by Gerald L. K. Smith

"Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men's bones, and of all uncleanness." Matthew 23:27

If Jesus were to return to earth, I wonder where He would spend next Sunday. I wonder how much at home He would be in the luxurious and architecturally extravagant temples which have been erected on this earth. If He dared to say, "No man cometh unto the father, but by me," or if as He came down out of the airplane or off the train, or even if He descended from the sky He dared to say, "I am the door of the sheepfold. He that climbeth up any other way is a thief and a robber" - I wonder who would believe?

Unless He was given the silent treatment by the press, radio and television, these words would be flashed on the AP wires and the UPI wires and over the ether wave facilities. The Jewish Anti-Defamation League, financed by the B'nai B'rith, would immediately meet and issue a bulletin branding Him as a bigot, a hatemonger and a leader of the lunatic fringe.

The American Jewish Committee would identify Him as an anti-Semite offensive to the Jews and would urge the newspapers to give Him the silent treatment in order that His "bigoted" expressions might not be given enough circulation to influence the population.

Of course, as the Scripture says: "No one knoweth the day or the hour that the Son of Man cometh," so we cannot speculate as to when or how our Lord will return with any degree of accuracy. Students of Bible prophecy offer a wide variety of explanations and prophetic interpretations, but the main problem as far as I am concerned is to obey His admonition when He said, "Occupy until I come," and to prepare myself by faith in His deity, repentance of my sins and obedience to His commandments as laid down in the New Testament Scripture.

I am not a cynic, neither am I a complainer. I try to be a warm-hearted, understanding Christian citizen, but I must confess that occasionally I am overwhelmed with the impression that the name and message and personality of our Lord Jesus Christ is being buried behind whited sepulchres and obscured by the vanities and the skepticisms and the materialisms of this generation.

THE CHURCH is not a building and it is not a religious bureaucracy. It is the invisible spiritual body of Jesus Christ. In one place in the Scripture, it is referred to as the "Bride of Christ." This invisible body consists of the combined believers in our Divine Saviour.

The Gospel is so simple that "a man though a fool may not err therein." It can almost be reduced to a single sentence. Jesus Christ is the Son of God and if we confess His name and repent of our sins and obey Him in Christian Baptism, we become a constituent part of the body of Christ. Guilt is removed by forgiveness. Uncertainty is replaced by abundance, and death is overcome by resurrection and immortality.

The background for this truth is the Bible. The Old Testament is Christ concealed in prophecy. The New Testament is Christ revealed in the inspired account. What more is there? Why should this beautiful, simple, saving message be decorated with brass, plated with gold and obscured with bureaucracies?

When Moses turned his back on the children of Israel who were looking forward to their Messiah (and we must not confuse the Israel of the Old Testament with the modern apostate Jew who hates the name of Christ) - when Moses turned his back, the children of Israel proceeded to build a golden calf. They were not satisfied to be led through the wilderness by the hand of God whose heavens declared His glory and whose firmament showed forth His handiwork. They wanted something which would satisfy the vanity of the flesh and the materialistic lust of the eye.

Below I summarize some of the manifestations of vanity which obscure the face of Jesus in this jaded hour when more people are attending church than at any time in history and when the rate of perversion, crime, corruption, treason, adultery, fornication, drunkenness and kindred sins beset us as never before. It is a rugged thought to have to admit that filled luxurious church buildings do not seem to accomplish the purposes of Christ.   (go to top)

(continued - Dead Men's Bones)

1. We see an increasing amount of gaudy, offensive, vain, abortive church architecture.

2. The men who call themselves preachers who were ordained to preach the simple Gospel of Christ are too often merely back slappers, money-raisers and community grinners who operate a sort of ecclesiastical Chamber of Commerce, and whose success is usually measured by the amount of money they can raise.

3. Theological seminaries by the score - in fact, by the hundreds - which were bought with the blood, sweat and tears of believing saints have been turned into temples of doubt, and are turning out ordained ministers who do not believe the Bible and deny the divinity of Christ.

4. The materialistic doctrine of Karl Marx, commonly referred to as Socialism or Communism, now preoccupies a great segment of the American clergy. The great student of Red infiltration, Dr. J. B. Matthews, himself an ordained Methodist clergyman, must be taken seriously when he reveals that literally thousands of clergymen have lent their names and their good offices to the promotion of the Marxist doctrine.

5. Clergymen who consider themselves too sophisticated to accept the Virgin Birth or the resurrection of our Lord or the inspiration of Holy Scripture, or the saving power of the Gospel, give much time to the promotion of mongrelization and the degeneration of racial self-respect.

6. Appeasement of evil seems to be the status symbol of the 'popular clergyman.' Recently I listened to a television "panel of clergymen who had surrendered the simplicities of Christian faith for the doctrines of materialistic psychotherapy. Two of the clergymen on the panel brazenly and openly justified premarital sex relations between young men and young women. Most public figures are afraid to confess that homosexuality and lesbianism have infiltrated church leadership, youth camps, YMCAs and YWCAs. This in itself is serious enough, but among the leaders who are not so afflicted, there is a sort of 'broadminded' toleration of these Sodom and Gomorrah codes.

7. The Evangelist is an obscure breed. A few professionals who have been able to turn the practice of their art into luxury-producing incomes, practice a carnival-like professionalism which bears little resemblance to the simple practices of Philip, Timothy, the Apostle Peter or St. Paul. In fact, I doubt if Martin Luther, John Wesley, St. Francis, D. L. Moody, or even Billy Sunday could be invited to fill one of these gold-plated pulpits which symbolize the materialistic ecclesiastical bureaucracies of this generation.

8. Prayer meetings are taboo. Church dinners, gluttony, wisecracks, efficiency surveys and budget raisings have replaced the humble prayer circle where men and women of God meet to testify and pray and rededicate.

As a Protestant, my familiarities with the above summarized symptoms is more or less confined to the orbit of Protestantism, but I know Priests and I know important Catholic laymen who are as concerned about the materialistic vanities of their church as I am concerned about the dead men's bones which beset the whited sepulchres of my fellowships.

This statement is not intended to be more than a challenge to meditation and prayer and consecrated consideration. Christ knew what He was talking about, and He spoke immortal truth when He said: "Upon this rock (belief that Jesus Christ is the Son of God) I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."

He was not talking about buildings, bureaucracies or budgets. He was talking about an invisible spiritual force - "the Bride of Christ."

I could imagine a day when unbalanced budgets, economic chaos and complete revulsion among the people could render impotent every visible symptom of organized sectarianism at the very moment when the spiritual substance growing out of Christ's eternal Gospel would become more powerful than at any time in history. The saving Gospel of Jesus Christ cannot be registered in a patent office, and God has not sold an exclusive franchise to any wholesaler or retailer. This simple message is the rightful possession of every human soul and no man on this earth has the authority to stand between man and his Christ-bought relationship with his Creator.

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