THE WATER’S WARM
T. Pierce Brown
“The water’s warm. The clothing is ready. Everything is prepared for you to obey the gospel.” Years ago sometimes I said something like that during the invitation in a gospel meeting. I began to reconsider when, on making such a statement, I discovered the water was bitterly cold, and they had not prepared any clothing, for they expected no baptisms, and rarely had one.
A few years later, I began to reconsider it from two other standpoints. First, when we say, “everything is prepared” and we almost always think of physical things, what does this reveal (or at least suggest) about our thinking? Is it not very similar to what we often hear when an announcement is made about our favorite habit of meeting and eating? In New Testament times the emphasis was on praying and fasting. In our day, it seems to be on preaching and eating. So, after we have had our experiences (whatever they are) in the “main auditorium,” we say, “Now let us go have fellowship in the basement (or room 101 or the fellowship hall).” One might think we misunderstood or disagreed with Paul in Romans 14:17, “For thekingdomofGodis not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”
Those who have seen me in the “chow line” (usually close to the front, for I try to be a leader) know that I am not averse to eating and drinking–even in the “fellowship hall.” But I am concerned that a large part of our thinking, talking and acting reveals our materialistic tendencies. And I am convinced that “thy speech maketh thee known” (bewrayeth thee–KJV) (Matthew 26:73) when we need to go into a “fellowship hall” to have “fellowship,” although we might have had it around the Lord’s Table, or in the singing of spiritual songs.
But consider again, “everything is prepared.” Has the heart been prepared? Have we even made a special effort to make sure the person knows what it means when he says, “I believe Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the Living God”? I am persuaded that there are those who are baptized who think that “Jesus Christ” was his name, as mine is “Pierce Brown.” When Jesus said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved,” did he mean, “He that believeth almost anything and is baptized for almost any purpose, shall be saved”? I had a person with whom I was studying to tell me, apparently in all seriousness, that he thought that meant, “He that believeth that Jesus already saved him from his past sins and is then baptized will be saved eternally.” As far as I know, he had never heard of “the new hermeneutic” although he was using it.
Of course we can not make sure that everything is prepared, for we are not God. We have no authority to screen all those who wish to be baptized in order to make sure they meet our particular standards. But at least we do need to develop a consciousness that there should be a greater concern for preparing the heart than there is for preparing the baptismal garments.
In the second place, when we emphasize that “the water is warm and the clothing is ready,” is it possible that we are leaving the impression that if the water is not warm, or we have to walk a mile in freezing weather to a lake that is frozen, perhaps we should wait until spring to obey the gospel? I am convinced that we have, by our constant emphasis on physical and material things, made it appear that Christianity does not really demand much of a person. I remember Charles H. Roberson saying in class, “It does not take much of a man to be Christian.” I had my hand about halfway up to get permission to speak in refutation of that when he finished the sentence. “But it takes all there is of him.” Jesus said, “If a man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me” (Matthew16:24). Some of us may have been so scared of the idea of “total commitment” that the Crossroads andBostonelements attracted many persons who failed to be challenged by a type of Christianity that demanded nothing special, while they demanded total commitment, even to a humanly imposed system that operated under the guise of total commitment to Christ.
We even emphasize when we want to get money for a project of some sort, how little it would take for it to be completely funded if each one of us would give up practically nothing. Instead of emphasizing the glorious privilege of sacrificing anything, or everything, if need be, for the Cause of Christ, we continue to suggest, either accidentally or by design, that whatever Christ wants can be done easily, without any sacrifice. Of course that is true with most of our little projects, for our vision is so limited and our faith so small that we scarcely think in terms of our ability to do what Jesus said, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.” Apparently most of us who even give it lip service do not think it is possible to accomplish, especially without some man-made scheme such as a missionary society, or some other unauthorized method.
The truth is that God never gave any command without giving both the ability and resources to carry out that command. Our problem is not in the lack of resources and ability, but in the lack of vision, faith and the willingness to do what we can, where we are, with what we have for the glory of God and the good of man. If we had been in Caleb’s place, we might have said, “Let me have the molehill, for this mountain looks too big for me to handle.”
Is it possible that this thing we might call “the warm water syndrome” is partially responsible for the widespread soft-soaping pep-rallies that take the place of gospel preaching in many places, and the habit of receiving into fellowship almost any sort of unrepentant character who wants to “come into the church”? Have we become so interested in the number of warm bodies that we can count that we have neglected to properly concern ourselves with the quality of the spirit that dwells in those bodies?