The Modern Menace
“Take heed therefore unto yourselves and to all the flock, over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.”—Acts 20:28–30
The grievous wolves spoken of by Paul in this message were in no sense the sufferings of persecution. Paul was not foolish enough to think that persecution could do any harm to the church. The church has never lost its power from being persecuted, but from being petted. Paul says in this very chapter, “The Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me. But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy.” Think of it. Finish his course with joy, with bonds and afflictions to be constantly with him. He counted a pair of hand-cuffs as a golden bracelet, the gift of his blessed bridegroom. He counted the stocks as bandages about his ankles, put there by his heavenly nurse. He could laugh at the prison cell and rejoice with an empty stomach and a sore back, because he had not compromised and flirted with the world that had taken the life of His Lord. No, Paul was not afraid that persecution was going to weaken the faith of this little flock. The grievous wolves that Paul feared were of two classes. The first class were false teachers who could come in sheep’s clothing and in our day with a sheepskin from the schools written and signed, stating that they had finished their course of instruction and were therefore qualified to instruct the little flock purchased with the blood of Jesus. Then the other crowd of grievous wolves that Paul feared were those who would spring up from among themselves teaching perverse doctrines. This crowd would be those who would distort the Scriptures. They would read into them that which they did not contain, instead of expounding the Scriptures, they would expound their own doctrines, and misinterpret Scripture to suit their own teachings. This class has become very large and varied. The cults and the “isms” of all kinds that have sprung up come under this head. Folks will say of this class: “But do they not teach some truth?” Certainly, just here is the great modern menace: They take some of the truth and mx it with a thousand errors. Someone has said that 90 percent of sewer water is good and it is probably true that sewer water could be run through a filter until 90 percent would be good, pure water, but who wants to drink sewer water when they are thirsty, yet thousands upon thousands of so-called Christians are drinking what they have had presented to them as the Water of Life and really it is filled with the most horrible errors and perversions of the truth, distorted doctrines and misinterpreted Scriptures. It is only the cross in Christianity that is offensive. The cross says that men are accursed because of sin; the cross says that the actual wages of sin is death; the cross hangs an accursed fallen race up to view with all its unrighteousness as filthy rags and it must die alone in the dark. Yes, Jesus died for men when He took the form of sin, when God made Him sin for us and He died in the dark with God’s back turned upon Him and paid the awful death wages for us. The cross is indeed an awful commentary upon humanity and the natural heart resents God’s statements concerning it. The grievous wolves do their best to get around the doctrine that men are lost; they say they believe in Jesus, but they deny by all their actions and their doctrines that they believe it was necessary for Him to die in order that we might live. It was this modern menace, namely, the action of these grievous wolves substituting for the Gospel of Christ the doctrine of devils, a sugar-coated pill of dope, to lull the ungodly into a sleep of death, to which Paul referred.
What stronger word could Paul have used than the word “purchased” in this 28th verse? We were sold under sin and His blood hath paid our ransom. It is this blood washed throng that is the apple of God’s eye. It was for these that Jesus prayed in His high priestly prayer, when He said:
“Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word that they all may be one: as thou, Father, are in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. Father, I will that they also whom thou hast given me be with me where I am that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me.”
The little clause, “whom thou hast given me,” shows that there is a purchased crowd; a crowd who have accepted this precious purchasing blood, who have accepted His death as their death and His life as their life; whose “hope is built on nothing less that Jesus’ blood and righteousness.” You remember He says in the same prayer: “I pray not for the world, but for them that Thou hast given me, neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word.” How important then that this word through which they are to believe shall be an unadulterated word, an unperverted gospel, but “the faith once for all delivered to the saints.”
If improper and impure food is a menace to the life of men in our modern day a thousand fold more is the distorted and impure spiritual food which is dished out to starving souls a modern and an eternal menace. We might term these grievous wolves of whom Paul spoke “food stealers.” Jesus said of them, “Woe unto you, scribes and pharisees, hypocrites! For ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness. Even so ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity!”
He said again unto those who were theological leaders, experts in the Mosaic laws, “Ye have taken away the key of knowledge; ye entered not in yourself and they that were entering in ye hindered.”
Reasons For The Menace
The first is a commercial reason.
Regarding the food sold to people in our day, men found out they could substitute other substances less costly. Although the package had the same label on the outside, the inside, though it did not contain poison, was not what the label purported it to be, but a very much weakened substitute which would not produce the desired results and this they did for financial profit, not caring what effect it might have upon the people. The United States government has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to tear these false labels from these packages and compel men to put within the can, bottle or package, exactly the substance that was declared on the label. Paul, looking ahead, saw that as food was to be tampered with for financial profit, how much more was the truth so to be tampered with for financial profit, he saw that there was coming a pack of grievous wolves who would bear the label of minister and thousands of churches bearing the label of a Christian church or the name Christian somewhere on their advertisements, but within preached a substituted gospel for the Gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Paul knew that there would be sitting in the pew some men of means and one of these teachers in the pulpit who was looking for gain and it is mighty easy for any man to see what the combination of a rich man in the pew who would sell his brother for gain and a preacher in the pulpit who would sell the truth for gain would be.
There are many forms of profit outside of financial profit for which men sell the truth of Jesus on the cross. If this truth is not popular they will sell it or lay it aside, because they profit by popularity, they want the patronage of a certain class of people, may be of an intellectual class, may be of a money class, may be of a political class, may be of a society class, may be of an artistic class, and they eliminate anything that would be objectionable to the class among whom they wish to be popular. To tell these intellectually endowed and talented sons of Adam’s race that they are lost and on their way to hell would mean persecution and sneers from the classes, so they speak of men as being lost who are down and out in the gutter and speak eloquently of reformation and what culture can do. This class calls what the Bible speaks of as regeneration “coming to character.” You see how this little phrase is filled with poison. It is you, through your own intellectual processes and decisions, who bring yourself to character. Yes, you may even pattern after the life of Jesus, but it is you who are bringing yourself to character, you are the one who is to get the credit. There is nothing of Christianity in this phrase. Paul says:
“I am crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God, for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain.”
