The Gideons

Bernard Levin, one of England’s leading newspaper columnists, commented in the London Daily Mail on November 8, 1965, that “The only thing you always seem to find in an hotel room of any quality, wherever you are, is the Gideon Bible.” The columnist added that the Gideon practice of placing Bibles is one “which only does good, and which has never hurt anybody in the doing of it.” The object of the Gideons in performing this task of Scripture distribution is stated simply as “that of winning men and women, boys and girls to a saving knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.” The means by which efforts are made to accomplish this stated objective take various forms. Gideons conduct evangelistic services in jails, city rescue missions, do personal witnessing, give “testimonies,” distribute gospel tracts, and engage in open air preaching “to make the Gospel of Jesus Christ known.” The mainstay means employed is that of placing the Bible “in certain well-defined traffic lanes . . . in the streams of national life.” The Gideon program is called a non-sectarian, extended arm of the local church, as Bibles and Testaments are placed in areas not normally open to pastors and churches. “They reach out with the Precious Seed, the Word of God, to those who might never enter a church building.” 

The Sixty-ninth Gideons International. Convention, held in Detroit, Michigan, at the Sheraton-Cadillac Hotel ballroom, in 1968, was attended by 1,624 people from 32 countries. (Bibles and Testaments are distributed in 77 countries). This convention decided to supply 100,000 English Testaments for distribution in the Philippines. Roman Catholic schools and colleges there gave permission for distribution of 50,000 Testaments. This project would cost $36,000. Offering baskets were passed and $36,555 were received. At the same convention, Mexico City Gideons reported a plan to distribute Spanish-English Testaments to hotels to reach visitors from all over the world. This could be done if $10,000 would be furnished to purchase the Testaments. In another offering, “exactly $10,000 and 44 cents were supplied, the majority in checks!” 

“From all over the world . . . openings (occur) to place and distribute Scriptures in Roman Catholic related institutions. An enthusiastic welcome from leaders in the Roman Catholic church and from the students themselves” is remarkable, inasmuch as Gideons offer only the King James Version of the New Testament, and the Gideon membership is not open to Roman Catholics, and the Gideon stewardship reports are not presented in Roman Catholic churches, even if requested. 

The outreach of the youth New Testament ministry in other lands is overwhelming. Private, parochial and public schools in most countries are open for Gideons to distribute New Testaments to the children, “Many of these schools would not allow a foreign missionary to witness to the children, but do allow Gideons to distribute Testaments to them.” “The work of the Gideons in other countries is carried on by Christian business and professional men who are nationals of each country. The work is truly indigenous. . . Nationals have greater access and liberty to reach their people with the Scriptures than do Americans.” The Gideon outreach of placing Bibles is now extended to the airplanes of BOAC, United, American Airlines, South African, Ozark and 16 other airlines. 

The 1967-68 total world funds goal was $2,637,060. The amount actually raised was $2,787,764. The goal for placing Scriptures throughout the world in that period was 5,000,000. Actually placed were 5,539,280. The previous year saw 5,062,000 Scriptures placed. The goal for this year is 6,000,000 Scriptures. (Note:—The Reformed Herald, May, 1969, reported that “a record total of 5 1,642,211 Scriptures were distributed throughout the United States by theAmerican Bible Society in 1968. The goal for this yearis sixty million Scriptures of the United States.”) 

An index of pastors influenced or converted through the instrumentality of a Gideon Bible shows one Cumberland Presbyterian (Arminian), 4 Methodists, 5 Holiness-type and 17 Baptists. Gideon workers also have connections in the Youth for Christ movement and the Billy Graham Crusade. Billy Graham films seem to have quite an outlet at a Roman Catholic university in the Philippines. Recall at this point that Pelagianism has always been acceptable to the Roman Catholic Church. Gideon literature contains many “personal testimonies” of converts and “personal workers,” none of which, as noted above, are adherents of Presbyterian, Reformed or Calvinistic persuasion. The organization rings with a Baptist and individualistic tone throughout. Its emphasis is not upon the church or the family, but upon the individual. It emphasizes “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou (singular) shalt be saved” at the expense of the remainder of the text, “and thy house.” It quotes, “Marvel not that I said unto thee (singular), Ye (plural) must be born again” as though the text were purely individualistic, overlooking the passage from the singular to the plural. The construction in John 3:7 is similar to that in John 1:51, “and He saith unto him (singular), Amen, Amen, I say unto you (plural), hereafter ye (plural) shall see heaven open and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.” The word is directed to Nathanael, and in chapter three to Nicodemus, but the blessing referred to is for Christ’s church, for “all the Father hath given Me.” 

