There Shall Be Mockers


by Tom Wacaster

Webster’s On Line Dictionary defines mockery thus: “behavior or speech that makes fun of someone or something in a hurtful way : mocking behavior or speech.” Unfortunately, when men find themselves on the wrong side of an argument, or when the evidence implicates someone who has obviously committed a wrongdoing, rather than “fess up” (as one country fellow used to put it), they mock those who oppose them. I had a debate more than a decade ago with a denominational preacher who refused to bow to the word of God. His arguments were weak; the Scriptures overpowering. Rather than admit his error, he began to mock the very idea that sins were forgiven at the point of baptism. In one of his negative speeches he mocked me and God’s word: “Mr. Wacaster believes that salvation is in the water. That you meet Jesus in a tub of water. Pull the plug and, ‘swoosh,’ Jesus goes down the drain!” When I stood to respond I warned him, “Before you mock a doctrine you should first determine if it is the truth. If baptism is for remission of sins, as I affirm, then you are mocking God; you are ridiculing a divine ordinance.”

Jude had this to say concerning mockers: “In the last time there shall be mockers, walking after their own ungodly lusts. These are they who make separations, sensual, having not the Spirit”  (Jude 18). Peter weighed in thus: “knowing this first, that in the last days mockers shall come with mockery, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for, from the day that the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation. For this they willfully forget, that there were heavens from of old, and an earth compacted out of water and amidst water, by the word of God” (2 Pet. 3:3-5). In both cases it is evident that those who did the mocking were in rebellion against God; and in both cases inspiration says they will face the judgment for their ridicule of God.

Through the years the Lord’s church has received more than its share of ridicule. In the early days of the restoration movement those who opposed the effort would call us “Campbellites.” That mockery would extend into successive generations of New Testament Christians. Some years back I wrote a series of articles in the local paper on the subject of baptism. A local denominational preacher attempted to answer. But as is often the case, his answer was not an appeal to the Bible, but to emotion. His attacks were against the “man,” void of any Scripture, sound reasoning, or simple logic. He called my position on baptism a “doctrine right out of the pits of hell.” No doubt many of us have been the recipients of those funny little jokes that tell of members of the church of Christ who, at a latter time have finally arrived in heaven and are living off in some little corner by themselves, while those who pass by do so quietly because we think we are “the only ones in heaven.” All such efforts fall under the category of mockery.  They may arouse the emotions but they do not address the issues. The mockery of Tobiah and Sanballat did not seek to question the authority of Nehemiah, the vision he had, or the determination to build. Why is it that so many religious “errorists” [if there is such a word] think they establish their case by ridiculing the truth? Atheists, evolutionists, humanists, and the immoral gay community may ridicule, but their mockery is but a weak response to truth.

This is not to say that ridicule is not effective, nor is it always wrong. When one is on the  side of truth and has established his case, an occasional mockery may be effective. Take the case of Elijah when he mocked the prophets of Baal. After every attempt was made on the part of the idol worshippers to have Baal answer their cries, Elijah “mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked” (1 Kings 18:27). One of the most effective preachers and debaters of the past century was G.K. Wallace. He could use mockery effectively, but only because he was on the side of truth, and he “answered a fool according to his folly” (Proverbs 25:5). In his debate with Ray Vaughn, brother Wallace was addressing Vaughn’s misunderstanding of the use of a dictionary. He first asked Vaughn and his moderator, “Do you fellows know the difference between a history and a dictionary?” When they did not answer, brother Wallace responded: “Some of you boys in the fifth reader get him off tomorrow and tell him the difference between a history and a dictionary.” 

While ridicule may intimidate the weak, the faithful will not be moved by mockery. To be shaken by the mockery of our enemies will prove disastrous. Peter was moved by the mockery of those about the campfire and he ended up denying his Lord. Israel listened to the mockery of the ten spies who said, “We are like grasshoppers in their sight,” and it cost them 40 years of wandering in the desert. If we are moved by mockery it will be because we love this world more than our Father in heaven. If we are moved by mockery fear will invade our hearts and ridicule will rule our action.  The key to overcoming cowardice in the face of mockery is to die to self. 

The following item will serve as a fitting close to these thoughts:

DYING TO SELF

When you are forgotten, or neglected, or purposely set at naught, and you don't sting and hurt with the insult or the oversight, but your heart is happy, being counted worthy to suffer for Christ, that is dying to self.

When your good is evil spoken of, when your wishes are crossed, your advice disregarded, your opinions ridiculed, and you refuse to let anger rise in your heart, or even defend yourself, but take it all in patient, loving silence, that is dying to self.

When you lovingly and patiently bear any disorder, any irregularity, any impunctuality [sic], or any annoyance; when you stand face-to-face with waste, folly, extravagance, spiritual insensibility -- and endure it as Jesus endured, that is dying to self.

When you are content with any food, any offering, any climate, any society, any raiment, any interruption by the will of God, that is dying to self.

When you never care to refer to yourself in conversation, or to record your own good works, or itch after commendations, when you can truly love to be unknown, that is dying to self.

When you can see your brother prosper and have his needs met and can honestly rejoice with him in spirit and feel no envy, nor question God, while your own needs are far greater and in desperate circumstances, that is dying to self.

When you can receive correction and reproof from one of less stature than yourself and can humbly submit inwardly as well as outwardly, finding no rebellion or resentment rising up within your heart, that is dying to self.

