“Fear God and keep His commandments.” 

That, Solomon declares, is the sole duty of man. 

But let us be sure that we understand that these two are inseparable. These are not two duties of man. Solomon speaks of the sole duty of man and not of the chiefest duties of man. We are not to fear God some of the time and keep His commandments the rest of the time. The duty of a custodian may be to keep the building clean and to keep the lawn neatly mowed. These, however, he is not to do at the same time. Nor does he mow the lawn in order to keep the building clean. These are separate works that belong to his duty. But in order to keep God’s commandments we will have to be fearing Him. And all breaking of His commandments is due to the fact that we have ceased to fear Him. 

Now to fear Him is to believe in Him as the only true God. To fear Him means that we have pureness of doctrine. It means that we have and believe the truth concerning Him. It means that we believe in Him as the God that He is and not as the god of mans imagination. Therefore one cannot truly be spiritually sensitive unless he is that in regard to doctrine. Not infrequently we hear I men clamoring for less doctrine and for more practical preaching got too infrequently also these same people become highly indignant when in the fulfilling of this “request” of practical preaching the sins in which they are walking are called such and their life has been shown not to be one in His fear. Very often the first toe clamor for practical preaching are also the first to defend the sins that this practical preaching condemns. But apart from that, this often—though not always—accompanies the request for practical preaching. So that we may say that the cry for practical preaching is not sincere unless it is rooted in a deep and spiritual love for doctrine. 

And have you ever noticed that the more superficial the doctrine becomes, the more liberal the stand becomes over against the lusts of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life? And have you ever taken note of the fact that the shorter the sermons become the more loosely the congregation lives, without a word of condemnation being spoken from the pulpit? Oh, indeed, there may be ten, fifteen minute “sermons” in which some worldly moral is loudly arid vehemently-maintained. But the shorter the sermons and the more superficial the preaching, the more the Sabbath the part that is left after these abbreviated services—is spent in anything but spiritual exercises. For ten, fifteen or even twenty minutes men are told to smile in suffering, be polite, never complain and such sins as gossip, backbiting, unfaithfulness to promises, dishonesty as sin against man may be hammered home. And the congregation goes home congratulating. itself on having secured such a practical preacher: Jealousy, greed are furiously condemned and love, pity, living as a brotherhood of all men, being good citizens who take interest in the cultural and educational standards of the community are strongly advocated. The cross, the Church as the body of Christ, the Trinity, justification, sanctification, the means of grace, God’s counsel and a host of other doctrinal subjects are carefully avoided as being too dry, too stuffy and fit for a ministers’ conference, perhaps, but not for the pulpit. And though the audience goes home stating, “What a fine, practical minister we have!” they do not practice the principles of true godliness. Often very gross sins are committed and sponsored by that very church. For it is insensible spiritually to these wicked ways: Its spiritual sensitivity is almost, if not entirely, gone. It is the church with a superficial doctrine that begins to sponsor dances, to defend divorce, to uphold membership in secret organizations that demand one to swear allegiance to it above all other organizations and thus above allegiance to God in His Church. They sponsor lotteries which even the world condemns as-gambling and often forbids these churches. They extol Hollywood and their adulterous generation and advocate seeking its entertainment. They harbor in their midst unmolested those who deny the divinity and virgin birth of Christ, the spiritual character of the kingdom of God, the atonement of Calvary, the infallible inspiration of the Word of God. They strain and become red-faced in their vehemence to strain at a few gnats and they swallow with relish a camel! 

There is a reason for this. The chief distinguishing mark of the true church is the pure preaching of the Word. Where you have that, this word will advocate and realize the exercise of Christian discipline. Where the preaching becomes impure, discipline falls by the wayside. And although the cry is raised for practical preaching rather than doctrinal, it is all too often due to the fact that men want to practice evil. Of course there is practical preaching in the good sense of the word. 

Of course there is a need for practical preaching. The congregation must be shown how these doctrines affect us in practical life. We must be taught how to practice faith and godliness. We must be taught how to practice living in His fear and keeping His commandments, which Solomon says is our sole duty. But there is so much of that clamoring for practical preaching that is due to the fact that its advocates are not spiritually sensitive. They want you to tell them each step of the way what they must do, how they must behave as children of God. They claim that they do not know in a given circumstance just what to do; what to reject and what to receive; what to seek and from what to flee; what is right in God’s sight and what is evil; what they may do and what they may not do; what is keeping His commandments and what is not. 

What they need is doctrinal preaching. They have become, as the author of the epistle to the Hebrews declares, “dull of hearing.” And anyone who reads the context of his words will understand that he is speaking here of being dull of hearing the doctrines of Scripture. For he states, “For when the time ye ought to be teachers, ye have need that one teach you again which are the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat.” Hebrews 5:11, 12. We plan to say more about this later but at this point we make mention of it because doctrine and life go hand in hand. We must fear God in order to keep His commandments. And there will be no spiritual sensitivity in regard to what is right and wrong as long as there is no spiritual sensitivity as to what is the truth and what is the lie. 

