Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 30, 1964
NUMBER 51, PAGE 1,11a

Qualifications That Count

Sewell Hall

When we completed our evening service at the North Birmingham congregation one Sunday not long ago, we found on our cars advertisements of a three day revival planned by a denominational church nearby. We appreciated their inviting us. The announcement was nicely done with an etching of their very beautiful building covering half the front page. But what drew our attention was the fact that the whole back page was completely filled with the credentials of the one who was to do the speaking. This man had four degrees from as many colleges and universities; he had held two major fellowships at Boston University; he had served on the faculties of four different universities and institutes, and had held seven different positions in one of them; he is a member of seven "scholarly, social, and religious" societies, and has written four books. To top it all, he is only fifty-three years old and was born in Korea. Whew!

As far as we are concerned, however, the ink required to describe all that was wasted. Had he been lecturing on some worldly theme, in which we were interested, we would have been constrained to hear him. But all of that tells us nothing about his knowledge of God's Word, the subject which should have been occupying his attention in such an effort. The Pharisees and Sadducees were the theologians, the scholars, the professors of Jesus' day, but in spiritual matters he called them "blind guides." He was startled by the ignorance of Nicodemus: "Art thou the teacher of Israel, and understandest not these things?" (John 3:10) And he flatly told the Sadducees, "Ye do err, not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God." (Matthew 22:29)

The apostles of Christ, as a rule, did not possess the worldly attainments and educational credentials possessed by their religious opponents. Nor did they try to achieve them. They dismissed the value of such things, saying: "The wisdom of this world is foolishness with God." (1 Corinthians 3:19) The one apostle who did possess them was wary of their use and described his work in Corinth, where they might have been most appreciated, in these words: "And I, brethren, when I came unto you came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power: that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God." (1 Corinthians 2:1-5) Far from trying to meet them on their own worldly grounds he wrote, "If any man thinketh that he is wise among you in this world, let him become a fool, that he may become wise." (1 Corinthians 3:18)

One of the saddest developments in recent years is that brethren in Christ are abandoning this ancient position and are attempting to compete with the worldly wise in a show of worldly wisdom. More and more, advertisements of evangelistic services among brethren list the worldly attainments of the evangelist (Author, Educator, World Traveler, Lecturer, TV and Radio Personality, etc.) as though these things might make him a better preacher of the gospel. One brother we know was even advertised as a "promoter"; they did not say if it was boxing, wrestling, or what. It is still true, however, that "not many wise men according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called" (1 Cor. 1:26), and we only weaken our position and make ourselves look ridiculous when we try to meet the world on its terms. Worse still is the increasing tendency to suppose that worldly achievements should entitle a man to some exalted position among his brethren. Among the qualifications given for elders, deacons, evangelists, not once is worldly achievement listed. In the kingdom of heaven, "whosoever would become great among you shall be your minister; and whosoever would be first among you shall be your servant." (Matthew 20 :26, 27)

A brother in another state called to my attention the contrast between the qualifications of men chosen for tasks in the early church and those chosen to serve on the committee directing one of the current "brotherhood projects." The credentials of the men on the committee have been widely circulated so that brethren may have confidence in what is being done and may contribute freely. What is said of them? One is Eastern Division Manager of a Sales Company; one is Superintendent of Northern Area Stores of an airline in Hangar No. 9 of International Airport; another is General Manager of Distribution for a Thread Company; still another is a Computer Programmer and Systems Analyst for a Cash-register Company; one is an Executive Vice-President of an Advertising Firm; and of another we simply have Meat Department and the name of a Chain Store. Doubtless, these brethren have some spiritual qualifications, but this is all we are told.

In contrast with the stated qualifications of those chosen by twentieth century brethren note the stated qualifications of those chosen for work by first century brethren. "And they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 6:5); Barnabas, "A good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith" (Acts 11:24); Barnabas and Paul, "Men who have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 15:26); Timothy, "a certain disciple, well reported of by the brethren" (Acts 16:1, 2) Epaphroditus, "my brother and fellow-worker and fellow soldier....For the work of Christ he came nigh unto death" (Philippians 2:25,30); and the brother, "whose praise in the gospel is spread through all the churches." (2 Corinthians 8:18)

Of course, the difference in the qualifications stated for the two sets of men may simply point up the difference in the type of work being done.

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