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Books



by Tom Wacaster

The ancient library of Alexandria is said to have contained more than 700,000 books. That pales, however, in comparison to the Library of Congress, containing more than 11 million catalogued books. If you have ever had the opportunity to step into the halls of that vast collection of books you know what I mean when I say the sheer magnitude of books contained therein swallows you up the moment you walk through the front door. I have heard that the late Guy N. Woods had a personal library in excess of 9,000 books. B.C. Goodpasture had a five room house in which he stored his vast library of books; all stacked from floor to ceiling with only a narrow path to pass between. He was once asked if he had read all of the books, to which he replied, “No, but I plan to.” Some collect books for the mere sake of collecting books; something that seems frivolous and foolish to me. Sir Thomas Phillips set as his goal to collect every printed paper available. People tried to help him by dropping off boxes of books. Unfortunately, they weren’t usable since they weren’t organized in any way. The floors of his house were about to collapse from the weight of the books so he decided to move. It took 230 horses, 130 wagons, and 160 men to move the books to a new house. Some were left behind when the wagons broke down. His daughters could afford only one dress and he was nearly always in bankruptcy because of his obsession for books. But the books didn't help him. He was so busy gathering books he had no time to read them. What happened to his books?  His family was still selling them 100 years after his death.

While my library is minuscule in comparison to some preachers whom I have known, I consider myself blessed to have amassed a considerable number of books. If you were to walk into my office, several hundred books line the north wall, all of which I have read; some more than once. The east wall contains commentaries (most of which I have read, and many which I have repeatedly used in my studies over the years). When Johnnie Ann and I moved to South Africa we crated up somewhere in the neighborhood of 100 boxes of household goods, clothes, and books; of which 40 of those boxes contained books. When the movers were unloading those boxes of books there in Port Elizabeth, one of the men, after handling about ten of those boxes, asked me what they contained that made them so heavy. I said, “Books!” After one or two more trips from the truck to the house he commented, “You must really be a smart man to have all those books!” I responded, “No—that’s why I need the books.”

Guy N. Woods had a love for books, and expressed that love and admiration in an editorial in the Gospel Advocate, from which comes the following: “Books are history’s most priceless heritage, the storehouse of the wisdom of the ages. Were it not for them, but little, very little of man’s thrilling past would be known and preserved for us and the struggle of mankind through the ages only imperfectly realized. To consort with those who lived in ages past, reliving their experiences and profiting by their mistakes and rejoicing in their triumphs is surely one of the noblest and grandest privileges vouchsafed to man. Blessed indeed is he who has made books his friends. They are ever present to stir his emotions, cheer his heart and edify his mind; and, when on occasion they are neglected, they exhibit no resentment, upbraid him not, but patiently wait his pleasure to flood his heart and mind again with their precious stock of rich resources. A collection of good books is a fairyland of delight, a storehouse of treasure, providing a haven from the world’s current distresses, putting all who choose in the company of the earth’s greatest philosophers, its most noble thinkers and its wisest minds” (Gospel Advocate, November 1991, page 32).

Solomon had something to say about books: “And furthermore, my son, be admonished: of making many books there is no end; and much study is a weariness of the flesh” (Ecc. 12:12). There are two things in that verse that catch my attention. First, “of the making of many books there is no end.” Twenty years ago it was reported that 175,000 new books were printed annually. That was before the age of digital books and Kindle Readers. The second thing Solomon said is something I have experienced personally: “Much study is a weariness of the flesh.” To that I simply say, “Amen!”

Unfortunately, much of what is printed today is not worth the paper it is printed on. Wayne Jackson addressed this very point some years ago, and no doubt things have gotten worse in this category. “When one contemplates the vast number of volumes on biology, zoology, anthropology, geology, astronomy, etc., that are rank with materialistic theories of origins and skeptical concepts of the diversity of living organisms, he encounter a vast library of pathetic ignorance couched in mere phraseology that is wild with speculation and void of concrete evidence. If one may borrow a hyperbole from the apostle John, not all the books of the entire world  are capable of containing the bizarre religious theories that humanity has concocted as substitutes for divine revelation. From the mysticism of the Far East, to the violence-laced confusion of the Middle East, to the myriads of absurd doctrines in both Catholicism and Protestantism—that have faint whispers of Christian teaching in the shadows—there is a maze of literary confusion” (Christian Courier, February 2006). Much of what is sold in bookstores, particularly the religious section, is nothing more than spiritual cotton candy; it tastes good as it goes in, dissolves quickly, and adds nothing of significant value to those who eat thereof. 

One more observation is in order. Christians should go about building a good personal library. Most important of all, they should spend time in the Book of books. All else is inconsequential so far as the value and lasting effect any single book will have upon your life. With regard to reading, brother Woods had these comments: “There is, I think, no work in which man engages in which there is such great obligation to be both efficient and proficient. Great though one’s natural talents are, no man approaches his potential who is indolent in mind, who does not enjoy and use good books. He who brings within reach of lost humanity life eternal, sows the seed of immortality, contributes to the well being of those involved in a fashion not otherwise possible and while so doing faithfully serves his Creator. To achieve these goals, one must study. Great though a man's native talents are and respectable his formal education, I have never known one to attain to his potential in life who is mentally lazy, intellectually indolent and has little or no regard for good books.” I’ll close with this beautiful poem by Wordsworth:

Books are yours,
Within whose silent chambers treasure lies
Preserved from age to age; more precious far
Than that accumulated store of gold and orient gems
Which, for a day of need,
The sultan hides deep in ancestral tombs.
These  hoards of truth you can unlock at will.
~~~~~