|No-Compromise Men and Churches|
Opening Message delivered to the
CONVOCATION OF SESSIONS
May 18, 1973
Rev. William E. Hill, Jr.
|[This message by the director of the Presbyterian Evangelistic Fellowship was the opening message of the Convocation; as reprinted in the 6 June 1973 issue of the Presbyterian Journal, it was heavily edited due to limited space.]|
|Old Polycarp, one of the leaders
of the early Church, was hauled in before the governor. "Polycarp,"
said the governor, "you are charged with being a Christian. Just give
a little salute to this image of Caesar and say, 'Caesar is lord'
and we will turn you loose."
"No," said Polycarp, "I cannot say Caesar is lord because Jesus is Lord."
"Now, Polycarp," said the governor, "you are an old man and haven't much longer to live. Don't throw away what little time you have." Polycarp replied, "Eighty-six years have I lived and Jesus Christ is the best friend that I ever had. I cannot deny Him now."
The soldiers grabbed the old man, tied him to a stake, poured oil on him. As the flames leaped about his throat he looked up into the heavens and praised God as his spirit slipped out into eternity. Jesus had done too much for Polycarp for him ever to be ashamed of his Lord.
|The Word of God abounds with illustrations
of men who did not compromise and of churches that did not compromise.
One could call the roster of the heroes of the faith and find that
all of them were men who refused to compromise.
Our Lord in the book of Revelation wrote to the seven churches of Asia Minor. Out of the seven there were only two for which He had no word of rebuke. To the other five He said many things by way of commendation, but always He came around to a solemn warning about ways in which they had compromised. The two no-compromise churches stood out like shining lights.
One was the church at Smyrna. Christ commended them for their steadfastness in trouble and poverty, assuring them that they had vast spiritual riches. He comforted them by telling them. He knew how they had resisted evil, how they had exposed and cast out infiltrators of the "synagogue of Satan." He told them of the things they must yet suffer, saying to them, "Fear none of these things which thou shalt suffer. The devil shall cast some of you into prison that ye may be tried and ye shall have tribulation . . ." Then came the great challenge: "Be thou faithful unto death and I will give thee a crown of life."
The other church for which the Lord had no rebuke was the church at Philadelphia. He assured them that He knew their work, challenging them by saying, "I have set before you an open door, which no man can shut." He assured them that He would keep them in the "hour of temptation which is coming upon the whole world to try them that walk upon the earth." Then He said in His word of admonition, challenge and encouragement: "Behold I come quickly. Hold fast that which thou hast. Let no man take away thy crown."
No-compromise churches are made up of no-compromise men. In this connection, I want to say three things about a no-compromise man:
I) He refuses to compromise in small things and as a result, he does not fail when the big test comes.
2) In making his decisions, he refuses to make them on the basis of possible harmful consequences to himself.
3) He is obedient to the Word of God and separates himself from unbelief and immorality.
Daniel Did Not Compromise
I am thinking now of a young man whose nation had been defeated, its army scattered. The young man was perhaps a teenager. He had been bound by rude soldiers and carried on a long, weary march to a strange land to dwell as a slave of a people whose language he hardly understood, a heathen, brutal people.
Daniel, a devout and earnest young man, was selected from among others and with a few friends was chosen to be trained in the king's palace that he might one day be among his counselors and advisors.
You remember the story. Because Daniel and his friends would not compromise in the matter of the king's food, they were blessed by God. Daniel rose more rapidly than any of the others and became chief counselor to three successive kings through the years.
This brings us to our second thought: The no-compromise man, in making his decisions, does not do so on the basis of the possible consequences to himself.
Remember the three friends of Daniel? They were men who refused to compromise in the matter of the worship of the golden image. When asked why they had not obeyed the commandment to fall clown at the sound of the music, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego answered, in effect:
No Regard For Themselves
"O king, we do not hesitate for one moment to answer you in this matter. If our God chooses to do so, He is able to deliver us even from the burning fiery furnace and He will deliver us out of your hands, O king. But if He does not choose to so deliver us, be sure of this one thing, we will not serve your gods nor worship the golden image you have set up."
The point is clear. They knew the consequences of a negative decision. But they made their decision without regard to the possible consequences for themselves, because it was the right decision.
This is a hard lesson for us to learn. It is particularly hard in these soft, easy days of permissiveness. It is easy to rationalize and say, "Well, tinder the circumstances there is no harm and after all maybe some good will come from it if we go ahead and conform. Under the circumstances, it may be the thing to do. Then, too, we must not forget that if we are too uncompromising it may divide some churches, it will divide the denomination and it may even cause bitterness and ill will."
