"To testify the gospel of the grace of God." Acts 20:24
**PUBLISHED AS A MISSION PROJECT OF PILGRIMS HOPE BAPTIST CHURCH**
RELIGIOUS INNOVATIONS PRODUCE SPIRITUAL DETERIORATION
By Wayne Camp
TEXTS: II Kings 16:10-20; II Chron. 28:16-27
The reader is encouraged to read these two passages of Scripture. For the sake of space I have left them out of the message but will be using a number of them in the message.
Under the Godly king, Uzziah, God greatly blessed the nation of Israel. This prosperity continued under Jotham.
But, changes came when, at the age of 20 Ahaz came to the throne. The country was abounding in wealth. Isaiah 2:5-9 O house of Jacob, come ye, and let us walk in the light of the LORD. 6 Therefore thou hast forsaken thy people the house of Jacob, because they be replenished from the east, and are soothsayers like the Philistines, and they please themselves in the children of strangers. 7 Their land also is full of silver and gold, neither is there any end of their treasures; their land is also full of horses, neither is there any end of their chariots: 8 Their land also is full of idols; they worship the work of their own hands, that which their own fingers have made: 9 And the mean man boweth down, and the great man humbleth himself: therefore forgive them not. Before Ahaz died, however, the country was reduced to poverty. The land was steeped in idolatry.
This downward spiral did not come over night; it was gradual. Some things that aided in this spiritual decline are mentioned in our texts. The main reasons for this decline were the innovations which Ahaz introduced into their worship and service. Anytime men tamper with the God-given order of things they invite spiritual decline.
We live in a day of religious innovations. The ecumenical movement is not very new but it has reached new heights through the new evangelicalism that is sweeping the nation. This movement essentially says that it makes no difference what a person teaches in the name of Christ, we should never speak negatively about them nor their teachings lest we "divide the body of Christ."
The mixture of psychology with Scripture plagues the preaching of many. The popularity of psychology is seen in the success of James Dobson and others. Charles Stanley saturates his preaching with psychological babel, as do many others.
The sudden increase in radical Pentecostalism is also alarming. In fact, it is so radical that many Pentecostals are warning of its dangers of demonic activity. When people laugh like hyenas, roar like lions, bark like dogs, and cackle like hens and call it godly and Holy Spirit movement, there is no doubt that demonism is involved.
And, we Sovereign Grace Baptists are not immune to this. Only recently I heard of a Sovereign Grace Baptist Church which rescinded the vote upon which they received members as much as three years earlier (subject of another article I may publish). Not wanting to grant these folks letters, and not having grounds to exclude them, they rescinded the act of receiving them. There is absolutely no biblical ground for such action. I have just purchased six Baptist church manuals and not one of them mentions this action as a way of dismissing members. What makes the matter even more interesting is that one of these members was their pastor. He had administered and participated, as had the others, in the observance of the Lords Supper. By rescinding the act of receiving him they are saying, in effect, he was never a member. Yet, they gladly partook of the Lords Supper with him and the others who were never members since the rescinding of the act of receiving them. That makes this church an "open communion" church. And, to think, they did all this in the name of "church truth" and actually threw themselves into error.
Years ago Baptists picked up a practice from the Episcopalians. In that Anglicized Catholic movement one of the steps toward being a pastor is being a deacon. So, as a part of their preparation for the pastorate, deacons sat on presbyteries. The Northern Baptist Convention picked it up from them, the Southern Baptists from the NBC, and from there it spread into other Baptist groups, including some Sovereign Grace Landmark Baptist churches. In many areas of Baptist life this has resulted in deacon boards running the church and the pastor.
I have said all this to warn us all of the danger of religious innovations. They lead to spiritual deterioration.
Now let us consider this truth as seen in the case of Ahaz and his new altar.
A NEW ALTAR FOR WORSHIP
Ahaz was very impressed with the idolatrous altar at Damascus. He decided that was just the thing needed to spice up the worship at Jerusalem. 2 Kings 16:10 And king Ahaz went to Damascus to meet Tiglathpileser king of Assyria, and saw an altar that was at Damascus: and king Ahaz sent to Urijah the priest the fashion of the altar, and the pattern of it, according to all the workmanship thereof. The old altar, the one made after the pattern which God gave to Moses in the mountain, was not good enough. Ahaz felt he could improve upon it.
