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The Plowing of the Wicked
An high look, and a proud heart, and the plowing of the wicked, is sin. —Proverbs 21:4
To those unlearned and uninitiated the latter portion of this verse is a complete conundrum, and I suspect that even many of God’s saints do not really comprehend this remarkable proverb. We see how a high look and a proud heart are sinful and offensive to God. But do we see how the seemingly harmless, innocent, and apparently beneficial plowing of the wicked is sinful? Truly, the wisdom of this proverb is not of this world—it is from above. And it can only be grasped and appreciated by simple childlike faith.
We find a very similar text in Psalm 10, where we read, “The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts. His ways are always grievous.” God is not in all the thoughts of an unbeliever, a wicked person, as he is in the thoughts of the believer; therefore, each and every way of the wicked is always and altogether grievous, perverse, sinful, twisted, and offensive to God.
God, God’s Son, God’s glory, God’s grace, and God’s power simply do not enter into the mind of the wicked, at least not with a welcome. The true and living God of Holy Scripture is not a recognized factor in the life of an unbeliever. God is not the center of the wicked man’s focus, the driving force of his life, the object of his pursuit, or the controlling motive of all that he does. God, to the wicked man, is nothing more than a hated enemy, a challenge to be overcome, a barrier standing in the way of the fulfillment of his depraved lusts. The righteous strive to obey God in all things, but all that the wicked man does is done in defiance of God, for selfish ends, and for personal gain. The wicked simply do not care who God is, what God says, or what God requires; therefore, even the plowing of the wicked is sin in God’s sight.
The plowing of the wicked is sin, not because plowing is inherently sinful, but because everything the wicked do is sin. The plowing mentioned is, in this respect, only given by way of example. It is the works of the wicked unbeliever that are sin. Though by his plowing he is working hard, carving out a seemingly honest living for himself, and providing for his family, his plowing is veritable wickedness in God’s sight. Why? How can this be? Because he is wicked and corrupt, and all that he does is necessarily wicked and corrupt, just like himself. “Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.” Being a corrupt tree, the wicked man naturally and only brings forth corrupt fruit, regardless of what that fruit appears to be to flesh and blood. It may look tasty, smell delicious, and taste quite satisfying, but it is still corrupt fruit because it is produced by a corrupt tree. A corrupt tree can only produce corrupt fruit.
The wicked, though he works from sunup to sundown seven days a week, though his biceps are big because of religious exercise, though his hands are calloused over from turning the pages of his Bible, and though he plows himself into a bloody sweat in religion, his plowing is detestable and vile in the eyes of God. He may run up and down the countryside handing out Bibles, plowing eagerly and sincerely up one street and down the next, telling everyone he meets that Jesus loves them and that God has wonderful plans for their lives, but God is still angry with the wicked every day.
A wicked man may sell all that he has to feed the poor, devote himself to philanthropy, and give his body to burned at the stake, and though apparently very impressive to men, God is offended by all that he does because his heart is still wicked, unregenerate, and attached to his sin. His plowing, his giving, his working, his self-denying, his sacrificing, his Bible reading, and all of his religious labors are filth and complete putrefaction in the eyes of God. How can it be otherwise? God looks on the heart, and God sees things as they really are. Yes, he professes and appears to be completely devoted to charity, kindness, and helping the poor, but all that he does is evil because he himself is evil, all of his apparent goodness, charity, and kindness notwithstanding.
The fruits that are produced by the plowing of the wicked may be very impressive to men, but they are, nonetheless, the products of sin. His watermelons may be bigger, juicier, and greener than the watermelons produced by ten of God’s saints combined, but one small watermelon produced by a true believer is of far greater value and of far greater beauty to God than a dump truck full of luscious watermelons produced by an unbeliever. A wicked man may win the blue ribbon at the county fair every year for producing the biggest, tastiest, and reddest tomatoes in the county, but what earns him a blue ribbon at the county fair is abomination in the eyes of God because his tomatoes were not the products of love, grace, and faith in the heart. The love of Christ did not constrain him in anything that he did; the love of self did. Like a good little Pharisee, he planted those tomatoes, fertilized them, and cultivated them to win a worldly ribbon and to gain himself the applause and honor of men—God had nothing to do with it. God was not in his thoughts when he plowed the field, when he sowed the seeds, or when he harvested the fruit. The only thing on his mind, from start to finish, was me, me, me. His plowing, sowing, and harvesting were selfish and self-centered; therefore, it was nothing but sin.