We are too easily persuaded to think it is right to save our own necks, our property or our ecclesiastical reputations. Lots of good people fall for this line.
When our Lord faced a crisis of this kind we are told He "set His face steadfastly to go to Jerusalem." He knew God's will. He could have gone out into the Gentile world and done much good. But He set His face steadfastly to do the Father's will: "Not my will, but Thine be done," He prayed.
A third point is that the no-compromise man is bound by the Word of God. He must "obey God rather than men." We think of Peter and John as they were hauled in before the Jewish rulers, questioned, threatened, and yet unbowed. As Peter said, "Whether it is right in the sight of God for us to obey you rather than God, choose ye. But we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard."
Sure, they defied the ecclesiastical law. Sure, they disobeyed the corrupt ecclesiastical leaders. Sure, they faced possible bodily injury, pain and death. But they w e r e bound by the Word of God and they chose to obey God rather than men.
It is hard to get around Paul's admonition to the church at Galatia, warning them about people who were "perverting the Gospel." He said, and said it twice with emphasis, "If any man come to you preaching any other Gospel than that which I have preached, let him be anathema." And that means, let him be cursed of God. That's pretty strong. It's pretty drastic. It's pretty divisive. Not very conciliatory! But it is the Word of God.
Are our consciences bound by the Word of God? Does that Word preach separation from unbelief and apostasy? Then we have no choice. I cannot say it for you, my brother, but I can say it for myself: I will not go on any longer in compromise. I am ashamed that I have gone on as long as I have. The time has now come when we must obey God.
Let me add a word of personal testimony. I am the son, the grandson and the great-grandson of Presbyterian ministers. I was brought tip in the strictest form of old-fashioned godly Calvinism, educated at Davidson College and Union Seminary, taken into Hanover Presbytery, the original presbytery of the Southern Church.
God gave me a burning sense of passion to be used of Him to bring men to Christ. But at Union Seminary I got a mixture of truth and unbelief-I had sown into my mind the seeds of doubt about certain parts of the Word of God. I remember how I came to sneer at fundamentalists.
I remember how I participated in the liberal leadership of the presbytery. I seconded some of the motions that were made resulting in overtures to the Assembly from Hanover Presbytery that laid the foundation for the liberal takeover. I was one of the liberal's boys. How blind I was! How ashamed I am now of how I participated in and gloried in what the liberals were doing. Union Seminary had sown its seeds in my mind and they were bearing fruit. But God began to show me the true way some five or six years after I entered the ministry, particularly through a godly retired missionary who worked in our midst in Hopewell. She knew, somehow, that I was a ship without an anchor. Out of her meager pension, she made it possible for me to spend a week at the Moody Bible Institute.
I went; I didn't like what I heard and saw. I thought they were too critical and narrow-minded. The impression of the visit was negative. And yet, all unknown to me, God was dealing with me and before very long He opened my eyes and showed me the truth of the absolute authority of the Word of God. From that ,Point on, my ministry began to change.
At first I didn't say much about the change that took place in me. I didn't tell my people about it. For a while I did not inform my congregation of the issues before the Church. I thought to do so would confuse them.
But towards the end of the 1940's I began to see the need to warn my people as God had taught me through His Word concerning the dangers besetting the Church. How glad I am that I can say today that God opened my eyes and showed me that sooner or later there had to come a showdown.
This is an awesome hour. For myself there can be no turning back, regardless of the cost. I know from personal experience, having participated in it for a time, what goes on in the liberal establishment. I want no more part of it. No matter how painful or how humbling the future may be, God helping me, I cannot compromise the Gospel nor disobey my Lord. Some may disagree and I respect their sincerity. But for me, any turning back now would be a violation of my conscience and a sinful disobedience to God and His command.
I know the reborn Church will not be a perfect Church. I do not know whether or not it will fragment. I do not know what the future holds, but I do know the decisions that I must make. To do otherwise would be to compromise and I am bound by the Word of God against that.
During the height of the controversy in the Northern Church in the 1930's a lady said to Dr. Benjamin Warfield on the eve of one General Assembly: "Dr. Warfield, I do hope and pray that at this General Assembly we are going to have peace."* Dr. Warfield replied, "Yes, madam, I pray and hope too that there will be peace, but never at the expense of truth." Let that be our spirit here.
[*Historical correction: Rev. Hill must have meant the early 1900's, as Dr. Warfield died in 1921.]