But these grievous wolves do frustrate the grace of God and arrogate to themselves power vested in Jesus alone. Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life and they lay the balm to their lost souls that they can be to themselves the way, the truth, and the life. They will state that Jesus Christ made the greatest success of life and therefore He is to be patterned after. They will say that His sermon on the mount and His wonderful golden rule is just the thing for man to follow, but the teaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is that man cannot follow and because they were unable to follow the law laid down by God, Jesus Christ Himself came and paid the penalty of the broken law, Himself fulfilled the law and offers His life to be placed within the hearts of men and there live out His life within them eternally.
It is this substituting of another gospel which is not a gospel that is our modern menace and those who are writing about it and speaking about it are the grievous wolves in sheep’s clothing that have crept in among us, and this they have done for profit, not caring for the flock and not sparing the flock; the believers have been thrust out and the unregenerate have been raised to the place of authority in the administration of the church. Men have been chosen for administration because of their pocketbook, earthly power and personality, rather than their piety, prevailing prayer and the Spirit’s presence in their life.
It was found in pure food investigations that many of the essential mineral salts and elements necessary to the building of the body were left out of food when put on the table because to put in the portions of the raw material that contained these elements would not make the food look quite so well, or at least it was thought so. Take for instance in wheat flour, the outside of the wheat is removed and many of the elements so necessary to the building of the body are left entirely out of the bread and all this for looks, so that the loaf would be light and white.
If this curtailing of necessary ingredients for looks’ sake has taken place in foods, it has taken place a thousand fold more in things concerning the preaching of the Gospel. In some places, as it has been with impure foods, the flock has been poisoned, but with more it has been the leaving out of those fundamental doctrines which insure the rugged growth of a child of God for looks’ sake. The worship of a living, breathing, glorified Christ, at the right hand of the Father, has degenerated to many forms of an earthly and fleshly ritualism, artistic and refined from the flesh side, but so coating over the condition of the human heart that humiliation and real repentance and sorrow for sin have been left out. There can be no real worship of the blessed Holy Saviour without feeling our absolutely undone condition. John, the man who got the mightiest vision of Jesus, says: “I was in the spirit on the Lord’s day and heard behind me a great voice as of a trumpet,” and then he says “and when I saw him I fell at his feet as dead.” God’s Word has been eliminated from the sermon and many worship a man’s philosophy, substituted because God’s Word is a two-edged sword and if read and expounded will cut men to the heart and before its exposing sentences the high-mindedness of men is pruned and his pride is speedily put away, so the flock is not fed His Word, but fed sweet sounding sentences of unsaved men and the perfumed palaver of some poet, or the review of some late novelist. The flock stumble and fall and go far astray, because only God’s Word “is a lamp to our feet and a light to our pathway.” Men bowing down at an altar weeping and repentant before God, this does not look well in the eyes of the proud and lofty, therefore must be eliminated from the service. An invitation given at the close of the sermon might not result in anyone making his way to Jesus for the salvation of his soul and this would be too embarrassing, so the invitation is eliminated and the service sealed over with a sweet “Amen” and the unregenerates slip out after a song, into the stillness, still sunken in sin.
For The Palate
It has also been found by investigation that men were eating and do still continue to eat simply for the pleasing of their palates, not for the building of their bodies. If this is true in the satisfying of men’s stomachs, it is a thousand fold more apparent that men are trying to satisfy their souls with something that will please them rather than with the truth, that though it may be bitter and cut to the heart it is yet the only thing that will save them. This seems so foolish for men to so salve over the sad need of salvation with a flickering and passing fancy in the name of Christianity. There is a sad perversion and distortion of doctrine in our day concerning amusement. Everything from billiard tables to a dance hall have been drawn within the walls of so-called churches to please the insatiate palates of the multitude and simply because they have drawn them within the walls they have tried to bluff themselves into the belief that they have done something for their souls. To put the billiard hall within the church and claim that it did anything for men, or draw him in closer to God would be as foolish as to claim that white bread was more nutritious in a palace than it was in a hovel. There is nothing amusing nor delightful about the awful fact that men are lost completely, irreparably lost, outside of Jesus Christ. You may try to sweeten that horrible truth with every extract known to man, but it can never be made palatable. Men have tried to sweeten this bitter pill and get people to swallow it, but have always ended by eliminating the pill itself and specializing on the coating. All Christian movements that have started to specialize in social service and amusing the crowd in order to bring them to a place where salvation could be shown them have ended up by the elimination of the preaching of salvation and the specializing on social service and amusements.
Jesus in His prayer for the blood purchased flock, said again: “I pray not that thou shouldst take them out of the world, but that thou shouldst keep them from the evil; they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” Again, John says: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world: If any man loveth the world, the love of the Father is not in Him, for all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world and the world passeth away and the lust therefore, but He that doeth the Will of God abideth forever.”
Then let us beware of these wolves who are not sparing the flock and also of those of our ownselves who have arisen, speaking perverse things “to draw away disciples after them.”
Oh Lord who stopped the lions’ mouth
In Daniel’s testing day,
Thou wilt the wolves that gather round
Soon cause to flee away,
For Thou art coming back Thyself
As leader of the flock
The gates of glory soon will swing
Thy hand is on the lock,
But till we see Thee face to face
Let us give loud alarm,
To stir the saints, to show the truth,
To shield the flock from harm.