H. Winfield Graham, N. Ireland
Reading the New Testament you will find that every young convert had to abandon the religious community in which he had been reared. Idolaters separated from the heathen temples. Disciples of John the Baptist turned away from their teacher, and his following dwindled (John 1:37; 3:30). Jews, when they were able to lay aside the chains of prejudice, came out from the synagogue and temple with its divinely appointed ritual. One and all were gathered together as one flock, churches of God, churches of Christ, churches of the Saints. From such churches the gospel was sounded forth (1 Thes. 1:1, 8).
Modern worldly wisdom and satanic ingenuity have discovered another way more pleasing to the flesh in the believer, less repulsive to the ungodly and more profitable to the devils interests. So young Christians are counselled to remain in the religion in which they were reared, in which they had been kept in the dark about their need of salvation, where the gospel was not preached and where conversion was denounced. They are to remain and be a testimony. This means that a Unitarian who has been saved by the Son of God is to remain where the truth of the Trinity is not held. The converted Roman Catholic is to continue at Mass and to bow down to the host. The convert from Jehovahs Witnesses is to stay under the soul destroying teaching of that system. The Episcopalian is to attend the teaching of baptismal regeneration. The Presbyterian is to listen to the teaching that the christening of an infant signifies and seals its engrafting into Christ and its engagement to be the Lords. They are all to support financially the spread of these anti-christian doctrines, to encourage those who denounce the gospel and to associate in religious activities with the enemies of Christ. They are to feed their souls on chaff, drink of the living waters from the poison bottle and learn divine truth by hearing false doctrine. And all this is witnessing for Christ! It is, in fact, open disloyalty, blatant denial of Christ and downright disobedience to the word of God.
But, says one, we must mingle with people in order to bring the gospel to them. Certainly so, but we are not to do evil that good may come. We can contact the drinker without sitting down with him at the bar, the dancing enthusiast without frequenting the dance hall, the immoral person without visiting the dens of vice and the religious people without partaking in their false religion.
But, says another, did not Christ and the apostles frequent the synagogue and the temple where all was not right? Certainly they did. But remember that the Jewish religion was of divine origin and established by the Old Testament. Which of the religions mentioned above can claim this? Then, both the Lord and his apostles went to the synagogue because there was liberty to read and expound the Scriptures. Can one imagine them listening without protest to false doctrine? They went in and preached the very doctrine that was rejected in the synagogue. Christ spoke of Gods favor to the Gentiles, provoked the wrath of hearers and was thrust out (Luke 4:27-30). The apostles preached that Jesus was the Christ and that God had raised from the dead the one whom the Jews had crucified (Acts 17:1-3). They were also cast out. They went to the synagogue, preached the gospel and some were saved. "Then the preachers were rejected and left, but they did not go out alone. They took the young converts with them (Acts 19:8-9).
Christ went into the Jewish fold, called his own sheep by name and led them out; among the Gentiles the same happened and there was one flock and one Shepherd (John 10:3, 4,16). We repeat that Christ and his apostles did not go in to listen to the soul-destroying teaching of ungodly men, but to proclaim the whole truth of God which would save sinners and bring them out to be disciples of Christ. If a "synagogue" can be found where there is liberty to do just that, it may be entered. When young Christians remain in association with the evils we have mentioned above they defile their souls, spoil their spiritual appetite and deprive themselves of all spiritual activity. They do not bear witness to Christ nor to the gospel for their mouth is shut.
But why is such counsel ever given by preachers to their converts? Often it is because the preachers themselves have a guilty conscience and are walking in disobedience to the word of God in this matter. Naturally they do not wish their spiritual children to get ahead of them. Some are seeking the friendship of the ungodly religious leaders with the vain hope of thus furthering the gospel. Before the mind of others is the dream of popularity and the avoidance of that which is the result of wholehearted discipleship, the reproach of Christ (Heb. 13:13).
It has often been noted that the advocates of the policy of young Christians remaining in the religious community in which they were reared, are themselves forced to admit its failure. Knowing well that spiritual progress is almost impossible in the churches they form meetings, societies, missions or unions where there can be some fellowship, testimony and teaching. They thereby admit, to use a phrase of the late W. P. Nicholson, "that live chicks cannot thrive under a dead hen." Their way is completely illogical as well as unscriptural. If the so called churches are of God, no outside organization is required. To add to what God has established is to question His wisdom and His ability to care for His children. In the New Testament churches all that is necessary is provided through the ministry of those whom Christ has gifted, the care of the elders the Holy Spirits power and the scriptures. There is the place of fellowship, of worship, of teaching, of training and of gospel activities. It is the only thing established by Christ and all the energies of the christian should be devoted to its edification and extension. These human organizations are the halfway house of men who are not willing to go the way of wholehearted obedience to the word of God, lest they lose the favor of the clergy. They seek to serve two masters and end up by earning the scorn of the one for their duplicity and the disapproval of Christ for their lack of obedience.
In contrast with mans: "Stay in," we have Gods: "Come out." To those in connection with heathen religions it is: "Come out from among them, and be ye separate" (2 Cor. 6:17). To those linked to the Jewish religion the exhortation is "Let us go forth unto him (Christ) without the camp, bearing his reproach" (Heb. 13:13). To any who may be in Babylon (the harlot mother Rome, with her harlot daughters) corrupt christendom, the command is: "Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins" (Rev. 18:4).
Man says: "Stay in." God says, "Come out." We ought to obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29).