Conversions are invariably referred to in such language as “I accepted Jesus as my personal Savior,” and are usually from some socially unacceptable way of life, as conversion from sin is a rarity, if not, a nonentity. One is saved simply t because of “accepting Christ as personal Savior.” There is no mention of belonging to the faithful Savior, Jesus Christ, of coming to a knowledge of sin, misery and condemnation under the wrath of God, or of a saving knowledge of deliverance from all that evil. Conversions are sudden, with little or no reference to the sin question. Salvation comes simply by “accepting the Lord,” regardless whether there be a particle of the knowledge that one is spiritually dead, helpless, hopeless, beyond all self-help, prone to hate God and the neighbor, incapable of doing any good and inclined to all evil. Experience true conviction of sin, know something of the plague of the heart, know yourself dead through trespasses and sins, and you also know the misery that you cannot and will not come to Christ, except the Father draw to Him. You then know that you receive Christ because God has accepted you. Dangerous it is to get over the “sin question” as quickly as possible and push the whole matter of man’s sin, misery and moral impotency aside so that the chance to “accept Christ” may be emphasized. He neither hears nor believes “good news” who believes that he can “accept the Savior,” if he only will. To one who knows he is dead in sins, such presentation, sentimental, emotional, sensational, individualistic, unbiblical, philosophizing, is not good, but bad news. What hope is there for a sinner who is carnally minded, not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be, receiving not the things of the Spirit of God, neither able to know them, guilty before God, no fear of God before his eyes and all his so-called righteousnesses nothing but filthy rags? What hope is there for the sinner who by nature loves sin, his pet sin, the slavery of sin, and cannot, any more than dead Lazarus, rise from his grave of sin? Certainly there is none in the bad news that “You, an Ethiopian, can change your skin; you who are accustomed to doing evil can do good; you can choose; you can accept Him and be saved.” Good news is that He shall save His people from their sins, raising them from their spiritual graves, giving them new hearts and faith to believe the Word of His grace. 

The Bible ought to be read. All men are bound to read the Word of God, should read it daily, wherever they may be, even though spiritually incapable of understanding it. Originally man was capable of performing personal, perpetual and perfect obedience to the law of God, but by his own willful disobedience he deprived himself of the divine gifts of knowledge and righteousness. But he continues in rebellion against God who refuses or neglects to read God’s Word. Yet without the enlightenment of the Holy Spirit interpreting His own Word, understanding of it cannot be had. Then let a man read and pray for the light of the Spirit. Let him know that faith cometh by hearing, hearing by the Word of God preached and the Word of God preached by a duly called and sent preacher (Rom. 10:17, 14, 15). Such a preacher of the Word may make use of a Bible permanently placed in the hospital room as he conducts his pastoral sick visitation. But false interpretations of the Bible, printed on front or back of the Book is not only misleading, but perverting of the interpretation self-consistent with the Bible itself. Better to distribute Bibles with no interpretation whatever. The church is called of God to preach the gospel to every creature, which will then put the Bible at their disposal, even though no creature by nature has any spiritual receptivity. But the gospel is proclaimed only by setting forth the Bible’s own self-consistent message that salvation is “not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.” 

Wonderful it is to be in possession of facts, the most essential and most precious, to preserve them, spread them over the earth, making them available in every place. But it is something else to have the right interpretation of the facts. Utterly necessary it is to have both fact and interpretation. The necessary, indispensable, fundamental set of facts are found in the Bible. There are almost as many interpretations of these facts as minds to think them. Better to distribute the facts with no accompanying interpretation than to do so in connection with the wrong interpretation. The Spirit has promised to lead the church in all the truth. He has kept His Word in giving the church that great body of truth found in the Apostolical Confession, the Nicene Creed, the Athanasian Creed, the Waldensian confessions, and the great Reformation confessions, among which are the Heidelberg Catechism, the Belgic Confession, the Canons of Dordt, and the Westminster standards. Denial of these confessions is denial of the interpretation the Spirit has given His own Word of truth. These interpretations the Spirit has given His own Word of truth. These interpretations stand, ancient though they be, for truth is never out of date, and they go hand in hand with Scripture no matter what the ignorant nor the inimical may do.