Banner Of Truth
"Thou hast given a banner to them that fear thee..." Psalm 60:4

Conscience Formed by Proclamation of Truth
By Fred O. Blakely 
 
Our frailties—and all of us assuredly have them—are bad enough when acknowledged as such and striven against. But when they are paraded as virtues, being passed off as tokens of advanced faith in God, that is something much worse than bad. An outstanding instance of this "superbadness" is increasingly displayed before us. It is the popular combination of reluctance to personally identify with God's truth on a given subject and to impose its requirements upon others by proclaiming it to them. Among those who themselves are willing to submit to such truth, a subtile and wholly untenable philosophy is frequently pleaded to excuse their aversion and refusal to declare it to their fellows. It is the bland assertion that they will leave it to God to convict the person or persons involved of their responsibility at the point in question. Such declarations as that of Paul, "We have confidence in the Lord touching you" (II Thess. 3:4), are cited in justification of their shrinking from declaration of "the whole counsel of God" (Acts 20:27). It is conveniently overlooked that on that occasion the Apostle's confidence in the Lord with respect to the Thessalonians was about things concerning which he had specifically commanded them.
 
We are well aware that ultimately it is God that must be the effectual Teacher, if the demands of His Word are to be brought home to the conscience of people and genuine conviction of sin wrought in them. We are equally well acquainted, however, with the fact that God has imposed upon the church the responsibility for proclamation of that Word. It is our job to plant and water; it is God's work to give "the increase" (I Cor. 3:6). To us, has been committed, not only "the Word of reconciliation" (II Cor. 5:19), but the declaration of all of His "good, and acceptable, and perfect will" (Rom. 12:2). Indeed, the church is "the pillar and ground of the truth" (II Tim. 3:15), being its exclusive custodian and entrusted with heralding it to the ends of the earth. Thus, if the church draws back from preaching the truth on any subject, how are the people to be confronted with it? "How shall they hear without a preacher?" (Rom. 10:14). To expect God to make the confrontation independently of the Word and of His duly authorized agents, is to presume upon Him. He may raise up others who are faithful to Him to preach, but there is no warrant whatever in Scripture for supposing that He will do the preaching in lieu of men.
 
The asserted will of God in reference to the matter precludes the gagging of the church on any subject covered by His Word. It pleased Him, it will be recalled, to "save them that believe" by "the foolishness of preaching" (I Cor. 1:21). This salvation encompasses the element of personal sanctification as well as that of justification. The divine Word, in all of its aspects, we are plainly told, is made manifest to the conscience "through preaching" (Tit. 1:3; cf. II Cor. 5:11). It is the function of the Holy Spirit to "convict the world in respect of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment" (Jn. 16:8, ASV). This He does by preaching of the divine Word related to these subjects. Just as the conscience is purged by hearing and receiving the preached Word of our Lord's propitiation for sins (Heb. 9:13-14), so it is defiled and "godly sorrow," which "worked repentance to salvation," produced by declaring the law of God against sin (Rom. 7:7-11; II Cor. 7:9-10).
 
This is the immutable manner of the kingdom in the area contemplated. Why, then, do churchmen persist in shrinking from their responsibility under God? It is not a true evidence of faith to complacently pass back to God a duty which He clearly has placed upon us. Yet we increasingly witness the expressions of such attitudes as these:
The refusal--after the style of the big-time evangelists--to demand baptism for the remission of sins. It is alibied that the people will be turned over to God to be taught that requirement, if indeed it is necessary. In marked contrast, Peter "commanded them to be baptized" (Acts 10:48).
 
The neglect of insisting that believers forsake not the weekly assembly of the church, as exhorted by Scripture (Heb. 10:24-25), and the active identification of themselves with the local congregation, which identification is everywhere assumed in the apostolic writings. These crucial matters are also assigned to God alone who, it is said, will bring His folk around in due time.
 
The drawing back from proclaiming God's emphasized will for modesty in dress by women "professing godliness" (I Tim. 2:9-10). And the holding of peace in the face of the rage of long hair currently prevalent among men, which God's Word quite unambiguously declares to be "a shame" and in open defiance of the "custom" established by the Apostles (I Cor. 11:14-16). And, as they are wont to say nowadays, etcetera, etcetera. 
 
Whatever the divergence from the divine will in human life, it is not a mark of faith, but of spiritual dereliction or recreancy, to shrink from making known that will and turn the case over to God for correction. One may preserve his reputation among men as a "regular fellow" by such tactics, but he will forfeit the divine praise by them. We need to remember the urging of James: "Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins" (ch. 5:19-20). Such conversion, quite obviously, entails bringing to the attention of the deviant brother the matter of his error.
 
The work of the church in this connection is quite plain. It is to "reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine" (II Tim. 4:2). That is the means which God has ordained for the creation of a "conscience of sins" (Heb. 10:2), and the laying aside of them. We have no indication from Him that these required ef!ects will be brought about in any other way.
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