Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 7, 1960
NUMBER 34, PAGE 3a-5

Vain Labor

Lloyd Moyer, El Cerrito, California

"Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it . . ." (Psalm 127:1.)

Our text sets forth in plain language the fact that labor can be in vain. This is a lesson that both the world and the church needs to learn. We are impressed when we look about us at the tremendous amount of religious energy being expended. We see large congregations of people. These did not just happen, they were built by much labor, expended by many people. We see beautiful buildings which are also the results of religious labor. We see people dedicating their lives to religious causes and they sacrifice much in their religious service. No one would say that these people do not labor in their religion. They are zealously engaged in doing what they think is right. Now, the question is, Are they laboring in vain? Is all this labor for nought? Before we attempt to answer, let us read a passage of scripture: "Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God." (Rom. 10:1-3.) Here we find some people who worshipped the true God. They were zealous in their labor. They were honest and sincere people. But they were lost. Their labor was in vain. These Jews were the most religious people of their day. So we have religious labor expended in vain.

But let us examine another passage of scripture: "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my father which is in heaven. Many will say unto me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." (Matt. 7:21-23.)

How is it possible for people who teach in His name, and in His name cast out devils, and in His name do many wonderful works, to be workers of iniquity? Well, here is the explanation, The word "iniquity" describes "one without law, whether ignorant of it or violating it." It means lawlessness. Therefore, anyone doing anything without law from God is a "worker of iniquity." Regardless of how good the work may be, if there is no authority in God's law for that particular work or the way in which it is being done, those engaged in it are workers of iniquity. Their labor will be in vain. The word "vain" suggests worthless, void, empty, to no avail. To me it is a terrible thought that people, honest, zealous, and sincere people will be lost even though they have spent their lives in religious labors. For this reason I have devoted much of my preaching and teaching warning against religious error.

Ignorance Makes Religious Labor Vain

In the material realm we readily recognize this principle. A person ignorant concerning a piece of machinery is likely to destroy himself and others. He is extremely dangerous. Oh, he may be honest and sincere but that does not alter the fact that he is dangerous. Just suppose that you become violently ill; would you call your best friend to minister unto you? Or would you call a doctor? I'm fairly sure that you would call the person who had a knowledge of medicine. Regardless of how honest and sincere your friend might be, you still would not expect him to be able to cure your illness. Here is another example. Should you need an air-plane pilot, you would certainly call someone who had been trained to fly a plane. You surely would not argue that it makes no difference, just so he is a good man, honest and sincere.

Ignorance in the spiritual realm has caused no little grief and has done a great harm to the cause of Christ. God said, "Therefore my people are gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge . . ." (Isa. 5:13) Ignorance on the part of God's people today will lead them into captivity into sin. Jesus said ". . . Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures nor the power of God." (Mt. 22:29.) And again, (Acts 3:17) "And now brethren, I wot (know) that through ignorance ye did it, as did also your rulers." Those who crucified Christ were religious people, their ignorance was responsible for the deed.

The apostle Paul had to deal with this very idea when he went into Athens. (Acts 17:16-30.) Especially verse 23 . . . "Whom therefore ye ignorantly worship, him

I declare unto you." Then verse 30 he said, "And the times of this ignorance God winked at but now commandeth all men everywhere to repent . . ." At one time God may have overlooked such ignorance, but not now. Since ignorance will not serve as a passport into heaven, we must do all in our power to eliminate error. David once said, ". . . Therefore, I hate every false way." (Ps. 119:104.) So do I. Why? Because a false way is not the TRUTH. I hate every false way, because it will damn the souls of all who believe and obey its precepts.

Labor In Man-Built Churches Is Vain Labor

Our text states, "Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it." Just what is meant by the term "house"? The Holy Spirit gives us the answer, (1 Tim. 3:15) "But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the HOUSE OF GOD, WHICH IS THE CHURCH OF THE LIVING GOD, the pillar and ground of the truth." From this we learn that the HOUSE is the CHURCH. Therefore, except the Lord build the CHURCH, they labor in vain that build it. Now, how many churches did the Lord build? (Mt. 16:18) "And I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build MY CHURCH . . ." Note: "church" in the singular. ONE (Acts 20:28) "Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood." Notice again, "the" church. How many did Jesus purchase? ONE. Paul spoke on this wise, "And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is his BODY, the fullness of him that filleth all in all". (Eph. 1:22-23) The CHURCH is THE BODY. Question: How many BODIES DOES CHRIST HAVE? ONE. "There is one body . . ." (Eph. 4:4) (1 Cor. 12:13) "For by one Spirit are we all baptized into ONE body . . ." (1 Cor. 12:20) "But now are they many members, YET BUT ONE BODY." Remember, Paul says that the body is the church and that the church is the body. But there is BUT ONE body; therefore there is BUT ONE CHURCH. Some will agree with all this but will say "Which church is the ONE true church today?" This is a proper question and one that ought to be answered.