The wicked spoken of in our text do not necessarily have to be murderers, rapists, and Sodomites; the wicked are all natural men and women, all who believe not on Christ. Many wicked people are very nice, very well-respected members of the community, very hard workers, and very devoted religionists. And as surprising as this fact is, the following revelation is probably more shocking; most people think that the wicked are only wicked because of the wickedness that they do, when in fact, it is because of what they are that makes them wicked and all of their works wicked. All apparently good, helpful, kind, beneficial, and respectable deeds performed by lost men and women are sin. Why? Because they do not believe God, because they do not trust the Lord Jesus Christ for righteousness, for without faith it is impossible to please God.
All natural men, regardless of what they may or may not profess, work for righteousness; that is to say, all that they do that is apparently good and noble, they do to earn God’s acceptance. That makes all the apparent good they do completely wicked. I prefer that a man plow his field, work hard, and feed his family rather than be a lazy bum, but when men trust in their apparently good endeavors for righteousness, which all natural men do, those works are sin. When men seek to bypass Christ crucified or seek to add their plowing to Christ’s finished work, they have made the cross of Christ of none effect, and they may as well have been circumcised or presented three dozen dead pigs to God for a peace offering.
Christ alone is the sinner’s righteousness before God. If we are looking to anything else to give us any hope of acceptance with God—our plowing, our giving, our working, our zeal, our sacrificing, our good parenting, our being a good husband, wife, or citizen, etc.—we prove that we are one of the wicked people spoken of by Solomon in our text. All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags in the eyes of God; our very best plowing, working, laboring, and giving, insofar as the satisfaction of divine justice is concerned, fall completely short of meeting the mark.
We simply cannot justify ourselves before God any more than Cain could atone for his sins by laying his very best cantaloupes, tomatoes, or turnips on God’s altar. We must approach God by way of the Lamb, like Abel, or we will rejected, like Cain. Faith alone in Christ alone—that is the way to be justified with God. All ye that labor and are heavy laden, stop plowing for righteousness. Come to Christ, by faith, and he will give you rest. “Take my yoke upon you,” says the Savior, “and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” Sinner, leave your rusty plow and your rotten fruit in the field of false religion and simply trust the Lord Jesus for justification with God, for Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth.
The Deepest Hell
And thou, Capernaum, which art exalted unto heaven, shalt be brought down to hell: for if the mighty works, which have been done in thee, had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. But I say unto you, That it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee. —Matthew 11:23-24
As evil as the Sodomites were, those who hear the gospel of Christ and refuse to repent are for more evil. As terrible as hell will be for the unclean, debauched, and immoral Sodomites of old and the vile homosexuals of this present generation, the deepest, darkest, and hottest hell is reserved for those who have heard the good news of God’s free grace and refused to receive it. It is true, every single sinner who perishes in unbelief goes to hell, regardless of the seemingly praiseworthy distinctions that may have distinguished one from another, but the seventh level of hell is reserved for those unbelievers who enjoyed the greatest gospel privileges and despised them.
There are no degrees of reward in heaven, none at all, and none for any reason whatsoever; if there were, salvation would, in some measure, be according to the believer’s works—but salvation is all of grace. Heaven’s glory is part of that salvation; heaven is the consummation of God’s great salvation. Election is free; redemption is free; justification is free; and glorification is free, and just like every other aspect of salvation, glorification is equally bestowed upon all of God’s saints. No one saint is more elect than another, more redeemed than another, or more justified than another; likewise, no saint in heaven is, will be, or can be more glorified than another. All of God’s elect share equally in the bliss and blessedness of heaven, but the punishment of the unbelieving in hell is quite different.
