Times have not changed much in the world’s religious or political systems. Amos the prophet complains bitterly that, in the face of God’s abundant and gracious provision for Israel’s physical prosperity and spiritual blessing, Israel compromised the Nazarite vow of separation by giving them “wine to drink; and commanded the prophets, saying prophesy not” (Amos 2:11-12). Then, when out of love and concern for the well being of his beloved nation, Amos prophesies judgment for Israel’s sins, and is accused by Amaziah the priest (of Bethel) of attacking Jeroboam the king and the house of Israel. Amaziah suggests that “the land is not able to bear all his words,” and that Amos should “flee away into the land of Judah, and there eat bread, and prophesy there: but prophesy not again any more at Bethel: for it is the king’s chapel, and it is the king’s court” (Amos 7:10-17).
And so it has been and will continue to be. Many a man, to this present day, has felt the sting of reproof and rejection from the leadership that he loves – when he, out of desire for their prosperity, points out the violation of Biblical principles and offers suggestions for adjustment to the Word of God. For example, the Puritan clergy and other non-conformist preachers (ministers who were not members of the Anglican/Church of England), during the reign of Queen Elizabeth, organized what we would call today Bible conferences, to be conducted on a regular basis in the various churches, towns, and cities in England. Their hopes were that, through knowledge of God’s Word, the perceived ills would be corrected and result in renewed devotion to God. But since the Queen believed these preachers were responsible for filling people’s heads with ideas that could cause sedition in England, she, therefore, suppressed them and considered them illegal. She reportedly felt there were too many preachers and that three or four for each country were sufficient.
In a similar way (many years ago), Dr. John Whitcomb wrote and published an article, When Love Divorces Doctrine and Unity Leaves Truth, wherein he addressed, with alarm, the dangers of the Neo-evangelical philosophy that is rapidly gaining control in many formerly Bible-believing churches, organizations, and institutions. As a result of his article, according to a letter here in my file from Dr. Whitcomb’s publisher,
“Dr. Whitcomb is paying dearly for his strong stand. Last week he was immediately terminated at the seminary and given seven days to pack his materials, clear out his office, and vacate the campus. The administration did not like the way he was speaking out on the issues.”
It is certainly a sad day, and appropriate for us to say, “Pity the poor prophets” and anyone who dares to show a serious concern for how truth is handled. Dr. John Whitcomb was, for many years, the Professor of Old Testament at Grace Theological Seminary, Winona Lake, Indiana. He was a much sought-after Bible conference speaker and prolific writer. He is probably best known for his work in co-authoring, with Dr. Henry M. Morris, the book, The Genesis Flood.
Peace at Any Price!
The prophets of old – Amos, Jeremiah, the Lord Jesus, etc. – were “Mirandaed” (meaning they had their rights read to them) by their corrupt and “blind leaders of the blind.” They were told they had the right to remain silent. If they gave up that right, anything they said would be held against them, and that would cost them dearly (namely, they would be ridiculed, cussed, discussed, accused, abused, ostracized, intimidated, threatened, discredited, lied about, tortured, imprisoned, or even killed). They were told to fall in line: don’t rock the boat. We must have peace and unity at any price. If we didn’t authorize it, keep your mouth shut – even as our Lord Jesus Christ was challenged when the chief priests and elders of the people came unto Him as He was teaching, and said, “By what authority doest Thou these things? And who gave Thee this authority” (Mt. 21:23)? The authorities, denominational headquarters, church elders or “mister moneybags” do not want any “prophet,” preacher, missionary or evangelist telling the truth or warning the unsuspecting layman of problems or danger.
The quest for truth and purity must be forsaken and exchanged for situational ethics. Policies, philosophies, acceptable doctrines, and a list of taboos must be determined by consulting the public-relation experts rather than the Word of God. Truth, as in Jeremiah’s day, is often determined by those few who “sit in Moses’ seat,” and who omnisciently know what is best for all of us, or by those who, from the vista of the driver’s seat, can threaten a person with the loss of his maintenance and ministry.
Liberty and Truth are at Risk
It is from grace and truth – divine truth – that man receives the whole of his benefits, both temporal and eternal. For this reason we are told, “Ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” In this modern day of conformity we are in peril of losing this heritage.
