Voices from the Past

Preach, But Leave Others Alone

Hoyt H. Houchen
Gospel Guardian, July 17, 1954

The above caption not only represents the thinking great majority of people in the denominations, but unfortunately it reflects the attitude of some of our own brethren. It involves the idea that we should preach only what is agreeable to everyone, avoiding anything of a controversial nature.

First of all, it is impossible to preach the truth and leave other people alone. It does not matter what subject a gospel preacher may select, it will contradict the belief of somebody. For instance, suppose that I should decide to preach on the subject of God. In that sermon I point out that there is but one God and no other. I point out the attributes of God, showing the characteristics of God as taught in the Bible. That sermon would meet the approval of many people who are not even members of the church of Christ. But are we so naive as to believe that it would meet the approval of everyone? It certainly would not leave the atheist alone and it would not be agreeable to the Chinaman whose ancestors have worshipped idols for hundreds of years.

But suppose that I should decide to preach on the subject of Christ. I go to the word of God and prove His virgin birth, His divinity, His pure and sinless life, His example for us to follow, and the authority of His teaching. This sermon too would meet the approval of many who are not even Christians. But even that kind of preaching would not be agreeable to the orthodox Jew who rejects Christ as the Messiah. Are we to cease preaching Christ because it offends the Jew?

But now I decide to preach on baptism. I simply preach what the New Testament says about it. I quote such passages as Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Galatians 3:27 and 1 Peter 3:21. However, when I do this I am not leaving a good majority of religious people alone. A good part of the denominational world would not be in agreement with my preaching on baptism because a good part of the denominational world denies the essentiality of baptism as a condition of salvation. Should I refrain from preaching on baptism because it does not leave others alone ?

I preach on the one church that is revealed in the New Testament. I quote such passages as Ephesians 4:4; 1:22, and Colossians 1:18. But that kind of preaching does not please those who teach and believe that there are many churches and that one is just as good as another, and that Jesus Christ is the head of all of them. Am I to stop preaching on the one church because there are scores of people who disagree? The truth is very plain that it is absolutely impossible to preach on any Bible subject and leave other people alone.

We cannot preach and leave other people alone in the first place, and in the second place God does not expect us to do so. Paul wrote in Galatians 1:10, "For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? or am I striving to please men? If I were still pleasing men, I should not be a servant of Christ." Just before this, Paul had said in verses 6 and 1: "I marvel that ye are so quickly removing from him that called you in the grace of Christ unto a different gospel; which is not another gospel only there are some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ." No doubt this statement did not take well with those false teachers in Galatia, but Paul did not leave them alone. He preached the truth regardless feeling.

Brother Herbert L. Newman and I share time on a local Sunday morning radio broadcast and we are sandwiched between two "faith-healers." Because we do not leave them alone, they much prefer that we would not be a part of their diet. The one who follows us stated on the air that he could not understand why we did not preach our own convictions and leave other people alone. We informed the gentleman that it is our strong conviction that false teachers and false doctrines have to be exposed and that this conviction is based upon the teaching of the word of God. Such scriptures as Matthew 7:15; 1 Timothy 4:1,2; 2 Timothy 4:1-4; Titus 1:10; 2 Peter 2:1,2 and 1 John 4:1 were quoted. Our friend thought that we should preach our convictions but what he did not know was that we had been doing just that very thing all along. We told the radio audience that it is our conviction that false doctrines should be tested and that is why we have repeatedly asked for demonstrations by those who claim that miracles are worked through them today just as they were in the days of Jesus and the apostles. When we see these miracles of Jesus and the apostles performed today, the testing will be over and these preachers will be left alone. Incidentally, this preacher who suddenly became very "nice" and decided that we should leave others alone is the same one who only a few weeks ago made a vicious attack upon us over the air and called us such names as "wind-jammers, liars, and Campbellites." But the brethren in some localities are no different in attitude than the denominationalists in this respect. Let a preacher oppose mixed dancing, or preach on the present-day issues facing the church, emphasizing that each congregation is to do its own work of benevolence and preaching without erecting human institutions and adhering to centralized elderships, or call denominational names and some of the brethren will accuse him of preaching "sex" sermons, they will call him a "hobbyist" and they will charge him with "dividing the church," being "opposed to taking care of orphan children," and being "too hard."

Jesus Christ did not leave others alone and neither must we.. He said to His disciples in Matthew 16:6, "Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees." The entire 23rd chapter of the book of Matthew is a denunciation of the teaching of the Pharisees. Paul did not leave others alone and on occasions he even mentioned the false teachers by name. He wrote in 2 Timothy 2:16,17: "But shun profane babblings: for they will proceed further in ungodliness, and their word doth eat as doth a gangrene: of whom is Hymenaeus and Philetus; men who concerning the truth have erred, saying that the resurrection is past already, and overthrow the faith of some."

Most people, including some of our brethren, do not know what it means to preach the truth in love. If we know the truth and love the truth, we shall want it preached regardless of whom it may offend. To preach the truth in love means to preach the truth in love of the truth and in love for those who hear it. Paul asked in Galatians 4:16, "So then am I become your enemy, by telling you the truth?" People must know the difference between truth and error that they may be saved from their sins. Many are sincere, but wrong; many are honest, but they are misled. It is only when error is pointed out to people that they will know to leave error.

Gospel preachers must not submit to the advice of denominationalists and uninformed brethren who cry, "Preach, but leave others alone." The matter of how we are to preach was decided a long while ago by the word of God. May faithful gospel preachers continue to "preach the word; be urgent in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching." (2 Tim. 4:2).

(The Gospel Guardian, Vol. 6, No. 7, July 17, 1954).

Editor's Comments

Many today are offended by preachers. Our friends and neighbors do not like it when the error of their religion is exposed. The denominational "pastor/preachers" become enraged when their darkness is brought to light. Brethren, some who in times past were known for their faithfulness, are furious when their false teaching is rebutted. So, we hear the cry even today--"Preach, but leave others alone!"

Today, we hear some brethren--who either espouse error or uphold the hands of those who do--cry out, "You have violated my autonomy!" They say things like, "You have no right to say anything about what I teach, I am free to make my own decisions and come to my own conclusions!" The message is clear, "I don't want my teaching examined!" Let us study this.

First, since when has exposing a man's error been a violation of autonomy? Since when has exposing a church's apostasy been a violation of autonomy? It was not in New Testament days! "But shun profane and idle babblings, for they will increase to more ungodliness. And their message will spread like cancer. Hymenaeus and Philetus are of this sort, who have strayed concerning the truth, saying that the resurrection is already past; and they overthrow the faith of some" (2 Tim. 4:16-18). "And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? For when one says, 'I am of Paul,' and another, 'I am of Apollos,' are you not carnal?" (1 Cor. 3:1-4). Paul exposed the sin and error of individuals and groups. Did he violate their autonomy? Did Paul keep others from thinking for themselves? Fact is, everyone agrees that a man has the right to study for himself, reach his own conclusions, and teach them, But he must be prepared to face examination of his conclusions!!! If a man cannot stand to have his teaching scrutinized and rebuked, he ought not to preach.

Yes, some of our brethren today want us to "Preach, but leave others alone." As the article by brother Houchen pointed out, this simply cannot be the path of a faithful Christian. "Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword...Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God...and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God...For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart...Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart..." (Matt. 10:34; Eph. 6:10-11, 17; Heb. 4:12; Acts 2:37).

Steven F. Deaton

e-mail this feature editor at SFDeaton@compuserve.com

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