The Church has no “social gospel” to proclaim to the world.
She is indeed concerned with all the evils that are in the world. For she is desirous of warning her membership against them and of seeing these members flee from them. She also abhors all this evil that is in the world. She testifies through the mouth and pen of the psalmist in Psalm 119:136, “Rivers of waters run down mine eyes, because they keep not Thy law.” All sin, and not simply social evils, troubles the soul of the Church. She does not walk through this life in the blissful ignorance that all is well . . . . She is not indifferent to the sufferings of the poor and has her diaconate to relieve and help the poor. And the Word of God is full of condemnation of all the social evils that are in the world and ever lifted their proud heads upon the face of this earth.
But the calling of the Church is to preach the gospel; and she realizes that all true reform, whether that be social, political or economic, even must be realized in the way of spiritual reform wrought by the Spirit of Christ through the regenerating grace of God which causes a new and heavenly life to be implanted in the depth of the sinner’s being. Let it be pointed out, first of all, that the Church is called to preach the good news of salvation in the blood of Christ, whereby one is translated from the “kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of God’s dear Son.” (Colossians 1:13) And the gospel, the good news that this Church is to proclaim, is expressed, as to the heart of it, in Matthew 1:21, “And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call His name Jesus; for He shall save His people from their sins.”
Here is the good news, for here is what the Son of God came in our flesh to do and did so perfectly accomplish as far as the legal aspect is concerned at Calvary; this He continues to do as far as the subjective and ethical aspect is concerned every day by His Spirit, until the full deliverance is attained in the resurrection of the flesh, and our adoption is completed. This is the good news, and anything short of this is disappointing news, sad and bad news. All seeming social improvements, all removal of class distinctions, curbing of riots, complete integration, high wages, comfortable housing and the like go up in smoke anyway in the day of Christ; they are left behind at the moment of death and have such a temporary and therefore also deceiving value, that there is nothing truly good in proclaiming such an ideal as worth striving for or as having been reached.
Let us note that, through the angel, God proclaimed a good news that promises salvation from SIN, and let us not overlook the fact that the gospel also promises this salvation only to some. And the promise is not conditional, for the simple reason that they need salvation exactly because they have no power to fulfill any conditions. We are spiritually dead the moment we receive physical life. We stand in need of being born again the moment we are born for the first time. He shall SAVE His people from their sins and not offer to save them, not assist them in saving themselves, nor try His best to save them. He shall do it; and therefore He must be named Jesus. There is no doubt about it that He will save them, every single one of them. And therefore as a little Babe lying in the manger He may receive already the name of Saviour, or Jesus.
Social distresses, labor problems, discriminations and abuse touch every man woman and child that is born into this world. Even the rich and socially high climber suffers because of riots, strikes, and the like. But salvation from all these is not for all. He shall save Hispeople from their sins. If there is a social gospel—and there is complete deliverance from all social injustices and inequalities rooted in sin, from all abuse and cruelty in the Kingdom of Heaven—it is still only for some and then on the new earth and not in this present world.
Churches make a serious mistake when they unite with the world and worldly organizations to bring about social reform. They leave behind their armour and the very tools which God has given them. They also ignore the plain teachings of the Word of God. To begin with this last element, we may point out first of all that the believer is warned by Paul in II Corinthians 6 not to be unequally yoked with the unbeliever, because Christ and Belial have no concord, and have no common ground on which to stand. Churches can meet and discuss with the world these problems of natural life only if and when they leave the Word of God behind. For Belial does not believe in Christ as Jesus Who saves His people from their sins. They will concede that He was born and died a martyr’s death. They will admit that He gave some fine social advice such as the so-called “Golden Rule.” But they want nothing of regeneration as the only way of social reform. They know nothing of the love of God shed abroad in the hearts of His people. They ridicule the idea of being new creatures in Christ. Leaving the Word of God a closed book, as the unbeliever will demand, churches put on a shelf the shield of faith, the breastplate of righteousness, the helmet of salvation and the sandals of the preparation of the gospel of peace when they seek social reform with the ungodly. They put in the sheath and lock in their closets the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. Consequently they have no tools anymore wherewith to realize or seek to realize a real social reform and to fight sin.
