Food for Thought
Keeping the message pure
by David Churchill

     One day while browsing through the radio stations, I came across a famous denominational preacher talking about the “one and only gospel of Christ” and discussing Galatians 1:6-10.  Personally, I prefer to listen to preachers who handle the Bible more accurately than he does.  But, curious as to what he might possibly say on such a topic and always ready to consider with an open mind any message genuinely taught from Scripture, I listened a little longer to him than I normally would have done.
     He and his companions mentioned how that “we as people seeking to do God’s will must test the spirit of the message of preachers claiming to proclaim God’s will.”  They pointed out how many of TV’s and radio’s “so-called evangelists preach a gospel of money rather than of Jesus Christ.”  Quoting from 1 Cor. 15, they discussed briefly how the gospel of Christ refers to the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ and how any sincere understanding of the real gospel must be based on all three aspects, and not just one.  They talked about how real faith in God comes from heartfelt study of God’s Word, the Bible.  And they emphasized that if a preacher doesn’t teach the gospel as revealed in the Bible then he’s preaching a different gospel, a false gospel, a gospel that sends people to hell instead of heaven.  About that time, deciding that this radio preacher was a blatant hypocrite and a boldfaced liar about what he really practiced, I turned the radio off and went about my business.
     Why in the world did I reach such a harsh assessment?  In those few particular minutes I didn’t hear the man or his companions say anything that was anti-Scriptural.  They quoted relevant passages of Scripture and they presented correct interpretations of those passages.  In fact, I would have been proud and pleased to hear any member of our congregation give the same clear and concise arguments in the same manner in an informal discussion with a non-Christian.  However, my assessment came not from what I was hearing him say at the moment, but from my previous knowledge of this man’s mistakes — my prior understanding of his ongoing incorrect teachings and practices.
     As it turned out, I was right after all.  Later, when I turned the radio back on, he was presenting his anti-scriptural method for being saved which contradicts the same gospel he had just claimed to teach and his usual indiscriminate appeal for money which puts him in the same group he had just labeled as “so-called evangelists.”  Those few valuable minutes of purer teaching were being made void because he refused to apply that same teaching to his own ministry.

     We all occasionally hear a denominational preacher demonstrate some inconsistency in his teaching or practice, but this time it got me thinking about what happens when the shoe looks to be on the other foot.
     What happens if someone classifies us as hypocrites, not because of what they hear us saying at the moment, but because of their prior assessments of our past mistakes or of their current perceptions about our present difficulties?
     The fact is that each and every one of us in Christ’s church has led a spotted life.  While learning to live as Christians helps us to splash fewer spots on ourselves, it also makes any new spots seem to stand out more boldly to those who watch us.  All too often, others may refuse to consider the truth we speak from the Scriptures because they knew us before we started to learn and practice that truth.  Many seem to find relief in using our shortcomings as an excuse to avoid confronting their own sinful lifestyles.  And those times when people occasionally confuse our clean patches as dirty spots hardly help us look worthy of imitation.
     How then can we hope to present a clean, pure message of the gospel when we’ve been so dirty from sin?  Or as Isaiah writes of himself in Isaiah 6:5 “
Woe is me, for I am undone!  Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips;” when God asks him to deliver His message.
     First, we must make sure the message is pure by ensuring its source from the Scriptures.  Matthew 17:1-8; John 6:60-69; 1 Corinthians 15:12; Philippians 3:1; 1 Timothy 3:14-15; 2 Timothy 3:16-4:5; Hebrews 1:1-4
     Second, we must keep the message pure by handling it correctly as the Scriptures instruct us.  Mark 12:24; Ephesians 5:6-21; Colossians 3:16-17,23-24; 2 Timothy 2:15-16; Hebrews 2:1-4
     Third, we must occasionally point out that the purity of the message is separate and apart from the dirty spots we gain whenever we fail to apply the Scriptures correctly in our own lives.  Galatians 6:1-5; Philippians 2:1-6; Colossians 3:1-17
     Fourth, we must demonstrate the purity of the message to cleanse our life’s spots as we repent and resume correctly applying the Scriptures where we had left off.  Ephesians 4:25-32; Philippians 2:12-16; 1 Timothy 4:12-16; 2 Peter 1:2-11

     As Christians sincerely seeking to genuinely follow God’s saving instructions, we need to daily remind ourselves:  “
Your iniquity is taken away, and your sin purged” (Isaiah 6:7).  Just as God cleansed Isaiah from sin so he could be free to deliver God’s message, He does so for us:
     “
For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again.  Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh.  Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer.  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.  Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, that is, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them, and has committed to us the word of reconciliation.  Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ's behalf, be reconciled to God. For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:14-21, NKJV)



      © David G. Churchill; used by permission.  (rev.030000-150518-170518)
      Permission guidelines for your use of this article.
      Unless otherwise noted, “Scripture taken from the NEW KING JAMES VERSION.  Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved.”
      This article’s presentation in Exploring God's Word ©2003 David G. Churchill.
      For additional quality Bible-study materials, contact your local church of Christ or access Exploring God's Word at www.exploringgodsword.co.
      Send us your Bible-related questions.