The accommodating priest, Urijah, set about building this new altar as soon as he received the patter from Damascus. It was patterned after a pagan altar but that made no difference to Urijah. Whatever the king wanted the king must have. He was not the man of God he should have been or he would have tolerated no change from the Divinely given pattern. Without authority from God he proceeded to build what the wicked King Ahaz desired. He was certainly cut from a different mold than was Azariah who withstood Uzziah when he wanted to burn incense on the altar in the Lords house. 2 Chronicles 26:17-20 And Azariah the priest went in after him, and with him fourscore priests of the LORD, that were valiant men: 18 And they withstood Uzziah the king, and said unto him, It appertaineth not unto thee, Uzziah, to burn incense unto the LORD, but to the priests the sons of Aaron, that are consecrated to burn incense: go out of the sanctuary; for thou hast trespassed; neither shall it be for thine honour from the LORD God. 19 Then Uzziah was wroth, and had a censer in his hand to burn incense: and while he was wroth with the priests, the leprosy even rose up in his forehead before the priests in the house of the LORD, from beside the incense altar. 20 And Azariah the chief priest, and all the priests, looked upon him, and, behold, he was leprous in his forehead, and they thrust him out from thence; yea, himself hasted also to go out, because the LORD had smitten him.
God placed judges over Israel to govern them. But, Israel was impressed with the monarchies of the world. They began to cry out for a king. 1 Samuel 8:19-20 Nevertheless the people refused to obey the voice of Samuel; and they said, Nay; but we will have a king over us; 20 That we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles. The nation of Israel was chosen by God and set apart to be a people different from the nations of the world but they said, "We will have over us a king that we also may be like all the nations."
Going along with the crowd is never good. It is not good for a nation, a church, or an individual Christian. The crowd is usually going in the wrong direction and it behooves us to stand for Biblical truth and example and pattern regardless of what others do or have done. Not even antiquity can make something biblical that is not set forth in the Bible.
In the first church that I pastored we had a problem. Each time elections came around, the candidates would gather in our church building and give their speeches and smoke their cigarettes, and all that goes on at political rallies where as many as 20 candidates are speaking. This had been done for many years but I led the church to vote to stop it. My life was threatened. Bloodshed was threatened. Two men in the church had their lives threatened. The Sunday morning after we have voted the previous Sunday to stop this practice, one of our members with the backbone of a sweet potato vine showed up early for church. He and I were the only ones there. My wife was on the verge of having our second child and could not travel the 200 mile round trip to the church. This fellow brought up the vote of the previous week and asked if we could not change that. His argument was, "Bro. Camp, if we had never allowed them to meet in the building for these rallies, it would be wrong to allow them to start. But, I have lived here 30 years and they have always done it this way. Since it has been done all along, it seems to me, it would be alright to let it continue."
I asked him, "Willis, are you ready to die."
"What do you mean," he asked.
I said, "Are you ready to die right now, this morning."
"Well, I am saved, if thats what you mean."
"No," I said, "I am going out to my car and get my 32 automatic and kill you. There wont be anything wrong with it. After all, men have been killing one another since Cain killed Abel. If antiquity makes a thing right, there is absolutely nothing wrong with my killing you as soon as I can get my pistol."
Needless to say, Willis decided quickly that antiquity cannot make right something that is wrong. And, antiquity does not validate something as law that must be observed, regardless of how long it has gone on without protest. Baptists need to learn that tradition should never be superimposed upon Scripture, even if it is a practice of long standing.
