“… whether pipe or harp, except they give a distinction in the sounds, how shall it be known what is piped or harped?” (1 Corinthians 14:7)
When I was a young lad, I would go spend a week during the summer with my grandparents on my mother’s side of the family. There were two things that I was forbidden to mess with. One was the water well and the other was the dinner bell.
I delighted in letting down the cylinder that would bring the water to the top. But my problem was, I would let it hit the bottom of the well which stirred up the sand; and then the drinking water would be full of sand for a day or two. With the dinner bell, I delighted in pulling the rope and ringing the bell. The problem was, there were certain rings that would send certain messages to the workers in the field and the neighbors. But if the wrong ring was sent out, the wrong message was received. There was one ring to communicate that the noon meal was ready. There was one ring for an emergency; and there was one ring for my grand-dad, that he and grandmother were the only ones who really know what it meant.
When I would indiscriminately ring the bell for fun, the bucket brigade would show up to help put out the fire, which caused great confusion and frustration; or all the workers would leave the field, thinking it was time to eat. In that day (there were no tractors on this farm) every second was needed in the field to keep poverty backed down.
So it is in the many sounds that are being proclaimed from church pulpits, religious television and radio, religious websites, religious Facebook, Twitter, etc. Each voice you hear is not without signification. “There are, it may be, so many kinds of voices in the world, and none of them is without signification” (1 Corinthians 14:10). But in verse 11 Paul says, “… if I know not the meaning of the voice…” Then read Galatians 1:9, “As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.”
Paul said, there is only one Gospel; the one Paul said, I preached to you (salvation by grace; justification, reconciliation, redemption, and remission based upon the Atonement of Christ). (See Galatians 1:4; 2:16; 3:13; Romans 3:24-25; 5:1-2, Ephesians 2:4-9; 2 Corinthians 15:1-4.)
The different voices of Salvation are found in three camps:
- Salvation by works
- Salvation by grace
- Salvation by grace and works (Christ’s death plus baptism, etc.)
These three distinct voices become confusing because some proclaimers in all three camps have compromised their beliefs and put out a mixture of doctrine. Therefore, the average hearer becomes confused as to what God actually teaches on any given subject.
It is obligatory on every called man of God to be very clear and distinct in his message of the Gospel of Christ. “So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading” (Nehemiah 8:8). The preacher needs to:
- Speak the Word of God distinctly, or clearly
- Give the explanation
- Be sure that the hearers understand the teaching by use of the Scriptures
God promised that He would prosper the Word wherever He sends it (Isaiah 55:11). Paul said, (1 Corinthians 2:7-16), the Spirit of God will discern the Word of God (verses 13-15):
“Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. (14) But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. (15) But he that is spiritual judgeth (or discerneth) all things…”
Therefore, not only is the preacher under a strict responsibility to preach the Word of God, but the final responsibility lies with the hearer of the Word to discern the Word that is being preached as to whether it is the Gospel of Christ that Paul preached, which was a salvation by grace and grace alone; or whether it is “another gospel.”
The hearer of God’s Word must:
- Have the Spirit of God, or the mind of Christ, dwelling within them (1 Corinthians 2:14-16)
- Judge what is being preached by comparing it to Scripture (1 Corinthians 2:10-16; especially verse 13c, “…comparing spiritual things with spiritual”)
- Be a student of God’s Word (2 Timothy 2:15) and be of “full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Hebrews 5:14). That is, you need to be a meat eater, not a milk drinker of the Doctrine of God.
- Receive it (James 1:21) with obedience as the goal.
When the preacher rings the “dinner bell,” he needs to be sure the message he sends is correct. The hearer of the sound put out by the bell needs to discern the message, or he will be deceived and misled, as was happening to the Galatians (Galatians 3:1-3, 5:1-14). The messenger was clear and correct in his message, but the hearers were not discerning Paul’s message.
So child of grace, take heed how you hear:
- Take heed what you hear (Mark 4:24a)
- Take heed how you hear (Luke 8:18a)
- The sheep hear His voice (John 10:3b); “My sheep hear my voice…” (John 10:27)
They hear it and discern it; and if truth, they are to receive it and live it (James 2:22-25).