<font size=5>Ignorant Elders And Lockjawed Preachers </font>
<font size=4>Richard Guill</font>
Knowing that the devil would do all he could to destroy the church of the Lord, God not only gave ample warnings in the New Testament against his devices, but God also placed within the church two key front-line defenses to guard against such attacks. Those two front-line defenses are the eldership and the preacher. When both fulfill their Divine obligations the church can withstand any attack, either from without or within. When either fails, much trouble is sure to follow and many will suffer the loss of their soul.
In view of false teachers who would plague God's people, either from within the church or from without, elders are charged to watch for such, warn the flock about them, and stop the mouths of such before they devour the flock (Acts 20:28-31). <font color=red> "Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch (emphasis mine, RG), and remember, that by the space of three years I CEASED NOT TO WARN EVERY ONE (emphasis mine, RG) night and day with tears." Paul left Titus in Crete to "set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city" (Titus 1:5). Paul gave Titus a list of the qualifications elders must meet. Among those qualifications was "holding fast the faithful word as he hath been taught, that he may be able by sound doctrine both to exhort and to convince (convict or refute) the gainsayers" (verse 9). The reason is given: "whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not" (verse 11). Thus they were charged: "Wherefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith" (verse 13). </font>
Surely, anyone can see that elders must not be ignorant either of the scriptures or of the efforts and devices of those "wolves in sheep's clothing" who would devour the flock. Sadly, many elderships today are very deficient in both requirements.
Although elders certainly have the personal responsibility to study the word and to know about false teachers and their doctrines, to watch diligently lest they slip in, and be prepared to refute them and shut their mouths, at least a part of the blame for elders' ignorance in such matters may be due to preachers who are afflicted with "lockjaw." They never warn elders about such false teachers in the brotherhood, in the immediate area, or in the congregation. They certainly don't warn the congregation of such. However, a faithful preacher CANNOT BE SILENT about such matters! In Acts 20:31, note that Paul said, "by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears." When Paul wrote Timothy, he warned him that "some shall depart from the faith," and then added, "If thou put the brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister of Jesus Christ" (1 Tim. 4:1-6). Then, again in 2 Timothy 4:1-5, Paul warned of some who would turn aside from truth and unto fables. Timothy was charged to "preach the word, be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine," and to "watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry" (emphasis mine, RG).
The truth of God is such a precious commodity that the faithful preacher cannot stand by silently while some pervert it and lead precious souls into error that will condemn their souls. Rather, like Paul and Barnabas in Acts 15, he will engage in dissension and disputation with them. And, also like them, faithful preachers today will still "give place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you" (Gal. 2:5). ANY PREACHER not willing to watch for, warn about, and contend earnestly against and with such false teachers ought to get out of the business! He will not only lose his own soul, but will be greatly responsible for many others who will lose their souls as well.
Elders who are not willing to make the effort to know the scriptures and about the false teaching and practices that threaten the faith, and who do not possess the courage to meet these head-on and stop their mouths, ought to resign! Perhaps the congregation has others more qualified to lead. As those who are charged to watch for souls and who must give account (Heb. 13:17), what will you say on Judgment Day if you have allowed wolves to enter the flock and devour the sheep? Will you plead, "Lord, I didn't know!?"
Many congregations of the Lord's church which do not yet have false teachers in their midst and are not yet engaging in activities which have no biblical authority, are actually paving the way for such, sometimes without even realizing it! Let me illustrate by two or three examples:
<font color=blue>First, through youth programs and rallies.</font> In genuine concern for their young people and wanting to provide them with activities which will interest them, build them up spiritually, and help prevent losing them, many elderships allow the young people to participate in activities without considering whether those activities are scriptural or whether those leading in such are sound in the faith. Many times the youth become involved in activities at such youth rallies that the congregation would not permit at the local congregation, at least not at the present time. But what's going to happen in a few years when those teens grow up and began to call for such things to be included in the regular services? I continue to get bulletins and brochures from our area and other areas announcing congregations' participation in some youth rally which features "contemporary singing groups", "drama groups" and such like. Do the elders of these congregations ever bother to consider if such things are scriptural? Does it make any difference that many of these groups and speakers at such youth rallies have openly fellowshipped false teachers and their programs both in the church and in denominationalism?
<font color=blue>Second, what about class literature which actually contains false doctrine being used in the educational program of the church? </font> Often elderships could not tell you what the children are studying in class. Add to that the church library where books that will be checked out and read by trusting and unsuspecting brethren are being filled with books written by some of the most liberal brethren in the brotherhood. Do elderships, charged with the responsibility to "feed the flock" (1 Peter 5:2), not realize how many will likely be poisoned by such and that it makes acceptance of such men and their doctrines easier in the congregation?
<font color=blue>Third, look at the men invited for a gospel meeting or some special function, or the promotion of such events in other congregations. </font> Sometimes the preacher invited is a known false teacher, has been marked, proven and exposed as such, and is supposed to be "avoided" (Rom. 16:17). However, some congregations will still have such men and other congregations which would not actually invite such men themselves will announce and promote such meetings at another congregation. Then there are also some preachers who may not be charged with teaching false doctrine, but who want to fellowship both the liberal and the conservative brethren. They will fellowship the liberals and their works, but also expect conservative brethren to allow them into their pulpits without a word of censure or criticism. Are such men "sound in the faith?" Do elderships not realize that brethren can be guilty of sin and error by association with those who are known to be false teachers? Romans 16:17 says we are to "mark them which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them." Ephesians 5:11 says, "Have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness; but rather reprove them." False teaching is certainly a work of darkness, not light! Second John 9-11 instructs us that such false teachers are not to be invited into our house or given greeting or in any way be bidden god-speed. The warning is given that to do so makes one guilty of their evil deeds!
Therefore, why would any eldership, if they knew it, invite such false teachers, or those who have thus compromised and fellowshipped such, into the congregation for a meeting or any other activity? Sometimes the answer to that question is that the eldership is ignorant of the danger, or of the participation of someone in such things, or both! And, the reason for such ignorance is usually because the elders have not kept themselves informed of such matters, and the preacher is afflicted with "lockjaw" and will not open his mouth to warn against and oppose such things!
<font color=red>Brethren, what a congregation is now, and especially what it will be ten, fifteen, or twenty years from now is being decided RIGHT NOW in the leadership of its elders and the stance of its preacher. In the apostasy of the previous century, we lost eighty-five percent of our congregations to the digression. It was virtually because of the same problem. How many of our congregations will be lost to the current digression that is assailing our brotherhood? Elders and preachers, will you be responsible for saving or losing your congregation? How many souls will perish if you fail to take a firm stand and "fight the good fight of faith?" </font>
4865 Bates Pike SE
Cleveland, TN 37311
Seek The Old Paths, Vol. 7, No. 9