When Food is Poison
Preached on Sunday Morning, February 11, 1934
Collingswood Presbyterian Church, Collingswood, NJ
but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ."
2 Corinthians 2:17
So imperative is the demand of our bodies that we have pure food in order to live and to mature that many of our State legislatures, out of a concern for the welfare of society, have enacted pure food laws and appointed administrators. It seems easier for us to see the necessity of pure food for our bodies than to realize its indispensability for our souls. Yet the spiritual life is no different from the physical life in this respect. Jesus Christ attests this when He said, "I am the Bread of Life." He is food for the spiritual life, just as bread is food for our physical life. And it is the purity of our spiritual food that the apostle Paul is insisting upon in the words of our text "We are not as many, which corrupt the word of God; but as of sincerity, but as of God, in the sight of God speak we in Christ." Let us see two things which we are told in this text.
I. God's Pure Food Law and Its Administrators
God's pure food law, forever settled in Heaven and determined upon in the councils of eternity for the welfare of His children, is the uncorrupted word. It is that word, the Bible, which Christ verified by the statement, "Thy word is truth." and which He exalted by the testimony, "The scripture cannot be broken." The Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, uncorrupted by the craftiness of critics, unpolluted by the philosophies of the natural mind, and unadulterated by the theories of science falsely so-called stands upon the stage of history as God's infallible pure food law. This law is "profitable for doctrine for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works." This is the (only diet for babes in Christ that Peter would prescribe: "As newborn. babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby" (1 Peter 2:2). This is the strong meat which they who are of fuller age must partake of if they are to grow in grace. Whether milk or meat, it is God's only provision for the nourishment of those spirits which have been born into His Kingdom. One of the miracles of God's Word is that no matter what our own stage of spiritual development may be, or where our individual circumstances may place us, we can always find in the Bible the food which nourishes and satisfies our souls. The individual, the family, the church which feasts upon this Word daily will grow in wisdom and grace and the knowledge of God's will.
The apostle next proceeds to tell us three things demanded of the administrators of this law. First, "But as of sincerity ... speak we in Christ." In other words, the one who administers this law, whether preacher or layman, must believe it to be God's law. In the depths of his heart he must sincerely and truly present the Bible to men in its entirety. The expression used here in the original carries the thought of transparency. There are no mental reservations. He is so sincere that his motives and purposes are completely transparent. He is not seeking to deceive, but to convert sinners from the error of their ways. Though men may disagree with such a witness, it is clear to them from the earnestness of his plea, and the finality of his message that he is not seeking to tickle itching ears.
This leads us to the second requirement of the administrators expressed in our text, which naturally follows their sincerity: "But as of God . . . speak we in Christ." The apostle says that he speaks as though he were God. This strong statement is possible only when he speaks the uncorrupted Word. It is God that is then speaking! He speaks with authority. The "Thus saith the Lord" which is lacking from the preaching of the day returns to the message, and though men may wince under such preaching, and disagree with what the preacher is saying, it is perfectly clear to them that their dislike is not of the preacher, but of God's Word. The ideas of dying men on life's greatest issues, sin, death, eternity, life, and joy are replaced by the revelation of the living God, and the simplicity of an all powerful Gospel.
Again the sequence of the thought of our text is brought before us when we look at the third requirement of the administrators: "In the sight of God speak we in Christ." The administrator gives an account to God. If he speaks "as of God," he must give an account unto God. The figure is used of God watching every move and hearing every word, and unto Him a reckoning must be made. Paul was a steward of the Gospel. On what a tremendously high plane this places the administrator! He does not give an account in his preaching of the Word to the congregation, neither to politicians, nor to a few wealthy individuals, nor to groups in the church, but unto GOD. Certain doctrines and teachings are not omitted merely because they are displeasing to a worldly group of self-contented professing Christians.
It is under such a pure food law, administered by such representatives of God, that the healthy spiritual life lives and flourishes, and men and women enter into the joy of their Lord. With God's pure food law so clearly stated, violations of this law should be easily perceived.