According to the example given by the Lord Jesus in our text, the punishment of the Sodomites will be “more tolerable” in the Day of Judgment than it will be for the inhabitants of Capernaum. That little two-word phrase, more tolerable, clearly teaches that punishment in hell, unlike the reward of heaven, is merit based. The greater the offenses committed throughout life, the greater the punishment will be in the bottomless pit; the lesser a person’s transgressions have been in life, the lesser his punishment will be in the pit of the damned.
This text also teaches us that the greater the spiritual advantages are in a person’s life, the greater that person’s responsibility is before God. This doctrine is the very same as that taught by our Lord in Luke, chapter 12, verses 47 and 48, where Christ says, “And that servant, which knew his lord’s will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.” Ignorance of God’s will, God’s grace, and God’s way of salvation by faith in Jesus Christ will not get a single transgressor off the hook in the last day, and though ignorance of God does not translate into a free pass into glory, it does translate into receiving a less severe punishment than those who had the Bible, read the Bible, heard the gospel, and had ample opportunities given to them to call on God for mercy. Knowledge given by God is a great advantage, but greater knowledge means greater responsibility. Beware, the greater the light that men despise, the greater their punishment will be in the end. It is called divine justice; it is strict, but it is fair.
Let this passage serve as a much needed warning for you who have thus far in your life despised the spiritual advantages that God has given you by remaining impenitent. Perhaps you have made a false profession, been baptized, and have joined the church, but you do not know Christ. Perhaps you sit under the sound of the gospel on a weekly basis, but you do not derive any comfort, happiness, or satisfaction from the glad tidings that you here. Perhaps you regularly sing It is Well with My Soul with the saints, but you know that it is not well with your soul at all, for you know that your religion is nothing more than a façade, a covering, an act. If you die in such a state, in unbelief, with so many glorious advantages at your fingertips, you will forever envy the Sodomites in hell for their lesser torment—for the way of salvation was made perfectly clear to you time and time again, but you shut your eyes, put your fingers into your ears, hardened your heart against God, and refused to come to Christ that you might be saved.
Understand this: you cannot change the past—what’s done is done; however, there is hope for the future, hope for those who repent and believe, hope for all who walk in the light that God has given them. Has God given you a copy of the Bible? Read it, and beg God to make it effectual to your heart. Have you heard the gospel? Believe it, and ask Christ to save you from your sins. After all, what use is an unread Bible or good news that you do not believe?
Whatever advantages God has given you, it is your responsibility to walk in the light of those advantages. Put to good use the light that God has given you, be it great or small, and God will give you more light. “For whosoever hath, to him shall be given; and whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken even that which he seemeth to have.” Do not ignore the scriptures. Do not suppress the truth in unrighteousness. Do not attempt to silence your conscience with worldly distractions or silly excuses. Do not foolishly justify your wickedness and sin. Do not pretend like you do not know that God exists, for the creation testifies clearly of his eternal power and godhead. Do not behave as one who thinks that death ends all. Do not freely indulge in your sin, as if there are no consequences with God for the performance of evil. Do not act as if your life in this world will go on forever—it won’t.
You will die, and you will meet God. These two inescapable realities, if laid to heart, will bring things into remarkable focus and give your life some hitherto despised but much needed perspective. Unless your conscience is completely scabbed over, the certainty of your own death and meeting God in judgment ought to constrain you to seek him and his grace this day. He promises, “And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.” If you die in your unbelief, refusing to walk in the light of this great gospel promise by seeking God in Christ with all of your heart, your condemnation will be greater than it would have been had you never read this promise at all. “For it had been better for [you] not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after [you] have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto [you].”
Why do you linger and hesitate, when the eternal destiny of your immortal soul is at stake? Life—death—your soul—God—salvation—forgiveness—Christ—eternity—these things are not playground trifles to be taken lightly or scoffed at. I assure you, one day, you will see just how important these things are, and so will everyone else. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether it be good or bad.”