Another instance of religious innovation is seen in Davids new cart. 2 Samuel 6:1-7 Again, David gathered together all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand. 2 And David arose, and went with all the people that were with him from Baale of Judah, to bring up from thence the ark of God, whose name is called by the name of the LORD of hosts that dwelleth between the cherubims. 3 And they set the ark of God upon a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab that was in Gibeah: and Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, drave the new cart. 4 And they brought it out of the house of Abinadab which was at Gibeah, accompanying the ark of God: and Ahio went before the ark. 5 And David and all the house of Israel played before the LORD on all manner of instruments made of fir wood, even on harps, and on psalteries, and on timbrels, and on cornets, and on cymbals. 6 And when they came to Nachon's threshingfloor, Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen shook it. 7 And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God.
God had very clearly set forth a particular way in which the ark of the covenant was to be transported when Israel needed to move it. There were rings of gold on the four corners. Two rails of wood overlaid with gold were to be in those rings. Four men were to carry the ark with these two rails, but were never supposed to touch the ark. However, when the Philistines took the ark away from Israel they hauled it away on a cart. When David sent Uzzah and others to fetch the ark home, someone came up with the idea of copying the example of the Philistines. After all, they hauled it away on a cart; surely God would not mind Davids men bringing it home that way. There was just one problem. God had laid down the specifics and you do not meddle with Gods word. On the way home, the oxen shied, the ark rocked back and forth, and Uzzah, in all sincerity and concern, reached out to steady the ark so it did not turn over. When he touched it God smote him dead. This religious innovation brought spiritual deterioration. Uzzah died for his error. David got mad at God because he did not go along with him on this matter. And, it was a long time before they were able to bring the ark home where it should have been. Disobedience is no small thing with God.
Not everything new is wrong. The first churches did not have buildings. They met in synagogues, caves, homes, and on river sides. According to what I have read in history, the first real church house was built at Philippi about 150 AD. There is nothing wrong with having a church building though the Lord never commanded us to build one. But, many have erred on this very matter. The building, to many, is the church. The building is often treated with such "pious" superstition that one wonders what is in the mind of those who treat it that way. Some treat the pulpit area as if it was the area of the burning bush which Moses saw. The church is the people. The members of the church are the church if they meet in the concession stand of a drive-in theatre or in a cave in the mountains.
The moment that a building begins to take on these things in the mind of people, it becomes a means of spiritual deterioration. A tradition which may not be wrong in itself becomes wrong when some begin to treat it as law that is binding upon all who would be brethren if they only kept the tradition.
Like a child with a new toy, Ahaz, upon his return home, abandoned the affairs of state and pleased himself with his new altar. He offered his own sacrifices upon it. He offered his own meat offering. He poured his own drink offering. He sprinkled the blood of his own peace offerings upon the altar. He had taken the money that was in the Lords house and given it to the king if Assyria as a present. 2 Kings 16:8 And Ahaz took the silver and gold that was found in the house of the LORD, and in the treasures of the king's house, and sent it for a present to the king of Assyria. It was not enough to rob the Lords treasury, he now invaded the priests office and offered sacrifices as had his grandfather, Uzziah. 2 Chronicles 26:16 But when he was strong, his heart was lifted up to his destruction: for he transgressed against the LORD his God, and went into the temple of the LORD to burn incense upon the altar of incense. One sin seems to just lead to another until one is found defying the Lord himself. Religious innovations certainly produce spiritual deterioration.
RELOCATION OF THE BRAZEN ALTAR
As I pointed out earlier, the altar which Solomon made by Gods pattern was not good enough for King Ahaz. 2 Kings 16:14 And he brought also the brasen altar, which was before the LORD, from the forefront of the house, from between the altar and the house of the LORD, and put it on the north side of the altar. The brazen altar had always been before the Lord in the forefront of the house. But, Ahaz had that moved to a less noticeable location. He wanted to lead Israel further away from God. To do this, he must wean them from the worship at Gods altar and have them worship at the altar of Ahaz. To accomplish this the old altar must be shifted aside, the new altar must take its place. In arrogance in doing this, Ahaz dared to do what no king in history had yet assumed to do.
Ahaz felt the service of the temple needed the spectacular, the artistic, the novelty. It needed his new altar. It should be remembered that when a service degenerates into a mere artistic performance, it is hateful in Gods sight. The perfection of the artistic often conceals the lack of true spirituality and life.
