No child of God can be wholly true to his convictions and altogether honest in his Bible study, if in any way he is numbered with those mentioned in Jude 16, “having men’s persons in admiration because of advantage.” Spiritual tact is always a virtue, but most religious diplomacy is equivalent to compromise and cowardice. Humanly speaking, nothing is more beneficial than sweet spiritual fellowship with fellow-members of the Body of Christ, but when that fellowship is maintained at the cost of compromise with God’s truth, with disobedience, or silence concerning some God-given conviction, it borders on fellowship with darkness. Shame on any servant of the Lord who turns from Divine light received by hearing the Word of God because of advantage, fear or praise of men. In John 12:42 and 43, we have the record of those miserable religious cowards at the time Christ was here on earth: “many believed on Him but they did not confess Him … For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.”
For this same reason there are many servants of the Lord today who cling to a program and message of grace and religion mixed. Such a mixture is an abomination in the sight of the Lord; but to religious or semi-religious people it is an inoffensive message. Paul, in writing to the Galatians, declared that religion would remove the offense from the cross. This is exactly what Satan wants the Christian to do; that is, to mix in with the grace of God enough religion to frustrate that grace. In that same Epistle, Paul said, “if I please men, I should not be the servant of Christ.” Galatians 1:10.
For a good position, for more recommendations and less condemnation, for more and larger audiences and more and larger offerings, it is a great temptation to preach sermons that will please the committee appointed to select the pastor or evangelist and to be careful not to offend the good givers.
In that same Epistle to the Galatians we find a splendid example of a servant of the Lord, one of the “big” leaders trying a bit of religious diplomacy. Read Galatians 2:9 to 15. Peter walked not uprightly according to God’s truth, “fearing them which were of the circumcision.” Peter received a very severe, but a just, rebuke for this compromise. Perhaps he was saying within himself, “the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” But when the “circumcision”, or the “water baptizers” or “sabbath-keepers”, or any kind of religious leaders, get after the Bible teacher or Christian worker, who is satisfied with Christ and His pure message of grace, without religious fetters, woe unto him. Religious people do know how to persecute. Religion in the believer always counteracts the fruit of the Spirit and changes love into hate.
Surely we must admire Paul for his bold, noble, uncompromising stand against the pillars of the church and the religious “somewhats”. Galatians 2:6 to 9. But it cost him some friends, including Barnabas. And what it cost him to completely deliver the message of grace from every religious entanglement, including legalism, ritualism, signs and ordinances, is told in any II Timothy 1:15: “All they which are in Asia be turned away from me.” At that time Paul was in prison for preaching the unsearchable riches of Christ and proclaiming the mystery, which was a message from the risen Christ that superseded all of the religious program foretold by the prophets of Israel. Colossians 4:3; 1:24 to 29.
The “pillars” and “somewhats” in the World’s Fundamentalist Association, and in the other Fundamentalist Associations, which do not embrace so much territory, are today the great enemies of the blessed truth in the Word of God, known as “the mystery”, the Glorious truth of the believer’s full identification with Christ, by a Divine baptism not made with hands. They not only close their pulpits to that most wonderful truth of the Scriptures set forth in Ephesians and Colossians, but they boycott, persecute, ostracize and disfellowship other servants of the Lord who do. They contradict their own testimony by preaching, that the believer is accepted in Christ, complete in Christ, eternally and securely identified with Christ, as a member of His Body, blessed with all spiritual blessings and seated with Him in the highest heavenlies; all on the grounds of the shed blood of the spotless Son of God; all by the pure unmerited grace, nothing by human endeavor, practice or attainment. Yes, they claim this, but on the other hand, they withhold the right hand of fellowship from those who refuse to agree with their religious water baptism ordinance, admitting that they cannot quote one single verse of Scripture authorizing one member of the Body of Christ to baptize a believer who is already a member of that same Body. They manifest anything but the love of Christ toward the fellow-members of the same Body who are endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit on the basis of that one Divine baptism which makes believing sinners members of that Body and joined to Christ the Head.
It is just the repetition of the same old spirit mentioned in John 9:22: “for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that Jesus was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue.”
One of the “pillars” among the Fundamentalists of this country, who is one of the “somewhats”, has warned other Fundamentalists to shun Christians who do not accept the water ceremony and to have no fellowship with them. Pharisaism is not dead.
One brother has just written a message in which he declares that “hydrolatry is a menace to Christianity”, “the worship of water”. It is little worse than bowing before candlesticks or worshipping with incense.
Virtually all of the leaders among the Fundamentalists are agreed concerning the important fundamental doctrines, but concerning water baptism they are divided and subdivided into confusion, uncertainty and sectarianism. The Church is truly menaced with a state of Baptism Babylon, destroying the unity of members of the Body of Christ and hindering believers from obeying Ephesians 4:3 and Ephesians 3:9.
With many Christians the question is still the question of John 7:48: “have any of the rulers or of the Pharisees believed?” The question should be, “what saith the Scriptures, rightly divided?” The rulers and the Pharisees were wrong in those days and those who believed what they believed erred concerning the truth.
We trust that we may encourage many believers to be true Bereans and get their eyes off the “pillars” and the “somewhats”. Search the Scriptures. Remember that no man, or group of men, has reached the finality of truth. No Christian. has any monopoly on the only infallible teacher, the Holy Spirit. Some of the recognized’ “big men” among Bible teachers today are the real enemies of the most blessed truths of the Bible.
Our purpose is to stimulate, encourage, or provoke real honest-to-goodness spiritual, prayerful, first-hand Bible study. Do not fear men. Read Hebrews 13:6 and take courage: “So that we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what men shall do unto me.” Sacrifice the praise of men for the praise of God, which shall continue into the ages to come. Do not compromise for advantage, for a job with a good income. God can still open doors. Philippians 4:19 is still true: “But my God shall supply all you need according to His riches in Glory by Jesus Christ.” Get your eyes off of men. Look unto the Author and Finisher of our faith. Be a Berean in study. Be as Timothy, a good soldier of Christ, remembering those words of Paul: “Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God.” II Timothy 1:8.
For more articles by Pastor J. C. O'Hair, visit the J. C. O'Hair Online Library.