There are certain marks of identification or characteristics which must be recognized and accepted if we are to identify either a man or an institution. Suppose I ask you to meet a certain man at a certain place, you would in all probability ask "Who is he, or what is the man's name?" Now, suppose I should reply, "Oh, there is nothing in a name, one name is as good as another." You would question my sanity. Yet this is exactly what happens when people endeavor to identify the church. Some "so-called" preacher tells them that there is nothing in a name, that one name is as good as another. It is no wonder that so many people are confused as to which is the right church. In properly identifying a person his name, age, height, weight and birthplace are all taken into consideration; the same principle applies to the church that the Lord built. We must consider all marks of identification if we are to be sure that we are members of the true church. Its birthplace was Jerusalem. Its age dates from A. D. 33, the first Pentecost after the resurrection of Christ. Its members were called Christians, and various congregations were called Churches of Christ. (Acts 11:26; Rom. 16:16) Any church that had its origin later than A.D. 33 is not the church the Lord built. Any church whose members are called anything other than "Christians" is NOT the church the Lord built. And on you go, with the marks of identification as they are listed in the New Testament. When you find a church that measures up to all the marks, then you have found the church that the Lord built. Until you find such a church I advise you to not become a member of any church, for our text warns against any house (church) except the one the Lord built.

Doctrine Of Men Makes Our Worship Vain

Jesus said, "But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrine the commandments of men." (Matt. 15:9.) It seems that it would be impossible to misunderstand this statement. Those who use the commandments of men for doctrine, which includes ideas, theories, creeds etc. render their religious labor and worship vain. Thus we understand why there are so many warnings in the New Testament against the doctrines (teachings) of men. None of us want our labors to be in vain, therefore, we shall notice some of the doctrines of men which are prominent in the world of religion today in order that we may avoid them.

One: The doctrine of sprinkling water on the head and calling it baptism, is without a doubt a doctrine of man. You cannot read of such in the New Testament. The scholarship of the world agrees that during the days of the apostles, baptism was administered by immersion only. The Bible teaches that baptism is a "burial". (Rom. 6:3-4) ". . . Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death . . ." (Col. 2:12) "Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead." Yes, one is "buried" and raised in baptism. We read in the eighth chapter of Acts of an inspired man, Philip, baptizing another man. The record says, ". . . And they went down into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing." (Acts 8:28-39) Is this a picture of the way baptism is administered in the church of which you are a member? I have heard it argued that Philip took the eunuch into the water and then dipped some water in his hand and sprinkled it on the eunuch's head. Of course, that is not true. I ask, why would Philip have gotten the eunuch wet on both ends and left him dry in the middle? Paul says, "Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water." (Heb. 10:22.) Thus we learn that in baptism we go down into the water, and we are buried and are raised and thus having our "bodies washed", we come "up out of" the water. Any church that practices anything other than this revealed plan is teaching for doctrine the commandments of men, thereby its worship and labor vain.

Two: There are millions of people who are zealously working in churches which teach that man is saved by "faith only." In fact, their creed states that the doctrine of salvation by faith only is a most wholesome doctrine and very full of comfort. I say that it is neither whole- some nor comforting, because it is just exactly opposite to what the scriptures teach. "Ye see then how that by works a man is justified and not by faith only." (James 2:24) It has always been a mystery to me how a body of religious people who claim to believe in and follow

the Bible could hold to the doctrine of "faith only" after reading James 2:24. Since the Bible teaches that we are not saved by faith only, the doctrine must come from men: therefore all who use it are using "for doctrine the commandment of men" and their worship and labor is in vain.