There is no time to waste. You are guilty, but grace is free. You cannot save yourself, but mercy is promised to all who seek it. You need not and cannot keep the law of God, but Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone that believeth. There are no works to perform and no preparations that must be made; call on God now, immediately, and without hesitation. Do not hide what you are behind supposed good deeds or past religious works; simply come to God as you are, as a wretched sinner, condemned and unclean. Come down from your high-minded thoughts of self, and humble yourself in the dust before him. Mercy is given from on high, but sinners only find it in the dust before God. Honesty, honesty, honesty—tell God the truth, and do not try to hide anything from him.
Time is not on your side; you cannot afford delay. The time to call and seek is now! “Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.”
Look at Me
All their works they do for to be seen of men. —Matthew 23:5
All of God’s saints know who the Pharisee was. He was the self-righteous, rigid, religious, merciless, legalistic, hateful, ignorant ceremonialist of Christ’s day. Outwardly, the Pharisee was upright, devoted, faithful, and very impressive. When the common people saw the Pharisee at his devotions they said to one another, “This man is the embodiment of holiness, the very personification of purity, the incarnation of godliness—the living and breathing manifestation of untainted sanctity and righteousness.” The Pharisees were givers; they paid tithes of all that they possessed. They fasted twice a week. They made broad their phylacteries and enlarged the borders of their garments. They made long public prayers. They even compassed sea and land to make one proselyte. They were always in the temple and in the synagogues, always engaged in religious duties, and always speaking about religious things. Though outwardly the Pharisees appeared righteous unto men, within they were full of hypocrisy and iniquity. Everything they did in the name of God they did to be seen by men and to receive the praise of men.
The Pharisees continue to live, even in this present generation. The Pharisees will say, “Thank you, Lord,” but what they are really saying is “Look at me.” The Pharisees will pray with much fervor in the religious assembly for all to hear, supposedly leading the poor common folk to the throne of grace, but what they mean in all that they say is “Look at me. Aren’t you impressed with my prayer?” The Pharisees will dress up in fancy suits, wearing costly and impressive religious garb, claiming that they do so out of reverence and respect for God, but all their fancy religious attire really says, “Look at me. I’m no ordinary believer; I really believe God. I take the worship of God very seriously. Can’t you tell? Just look at me.” Everything that the Pharisee does in the name of God he does to attract the attention of men to himself. He prays, not to be heard of God, but to be heard of men. He acts austere and committed, not because he is devoted to God, but to be applauded by men for his apparent devotion. He gives, not because he is constrained by the love of Christ, but because he covets recognition. He speaks, not to edify the souls of men, but that he might be noted among men for his apparent religious wisdom.
Though God’s people have been redeemed from that vain conversation received by tradition from their fathers, there are still traces of Pharisaism among the saints of God today. God’s people are Pharisees by nature, and given our innate love of man’s applause, it comes as no surprise that even true believers do things in the name of God “for to be seen of men.” This applies to every child of God—to you and me, old and young, male and female, to those who preach and to those who do not. And the first step in combatting this horrible evil is to recognize that none of us are above it. If we dismiss and deny the possibility that we could be doing religious things to call attention to ourselves, we have yet to recognize just how self-righteous, depraved, and deceitful our hearts truly are. Until we recognize that there is nothing we will not do, we cannot overcome our sinful tendency to seek honor from men, and until we recognize that we are not above correction, we cannot be corrected. Sadly, when many of God’s saints are confronted with their own peculiar brand of Pharisaism, they immediately deny it, saying to themselves, “Nope, not me. I am not a Pharisee—I’m a Christian. I follow God’s word and only God’s word. My motives are pure and my intentions are clean. I have nothing to do with outward show, nor do I seek the honor of men.” That may very well be so. But is it, indeed? We would all do well to ask ourselves, “Lord, is it I?”
