In Defense Of Holiness Preaching!
By: H. Richard Young
In the interest of a mighty Revival, are we to understand that we are to achieve the same by drawing back from our former strong holiness preaching? I think not! Yet we are increasingly told that this is the way to do it.
It is not my intent to find fault with anyone’s desire to stir up the correct response to a lost world which needs the “good news” of this Gospel. However, in the oratory which sometimes overcomes our better senses, there are too many instances of false statements being made which lead a number of saints, as well as some of our ministers, to conclude that such preaching is not needed for the church. If you will, allow me to make an example of a particular message which we heard at a recent function, without any ill will. The message was by a friend of mine; one which I intend to keep as such. The main emphasis of the message was one to which I heartily subscribe. That is that we do not win the lost by trying to clean them up before they have received the message of Salvation into their experience. That is absolutely a valid point and should always be adhered to when preaching to the unsaved.
However, to use this as a proof that the pastor should never preach the standards of holiness to his congregation is to trade one truth for another, rather than to incorporate both truths. When we overstate our position in this manner, we leave the church open to worldly encroachment. I will not try to prove all points in this little treatise, but will try to offer a case of apologetics aimed at incorrect information delivered in the heat of oratory by my friend.
Could I be so brash as to make a point regarding the fact that even the words of our Lord can be misconstrued to say things in error. Therefore, we had better be sure of the principles involved as well as the apparent statement. If you will read the words of Jesus in Matthew 5:25 and then the Word of God as penned by Peter in 1 Peter 5:8, you could easily deduct that Jesus tells us to agree with our adversary the Devil, rather than to upset the old boy. I will not go into any explanation of this point, leaving that up to you to do for yourself. I really wonder, though, if that is not what many of our people are doing when it comes to this question of holiness standards.
To return to the message. We were told very emphatically that the goodApostle Paul would never criticize the sinner’s sinfulness, that he would only point to a better way. It is certain that neither Peter (in Acts 2:23,36 and Acts 3:14) nor Stephen (in Acts 7:51) had learned that lesson. But look quickly at a few statements from Brother Paul: to Elymas in Acts 13:10 and again to Ananias in Acts 23:3. Although it is well taken that he did not condemn the sinners to whom he spoke, what about his position as pastor to the flock in his letters (such as in Romans 1, I Corinthians 5, I Corinthians 16:22, I Timothy 1:20, II Timothy 3:1-5,16, Titus 1:10-14)?
We were also instructed that you are never to “clean the fish” before you catch them. But we were never left with a time in which those fish were to be “cleaned” although the scripture does tell us that the pastors are for “the perfecting of the saints.” I am in no way making any excuse for the man of God to be abusive, but he does have an obligation to preach “the whole council of God.” It was stated that the preacher is not to lift up the standard, that it was the Lord’s job to do that. This totally ignores the preaching of the Prophets, the teachings of Paul, and the fact that Jesus Christ gave us the job of evangelizing the world (even though no man can come except the Spirit draws him) and training them in the way they should go. Bro. T.F. Tenney says, “What goes unpreached, will soon go unpracticed.” The scripture also says the Lord will build His church, but He does it thru His preachers. In like manner, the Spirit of the Lord will raise up a standard through His ministers, not leaving them out of this process any more than the other.
I handled all of the previous statements rather well, until we were told that holiness was not an issue at the beginning of the Holy Ghost revival at the turn of this century. That what stopped that revival was the bringing in of standards by the holiness movement. Even that the Wesleyan Methodists were brought into existence from that division. All of this was passed as fact without one apparent objection by our preachers in attendance. While I am not an historian, I am certain that these bold statements will not stand up under honest scrutiny.
I believe that the first thing you will find is that this Pentecostal movement began among people already attempting to live a life of holiness, and that this experience was another step up in their return to truth. It certainly was not a step away from the holiness position. More important is the statement of what stopped that original revival. A close look will reveal that the division among brethren was caused by the revelation of the oneness of God in Jesus Christ. Does that mean that this revelation stopped the move of God? A thousand times no! Will we cease to take a stand for Jesus Name because some refuse to accept it and the numbers being “saved” may not be as many? Then why do we try to put that stigma upon an equally important truth that “without holiness no man shall see God?” All preachers in America will preach against sin, but most will not name any particular sin for fear of being rejected, at least not if his members are guilty of any he might name. God’s men are called to a much higher duty than this. Oh, by the way, the Wesleyans were around long before 1900.
Another point was made that holiness was a revelation. So is the Name of Jesus, and we are charged to preach that message to every creature. What is the difference? There is none in the Bible, even if some of our preachers may try to make a difference.
It was also proclaimed that my friend would not be guilty again of saying a disparaging word about the Charismatics or the false preachers, even those who are leading lives of immorality while leading people in untrue doctrines. Shall we embrace those who are workers of iniquity? Yet his message so freely vilified any of our preachers who dared to preach a message which spoke out against the evils of our day, or its encroachment into our churches. He even spoke harshly about one of his saints back home who was somewhat without wisdom in dealing with the lost.