Three: The doctrine of total depravity is another doctrine that renders men's labor vain. This doctrine teaches that man is born into this world totally depraved, which means that he is "wholly inclined to evil", that he bears the guilt of Adam's sin and is therefore "under just condemnation to eternal ruin without defense or excuse." This doctrine holds that man remains in this condition until God in his own good time operates on man's heart by the Holy Spirit and takes away the Adamic sin. This is a most repulsive doctrine. It makes one guilty of sins of his parents. Regardless of how good, honest, and upright one may be, he is still condemned to a devil's hell bceause of what his ancestors did. Who can believe it? The Bible teaches that the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father," (Ezek. 18:20) "The soul that sinneth, it shall die, the son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son: the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him." Isaiah states it like this, "But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you ..." (Isa. 59:2.) The Apostle Paul speaks on this wise, "And you, that were sometimes alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled" (Col. 1:21) From these and other passages we learn that we do not bear the iniquities of any one else, that it is our OWN sins and iniquities that separate us from God. We see that we were alienated from God by wicked works. Until a person reaches the age where he becomes an enemy of God in HIS OWN mind, he is as pure as God made him. Jesus said, ". . . Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." (Matt. 18:3) Now if little children are totally depraved and wholly inclined to evil as the doctrine teaches, then Jesus teaches that man must be converted and become totally depraved and wholly inclined to evil before he can enter the kingdom of heaven. What Rubbish!!

Four: Closely conected with the doctrine of total depravity is the doctrine of the "direct operation of the Holy Spirit". This doctrine of man holds that since all are "totally depraved" and "cannot think a good thought or do a good deed" until God takes away the Adamic nature by the Holy Spirit, God converts man by a miraculous operation of the Holy Spirit upon the heart. It teaches that there is nothing that man can do about his salvation. God must first operate on his heart. Such an idea places all the responsibility on God. If any man goes to hell it will be, according to this doctrine, God's fault. It also makes God a respecter of persons; if God sent the Holy Spirit on one man, he would be obligated to send the Holy Spirit on all men or He would be a respecter of persons. But the Bible teaches that God is no respecter of persons (Acts 10:34-35; Rom. 2:11) There is not a case on record where God ever sent the Holy Spirit upon any man to save that man from his sins. The Bible teaches that man must "come" to Jesus. (Mt. 11:28) "Come unto me" is the plea of Jesus. Why would Jesus say such a thing if it were impossible for man to come unto him? If the doctrine of the "direct operation of the Holy Spirit" were true, Jesus would have pleaded with God to send the Spirit to men rather, than ple4ling with men to come unto him. This doctrine causes people to fail to obey the gospel of Christ because they are taught that they can't obey until God operates on them. It is a soul damning doctrine. Man makes his own choice and God will certainly hold man responsible for not obeying His commands. (Mt. 7:21-23: Lu. 6:46: Heb. 5:8-9: 2 Thess. 1:7-9.)

Five: Another doctrine which was introduced by the devil and propagated by man is the doctrine of "the impossibility of apostasy". So that all may know what we have in mind, we notice the expression "Once saved, always saved" or "a child of God cannot fall from grace." Old Satan preached this doctrine to Mother Eve. He told her that she would not surely die. It seems foolish to me for a man to preach that one cannot "fall from grace" when the Bible so plainly teaches that one can. (Gal. 5:4) "Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; ye are fallen from grace." This passage could not be plainer. Those who justify their religious practices by the law have already fallen from grace. Why are they fallen from the favor of God? Because they ignore the law of God that He has in operation today and go back to an old law of God which has long since been abolished. I could illustrate this way. Suppose that you ignore the law which is now effective in the State of California and go back over a hundred years to justify your actions by the law that governed the State then. You would immediately find that you had fallen out of favor with the present administration. It is exactly so with the law of God. We must recognize the law which is in operation now. If we fail to do so, we are "fallen from grace." Then notice the many warnings against falling. Why are these written if man cannot fall from grace?) (1 Co. 10:12, 2 Peter 1:10.)

The doctrines we have mentioned are ridiculous and absurd. The idea that we are guilty for a crime which we did not commit, or that Jesus tantalizes man with the invitation to "come unto him" when man cannot come or that God condemns man for not obeying Him when it is impossible for man to obey is contrary to the teaching of the Bible. If after God saves man there is nothing that the man can do that will cause him to be lost, he could get drunk, and die drunk, yet the doctrine of "impossibility of apostasy" would have him going right on to heaven. That there are many honest, sincere and zealous people who believe these doctrines, we freely admit. But they are laboring in vain.

Sixth: We are told that "baptism is not essential to salvation." Jesus said, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved. (Mk. 16:15-16) Peter said, "like figure whereunto even baptism doth also now save us." (1 Peter 3:12) "And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord" . . . (Acts 10:48) ". . . Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins . . ." (Acts 2:38) With these passages before us, how is it possible to say that baptism is not essential? Yes, one must believe that Jesus is the son of God, repent, confess Jesus Christ and be baptized for the remission of sins. Then, the Lord adds that one to the Church (Acts 2:41,47) I plead with you to do his will before it is too late. Then avoid the doctrines of men, that your labor may not be in vain.