II. Poison Food and the Poisoner
The poison food, of course, is "the corrupted Word." There were many in Paul's day who were perverting the truth, just as there are many in our day of apostasy who are corrupting the Word of God. In the eleventh verse of this second chapter from which we take our text, the apostle Paul, speaking of Satan, asserts, "We are not ignorant of his devices." We know his craftiness simply because God, who knows all his ways has revealed them unto us in the Bible. "He is a liar" (John 8:44). It is he who hates and wrests the Word. He poisons food. He takes the Word of God, corrupts it, and then offers it to men as the Word of God. He takes a glass of milk, puts poison in it and then hands it to men as a glass of milk. Millions are fooled. He takes a piece of chocolate candy puts poison in its heart, and offers it to men as chocolate candy. Thousands eat it. He quoted Scripture even to our Lord. He loves the Bible when the blood of Christ is removed from it. For our convenience in seeing the way in which he vitiates the Word in this age may we divide our thinking under two divisions.
First, Poison Food Outside of the Churches
There are many ways in which Satan has taken the Bible and upon it constructed -isms and false religions, that thereby he may be able to blind the eyes of men to the saving Gospel, and keep them under his power until in death it is too late. We shall list, three of such current corruptions.
Christian Science, of course, is neither Christian nor is it science: but it is a most attractive title in which the "Prince of this world" has combined two popular words of the day. He comes to us in Christian Science, saying, "We believe the Bible." This is lie number one, for the Bible is contradicted and its message repudiated. Then he says, "The Bible is hard to understand." This is lie number two, and a most subtle one at that. For, though the Bible contains deep things, yet the wayfaring man, though he be a fool, can understand the simple saving truth of how Christ died in his place upon the cross for his sins. Then Satan brings in "a help" called, "Science and Health," which he explains will interpret the Scriptures. This is lie number three. The Scriptures, indeed, are interpreted, but interpreted away. The Bible declares that sin is real. Christian Science believes that sin is not real. One or the other is wrong! If sin is not real, then Christ did not die for our sins (1 Corinthians 15:3). And the blood of Christ does not cleanse from sin (l John 1:17). There is no need for the cross, and the blood. The Bible is mistaken. The all essential atonement for sin is repudiated. Many unsuspecting Christians are led into this trap simply because they do not realize Satan's subtle device of corrupting the Word.
Unity, likewise, is an attractive and innocent sounding name under which he who opposes the saving truth works through his "truth centers." Of course, the Old Serpent pays his respects to the Old Book and urges Christians, "Do not leave your churches. We will meet at a convenient time for you. Only take our magazine and think of joy and unity and of nothing negative." In a short time, under such conditions, one is led to believe that Jesus was only a good and great man. "Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ?" (1 John 2:22). A gospel of good works and of personal merit replaces Ephesians 2:8, 9, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast." Under the guise of Unity, Satan takes the truth, corrupts it, and offers it to men as truth, that men, believing him, might be his companions for eternity.
There are people who knock at our doors calling themselves "Jehovah Witnesses," the followers of Judge Rutherford. In this group we behold the wisdom of Satan in changing its title every time the name begins to come into disrepute. We have heard of this as Millennial Darwinism, Russellism, and International Bible Students' Association, and now over the radio it is Jehovah Witnesses. In the name of the Bible, their leader denies the specific claims of Christ to be very God of very God, "I and the Father are one." Christ is therefore a liar. The trinity, Father, Son, and Holy. Spirit, is removed from the pages of Holy Writ, and we are comforted with, "A God of love would not send anybody to hell." Naturally. if a man does not believe that there is a hell, though the Bible teaches it; if a man does not believe that God is just and the punisher of the iniquity of men, he is not in the least interested in the Saviour from sin. Neither does he desire to hear of the love of God which sent His only begotten Son to die in our stead for our sin, that we by faith might have eternal life (John 3:16).
We have mentioned three of many ways in which Satan is corrupting the Word, and filling men with poison. 'How terrible it is; but "the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ should shine unto them" (2 Corinthians 4:4). How important it is that Bible believers should have nothing to do with such things!
