Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
October 4, 1956

Are We "Speaking To Warn"?

R. L. Burns, Liberty, Texas

Ezekiel was a priest and was chosen by God as a prophet during the Babylonian captivity. According to Ezekiel chapter 1, he was appointed a prophet to warn the people, for Jehovah said, "Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me." Lest he should neglect his charge the Lord warned, "When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die and thou givest him not warning, NOR SPEAKEST TO WARN the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life . . . . his blood will I require at thy hand." There were times, however, when the prophet was to refrain his tongue because of the rebellious nature of his audience. (v. 26.) But even the casual reader can not help but know that something was expected of Ezekiel, a thing should he fail to perform that would bring him to spiritual ruin.

In a sense we who claim membership in the church are watchmen and the church, spiritual Israel, is on the brink of "captivity." In conversation with brethren, almost every week we learn of congregations being disturbed over "brotherhood promotional programs" and in some cases out-right division has followed. During this time many persons who might otherwise have been informed have followed after some digressive element simply because they did not hear the issues discussed and the truth presented. More than one gospel preacher or elder has been confronted with the question, "What is it all about?" Why haven't they found out until now? In some cases no one is at fault but the person asking. However, we believe this to be the exception, not the rule.

Apparently a lot of "watchmen" have gone to sleep and ceased to "warn." Lines of fellowship are being drawn in some places, pressure groups are moving in, and "circuit riders" are coming through to aid those who cannot defend their own "projects." All of this is a big "push" in an attempt to stop the mouths of those who do not agree with all their opinionated dictations. Recently a group of elders at one of "our" big colleges decided that a preacher should subscribe to their creed or else he could not preach. This was their recommendation to other elders and churches. "On what meat doth Caesar feed that he should grow so strong." (Incidentally, you can imagine of what the screening would consist.) Many preachers have sacrificed their own convictions upon the altar of public opinion, bowed to the whims of these elderships that have become legislative in their nature and Hell has had a field-day. Recently a preacher in this area was described by one of the elders thusly, "We appreciate Brother Blank, who preaches for us. You know he does not believe the Herald of Truth is right. But he doesn't preach against it." A preacher, recently feeling the "sting of the institutional whip" was told by another preaching brother that he agreed with him, "but," said he, "I can't preach that, for I have a family to feed." Some of these need to sit at the Psalmist's feet for awhile and learn that God cares for his own. (Psalm 37:24-29.) Can a man really love the truth who refuses to preach that which he knows is right? Or is he a hireling? Can he withhold information that he knows the church needs and still believe he is in favor with God? Paul could testify, "For I shrank not from declaring unto you the whole counsel of God." These brethren here-in described cannot.

I cannot help but wonder what these brethren would do if the lines of fellowship were drawn (we pray they will not be) by those promoting "brotherhood projects." Would they then move to some congregation in sympathy with their views (a congregation instructed by someone with more courage than they) or would they continue to preach a fraction of the gospel to those congregations that would bind their hands. Already the church is bleeding because men of like conviction (or lack of) have sacrificed the truth. Will they make the wounds deeper by showing unfaithfulness to their trust? (Jude 3.) No one can respect the man who follows such a course.

But just this word, lest we should be misunderstood. The Lord told Ezekiel, "I will make thy tongue cleave to the roof of thy mouth, that thou shalt be dumb, and shalt not be to them a reprover; for they are a rebellious house." There was a time and a place for the warning to be issued. There is now a time and place. It is not necessary to "ride a hobby" to teach God fearing men the truth. The thing that makes a position a hobby is not the right or wrong of it, but the manner in which we deal with it. We have no criticism of those who exercise wisdom, but this is a far-cry from compromise. At the same time, let's not permit ourselves to hide the truth on the pretense of wisdom.

Remember, God said, "His blood will I require at thy hand," when we fail to "speak to warn." But we are not merely trying to do enough to ease our conscience and say, "Our hands are clean" (as some have done by preaching against the errors of the day in an apologetic air or preaching in such general terms that none knows of what we speak). The Lord has promised, "Nevertheless, if thou warn the righteous man, that the righteous sin not, and he doth no sin, he shall surely live, because he took warning; AND THOU HAST DELIVERED THY SOUL."