An acquaintance of mine attended a Christian Conference some years ago, and he came back heavily burdened. What burdened his heart? The speaker’s final charge; “You, Do Your Own.”
The thrust of the address, he opined, was centered on the dire need of Christian men and women who will quit their complaints and endless criticisms, and begin to right the wrongs around them. In this article, I share the same sentiment.
Some of the finest theological statements in all of the scriptures are to be found in the book of Job, strangely, they were spoken by his pharisaic friends. Job’s friends, completely detached from the reality of what he was passing through, uttered some sound but uncompassionate knowledge of God. One only needs to study the whole account, and especially God’s own refuting disclaims, to agree with Job that they were “Physicians Of No Value”. Job 13:4. They had fine heads, but flawed hearts. These Old Testament Pharisees helped Job only to suffer more and ensnared him to charge the thrice holy God with folly. For their theology, Job called them “physicians”, but for their treatment, he dismissed them as “worthless”. And like the woman with the issue of blood (Matthew 5:25-26), righteous Job suffered many things from these worthless physicians, spent his leftover strength and patience in arguments and debates; but he was not better.
Now, I delve fully into my shared sentiment. With a Reformed readership primarily in view, I write first, to appreciate the doctrines commonly held by us, second, to especially question our orthopraxy thereof. What we do with our doctrines matters. The Reformed Faith is not a ‘system of mere intellectual beliefs’, it is biblical truths. My only regret about this form of doctrine is that I’m newly into it.
In a world, particularly a nation sold out to darkness and perversion, as ours is, what are we doing with our doctrines and orthodoxy? What risky acts of charity have we taken to ‘save’ our dying generation? Of old, our forefathers labored tirelessly to ensure that no sinner goes to hell without a gospel witness or impression. They thought it hard to hear their names mentioned in hell as people that hid their lights while others wallowed in sin and darkness. They knew with nagging persuasions that the trumpet needed to be sounded, and not silenced. They knew also the damning weight of shutting their eyes and mouths, having seen an impending danger… Sinners may verily be taken away (damned) for their own iniquities, but the Lord shall not fail to require their blood from the hands of the watchman who fails to sound the alarm and warn the people, at the sight of certain danger (See Ezekiel 33:6). Paul knowing the terror of the Lord, persuaded men(2 Corinthians 5:11), Shall we know the same, and pretend? Of all the men of the earth, the Christian people ought to answer this question with ultimate concern and clarity: “What manner of men ought we to be?”
Gilead. That is the answer that comes immediately to my mind. Gilead was known for her potent balm and tried physicians (Gen. 37:25, Jere. 8:22). It must be a sickness unto death that had not its healing balm in Gilead (Jeremiah 46:11). We must agree with history that the Church (for her Head’s omnipotency) has always been God’s greater Gilead, in curing the diseases of men’s souls. Whether in a hall of meeting or field of missions Christ’s name is continually great, curing all manner of diseases — spiritual or physical (Malachi 1:11). One may dare to ask some stronger questions, “Is there no gospel in the Church? Are there no preachers and proclaimers there? Why then have sin and falsehood taken over our land?”
We must all admit that most of what is called Christianity today, even among the so-called reformed, is worthless and vain. And this valueless ‘religion’ is of no usefulness both to God and to lost humanity. As I write and repent personally, several reasons flood my mind why I believe we should all lament over the paucity of valuable physicians of souls among us (the Church) today. For want of space I’ll outline my reasons under the following headings:
Mass non-involvement in the evangelistic efforts of the local Churches
The woman at the well of Samaria (John 4:28-30), with the dawning reality of the true nature of conversion in a man’s life, i.e, joyful willingness to witness to others; and the persecuted Church in the book of Acts (Acts 8:1-4), spell out the urgency of this art of men fishing. Both examples reveal that if we look for the ripe time (self standard growth) or convenience (no obstacles), then we will only preach the gospel in our imaginary world. He that observes the wind will not sow, and he that regards the clouds shall not reap (Eccl. 11:4). When our Lord Jesus Christ gave the commission to “GO”, He never gave any age bracket nor did He consider any man’s profession. He simply knew that the Father’s business had to be treated as a matter of first importance (cf. Matthew 28:19, Luke 2:49). If not, why do we exist?
An idle Christian is a self-contradiction, and he’s an idler who, knowing the purpose for which he exists, fails to fulfill it. The same way we feel when medical professionals (doctors and nurses) go on strike, is how we should feel when we ignore sick and sin-diseased souls around us. Sadly many of us have been on indefinite evangelism strike for years now, and some at worst are retired-gospelers. What we always hear you talk about is when you used to, and not what you presently do. I know not a worse physician of the soul than he who knowing the gospel truths, but never bothers to share them. If we could discuss anything else with the unsaved, but the gospel, how worthless we are! Sinners shall be entering into hell’s gate calling and cursing our names. Christians of unblessed memory, mourn!