Besides the Word of God makes it so very plain that there will be a development of sin and always has been a development of sin in the world. Canons III, IV, Article 4, may be quoted in defense of a restraint of sin and as proof of civic righteousness, if one quotes only the first half, as was done in 1924. But a reading of the whole article indicates that, “. . .so far is this light of nature (note not spiritual light) from being sufficient to bring him (fallen man) to a saving knowledge of God, and to true conversion, that he is incapable of using it aright even in things natural and civil. Nay further, this light, such as it is, man in various ways renders wholly polluted, and holds it in unrighteousness, by doing which he becomes inexcusable before God.”
From that rendering of his natural light wholly polluted springs forth this constant, steady development of sin. In fact, each generation learns to go a step further into sin and receives new means and instruments for added sin. He does not use it aright even in things natural and civil; and it is for that reason that we have all the social problems of this day. Look back upon the history of this world! Are we in a better world than some generations age? We have had an industrial revolution. We have found and made many so-called labor-saving devices. We have raised the standard of living. But just what social evils have we eradicated? The negro who cannot get a job because he is discriminated against, who lives in a ghetto without food sufficient for his needs and his family’s, is he better off than the slave who had a bed on which to sleep and food to fill his stomach after the day’s work? And with all our labor problems and strikes bringing hardships upon innocent victims of such lock-outs, boycotts and picket lines, have we really advanced, no let us change that, has the world advanced one whit in its social reform? We will soon have another step of inflation and raising of the cost of living. Automobiles, the radio announcement just declared, will cost over $100 more per car than last year. Did we get somewhere? Can we really solve these problems in this life while the heart of man is unchanged? Can we do that which Christ did not even attempt to do?
His eye was not on this world but on the Kingdom of Heaven. He never strove to change this world into His Kingdom of Light. Indeed, He rebuked sin wherever He saw it and denounced all greed, hatred, covetousness, injustice, cruelty and unrighteousness. But when did He bother Himself with the kingdoms of this world? When did He send out His apostles and disciples out into the world to reform that world socially, economically and politically? There was plenty need and room for it in that day. He limited Himself only and always to the sphere of the Church. And He predicted that there would be wars and rumors—and these would be true and not false rumors—of war, that nation would rise up against nation. This is no restraint of sin wrought in the heart of the ungodly by the Spirit without renewing them—but a development of sin. Through the apostle Paul He did not say that unless we are careful and as a Church seek “social reform” their would be a day when men would be “lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures rather than lovers of God (II Timothy 3:1-4). He predicted that these would come. Cancer begun in one cell spreads through the whole body until it dies! All the attempts of spiritually dead men to change the outward appearance of this cancer patient, even with the help of the Church that discards the preaching of the Word and puts the weapons of the spiritual warfare on the shelf in order to be unequally yoked with Belial, the infidel, the children of darkness, are not going to save that patient but run the risk of spreading that cancer.
Jesus says, “Whatsoever ye would that men should do unto you, do ye even so to them; for this is the law and the prophets (Matthew 7:12).” But he says this in the sermon on the mount and unto the Church. The world can never heed this world, for they come into this life spiritually dead and remain in that state because God did not see fit to regenerate them. There can be no social reform worthy of the name among such but: only in the Kingdom of Heaven, whose citizens Jesus is addressing here in the sermon on the mount. With the life of regeneration in them, these can do unto others as they would have them do unto themselves. These shall, when that Kingdom of Heaven is come on the new earth, do that, and meanwhile strive to do so with that principle of new life.
We have not come near our subject yet, “The Blessed Giver”, but this will serve as an introduction to a consideration of the positive teaching of the eighth commandment, “Thou shalt not steal.” What we have in mind is that other saying of Jesus, “It is more blessed to give than to receive (Acts 20:35).” Blessed is the man who does not take his neighbor’s goods but gives to his neighbor in his time of need. In the world there is theft; and the natural man is more and more after what his neighbor has by outright theft, or by those evils that cannot be punished by the magistrates. But in His fear we give instead of taking. And in His fear we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. In His fear we seek reform from our sin before God; and we know that in this way we will be delivered from our cruelties and injustices against man. And we pray and wait for the Kingdom of Heaven, where all our physical and spiritual problems are solved.