"The preacher sought to find out acceptable words: and that which was written was upright, even words of truth." - Eccl. 12:10.
It is my purpose to address this article especially to God's called and qualified ministers. May the God of heaven be pleased to so direct my mind and pen that his purpose may be served in this attempt. May the words written be God-honoring and "words easy to be understood." I trust that God will be pleased to bless the reader with an understanding heart to rightly understand the thoughts that I desire to convey in this attempt. I am persuaded that misunderstandings among God's people have prompted some divisions, strifes and confusions. Some confusions in the church have been the result of strife over words of none effect. Isaiah prophesied of a time when those "that make man an offender for word" are cut off. (Isa. 29:21) Solomon says, "A word spoken in due season, how good it is." Prov. 15:23. Considering the, many divisions in the churches of this country that hold to the same principles of doctrine; I am convinced that a treatise on this subject would be in "due season." We read in Prov. 15:26, "The thoughts of the wicked are an abomination to the Lord: but the words of the pure are pleasant words? I believe God gives his people a pure heart that seeks to praise, honor and adore him: and to comfort, console and edify one another. This pure heart enables them to see themselves so vile and sinful that they esteem one another so highly that it is not their desire to offend. I believe those who are meek and humble and inspired by the spirit of God are gifted to use pleasant and acceptable words even in rebuke. I do not think, however, that words that are not upright and true are to be used in order that they be acceptable and pleasant words - to the hearer.
We quote from Isaiah 50:4, "The Lord God hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary :**** 'he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned." This prophecy especially concerns Jesus, but I believe that the same spirit of God has the same effect upon God's called ministers. God blesses his ministers with the tongue of the learned to comfort and edify the wearied. The Psalmist prayed, "Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with thy free spirit. Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee." Psalms 51:12-13. When it pleases God to restore the joy of that salvation to one of his ministers, and blesses him with light of thought and liberty of speech; the result is that the minister is, blessed to teach sinners God's ways. God's way of being merciful to their unrighteousness and his way of saving sinners by the merits of Jesus Christ, solely unmerited by the sinner, is comforting and edifying to such sinners that God pleases to waken his ear to hear. The result of the operation of God's spirit upon the ministers and the hearers is the conversion of sinners. According to Paul's letter to Timothy a qualification of a minister is "apt to teach." I think it is just as certain that some one learns as it is that some one preaches. I do not think words inspired by the spirit are spoken in vain but they find good ground in some heart that God has prepared. God's children are converted day by day thus growing in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I believe God's called ministers are blessed to comfort console and edify. It is their desire to do this rather than to establish some peculiar point in theology of their own conviction that is not believed by the brethren. Their desire is, "Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my strength, and my redeemer." Their desire is to please the Lord, not to offend any one. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "Except ye utter by the tongue words easy to be understood, how shall it be known what is spoken? for ye shall speak into the air." 1 Cor. 14:9. If we use words that the meaning of the terms is controversial among the brethren I would consider them not easy to be understood.
Many times expressions are misunderstood among brethren because of difference of opinion concerning particular definitions, of words used in these expressions. It behooves us to refrain from using expressions that tend to cause controversy among brethren. It is our desire to heed Paul's instructions to Timothy to wit: "Of these things put them, in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers. Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. And their word will eat as doth a canker." 2 Timothy 2:14-17. Paul gives an illustration in the next verse of an expression of vain and profane babbling thus, "the resurrection is past already." Expressions as follows are misunderstood, thus misleading among the brethren; "God is the author of sin," "God predestinated sin and wickedness," "We will know each other there," "This same body 'will' be raised from the dead," "I believe, in eternal children," and "The creature is not changed in the new birth." Difference of opinions on the words, "author," "predestinated," "know," "same body," "eternal children" and "creature" make these expressions and many others not easy to be understood. ''Foolish and unlearned questions avoid, knowing that they do gender strifes. And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth." 2 Timothy 2:23-25. I think the traits of patience, gentleness and meekness are made manifest in God's called ministers. I have received more comfort from wrong expressions in the spirit of meekness than right expressions that are motivated by a haughty, spirit. Before we accuse brethren of departing from the doctrine let us first be convinced that we understand, their position, and that their position is decidedly contrary to the words that are upright and words of truth.
In meditating upon the aforestated thoughts ye are mindful to pray to God that he bless us not to know anything among God's people save Jesus Christ and him crucified. As Peter said to Christ at one time, "Thou hast the words of eternal life." His words were, "I am the way, the truth, and the life." So when we are blessed to speak words of truth, we are blessed to preach Jesus as our Savior. We trust that he speaks these words to us when we are troubled which results in sweet consolation and confidence in God who saves to the uttermost by his amazing grace. E.J.L.
Elder E.J. Lambert; Calion, Ark.
Signs of the Times
Vol.115, No.10 October 1947