Thursday, April 05, 2007

Thoughts on Galatians 4:16

“Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth (Galatians 4:16)?”

Truth has finally become the enemy of the average church member. For by it, “The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law (Luke 12:53).” Perhaps it is more blessed to be ignorant, than to be brought before the mirror of God’s Holy Word. Mere man of God, are you not fearful of being rejected or even defrocked by your own flock? Remember this: preach with a soft voice; pussyfoot around touchy issues, lest the light of His Word pierces the hearts, and many men would be turned against you. And alas, your reputation would suffer, and your pocket would suffer, and the numbers would dwindle, and what will be left for your own glory? Would you not glory in your own flesh? Would you not rather preach before the thousands than before the few? Would you not rather gather the offerings from amongst the thousands of goats than from the faithful remnant of God? What would you live with thereafter? Can the Truth feed your family and yourself?

Oh foolish man of God, who would listen to the doctrines you preach Sunday after Sunday? The people of this generation are going after the media - the sights and sounds of TV land. They want to gratify their felt needs, and they have their own bellies to fill. Do you not know the basic rules of homiletics? Firstly, reinterpret the Word of God as a demand for God to act rather than a demand from God to man. Secondly, break down complex doctrines into applications for lively living in the context of cultural demands, materialistic needs, and worldly desires. Thirdly, the Word of God must be likened to the flavors of Baskin-Robbins. The members must surely pick and choose what they want, and spew out what they want to reject. Save yourself the trouble of troubling their conscience, lest you be labeled as the “troubler of Israel.” Fourthly, preach as if you are preaching from the Bible, but only instill the words of motivational speakers from the marketplace into your sermons, and let them flow with the points of your peroration. Fifthly, always impress your listeners with recent scholarship from the latest publications, and try to throw in at least a word or two from the Near-Eastern languages. You will be almost guaranteed a wide-eyed audience and, of course, uncritical acceptance.

Writing on the reasons of the waning authority of our Lord Jesus Christ in the churches, A. W. Tozer pointed out that one salient cause “is the revival of intellectualism among the evangelicals. This, if I sense the situation correctly, is not so much a thirst for learning as a desire for a reputation of being learned. Because of it good men who ought to know better are being put in the position of collaborating with the enemy. I'll explain.

Our evangelical faith (which I believe to be the true faith of Christ and His apostles) is being attacked these days from many different directions. In the Western world the enemy has forsworn violence. He comes against us no more with sword and fagot; he now comes smiling, bearing gifts. He raises his eyes to heaven and swears that he too believes in the faith of our fathers, but his real purpose is to destroy that faith, or at least to modify it to such an extent that it is no longer the supernatural thing it once was. He comes in the name of philosophy or psychology or anthropology, and with sweet reasonableness urges us to rethink our historic position, to be less rigid, more tolerant, more broadly understanding.

He speaks in the sacred jargon of the schools, and many of our half-educated evangelicals run to fawn on him. He tosses academic degrees to the scrambling sons of the prophets as Rockefeller used to toss dimes to the children of the peasants. The evangelicals who, with some justification, have been accused of lacking true scholarship, now grab for these status symbols with shining eyes, and when they get them they are scarcely able to believe their eyes. They walk about in a kind of ecstatic unbelief, much as the soloist of the neighborhood church choir might were she to be invited to sing at La Scala (A.W.Tozer, The Waning Authority of Christ in the Churches, The Alliance Witness, May 15, 1963).”

Arguably, the love for large crowds is greater sin than the obsession with scholarship. For the love of scholarship per se does not necessarily remove the courage to preach against sin, but the love of popularity will. These preachers, leaders and elders have a way of giving an exposition of the Word, and even explaining accurately the meaning of the passage, but they always stop short of addressing the exact issues and sins within the congregation. Perhaps they might even find the courage and integrity to preach against certain sins not perceived at the time of preaching, but they will not point out the obvious and devious transgressions of the flock that are clear to the naked eye. They will preach the Word. Nevertheless, they are terrified of offending the conscience of the congregation.

Quoting an article by my previous pastor from Gethsemane Bible Presbyterian Church, “We have no shortage of “evangelical” pastors and preachers who preach biblical and helpful messages. But, in modern days, one erroneous trend is increasingly found among such preachers. The error is not that they outrightly teach false doctrines, but they do not preach truth explicitly so as to uncover the widespread sinful and worldly habits in their congregations or the apostasy and compromise in the modern Christian world.

A great number of preachers of our times prefer to leave the errors and evils among their flocks untouched in their preaching. Though they preach that repentance is a necessity, they will not rebuke immodesty, carnality and materialism in their congregations. They are only concerned about giving cosmetic beauty to their preaching. Their preaching seldom goes beyond surface; it hardly touches the raw nerve of the people’s conscience (Das Koshy, A Serious Error of Preachers: Not Exposing Errors).”