The fall of man in paradise clearly reveals that truth. It was the lie that Satan used to lead man into sin. He sought to destroy man’s fear of God in order to make him cease to keep His commandments. Not fearing God and not keeping His commandments are cleverly woven together in Satan’s first question, “Yes, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?” It was corrupt doctrine, a false presentation of God that he employed in order to make man cease keeping God’s commandments. His first object is to make man insensible to the truth and to change his opinion of God, to corrupt his doctrine in order to make him corrupt his way. We must not, therefore, simply ask whether a man is spiritually sensitive enough to detect right from wrong, righteousness from sin, God’s will from His hot displeasure in any given circumstance. We must also, by all means, ask whether a man is spiritually sensitive enough to detect the truth from the lie, the doctrine of Scripture from the heresies of man, God’s Word from the philosophies of the world, yea God’s Word from Satan’s. We must not fall into the error of considering Satan to be one whose only and chief purpose is to tempt man into wicked practices. Rebellion, riot, murder, theft, deceit, lying, adultery, jealousy and covetousness are readily conceded to be works into which Satan has deceived and led man. But let it be maintained just as readily that heresy, false doctrines, blasphemies against God, against His Christ and against. His Church, and mental images of God are not only works in which he delights greatly but also works which he strives incessantly to produce in man. And although he does this in order to realize all manner of wicked deeds, these are not simply means unto an end. He is as pleased with the heretic as with the murderer. He delights in the foul speech of the false prophet as in the adulterer. He rejoices over the lie spoken against and concerning God as much as in the false witness against man And we repeat, there will be no spiritual sensitivity in regard to what is right and wrong as long as there is no spiritual sensitivity as to what is the truth and what is the lie. 

It is for that reason that the Church of Christ does not yield to every cry for ecumenicity. The Church of Christ in her spiritual sensitivity shudders at the beliefs and doctrines that fill the world today. She is not attracted but repelled by the philosophies of man. And before unions and alliances are made, she must be absolutely certain that all the doctrines to be held and to be defended jointly are the teachings of Scripture. She will not stand for a moment for any dishonoring or dethroning of God. She will not walk with those who want the lie in any farm, whatsoever. She is highly suspicious of anything that smells the least bit like the lie. And because she sees all manner of wicked practices; because she sees evil condoned instead of condemned, she knows that the doctrine cannot be pure. And she shies away from any merger that even threatens to result in an off-color doctrine. 

Union for the sake of oneness is as wicked as union for the sake of greatness. Indeed Jesus said, “That they may be one”; but He does not say that they may be one in body and organization alone. He surely means one in doctrine, one in faith, one in dedication to the cause of God’s glory, one in purpose-of-heart to fight all heresy. 

A church seeks merger with another church either because it is spiritually sensitive and is attracted by the true doctrine of the other or is spiritually dull of hearing, is no longer hurt by the lie in the other church. It comes down to this: they are one already because both have become insensible to the lie and are no longer attracted by the truth; or the one finds that it has been in error and now, through God’s grace, has been caused to see the beauty of the truth in another church and realizes its doctrinal oneness with it. There is, of course, the remote possibility that two churches are one, perfectly one, in doctrine and only recently have become acquainted with one another. But the fact remains, union is due to oneness of spiritual sensitivity already existing and already evident in oneness of doctrine or it is oneness of spiritual insensibility that is ready to call nonessential what formerly it deemed essential enough for separate existence. Dullness of hearing then, has brought union, unwillingness to hear the voice of Christ. 

We have no space left for this time. We do want to make one final remark which we plan to develop further nest time, the Lord willing. Because the preaching of the Word is the chief earmark of the true church, and it determines what shall and what shall not be disciplined in the church; it is impossible for one spiritually sensitive to what is the truth and what is the lie, to seek merger with those who plainly reveal that they are insensible to what is righteousness and what is sin. No one so spiritually sensitive that the truth fills his soul with joy and the lie in every form irritates him is going to held conferences to see whether merger with churches that are so spiritually, insensible that they defend divorce, membership in godless unions, membership in lodges and similar sins, which plainly reveal that the doctrine of Scripture concerning these matters is no longer maintained in these churches. The Church of Christ shudders before these sins and knows that essentials of doctrine are denied where these things are practiced. Peter Meiderlin is reported to have stated, “In essentials, unity; in nonessentials; liberty; in all things, love.” We would like to say a few things about that next time. It requires spiritual sensitivity to determine what are essentials. 

J.A.H.