When doctrine is watered down or abandoned and uncertain sounds go forth, Gods people must stand for the "faith once delivered to the saints." When tradition begins to infringe upon the authority and sufficiency of the Word of God, spiritual deterioration is sure to follow.
THE IMPROVISATION OF NEW SACRIFICIAL ARRANGEMENTS
2 Kings 16:15 And king Ahaz commanded Urijah the priest, saying, Upon the great altar burn the morning burnt offering, and the evening meat offering, and the king's burnt sacrifice, and his meat offering, with the burnt offering of all the people of the land, and their meat offering, and their drink offerings; and sprinkle upon it all the blood of the burnt offering, and all the blood of the sacrifice: and the brasen altar shall be for me to enquire by. He commands that all regular and occasional sacrifices be transferred to his new altarthe "great altar."
This usurpation and innovation was tamely submitted to by Urijah, the priest. 2 Kings 16:16 Thus did Urijah the priest, according to all that king Ahaz commanded. It appears he raised not a word of protest. He simply complied with the kings wishes without objection. A few changes here and there would not matter even if not authorized by the word of God.
Ahaz pretended great spirituality in all this. He said, in effect, I need this brazen altar, the old altar, for my own special praying. ". . .and the brasen altar shall be for me to enquire by.
Alterations were also made in the arrangement of the temple. 2 Kings 16:17-18 And king Ahaz cut off the borders of the bases, and removed the laver from off them; and took down the sea from off the brasen oxen that were under it, and put it upon a pavement of stones. 18 And the covert for the sabbath that they had built in the house, and the king's entry without, turned he from the house of the LORD for the king of Assyria. Note that he did this to please the king of Assyria. He was not concerned with pleasing the Lord; he must please the king of Assyria.
COMPLETE CORRUPTIONTHE FINAL STEP OF AHAZ
2 Chronicles 28:22-27 And in the time of his distress did he trespass yet more against the LORD: this is that king Ahaz. 23 For he sacrificed unto the gods of Damascus, which smote him: and he said, Because the gods of the kings of Syria help them, therefore will I sacrifice to them, that they may help me. But they were the ruin of him, and of all Israel. 24 And Ahaz gathered together the vessels of the house of God, and cut in pieces the vessels of the house of God, and shut up the doors of the house of the LORD, and he made him altars in every corner of Jerusalem. 25 And in every several city of Judah he made high places to burn incense unto other gods, and provoked to anger the LORD God of his fathers. 26 Now the rest of his acts and of all his ways, first and last, behold, they are written in the book of the kings of Judah and Israel. 27 And Ahaz slept with his fathers, and they buried him in the city, even in Jerusalem: but they brought him not into the sepulchres of the kings of Israel: and Hezekiah his son reigned in his stead. Regardless of his efforts to please the king of Assyria, the king was not impressed and he helped the Ahaz and Judah not at all.
In distress he transgressed even more. He sacrificed to the gods of Damascus. He thought they would help, but they were his ruin. He destroyed the vessels of the Lords house. It is interesting to note that Ahaz first begin his slide by trying to please men. He first went against the teachings of the revealed will of God by removing the altar of Gods design and inserting his own in its place. Then he changed the interior of the temple. Now he destroys the original vessels of the house of God.
He closed the doors of the Lords house. He made altars in every corner of Jerusalem. He made high places in all the cities provoking God to jealousy and holy anger.
He was so wicked and the people were so disgusted with him that they would not bury him with the other kings of Israel.
Innovations in the Lords services may seem harmless or nearly harmless at first. To what will they lead if unchecked and unopposed? Let us learn from the examples of Ahaz. Let us follow as closely as possible the clear-cut teachings of Scripture. Sometimes when a person introduces something new and we ask for Scripture for it, he answers, "What Scripture does it violate?" It does not matter if it does not violate Scripture. If one is teaching it as essential, he must have mandate or example from Scripture. Every time we permit an innovation in our services or in our teaching, we are inviting spiritual deterioration. May God give us the grace to resist innovations in the worship and service of our Saviour and God.
Last updated on Friday, March 04, 2011