We are not denying the reality or the necessity for believers to function as a body. The Bible says, “None of us lives to himself, and no man dies to himself” (Rom. 14:7). We all have the corporate responsibility of “fellowship in the Gospel.” We are not denying that “the powers that be are ordained of God” (Rom. 13:1). Nor do we take lightly our duty to conform to the will of those in authority over us. But when we must choose between obeying God or men, we choose to “Obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29-32). This is the heritage of the “truth that shall make you free” (Jn. 8:32). It was for this “truth” that our forefathers of the Protestant Reformation and Fundamentalism fought, when it had been all but lost to the tyranny of Romanism and Modernism. This is the foundation and the heritage of the prophets. For this reason they lived and were willing to die.
We have no “prophets or sons of prophets” today. The Puritans were not prophets, nor are men like Dr. Whitcomb prophets; but they are responsible, caring, courageous, Spirit-filled believers: believers who are, in reality, “ambassadors for Christ” (2 Cor. 5:20). Believers are “approved workmen” (2 Tim. 2:15), and as such, they and we must carry on with the same courageous spirit of the prophets and be “watchmen.” Conformity to the world’s system, which says, “I will let the experts, the professionals – be they political, economic, educational, or the denominational headquarters – do my thinking for me,” is fatal! We need men and women, with the boldness of the prophets, to stand up and speak out like the Puritans and say, “No!” to the Queen, and like the Reformers say, “No!” to Romanism, and like Dr. Whitcomb say, “No!” to Neo-evangelicalism. We must say, “No! No! No!” to any ecclesiastical body, board, politician, counsel or friend that attempts to coerce, intimidate, or violate the believer’s conscience and calling before God!
No obedient prophet, priest, apostle, pastor, or individual ever, in the entire Bible, transferred his own personal responsibility, duty, or calling to the organized church. When the power is in the hands of the good and the godly, then men and ministry will prosper. But when the power is in the hands of the self-serving and hypocritical, then men and ministry will languish. It is a true and proven Biblical principle that the work of God either rises or falls depending upon the quality of leadership.
There is a clarion call among Christians today for truth and independence. You must have both! The loss or surrender of these only moves us closer to Antichrist’s one-world government and church. Dr. J. Sidlow Baxter has rightly observed:
“Throughout history, those who have drawn their religion directly from Scripture, by the exercise of private interpretation, have shown a general unity as to essential faith and practice…There has been no need whatever for any hard and fast ecclesiastically authorized and regulated interpretation, imposed by some central body” (Studies in Problem Texts, Zondervan, pg. 66).
I confess I dug this study out of one of my long-forgotten files. I am not aware of all the sources of this article and I suspect that I have borrowed heavily upon the research, words and ideas of several others. The reason for reviving this study and rehearsing it again is a greater need. If it was needed, and the pressures to maintain a Christian lifestyle, testimony and pure doctrine were great a decade or two ago, they are present and amplified now more than ever. Traveling as I do allows me to observe and evaluate the spiritual climate in a variety of fellowships. I am alarmed and saddened!
There is a growing hostility toward Fundamentalism and with it the loss of zeal for the unsaved and a passion for their souls. This indifference, on the part of professing Christians, should not surprise us. There is a growing trend for Christians to rely on psychological marketing techniques, and appeals to the flesh to do the work of God. The preaching of the Cross, the emphasis on Bible doctrine, and the filling of the Holy Spirit is being lost in the rush to blend in with the current popular and “correct” religious trend. “Thus saith the Lord” has taken the back seat.
The absolutes of Scripture no longer define what is called Christianity nor do they determine our worldview. It is increasingly common to hear or read comments and philosophies of ministry from noted Christian leaders who approve of compromise and liberalism that was discarded a hundred years ago, or even some Eastern mysticism and New-Age nonsense. As Neo-evangelicalism becomes more prominent, the “spirit of Antichrist” (1 Jn. 4:3) will intimidate and target us for persecution. Individualized faith will replace Bible-based faith as the norm in our society. We will more and more be despised for our stand for the truth of the Word of God and even more so if we dare to claim identity with Fundamentalism, Dispensationalism and aggressive evangelism.
As believers, we have a mandate from the Word of God to:
“Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God: praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; and for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel” (Eph. 6:11-19).
Peter and the other Apostles, standing before the Jewish religious council, were rebuked. They were charged with wrong because they had “filled Jerusalem with [their] doctrine.” To this Peter and the other Apostles answered, “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:26-29)!
I believe that the most distressing reality in the year 2010 is that people are dying and going to Hell. Dare to be like a prophet! Dare, if necessary, to stand – alone!