Remove not the Landmarks of our Fathers
David Ainslie, Birmingham
The apostle Paul enjoins Timothy to commit unto faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also, the things that he had heard of Paul among many witnesses, 2 Tim. 2. 2.
History has proved what a man of God Timothy must have been. We now have those very things before us in our Bibles that ought to be passed on to faithful men. Faithful men in the context are those who are not novices, lest pride should come in and the Word be distorted; men who are true elders, proved over many years of experience both before God and man; men of God who care not only for the welfare of the lambs but also for the sheep of the flock even as the Lord enjoined Peter in John 21. 15-17; those who have cared, have prayed, have loved, have grieved for the flock before the Chief Shepherd over many years; those who have passed on the pure teachings of the Word of God to others. Faithful men!
Today, however, ours is a generation where the faithful teachers are sometimes no longer wanted. Novices are arising, often educated and well able to discuss the original text of the Scriptures, but "ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth", 2 Tim. 3. 7. As a result, the landmarks of our fathers are being uprooted, or mocked at as out of date, causing deep distress amongst the older saints. The world observes these upheavals and the disorder created amongst the people of God, as they are introduced to pastures that are nothing except beautiful-looking marsh land, so tempting to look at, but often leading into spiritual instability and eventually to the loss of a spiritual testimony. The truth may be outwardly upheld, but the outworking in life falls short of the godliness and holiness which became God's people. "Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution", 2 Tim, 3. 12, and, sad to say, this often comes from those who profess to be brethren!
How does this situation come about? Certainly, the first indication often is the statement that "our gatherings are not attractive enough...". Invariably, it seems that dissatisfied men first require change; hence small, "harmless attractions" are introduced, such as films and discussions, where anyone can say what they think or want. This leads to a "club" atmosphere, sometimes with an "epilogue". The meeting place may even be changed to make the gathering less "religious-like", so as to attract more members. One is reminded in John's Gospel of the repeated phrases "a feast of the Jews... the Jews' passover". Are the things of our Lord Jesus, the landmarks of our fathers, being changed to '"our things"? The Word of God will never be attractive to a hostile world. Remember, it is "foolishness" to them that perish, 1 Cor. 1. 18-31, although, as the Scripture also says, what seems foolishness to men is God's wisdom.
Gradually, the long-held frontiers of God's order, established over many years by faithful men, become eroded, and, to remain popular with a younger generation it is sad to see that older men yield their positions, as new patterns become established. Note well, the uprooting of the things that have been proved and tested as God's order is another serious attack, within the assembly, on the very authority of God Himself. As God has His order in creation, so also in the church He has His order. The usurping of God-given authority and order cannot be taken lightly, and any who force their views upon their elders, being seemingly indifferent as to whom they hurt, can only look forward to judgment. "Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap". This scripture was written to Galatian believers, Gal. 6. 7.
It appears that the Satanic attack on the Headship of Christ is now becoming intensified to a point where its aim is to destroy the family unit, and the very testimony of local assemblies. Attempting to popularise the gatherings of the saints with carnal means is but helping the enemy. Brethren who are unable to cope with these problems, being bewildered, allow themselves to forfeit the deep reverence and solemnity of their position before God, and believers, intent on remaining popular with all and retaining numbers, gradually cease preaching the cross of Christ as God's way of salvation from eternal death.
As one gathering is destroyed, attention then falls onto another, until there is little left for Christ. Those responsible may move away to new ground, leaving disarray and aching hearts. Or, when some have built up a personal and unspiritual following, another true light becomes more dim as the few, clinging to that which they already have, are either removed from this scene, or else remain to grieve quietly for those who once ran well.
The cause of this type of problem is simply a departure from God-given principles. By seeking to be friends with the world, such men become at enmity with God, James 4. 4. It is a problem that creeps slowly and stealthily into assemblies, bringing with it that awful state of uselessness to Christ, such men not realising it; see Rev. 3. 17.
To those who are grieving because of this state of things, our Lord says, "if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me". Note our Lord's promise that He "will come in". It is not for us to go out! Even in the sad state of the Laodicean church, if "any man" will open the door, He will come in to him. What a comfort and, beloved, this is not all! Our Lord goes on to say, "To him that overcometh, will I grant to sit with me in my throne...", Rev. 3. 20-21. May we hear the call to a complete separation from the world's methods to remove the landmarks placed by faithful, godly men down the years, especially if the "modernizing" is being attempted by those who appear with soothing words and ways.
Truly the last days of God's grace are upon us. Let each of us, then, "hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take any crown", Rev. 3. 11.