Vol. 3, No. 3
Religious people amaze me with some of the things they do and say, but the brethren astound me with some of the things they say and do. It is not important that I am either amazed or astounded, but what is important is the way some people believe they have the right to act and react with regard to God. That we are living in unholy, irreverent and disrespectful days is not something that anyone who is reasonably observant would deny, but in the last several months I have observed a kind of irreverence and disrespect that I have never before seen in the fifty years that I have been a Christian.
In the past ten or twelve months, I have had recounted to me stories of people, all of whom were of the liberal hue, walking out of the services of the church because they did not like something the preacher said. The first time I heard of it happening, I said, "Oh, well that was in Tennessee, it was an isolated incident, and I will probably never hear of it again." How wrong I was! At least five times since that time I have heard of it happening again, and the last time not too far from home.
Can you imagine the colossal audacity, and the unmitigated arrogance that it takes for someone who calls himself a Christian to get up and walk out of a worship that is supposedly directed to God because he/she does not like something the preacher said? That person has said, by his/her actions, I have come here not to hear the truth, nor to hear anything that I do not like and if you do not preach to suit me I'll leave, because I know what I want and I won't have it any other way! This person is saying what is important in worship is that I go away feeling very well having heard nothing that will make me think or that will challenge my way of thinking in any way. People who behave as we have just described are having a very hard time, if not an impossible time of dealing with their tantrum throwing spoiled child image. Not only so, but a person who would do such a thing as what we have mentioned is so arrogant that he must believe that he knows and understands the truth about everything. Elders in the Lord's church should take these spoiled children to the "wood shed," but more than likely they will chastise the preacher for "offending" these prima donnas who know nothing of the truth or beauty of the Christian faith. For shame! Who are these people that the preacher should not say something that they do not like?
But the important thing in the whole matter is not so much the affect that such activity has upon the preacher or on the elders, but the affect that it has on God! The preacher has received his charge from God himself, and it is God who has designed the kind of worship that is to be carried on by the church. Among the things that the preacher is to do is to reprove, rebuke and exhort the arrogant ones. He is to speak the truth in love, and if that truth rebukes a person, then in love he is to take that rebuke. Worship is not a football game in which people have the right to get up and leave if they do not like the plays which are being ordered by the coach. Worship is a time when we come together to extol, adore, pay homage to the God of the universe in his prescribed way; it is not a time to show petulance or to throw a temper tantrum because one does not like what is said. I wonder if these people ever get the idea that the providence of God may have so ordered those statements they hate so much that they will walk out on God in order to teach them something they vitally need to be saved.
I do not see how such a person could be considered a Christian in any sense of the word, and certainly not in the New Testament sense of the word. I do not understand how anyone, unless there are highly extenuating circumstances such as sickness, death or a family emergency can walk out on worship under any circumstances, but to throw a tantrum and act like a spoiled brat is just beyond the realm of understanding by any reasonable Bible believing person! Such a person needs to spend much time on his knees with a penitent heart praying to God for forgiveness. Do you know that if the people on the day of Pentecost had conducted themselves like the prima donnas in the church today, we would never have had the church and the hope of salvation?
[Editor's Note: In the days of antiquity, sometimes those who despised God's Word would essentially kill God's mailman (Acts 6:8-7:60). It was a real treat for the apostle Paul and for every faithful preacher today to find in an audience those who truly cherish the Word of God. "For this cause also thank we God without ceasing, because, when ye received the word of God which ye heard of us, ye received it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which effectually worketh also in you that believe" (1 Thessalonians 2:13).]
We believe that it will be profitable for us to look at the case of doubting Thomas in order to see the problems that are connected with this subject. The first of these problems is that the Bible does not refer to Thomas as doubting, but this description has been given to him by uninspired men. When the disciples told Thomas that they had seen the Lord, he knew that they were making the claim to have seen the Lord after he had been put into the new tomb of Joseph of Arimathea. Thomas declared, "unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my fingers into the print of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe." So, Thomas declared that he would not believe in the resurrection of Christ until he had physical evidence, that is, until he had empirical evidence (evidences through one of his five senses) he simply would not believe that Jesus Christ had resurrected from the dead. It is upon the basis of the statement made by Thomas that he came to be called "doubting Thomas." There is no evidence that Thomas had decided that he would never believe that Jesus would resurrect from the dead, but that he did not believe at that time, nor would he do so until he had the evidence that the Lord was alive.
"Doubting" is defined as "to be undecided and uncertain about a matter." In this sense, Thomas doubted the resurrection of our Savior. He did not doubt in the sense that he distrusted or had apprehension toward the idea that the Christ would resurrect from the dead. When the risen Lord presented himself to Thomas a week later, Thomas declared him to be, "My Lord and my God." And Jesus did not criticize Thomas for doubting as he criticized Peter for doubting when they were walking on the water (Matthew 14:22-33). As a matter of fact, Jesus told Thomas that he had believed because he had seen, but others would be blessed because they would accept his resurrection without seeing him in the flesh. Consequently, the kind of doubting that Thomas had done was not the type that put his soul in jeopardy. It may well be that the kind of doubting that Thomas did was really beneficial for generations future to him. Thomas said, in effect, "I will not believe that Christ has risen until I have the evidence before me." There is nothing wrong with any person refusing to believe anything until the evidence is before him. And if a man were to say today that he did not believe in the resurrection of Christ, we could take him to a reliable historical document, the Bible, and show him from its pages a man who believed in the resurrection of Christ after he received reasonable evidence that the Lord had come out of the tomb. Based on the experience of Thomas, a man in our day who doubted as Thomas did, could accept the historical evidence gathered by Thomas himself and come to believe in the resurrected Christ.
One can see no problem with demanding evidence to prove what someone claims is a fact. But there is a great problem connected with continuing to doubt after all the facts are in, and especially, if one rejects reasonable evidence in order to persist in his doubting. As a matter of fact, at that point, he is not really doubting, he has allowed prejudice to set in where doubting once was. There is a great deal of difference between honestly doubting that something is the case and persisting in a prejudice regardless of what evidence is proffered to demonstrate a fact.
The second thing that we wish to point out is that Thomas did not do his doubting, and the record of that doubting is not given in Scripture in order to give us an excuse to doubt many things that are revealed in the Bible. Someone says, "I doubt that the universe was created in six days, and I have the right to do that since Thomas doubted the resurrection of Jesus." That is shabby reasoning, if it is reasoning at all. For a person to go all his life disbelieving the biblical story of a six-day creation because Thomas doubted for one week that Jesus had resurrected from the dead is really pushing the matter to a point that one would have to wonder whether the "doubter" was really being disingenuous! We need to remember the words of our Lord's half brother James, who said that a doubting man was "...like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind." This means that a doubting man is very unstable. We recognize this in other realms, why not in religion? James went on to say that the doubting person "...is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways."As Christians, we strive to be stable people with our lives firmly based upon the Word of God and not unstable people like the atheists and infidels of this world. Let us firmly resolve to believe and not to doubt that which is written in the Holy Scriptures. Ask for the evidence, but once it is cited in the holy pages of the Bible, accept it with all your heart.