Let us test our motives and try our principles. If our hearts are pure gold, they will suffer no loss by the trial. Let us search and try our ways, as the prophet advises. After all, righteousness and truth never fear scrutiny—they welcome it. Ah, but the outright and immediate refusal to test our principles and question our motives is a telltale sign of fear—fear that we are lying, fear that we are guilty and wrong, fear that our motives may be impure after all, fear that our intentions may not be as upright as we imagine—hence, the necessity of the test. If we are clean, as we all profess to be, we should not avoid, much less mind, a thorough examination of our hearts. Do you practice your devotions, your religion, to be seen of God or to be seen of men? Are you looking to God in all that you do, or are you saying, “Look at me,” in all that you do in the name of Jesus Christ? God help you to be honest.
The Pharisees wore long robes, made broad their phylacteries, and enlarged the borders of their garments; that is to say, they got dressed up fancy for religious purposes. You may not wear long robes and use phylacteries, but you may very well get dressed up for church—there is no real difference. Why do you get dressed up to worship God? Why do you spend so much time in front of a mirror before you meet with the saints? Since when does God require such a thing? If you spend more time preparing your flesh to worship God than you do preparing your heart to worship God, you are guilty of Pharisaism. Getting dressed up to meet with God’s people, wearing costly array into the assembly of the saints, and adorning yourself with immodest apparel of any kind is Pharisaism. Getting dressed up does one thing well: it calls attention to yourself. That is why people do it, and that is the only reason people do it. Suits, ties, cuff links, fancy dresses, high heels, jewelry, gold, silver, pearls, makeup, broided hair, and all the other attractive fleshly adornments say, “Look at me.”
Child of God, ask yourself why you do what you do. Why do you meet with the saints? Is it to truly worship God, or is it because you want the credit of being what you are not? Why do you give? Is it for God’s glory or your own? Why do you read your Bible? Is it to learn God’s will, or is it to sound pious in conversation? Why do you do what you do? For the glory of God and for the love of Jesus Christ, let us search and try our ways and turn again to the LORD.
Biblical Church Government
The only place in the New Testament where a single man is exalted as the sole pastor and authority figure in the church is in 1 John, chapter 3. John says, “I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence among them, receiveth us not. Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church.” Diotrephes abused his power, as men with such authority often do, and degenerated into a proud oppressive dictator; he became pope over the church. But John follows up on his testimony concerning Diotrephes with this statement of exhortation to the believers: “Beloved, follow not that which is evil, but that which is good.” That is to say, do not follow the evil popish example of Diotrephes; do not practice or stand for this false and evil form of church government; do not exalt yourself or any other individual to a place of preeminence and superiority in and over the church.
I know that one man rule is the common practice in the churches today, but like so many other things in the church, in this age of apostasy and darkness, one-man-rule is nothing more than a religious invention, a devilish practice received by tradition from our fathers. According to the scriptures, there is to be no single bishop who presides over any local assembly. In fact, in God’s word, the word, bishop, when referring to a single specific individual, is only applied to the Lord Jesus Christ. “For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.” Christ alone is the only preeminent Bishop in any local church, and to call yourself the bishop of Such-and-such Church is to intrude upon Christ’s dignity and rob him of that glory that distinctly belongs to him, and him alone. If I am a pastor or bishop in a church, I am not the pastor or the bishop; I am a pastor, a bishop, because there should be at least one other to share in the authority and responsibility of oversight.
The words, bishop, elder, pastor, and presbytery, used more or less throughout the New Testament, are all speaking about the same office. These are the teaching leaders of the church, who guide, instruct, watch over, care for, and govern local assemblies by prayer and the word of God. All bishops are elders, and all bishops and elders are pastors. Some labor full-time in the doctrine and the word, giving themselves wholly to the work of the ministry, but other elders and bishops appear to have worldly jobs and careers; however, those who do not labor in the ministry full-time are not to be looked upon by any as inferior to those who labor full-time. The share the work, the rule, and the responsibility.
According to 1 Corinthians 9 and Galatians 6, those who labor full-time in the word and doctrine, giving themselves completely to prayer and to the ministry of the word, are to receive some measure of compensation for their work, “for it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn.” I find no reason to think or believe that there can only be one full-time bishop or elder in any local assembly, who receives compensation for his gospel labors. If there is a need for it, it appears to be quite permissible and even advisable.
