What Is Our Great Objective?
By James E. Farley
I have been reading again the Hardeman Tabernacle Sermons (a series of sermons preached by the late N.B. Hardeman in Nashville, Tennessee in 1922, 1923, 1928, 1938, and 1945). The first four of the five series was held in the Ryman Auditorium in Nashville, and the last was at the War Memorial Building and the building of the Central Church of Christ in Nashville. I certainly recommend all volumes, for they can serve as a good help in our daily walk as members of the body of Christ, and these can be a great help in converting the sinner.
As I was reading from Volume IV, which is a record of the sermons that brother Hardeman preached from October 1631, 1938, I came across a wonderful, thought provoking quote. It is from a sermon called, "Is Christ With Us?" He began by reading Luke 2:40-45.
Brother Hardeman said:
Is it possible for us to pass on to the judgment and there to wake up, only to realize for the first time, as did his mother at the close of the day, that Jesus Christ has not been with us all the day. I am asking all of you brethren, what are all of our efforts about? What are the congregations in the city of Nashville trying to do? Is it to organize or form some special organization unknown to the Bible? What is our purpose? If I can discern and properly understand it, our great objective, brethren, is to cut loose from things of human relations and hark back to Jerusalem, and there again, start out determined and firmly resolved to make all things according to the pattern revealed in the New Testament.
As I read those words, and contrast them with what is now happening among us, even among "the congregations in the city of Nashville" I too am made to ask (but for a different reason), "What are the congregations in the city of Nashville trying to do? Is it to organize or form some special organization unknown to the Bible? What is our purpose?"
When one looks at those who once seemed sound, but who are now espousing open fellowship with the sectarian churches, we can know that these have failed to realize our real purpose, or they have abandoned what they once held dear and have another purpose. When we hear one of them say that he can "sing a capella while the instrument is playing," we realize that this one has lost sight of our great objective, not to mention his logic. When we read that one of them encourages people to "be baptized," but that he then adds, "But I don't want you to do any of that so that you will be saved. I want you to do all of that because you are saved," we must conclude that he has gone "out from us" (1 John 2:19).
Those like Shelly, Cope, and Lucado must be marked and avoided (Rom. 16:17). They are not abiding in the doctrine of Christ; they do not have God; and they must not be bid God speed (2 John 911). These cannot be said to be "disciples indeed," for they are obviously not willing to continue in Christ's Word (John 8:3132).
Brethren, when we were going "forward back to Jerusalem" we were growing. We were contrasting truth with error, the Bible with the creeds of men, the church of Christ with sectarianism. People could readily see the difference, and many of them left the errors of the denominations, repenting and becoming members of Christ's one body. Let us pray, plead for, weep for, and defend our great objective! Let us call people back to the Bible, for "the Bible only, makes Christians only."