Second, Poison Food Inside of the Church
In 2 Corinthians 11:14 the apostle Paul, speaking of false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ, says "And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light." In his assault upon the Word of God, Satan has entered the sanctuary itself! We usually think of him as a black, weird, bat-like being; but he may be seen today standing in pulpits, clothed with long flowing robes, speaking pious phrases, and exhorting professing Christians, "My dearly beloved." The church is the one place where men would expect their spiritual food to be pure, so Satan stands before them, supposedly with pure food, only to give them corrupted meat. He does this in a number of ways.
Definition of Terms
The mimic, as he is also called in Scripture, changes the definition of words, and gives to old terms a new meaning. The historic and established terms of Scripture which always have meant certain definite things are given new conceptions. For example, he takes the expression, "the resurrection of Christ," which always has meant in the church the bodily, physical resurrection of Christ from the grave on the third day, and he interprets the expression to mean only a spiritual resurrection of Christ in the minds of the followers of Christ. This denies the fact of the resurrection of Christ; and Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15 that if Christ did not actually rise from the grave we are still in our sins and our faith is vain. The difference in the two meanings given to the one expression is the difference between life and death, Heaven and hell. Yet, the "angels of light" can use the phrase, "the resurrection of Christ," in the pulpits and over the radio and Christians will think they are speaking of what the Bible says, and Modernists, realizing the meaning which the speakers themselves accept, will join with everyone in pronouncing the messages "good." Under such leadership people are led astray to famish on the husks of unbelief.
Likewise, the expression, "the new birth," which has always meant and does mean in John 3 the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit in raising a dead soul to life, Satan has taken and used it to mean that new ideas come in to the minds of men. The Bible means by it the supernatural work of the Spirit; Satan means by it reform in a natural man. Thus he continues to put his poison fluid into old bottles with old labels.
"The Inclusive Policy"
Again, Satan has induced many of the leaders of Christendom today to espouse a so-called "inclusive policy" among the seminaries and colleges and churches of the land. We are told that these should not be too narrow, but that they should reflect all the views of the day, regardless of whether the views are true or false, Scriptural or not. These, then, are presented to young people and to church members, in the name of the church, for each one to take, and to leave what he likes. Such a policy parallels that of the hotel steward who placed upon his tables for his guests, in the name of the hotel, various varieties of foods with an assortment of poisons, and, without a warning, instructed them to take their choice. Such a policy would place truth and error on the same level, and make Christ and Satan bedfellows. Yet, today, if a church will not adopt the "inclusive policy," it is narrow. We can be no broader and no narrower than the Bible itself, God's pure food law! Satan is corrupting the churches and the Bible. Truly, he has blinded the minds of religious leaders to the exclusiveness of the Gospel, and that "there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). Men forget that Christ insisted that "no man cometh unto the Father but by me."
Satan has been exceedingly successful today in popularizing a certain philosophy of preaching which says, "Be positive; never be negative." Under such a philosophy the many devices of his for corrupting the Word inside and outside of the church can flourish. Men are crying, "Peace." without regard for truth. Indeed, the great doctrines of Scripture must be presented in all their beauty and glory by a most positive message; but there are hours when the voice of the prophet must be lifted against error and the lies of Satan; just as a bank warns a community when counterfeit money is in circulation. The example of Christ in this respect needs to be remembered, when in the twenty-third chapter of Matthew He turns upon the established religious leaders, the scribes and Pharisees, and pronounces them "hypocrites, fools," and "blind guides," and repeats eight times that scorching refrain, "Woe unto you." To them He promised, "Ye shall receive the greater damnation." If we were following such a philosophy of preaching as Satan would desire, this message would be entirely out of order; yet, we are living in an hour when Christians need, as never before, to have their eyes open to what is happening. Men are being deceived. They are eating poison food.
Where there is no food the people perish. With the pure food law of our God before us, and conscious of the way of Satan in corrupting the Word, let us turn to the Bible as never before, to know it, to love it, and to honor it! There we drink the pure water of life. There we partake of the unblemished bread of life. Let us see that the administrators are not merely tools of the "angel of light," but are those who of sincerity, who as of God, in the sight of God speak in Christ. We must go where our food is pure that we may grow thereby. Men will not patronize a cafe which serves poison food. Men are starving for the Bible today.
"Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; and your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints." (Ephesians 6:10-18.) . . .
(Printed upon the request and through the courtesy of members of the congregation to the glory of Jesus Christ.)