Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 14, 1969
NUMBER 15, PAGE 1-2a

Save The People And Let The House Burn

Luther Blackman

A fellow was about to jump off the bridge and end it all. A friend was trying to talk him out of it. "Why," he asked, "should you do this?"

"Well," the fellow said, "my wife left me; my kids won't have anything to do with me; I lost my job and can't find another; the Democrats have ruined the country, and now the Russians have the atom bomb, and you know what they will do with it." When he stopped talking, they both jumped off the bridge. Anyway, that's the way I heard it.

Never in my time has so much been so aptly said about the deplorable moral and spiritual condition of this country. Glaring headline says, "TODAY'S IMMORALITY SPELLS DISASTER FOR NATION." One paper says that homosexuality has increased 1,000 percent since 1958. A steady stream of pornographic literature pours from the presses and into the drugstores and most other places where books are sold. Movies feature sex in the rawest form. The hepcats have labeled their public display of sexual promiscuity as "honest" in contrast with the "hypocrisy" of those "Victorian" prudes who think sex should be confined to marriage. But this kind of "honesty" is not new. Poodle dogs and polecats have been practicing it long before the hippies and yippies and other kinds of social ulcers arrived. Illegitimate births more than tripled between 1940 and 1966.

In 1966 there were 6,200 girls, 14 years old and younger, who gave birth to babies out of wedlock. The police in a Texas city broke up a ring of prostitution which included a number of girls 11 years old. An unprecedented wave of lawlessness makes it dangerous to walk down your street after dark, and the Supreme Court aids the situation by shackling the police and the courts in the name of constitutional rights for the hoodlum. He put it well who said, "We are like the Roman Empire before it fell: gay, lewd, and rotting from within." But jumping off the bridge won't solve the problem.

What, then, is the responsibility of the church, the Christian, the gospel preacher with respect to this moral decay? The answer is found in the New Testament, demonstrated in the attitude and action of God's people amidst the moral decay of the first century.

Bad as things are in this country, we have not yet sounded the depths of the moral turpitude in the Roman Empire during that time. According to William Barclay, fourteen of the first fifteen emperors were homosexuals. Nero married a boy who had been mutilated and marched with him down the streets of Rome in a wedding march. The wife of Claudius would leave her own bed and spend the night in the brothel in the arms of drunken degenerates.

So what did Paul do when his long cherished hope to see Rome was realized? Did he set about to initiate a moral reform? Read Acts 28. "And Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came unto him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ "(Verse 30,31)

Corinth was a city of unrestrained licentiousness. The temple of Aphrodite sheltered a thousand "sacred" prostitutes who plied their trade on the streets of the city for the financial benefit of their infamous religion. The very name of Corinth was synonymous with debauchery. Yet when Paul came to Corinth he was "pressed in the spirit and testified to the Jews that Jesus was Christ." (Acts 18:5) The result of his preaching there was that "many of the Corinthians hearing, believed and were baptized." (Acts 18:8). Paul had much to say in his first letter to the church in Corinth about immorality, but he said it to the church. He did not lead any protest marches or organize a "campaign for decency." His work led to a marked change in the lives of many at Corinth, and to that extent the moral climate of the city was no doubt improved a little. But Paul had not come to Corinth to improve the moral atmosphere of the city. He had come to save souls.

Paul undoubtedly knew when he stood before Felix that this man was a moral leper. Even the woman, Drusilla, who sat by his side had been seduced by him to leave her husband and marry him. But Paul also knew that if he did not obey the gospel, the moral life, whether good or bad, would make but little difference in the final outcome. New Testament preachers did not deliver moral lectures, per se.

A gospel preacher or any other Christian may, as a citizen and within the bounds of righteousness, strive to improve the moral climate of his neighborhood or his country by exercising his right as a voter to change the political structure. Or he may join in cooperative efforts to provide wholesome environment for the youth of his community and thereby perhaps improve the moral fibre of some of them. But people are not saved by merely improving their moral conduct, and when the church diverts its labor and resources and influence to such ends, those who are responsible act presumptuously and sinfully. The mission of the church is spiritual. It should be getting people out of the fire instead of trying to save the house. There is not one thing that the church can do, other than this, that some human institution cannot do just as well or better. And the Lord did not die to make the church possible then devote it to ends which can be served by the institutions of men.

— Noblesville, Ind.