The presbytery, spoken of in 1 Timothy 4:14, is the order of elders in a local church. There may be two, three, four, or more elders in the presbytery; there is no stated limit as to how many can be part of the eldership, so long as there is at least two. According to God’s word, the government of the church is to be by the presbytery, by a plurality of elders—that is, by more than one qualified man.
The church is not to be governed and guided by any one individual who has the preeminence over everyone else. Christ alone is the Head of the church and the Head of every local church. Never is this prerogative to be given to any single man as the pastor supreme; that is why we read three times in Hebrews 13 of them that rule over you. Hebrews 13:7 says, “Remember THEM which have the rule over you.” Hebrews 13:17 says, “Obey THEM that have the rule over you,” and Hebrews 13:24 says, “Salute THEM that have the rule over you.” Never do the scriptures speak, when referring to church government, of him or he or she that has the rule over you.
It is necessary to note that elders, pastors, and bishops are not elected or voted in by the congregation; that practice, though quite common, is a vain and foolish tradition invented by men. Paul told Titus, in Titus 1:5, “For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordain elders in every city, as I had appointed thee.” Paul appointed Titus, and Titus was to appoint others—others who met the qualifications given by Paul in Titus, chapter 1, and in 1 Timothy, chapter 3. Pastors, elders, and bishops are ordained and appointed by other pastors, elders, and bishops; it does not appear that they are chosen by the church, though I am certain that, if men from among the church meet the God-given qualifications, the church will stamp her hearty approval on their ordination to the presbytery.
Read these verses of scripture, and it will become obvious and readily apparent to you that the true form of local church government is carried out by a plurality of saved, faithful, humble elders, who can teach, and not by a single pastor, who alone has all the rule, power, and authority over everyone else. First of all, Paul tells Titus, in the passage cited above, to ordain ELDERS, plural, in every city, singular. Paul writes to the church of Philippi, and says, in chapter 1, verse 1, “To all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with THE BISHOPS (one church, but multiple bishops) and deacons.” In Acts 14:23, Luke says, “And when they had ordained them ELDERS IN EVERY CHURCH (Again, there is one local church mentioned, but multiple elders ordained in it.), and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed.” In Acts 20:17, we read, “And from Miletus [Paul] sent to Ephesus, and called THE ELDERS OF THE CHURCH.” A little further down in the passage, in verse 28, Paul goes on to say to these elders of the church at Ephesus, “Take heed therefore to yourselves, and to all the flock (singular), over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you OVERSEERS (There was one church with multiple overseers,) to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” James 5:14 says, “Is any sick among you? Let him call for THE ELDERS OF THE CHURCH.”
A plurality of elders is the divinely prescribed form of church government, but most churches are completely oblivious to this fact. Why is this? They do err, not knowing the scriptures. Regardless of whatever number of plausible arguments men may make in support of this traditional one-man-show form of church government, the church is obligated to do things God’s way. The churches must get back on track, and the only way to do this is to return to the thus saith the Lord.
The Church and Evangelism
There is not a single commandment, precedent, or example given in the New Testament scriptures that teaches Christians to invite the lost and unregenerate, for any reason, into the assembly of the saints. We read, time and time again, of the disciples and believers being assembled together in private, praying and worshipping God together, but there is no evidence or indication whatsoever that these assemblies were open to the public or that any apostle, preacher, or Christian invited unbelievers into these assemblies.
This practice of inviting the lost to church is a man-made invention; it is not an institution of God. Such, “wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish.” It is a religious tradition and nothing more, and it has no basis whatsoever in Holy Scripture. The practice is not of God; it is and addition of the devil. It is evil and not good; therefore, we must cast it off immediately.
The church, by definition, is a called out assembly, an assembly called out from among the world by the God of all grace. The church, by God’s appointment, design, and free grace, is a group of converted sinners separated from the world by God himself. Now, if she is separate, why would she join herself to the world by inviting and welcoming it into her fellowship? Such conduct is contrary to her very nature, purpose, and function as the church of God.
