tendency, or worse, to emasculate the gospel and eliminate some of the stern requirements essential to its power. The kindness and love of God demands that the disciples of Christ "contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints." When a man employs the tender and emotional content of the gospel as an excuse for not doing that, he becomes insipid. A human body can be fed up and fattened on sugar, fat and starch. It can sit loosely and walk softly. It has to be streamlined and energized with proteins, minerals and vitamins to give it power and resistance to disease. What it really needs does not taste as good as pie. We do not need to develop a sweet tooth among the brethren in these troublesome times, and lull them into a false sense of security, by a make-believe attitude that spirituality is just negative, sweet and consoling. A nice little manicured and perfumed Methodist exhorter can beat us all hollow at that sort of thing anyhow.

Spirituality is divine power controlling and directing a human life. I believe in it. Without it man is worse than lost, he is dead. What is it and how does it operate? A man is spiritual when his spirit is controlled by the Spirit of God. Paul put it this way, "For God is my witness, whom I serve in my spirit in the gospel of his Son." (Rom. 1:9) The mission of the Holy Spirit was fulfilled in revealing the gospel. It was "announced unto you through them that preached the gospel unto you by the Holy Spirit sent forth from heaven." (I Pet. 1:12) A spiritual man believes and obeys the gospel and lives in harmony with its teaching. He loves, prays, works and fights. He is both an interesting and a challenging —character. The sob sisters, male, or female, are not likely to go into raptures over what "a sweet man" he is. "If any man thinketh himself to be a prophet, or spiritual, let him take knowledge of the things that I write unto you, that they are the commandment of the Lord." (I Cor. 14:37)

There has never been a fight made in defense of the divine order, and against departures from the truth from the days of Christ and Paul right down to date, when the spirituality of the defenders was not challenged and their "spirit" criticized. Search and see. If they are more interested in the truth than they are a so-called "right spirit", why don't they get on the right side of the issue, and demonstrate "the right spirit" in contending for it? When a man takes up the good old gospel hammer and begins to break down some idols with it, if he is surprised or discouraged when some usually sweet and inoffensive people become piously mad and bitter and talk a lot about "the right spirit", he isn't as smart as he ought to be. He can miss a lot in the way of criticism, if he will just tap the idol "in the right spirit" and not hit it hard enough to crack it. I recall something that David Lipscomb said to the effect that when men and papers got too nice to discuss issues vigorously, they were about as reliable to lean on in a crisis as reeds broken by the wind.

What is "the right spirit"? I cannot accept any interpretation of the expression that reflects on Christ or Paul, or anything that they said. They had some very accurate information about the kindness and love of God and did not act contrary to it. They were merciless in their exposure of error, and both harsh and unkind, according to the standards of the targets of their shafts of truth. The "elders" who loved their —traditions, prayed long prayers, paid tithes and wore long faces. Jesus accused them of honoring him with their lips and "teaching as their doctrines the precepts of men". They became offended and the disciples became deeply concerned, possibly they were afraid that the Lord did not have "the right spirit". "But he answered and said, Every plant which my heavenly Father planted not, shall be rooted up Let them alone: they are blind guides. And if the blind guide the blind, both shall fall into a pit." (Matt. 15:13-14) It is a caricature of Christ that recognizes only his lamb like qualities and ignores his lion-like strength and power when he was in a fight. His relaxed, tear-stained face at the grave of Lazarus could blaze with holy fire and indignation when he fought with the doctors in and about the temple in Jerusalem as he walked closer to the cross Paul "dealt with each one of you, as a father with his own children, exhorting you, and encouraging you" but he sure could and did spank them when the occasion demanded it.

Spirituality is growth in grace and in knowledge. It is the spirit of man walking with God, keeping step with the Spirit of God. It is an obedient life. It is the blending of the will of God in the will and life of man of those elements of tenderness and severity, softness and hardness, sorrow and joy, the passive and the aggressive, that the gospel demands. If you have enough of it that you feel justified in boasting about it—well, I haven't. And you probably don't have as much as you think you do.