As the covering of the garden surrounded the band of 12 men and darkness overshadowed their presence the chimes of eternal glory began to sound forth the coming event of man’s salvation. The Almighty looked upon His only begotten Son bowed in sorrow as He pleads for mercy in the coming sacrifice. Soldiers and leaders of the nation of God drag Jesus through humiliating courts filled with envy, hatred and fear. Finally on a hill of death the Roman Empire exacted its feeble power to execute the man from Nazareth. Death settled upon the land in darkness both literally and spiritually as the smug hypocrites of the Jewish nation rejoiced at the miserable death of that troublemaker whom they feared.
The first day of the week changed all that when light spread throughout the whole world and the gospel was born upon the shoulders of the disciples of Christ who took the redeeming message of God’s grace to every corner of the world. Peter and the eleven pronounced before a vast throng of devout Jews they had killed the Messiah. The apostles would be brought before councils being warned not to teach in the name of Jesus of Nazareth and yet boldly go forth rejecting the counsel of men. Saul of Tarsus would become one of the great harbingers of salvation showing the world the dying Savior for all generations to see. The early church preached the message of redemption to a world filled with pagan idolatry, immoral virtues, murderous political agendas and according to Paul, “was preached to every creature under heaven” (Colossians 1:23).
To the Roman crowd Paul would show that faith comes from hearing the word of God (Romans 10:17). Speaking of his own preaching the apostle reminded the Corinthian church that he only presented the truth without fanfare and trappings of man. “And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God” (1 Corinthians 2:1-5).
The goal of Paul’s preaching was not to attract disciples by the wisdom of man and tickle the ear with the allurements of fleshly desires. He preached Christ crucified so their faith would be in the only salvation man could hope for. He did not need to dress up the gospel or make it more appealing so more people would accept his message. Repentance comes from the heart that is filled with godly sorrow and preaching the gospel of Christ inflicts the sorrow of sin to be regretted (2 Corinthians 7:10). That is all Paul preached when he traveled. Peter and the eleven went throughout the whole world making “disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20).
In Athens Paul stood in the midst of the idols of man’s totems and declared the true and living God (Acts 17). If the aged apostle were alive today he would stand in the parking lots of many churches of Christ declaring the “unknown God” they have left behind in their pursuits of appealing to the fickle nature of man’s inner desire for food, fun and frolicking. Two thousand years removed from the garden of Gethsemane and Golgotha stand monuments to the failing belief in the power of the gospel message of Jesus Christ and the message of a dying Savior on a cross. The itching ears for entertainment is now the siren song of churches of Christ who fill their numbers by becoming like the protestant churches around them. The belief is that to interest people in the crucified Savior He must be cleaned up and sanitized with the appeal of a modern world.
The charge is made that to interest the world in the gospel an appeal must be made to their desires. Some churches of Christ are beginning to use instruments of music in worship to satisfy the whims of converts. Women are taking on leadership roles to keep in step with the religious norms of society. Marriage, divorce and remarriage are swept under the rug of indifference in fear of causing many to reject the gospel. Adultery and homosexuality are viewed with less concern. The social gospel of bounce houses, cotton candy, popcorn, big screen televisions and festivals year round draw the multitudes to the weakened message of a modern philosophy of social acceptance. Food, fun, frolicking and fellowship is why Jesus died on the cross; at least that is the message given.
Man has never been satisfied with the way God does things. The First Century disciples preached the gospel to a world more hostile than anyone has seen today and yet their message spread like fire. Their appeal was the Word! They sought to make disciples not fill the bellies of men with hotdogs and hamburgers. Lives were changed because people were “cut to the heart” (Acts 2:37) not growling in their stomachs. Sin was conquered through the blood of Jesus Christ; not ketchup on a bun. The cotton candy of modern theology is creating a system of religious tolerance that accepts anyone who walks under a sign as a child of God.
Paul and Barnabas faced great opposition in Iconium “when a violent attempt was made by both the Gentiles and Jews, with their rulers, to abuse and stone them, they became aware of it and fled to Lystra and Derbe, cities of Lycaonia, and to the surrounding region. And they were preaching the gospel there” (Acts 14:5-7). Did they change their preaching? Did they seek to appeal to the Iconium’s desires? They kept preaching the same message. Later Paul was stoned and left for dead at Lystra. Paul left for Derbe and kept preaching the same gospel.
The gospel is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes (Romans 1:16). If the gospel is that powerful why does man need to dress it up with allurements of the world? Hearts are in need of change. Lives are in need of change. I hesitate to include the old adage that says if you convert someone with fried chicken, sweet tea and ice cream you wind up with people as dead as the chicken, weak as the tea and cold as the ice cream. There is a grain of truth to that. Jesus died on the cross to bring penitent and remorseful people sorrowing over sin seeking the mercy and grace of a loving Father to their own cross bearing (Luke 14:26-33).
Jesus taught the need of separation from the attractions of the world. “Most assuredly, I say to you, you seek Me, not because you saw the signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were filled. Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give you, because God the Father has set His seal on Him” (John 6:26-27). Many of His disciples walked with Him no more after He taught them the lesson of the “bread of life” (John 6:32-69). Many today will not follow Him because the appeal of a crucified Savior is not enough. Not enduring sound doctrine “but according to their own desires, because they have itching ears, they will heap up for themselves teachers; and they will turn their ears away from the truth, and be turned aside to fables” (2 Timothy 4:3-4)
It must also be understood that the modern appeals of many churches of Christ find no authority in scripture. Bill Hall said, “We are either going to take this matter of restoration of New Testament Christianity seriously or we’re not. We are either going to take the idea of ‘speak where the Bible speaks and be silent where it is silent’ seriously or we are not. If we are not going to take the concept of restoring New Testament Christianity seriously, then by all means let’s quit giving it lip service. Let’s just forget the whole thing and do anything we want to do, whether we have Bible authority for it or not. But, on the other hand, if we are really serious about restoring New Testament Christianity – if we are really serious about making the local church according to the pattern given in the New Testament – then let’s rid ourselves of these things that have been introduced into the church for which there is no New Testament authority. Let’s go back and become what the Lord intended His church to be. It’s one way or the other. We can’t have it both ways, talking about restoring New Testament Christianity while accepting all kinds of innovations for which there is no New Testament authority. It just won’t work.” (Restudying Issues of the 50’s and 60’s; A historical perspective.)
God’s design is always best and when we follow the design of the New Testament then we will be blessed. Stand only for the word of God. Stand for truth.