As Jude “the servant of Jesus Christ” addressed the words of our text “to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ,” so we would do well to consider the things he had to say and apply them to our lives in order that we might be pleasing unto “him with whom we have to do.” Jude wrote, “Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 3).
The people to whom he wrote agreed with him on many points, or so it would seem, as he desired to address the “common salvation,” or that which was shared or agreed on between them. However, due to their lack of faithfulness, Jude found it necessary to change his sermon outline and address their need to contend for the faith. Men of our time need this as well.
We are living in a time when preachers, elders, and Christians in general are more content turning a deaf ear to error than opposing it. Complacency is seemingly at every turn. There are many errors in the world that need opposing, and there is much truth going “unpreached.” Why is this so? We need to be reminded, as did they, that it is up to the members of the Lord’s church to uphold righteousness and oppose unrighteousness. Have we forgotten that the Lord instructed through His apostles that we are to “Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season” (2 Tim. 4:2)? Let us take a few minutes to notice some of the areas wherein many of our day stand amiss with respect to preaching for the right and against the wrong.
We find in our day that many in the church would like to treat the church like a denomination. It seems as though they see no difference between that institution for which Jesus bled and died and some imposter who has set itself up in competition with the one of the Bible. We read of brethren setting up “missionary societies” like those that divided the brotherhood in the 1800s. We hear of “our preachers” joining “ministerial alliances” and speaking at and attending denominational gatherings. We read of the church (?) building gymnasiums and ball fields and joining sectarian sports leagues as though this were the work of the church. Have we reached a point where we really think that the precious blood of Jesus poured forth from His veins at Golgotha so that we may play games and have a big old time? Even if there were no lost souls in the world, and even if there were no Christians who needed strengthening, we still could not do what many have done in the name of teaching or fellowship with the approval of God. The Scriptures specifically authorize the church to engage in evangelism (Mat. 28:19-20; 2 Tim. 4:1-4), benevolence (Jam. 1:27; Gal. 6:10), and edification (Acts 20:32; 2 Tim. 2:1-2). It was never given to the church to rear children (that was given to the parents—Eph. 6:1ff), it was never given to the church to fit in with society by compromising truth, and it was never given to the church to be an institution of entertainment or recreation. All such efforts to change and corrupt the work of the church, while they may put a few bodies in the pews so long as the entertainment or recreation lasts, fall miserably short of producing new Christians, and will ultimately lead to our ruin.
Let us hear the admonition of Paul, given by inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to the church at Corinth, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God…Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you” (2 Cor. 6:14-17). How much we need to hear and heed these words in our day! I would put the same questions to the liberal element in the Lord’s church today that Paul put to those in error at Corinth in the long ago. We might even shorten it a bit and ask, “What business does the church of our Lord have masquerading as a denomination of men, hiding itself in every organization and club and group men come up with?” The answer is simple—none. We need to remember that we are not a proverbial piece of the pie, competing with “other” denominations. Jesus promised to build His church—singular (Mat. 16:18). Paul said that the church is the body of Christ (Eph. 1:22-23), and he also said that there is one body (Eph. 4:4). Now if there is one body, and that body is the church, how many churches are there? There is one church spoken of with the approval of God in the New Testament. That being the case, and clearly it is, all other “churches” are institutions which exist without the approval of God and as such will not bring salvation to the members therein (Mat. 15:13), and indeed will preclude them from the number of the saved based on the error in which they walk (2 John 9-11; 1 Cor. 1:10). That being the case, what business do we have hiding among the denominations, as though we were but one of them? Our preachers need to quit pretending that every church of man is as good as the church of the Lord and “come out from among them.”
May we have fellowship with the sectarian denominations of our day with the approval of God? Not according to the Scriptures. We are told that unity is based on speaking the same things (Amos 3:3; 1 Cor. 1:10). We do not speak the same things as those human organizations who place salvation before and without immersion; we do not speak the same things as those denominations who add the mechanical instrument of music to the worship of the New Testament church; we do not speak the same things as those institutions who teach that church membership is non-essential to salvation; we do not teach the same things as those religions who teach that one way of salvation is just as good as another. Now, seeing that we teach differently, it is incumbent upon us to determine who is right. If we are right, and I contend that we are, they are not walking in nor teaching the doctrine of Christ. Hear John:
Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds (2 John 9-11).
When we join the organizations of those who “abide not in the doctrine of Christ,” we are guilty with them of the error in which they walk, so said John.
It is time that the Lord’s church reminds some of our “own” that we are not here for the entertainment and recreation of the membership or the world, but that our purpose is to preach and edify and engage in scriptural benevolence. Let us use our “gym” money to preach the Word to the lost; let us call our preachers out of the unscriptural “alliances” and “lodges” and put them to work writing and preaching the sweetest story ever told; let us call our members from the sectarian “leagues” and “clubs” and busy them in the work God gave us to do. We need to speak where the Bible speaks, and remain silent where it is silent. We need to call Bible things by Bible names. We need to call for unity in matters of faith, liberty in matters of opinion, and charity in all matters. It is time that we quit “coddling” people along and start calling them back to the Bible in all things. Let the smoldering fires of Hell be recalled to the minds of those who so often forget or ignore the teachings of the Scriptures with respect to the work God has given us to do. Let us patch the holes in the old ship of Zion that she may go sailing onward to the glory of God.