Granted, all are not called to be preachers, in the technical sense of that word, and we must take this point very seriously (II Chron. 26:16-19, Hebrews 5:4, James 3:1). But as I mentioned earlier, about the persecuted Church in Acts 8, every believer is legitimately entrusted to herald the gospel to a dying world. Again when Christ gave the commission, He never restricted it to the “Apostolic bigwigs” or some skilled Church leaders. If the greatest of us give the gospel, the least among us should at least let the same. Revd. Daniel March, the author of the hymn: “Hark The Voice Of Jesus Calling”, is excellently helpful here:
If you can not speak like angels, If you can not preach like Paul, You can tell the love of Jesus, You can say He died for all. If you can not rouse the wicked With the judgement's dread alarms, You can lead the little children To the Saviour's waiting arms.
Apologetics for the sake of apologetics
If the end of apologetics is simply to apologize, and nothing else in view, then I agree with Job that we are physicians of no value. All the loveless apologetics and polemics going out there on the internet and other platforms betray the soul of this noble endeavor — namely, to defend the truth of God’s word against errors and to turn many to righteousness, through the same truths said in love (Ephesians 4:15). An apologist must not be like the Pharisees, who were full of “truth and truth”, but like Christ who was full of “grace and truth” (John 1:14). If grace does not inform the defense of our doctrines, we are no better than Job’s friends. Men with very critical spirits secretly creep into one Reformed Apologetic Group or the other, so that using biblical truths, they could sin unchecked and freely.
Men with a delicious taste for controversy are useless to the Church, no, troublers of her unity and witness. Many so-called reformed believers invest more time searching for new heresies to expose and condemn, and make no time and effort in reaching out to their neighbors with the gospel that saves. But this is true zeal:
“Zeal is that pure and heavenly flame,
The fire of love supplies,
True zeal is merciful and mild,
Can pity and forbear.”John Newton
Unwillingness to suffer
There is a sense in which one may argue that one of the reasons why Job’s friends so criticized and judged him was because of their own unwillingness to share in his sufferings. It does appear to me that it is perhaps due to their theology of “gain is godliness”, that made God ignore them when He chose, projected, and boasted about Job before Satan (Job 1:8). God knew that righteous Job loved Him above his very skin (Job 2:4-10). But his light and soft-skinned friends could not reconcile the thought of godliness mingling with sufferings (Job 4:7-8), but see 2 Timothy 3:12.
Are we innocent of this attitudinal disposition? Are we always willing to suffer for the sake of Christ and the unsaved elect of God around us? (2 Timothy 2:10). That physician who can not forego his comfort and convenience for the sake of emergency patients is not of any value to any society. He’s an abominable physician, fitting only to die and not live. If we expect this much from physicians of our mere bodies -which blossom today and die tomorrow- how much more shall be required of us who hold the gospel balm for souls in sin? If we can not outlive our selfish love for comforts, and say like Paul, “let me fill up the sufferings of Christ (Col. 1:14), then we must examine our own expiration dates — we probably may have died a decade ago. Men at ease are men in the grave. I know an old chorus:
If all were easy, If all were bright, Where would the Cross be? Where would the fight? But in the hard place, God gives to us chances of proving what He can do.
It is often said, “the Church that is like the world is useless to the world”. The love of comfort and worldliness are like Esau and Jacob. Comfort comes first and worldliness takes hold of its heel (Gen.25:25-26). Christian liberty is highly recognized and in some places well celebrated in the Reformed circles, and that is good, but could be dangerous. Two ways inter alia, one can test his/her degree of worldliness are music and fashion. Many may disagree with me on this, but I maintain that any form of music that does not glorify God ought to be avoided by His blood-bought people. We now deliberate today whether there should be a “Christian reggae” or not, and “Christian blues”, but in the beginning, it was not so.
Now talking about fashion or dressing, moderation only must determine that for both the brothers and the sisters, not the weather or how we may feel at any given time. Anything short of Christian modesty is worldly immodesty. Exposed body parts often lay hold of the heart before the sermon begins, and strangle the convictions after the sermon ends. It is like Delilah’s blade, sparing none of its victims. So think what you may, and say what you like, but such professing physicians (‘Christians’) are of no value to any soul.
You, do your own! I am a protestant, but reactionary Christianity -in and of itself- has not always produced the best kind of believers. But those who have been faithful in their own little corners have often turned the world upside-down. This is historical. If only we had faithfully kept our estate, our land may not have been as dark as it presently is. We may not always see “eye to eye”, with some brethren, theologically, but we can not for certain deny that the finger of God is in their midst. And we must praise God for this, and prayerfully look for a cordial way of winning them biblically to our side. But those that make merchandise of the gospel, we must mark them, and openly rebuke them — this also must be done as unto the Lord. But then, our own obedience must be perfect first (2 Corinthians 10:6). We must strive to shun worldliness and “Cross-less Christianity”, embracing the sufferings that lead to true godliness and spiritual usefulness. Let us move an itch more in our evangelism, and outsmart the children of this world with our use of the internet. We must not only aim to refute, but also to win men over for Christ, in our apologetics efforts. Up physicians and heal our land!