Nearly all doctrines and teachings are judged by their fruits in the lives of those who accept them, and their effect upon the actions. Christ gave this infallible rule for judgment:
"Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them." Matt. 7:15-20.
The result of preaching the three angels' messages of Revelation 14 is clearly stated in verse 12: "Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus." The fruitage, therefore, of the three angels' messages of Revelation 14 is a people who "keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus." The preaching of these messages is not alone the preaching of some particular doctrine, like the law, or some peculiar practice which may be right in itself, but is pre-eminently the preaching of the plan of salvation in such a way that, when obeyed, it will produce a people who obey the law of God and have the faith of Jesus.
The third angel's message is a full gospel. It produces fruitage that fits for heaven those who accept it. It is not one-sided; it omits nothing essential for salvation; it preaches the law of obedience and the faith necessary for salvation. Sometimes ministers get hobbies which they ride, catchwords which they use on every occasion, slogans which they emphasize, ideas which they stress. These may concern health reform, dress, tithing, or even Sabbath keeping, any one of which is right and proper, but none of which can bring salvation to any sinner. When any special idea is emphasized to the exclusion of other gospel truths, it is time to pause and reflect.
All hobbies will fail. Not one of them, alone, no matter how scrupulously lived up to, can bring salvation. When, therefore, a man stresses one point, and has a burden to present that alone, whether to believers or to sinners, he does not preach a saving gospel.
Zeal, even to fanaticism, does not make the performance of any one Christian duty the gateway to heaven. It is the gospel in its fullness —faith in Jesus Christ as a personal Saviour, faith in His atoning blood, and obedience to the law of God as interpreted by His life and teachings—that makes heaven sure for us.
The law can never save a sinner; for sin is disobedience to the law, and there is no way that the law can save those who transgress it. Sin can be atoned for in only one way,—faith in the blood of Jesus Christ. The sinner is saved by his faith in Christ as his Redeemer. His faith does not obtain grace in order that he may continue in transgression, but that he may live in obedience to the law of God.
Sabbath keeping, health reform, tithing, liberality in offerings, are all duties in which the Christian delights, and which he cheerfully performs; but while zealously performing all that is required of him, he trusts not in these good deeds as his passport to heaven, but in Jesus Christ alone for salvation.
The true minister should preach the whole gospel. He should emphasize every doctrine taught in the Word of God, giving to each its proper setting, and not failing to enjoin every duty which God requires. He is never to make one doctrine the whole gospel, nor to teach that any one duty constitutes the Christian life. All things contained in the law of God and in the gospel are needed to make a Christian.
The law and the gospel unite and are in perfect accord in bringing salvation to sinners.
The performance of one duty to the neglect of others is not Christlikeness. We are so to preach that men may be saved. Extremes are not healthful to the soul. In these days of disobedience to the law of God, we must preach obedience to the law. In these days of doubt and unbelief, of evolution and self-saving, Christ must be lifted up as the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.
Christ is our perfect pattern. We are to live as He lived. His life is to be our life. We are to obey our heavenly Father as He obeyed. Therefore it takes the whole gospel to make the kind of Christians who "keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus." Not the overemphasis of one point, but a full, balanced teaching, will help to complete the faith of the Christian.
It is true that one cannot preach on all subjects in one discourse. But this is not necessary. One discourse on a definite theme helps to an understanding of that theme. When one conveys the thought that all the gospel is in Sabbath keeping, or health reform, or dress, or in faith without works, then it is that honest souls are misled, and get a perverted view of the plan of salvation. The whole Bible is to be our guide, our teacher. Then our teachings will produce real Christians. The true preacher must teach, not one doctrine, but all doctrines. Let us remember that the threefold message of Revelation 14 produces a people described by John in these words: "Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus." Rev. 14:12.
I. H. E.