Such a preacher is doomed to be a sycophant and man-pleaser, not a priest and prophet. Pastor Koshy continues, “Such a man will rather cherish the comfortable relationship that he enjoys with the congregants than the holiness and glory of God. He feels more at ease with the abominable ways of men and women of his congregation than with uneasiness resulting from bold rebuke of their immodest, carnal, materialistic ways. So he develops a style of preaching which appears to be biblical and yet without full, appropriate and necessary application of God’s Word into the lives of his hearers (Das Koshy, A Serious Error of Preachers: Not Exposing Errors).”

The prophet Isaiah wrote in chapter 56:9-11, “All ye beasts of the field, come to devour, yea, all ye beasts in the forest. His watchmen are blind: they are all ignorant, they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber. Yea, they are greedy dogs which can never have enough, and they are shepherds that cannot understand: they all look to their own way, every one for his gain, from his quarter.”

These dumb dogs exhibit certain common traits and abilities. Firstly, they allow the beasts of the field to devour the flock of God. They have lost their ability to bark against aberrant teachings and false doctrines. They would rather embrace all views as viable interpretations of the Word of God, saying, “Let this be your interpretation, and that my interpretation. We can all live with all kinds of interpretations, except let not your interpretation interpret my interpretation. All interpretations are therefore correct.”

Furthermore, these dumb dogs are blind and ignorant. They believe they are mature in faith simply because of their ecumenical and accommodative attitudes. They bleat day in and day out for unity and peace, but in fact, they are ignorant of the truth of God’s Word. They are slumbering, professing Christians who are lackadaisical with their spiritual walk with Christ. The hoi polloi love them because they will never offend the masses. They will win the popularity votes hands down, and they know this because such men often make it up the ladder of church polity with their perennial smiles and sparkling teeth.

Tragically, the great giveaway which reveal who they really are is this - these men “all look to their own way, every one for his gain, from his quarter.” They can never have enough, and they will always covet for more earthly goods. They are men for their own bellies, and their master is mammon, “having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof (2 Tim. 3:5).” These are religious shams with a pious look, but their hearts are not after God but after man. They do not challenge the congregants to live for Christ. Rather, they have the uncanny ability to build up their own reputation by pandering to the demands of the congregation.

Lastly, these men will not contend for the faith they so claim to profess. There are too much at stake: their position, status, income, conveniences, and authority. As Vance Havner had said, “Contending for the faith is not easy. It is not pleasant business. It has many perils. It is a thankless job. And it is highly unpopular in this age of moral fogs and spiritual twilights. It is a day of diplomats, not prophets. It is nicer to be an appeaser than an opposer. It is the day of Erasmus, not Luther; of Gamaliel, not Paul.” (Vance Havner, “The Forgotten Anathema”, Sword of the Lord, January 7, 1955).

As a concluding word, I am thankful to all those faithful ministers who had preached against my sins, and had brought me before the throne of grace in tears of repentance. Although I continue to struggle against my fleshly old man, I am grateful for those sermons that had torn my conscience and pricked my pride. If not for those faithful words and godly counsel, I might not have learnt the urgency of crucifying myself afresh daily. And it is by this means of grace called preaching that we are cleansed with “the washing of water by the word (Eph. 5:26).” May we be found faithful when He comes again in glory.


ddd said...

Good post

ddd said...

Eh... Vincent,

may I ask what are your views on homilectics? And does 'smiling teeth' have anything to do with Joel Osteen? =)

Anonymous said...

I note 2 extremes to avoid:

1) soft, wishy-washy preaching that preach neither repentance and faith nor holiness.

2) overuse of the hard, "fire and brimstone" preaching - symptoms, sickness and disease, without the cure.

Anonymous said...

By the way, the last post was by me...


vincit omnia veritas said...

Dear Daniel,

With regard to Ptr Joel and Victoria Osteen ... well ... let the people decide:

But one thing for sure, I need to see the dentist :)

vincit omnia veritas said...

Dear Jenson,

Keep me updated when you can! Are you busy with research?

Yes, we should avoid certain extremes. Style of preaching is one subject matter. What I am more concerned with is the "content."

I am perplexed as to why some preachers can actually preach against certain sins - except for sins that are blatantly paraded in the congregation! Such sins are sometimes never mentioned or rebuked, unless, of course, the member eventually leaves the church, and the pastor has to explain why ...

Mike Messerli said...


always enjoy your thoughts. thank you so much for what you wrote. always challenging...thanks!