This is what the Spirit of God said to the church in Corinth and what he says to every local assembly of Christ today: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore COME OUT FROM AMONG THEM, AND BE YE SEPARATE, SAITH THE LORD, AND TOUCH NOT THE UNCLEAN THING; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.” Could language be any clearer? It is not possible for a church to separate herself from unbelievers, for unrighteousness, from Belial, from darkness, from infidels, and from idols, if she is intentionally bringing the wicked, unbelievers, the world, the lost, and unsaved religionists into her fellowship.
Immediately, religious people angrily ask, “Well, then how will the lost hear the gospel, if we do not invite them into our assemblies?” It is called evangelism, and it is accomplished by taking the gospel into the world, not by bringing the world into the church. The Great Commission is not go get the world and bring them into the assembly of the saints to hear the gospel. The Great Commission is go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. Is it not obvious that there is a difference between that perverted sort of evangelism that invites the world into the assembly of the saints and that biblical evangelism that sends preachers into the world with the glad tidings of God’s free grace? One method is of man, and the other is of God.
In Romans, chapter 10, the Spirit of God explains how the lost are brought to faith in Jesus Christ; God accomplishes this feat by sending evangelists into the world to preach the grace and glory of the crucified Christ. “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall the call on him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall the preach EXCEPT THEY BE SENT?” According to God’s own testimony, he sends preachers into the world, not to gather in the lost, but to gather in believers by the preaching of the gospel, for “it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” He mentions nothing about inviting the lost into the church to hear the gospel.
God does not call his preachers and people to bring the lost into the church. He sends his preachers into the world to seek out his elect by the preaching of the gospel, and when his elect believe on Christ, then they are added to the church. That is precisely what the Book says in Acts, chapter 2: “Then they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers…And ALL THAT BELIEVED WERE TOGETHER, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need. And they (believers only), continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favor with all people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.”
The assembly of the saints was never intended by God to be a public affair. I know that in that remarkable period of transition from Judaism to Christianity, the apostolic period, many believers gathered in the temple at Jerusalem, but this was temporary and ceased when the temple was destroyed by the Romans. Read the New Testament scriptures, and mark every place where God saints came together as a body for prayer, worship, mutual encouragement, and to hear the preaching of the gospel. It was always in private, in some upper chamber or in someone’s house. The idea conveyed by this is that it was not open to the public. These early churches did not have signs out in front of their designated meeting places inviting anyone and everyone to attend. There were no steeples and crosses on church buildings to let everyone know that this is where the Christians gather together. All these things are religious inventions, and they must be laid aside.
I am not saying that inviting the lost into the assembly of the saints is morally evil, per se. I am saying that it is not a biblical practice or God’s appointed means of evangelism, and for those reasons, it should be given up. The gathering of the saints together is a private family affair; the lost and ungodly simply have no part in the matter. To invite the lost into the assemblies of the saints does nothing more than give them false security and false hope, so that, though it may appear to be wise and kind, it is actually quite harmful and very dangerous. Just think about it: the very act of inviting the lost into the assembly of the saints may very well be the thing that seals their everlasting ruin. You were seeking their salvation, so you thought, but because you did it your way and not God’s way, all you did was to help destroy them forever.
The simple truth of the matter is that our only rule of faith and practice is the written word of God. Are the scriptures the sole authority on all matters of faith and practice, or are they not? Are the scriptures sufficient to guide us, or are they not? God says they are: “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” The scriptures alone, without any external additions or supplements, are sufficient to make us perfect; they thoroughly furnish us with all the knowledge and instruction we need to serve God in this world. We need not—yea, we dare not—add our traditions to them, lest we make the commandment of God of none effect.
Words of Wisdom
Sovereign Grace Assembly
There is no such thing as public worship—not as most of us know it today. The worship of God in the assembly of the saints is a private affair. It is open to the saints, not to the public.