Must we water down our position in order to reach our world? Must we hide behind some mask which does not faithfully proclaim our positions? Is Revival really revival at all, if it does not change the way people live, act, and look? I firmly believe in revival, and am willing to promote it, participate in it, and fellowship with others who are having it. But I remain fully convinced that it must and will come, out a red-hot prayer meeting, which leads us all back to the principles of II Chronicles 7:l4. This scripture along with many, many others, includes a return to old fashioned standards of holiness. Even the scriptures in Joel which precedes that revival includes “sanctify the congregation” (Joel 2:15-17) as an obligation of the “priest.”
It is not my position that we are to be unwise and foolish in our proclamations to the lost, hurting souls of our day. I do agree with my good brother on that point in no uncertain terms. I am writing, however, in the interest of balance, that we do not neglect our responsibility to our congregations on the other side of the road. There is a ditch there as well where we have lost many a good person to the wiles of the enemy. Holiness preaching is still valid and appropriate according to the Word of the Lord. Hopefully, wisdom will dictate its proper place and timing, so as not to drive away the lost before the Holy Ghost does its saving work. But the preacher’s job does not end at initial salvation of the soul. Rather, it just begins! Bringing a natural baby into this world is only the beginning of a long process of training and discipline to bring it into responsible adulthood.
Why do I stand up so strong? Because the statements of such oratory will be used by carnal saints to withstand the preaching and teaching of their pastors. They are made to feel that “only the Lord” has any authority to proclaim what is right, proper, or holy in their lives. To them, these statements only prove that the preacher is limited to saying nice things. Remember the curses of II Timothy 4:1-4.
“Shapes of Deeper Life Conferences”
You may ask why I would write such a critique of another man’s message, especially when I respect that man and count him as my friend and brother. Please allow me to explain!
Several years ago we had a great move in our organization which was spearheaded by several outstanding young men with great oratorical ability. Those of us with much less ability were awed by the power of their speech and the many valid points which they offered to us. However, there were times when some of us saw points of disagreement with some of their statements. But, realizing that we were not of the same ability, we felt that it would not be proper to point out those errors. Therefore, we watched as we lost from our movement the force of those meetings, several of the better orators of our generation, at least one outstanding debater, and in my case, a personal friend. I promised myself that I would not allow that to happen again in my sphere of activity, without an attempt to on my part to rectify the errors. I am no more an orator now than then, and I realize that my voice may get lost in the crowd. But my perception of truth is no less keen now than it WAS at that time, so here goes.
One of the first things I noticed among those men was their arrogance, and that they continually criticized those older men who “just didn’t have it.” These younger men were suddenly the experts who knew better how to have mighty moves of God. So we all listened. taking everything that was said as being so, because Bro. Revival Expert said that this was the way it was. It was not long until several of these same men began to lay aside some of the strong teachings and standards in order to obtain and retain their great growth. Did we lose them over doctrine? Not directly! Did we lose them over lack of prayer? Not according to all that we were hearing at that time! Then what did cause us to lose them? I believe that we added to their arrogance by holding them up too high. Lesser men could have no say regarding their statements, for who were we compared to these great men. Then as they began to become more successful, the old line holiness preaching became taboo to them. They had a “better way” to make saints out of sinners. Where are they today? Decide for yourselves. I pray that we do not make those same mistakes again as we are reaching for Global Conquest.
May I add that I am fully aware that there is a ditch on the other side of the road called “Super Holiness” that we must avoid also. I have watched too many men fall into that trap as well. I do not consider myself as any more holy than some brother with whom I may take exception to in regard to some statement or position. I have much to learn from him, for he has many qualities which I lack. We are not debating another’s sincerity or motives, we are only raising a voice for balance. I have no thought of character assassination, which sometimes overcomes those trying to speak out for a conviction which they may hold. We are brothers in every sense of the word, we just need to listen to anothers views and consider them carefully to avoid the many pitfalls laid by the enemy of us all.
Allow me to make a last point of illustration. We were not called, nor were those preachers of days gone by, to become gamblers at the table with a deck of cards (Biblical truths). We are not to trade one card (truth) for another in order to win higher stakes in our quest for revival. On the contrary, we and our predecessors were called to be builders together with God. As such we build the church with one block (truth) upon another until we have declared the whole council of God. Neither Jesus nor Paul ceased to teach and to preach the absolute necessity of living Godly in this present world. Jesus even spoke harshly about those who did not add inward thoughts of holiness to the already held standards of outward piety. He did not take away the former demands for outward Godliness. Paul in his letters did exactly the same. They are full of instructions in righteous living.
I believe in Jesus Name baptism, the necessity of Holy Ghost baptism, worship, and fellowship with all of the saints. But the message has never been complete without repentance. This was always brought about thru the preaching of the Word, including the telling of what is involved in the changing of a life. Repentance is much more than just saying words of acceptance of Jesus as Savior. Men are not automatically made aware of the things which God calls sin, any more than they are automatically aware that Jesus is the One God of the Old Testament. They must be taught, and that is the job of the preacher.
(The above material appeared in a May, 1990 issue of Ohio Apostolic News.)
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