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CHURCH MEMBERS QUESTIONED

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached on Lord’s Day Evening, May 31, 2009
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles

“And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless” (Matthew 22:12).


Let us focus on this particular man, the one who came in to the local church and was never converted. You see, he never came to Christ. He never “put…on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 13:14). Let’s look very closely at this man, for he is a picture or type of every person who comes into a Baptist church, fellowships in the church, and is never converted. There are many people in Baptist and other evangelical churches who are pictured by this man. They come into our churches, but they are never converted to Christ. Southern Baptist consultant Rev. Jim Elliff

      ...says the largest evangelical denomination in the United States, the Southern Baptist Convention is an “unregenerate” denomination…It is a situation he regrets deeply, he says, because he loves the [Southern Baptist Convention] and has been involved in it all his life…
      Elliff is concerned that of the SBC’s reportedly 16 million members, only 6 million [ever] show up for church on Sunday. [He said] “We have a bad habit sometimes of just assuming because a person has an [emotion] that they’re a true believer, and we’re very quick to get [their names] on the rolls [as members] of our churches.”
      “This has proven to be disastrous,” [Elliff] continues. “Many of these people don’t even show up in the weeks following the time we’ve accepted them into membership.” He contrasts this with the [earlier] days of Baptists in America when, according to historical statistics, churches had two to five times as many people attending as the congregations had on the rolls.
      [Elliff said] “In days when we grew excessively and reached many people in a serious way, we cared very much about the church being regenerate [converted]. In fact, Baptists have a great history of some people who believed in dying for a regenerate church. But today we’ve become very proficient in adding members to the roll that [are not] true Christians” (Jim Elliff, Agape Press, quoted in The Sword of the Lord, October 21, 2005, p. 11).

I believe, by first-hand observation, that our independent Baptist churches are not doing much better. Baptist churches in general are full of unregenerated members, including many who attend regularly.

This deplorable situation is actually a great opportunity. But we must seize it as an opportunity to preach the need for true conversion to these lost people in our churches. It will take great courage to do that. We must not wait for God to say at the Last Judgment of the unsaved dead,

“Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment?” (Matthew 22:12).

We must say that right now from our pulpits across the land. And coming close to home, we must say it in our own church, and especially to the unconverted young people in our church,

“Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment?” (Matthew 22:12).

How is it that you are here in our church unconverted, unclothed in the righteousness of the Saviour? That’s a good, hard, sincere question. Let’s break it down and look at it point by point, for be assured that God will ask that very question to you some day, at the Last Judgment.

“Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment?” (Matthew 22:12).

I. First, God calls him “friend.”

“Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment?” (Matthew 22:12).

Notice how God spoke to him. He did not use rough words. The man pretended to be a friend, and God spoke to him as one. Judas is an example of this kind of person. When he gave Jesus a traitorous kiss, our Lord called him “friend.” Indeed, Judas pretended to be our Lord’s friend. Like Judas, how could the man in the parable be a true friend of God? He insulted the king at his own banquet table, where he had been invited as a guest.

I see this often. Young people are invited to the Gospel feast. Everything seems happy at the services and the meal we have afterwards. But some so-called “friends” are here in the church without being converted, without the wedding garment of Christ’s righteousness. Are they true friends of God? They are not! As soon as possible they get together with new people and begin to insinuate their worldliness and lack of love for God into the conversation.

The new person comes into the church with a sense of awe and wonder at the things of God. But the young man or woman without a wedding garment soon begins to put them at ease. He makes remarks that are unsuitable in the house of God. He or she acts like the church is not that important after all. Very soon the new person picks all this up. He now thinks that the church is just for some light-hearted, unconverted young people who get together to chatter and talk about foolish, worldly things.

The young man or woman without a wedding garment may go to evangelism. They may even be doing this to help bring new people into the church, but Jesus said,

“Ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte [one convert from paganism], and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves” (Matthew 23:15).

You make him more a child of Hell than yourself!

“Ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in” (Matthew 23:13).

Christ says that you yourself do not go in to find salvation, and you stop other people from going in. They see you. They hear you. They know that this is just a party and a big joke to you. Lost church kids do this all the time. You don’t seek salvation for yourself, and you prevent the newer people from seeking it by your worldly attitude and foolish talking. It isn’t that you make them leave. No, it’s that you poison those who stay. You teach them, by your actions and words, not to listen carefully to the preaching, not to take salvation seriously. You take away from the new people the sense of awe and holiness they felt when they first came to the church.

“Ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye [neither allow ye] them that are entering to go in” (Matthew 23:13).

Thus, you undermine all the work and prayers of the members who are true Christians. You get the new people to follow you instead of the pastors, deacons, and older women of the church. And so, by your very unwillingness to come to Christ, you harm and ruin all the work the true Christians have done to bring in the lost and lead them to Christ.

We are trying to lead them to Christ, while you are trying to get them to follow you, in your resistance to Christ.

This will not do. As the king threw the unconverted man out of the wedding feast, so Christ will one day remove you from the church! It may be sooner, or it may be later, but Christ will one day remove you from the church if you remain unconverted.

II. Second, God asks him how he came in.

“Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment?” (Matthew 22:12).

Did the person without a wedding garment come in just for the “fun”? Did he come in just to have some friends? Did he come in just because he was lonely? Did he come in just because his family brought him – or because he was born and raised here?

“Friend, how camest thou in hither…?”

That’s a good question. You should ask yourself that question. How did you come into this local church? “How camest thou in?” The Greek word translated “how” is “pōs.” According to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance this word means “in what way?” or “by what means?” (Strong #4459). That’s important. In what way did you come in to this church? Whether you came in because your family was here or because your friends were here, did God have anything to do with it?  Did God have anything to do with you being here? 

You see, if God was not in your thoughts, then you came in for the wrong reason. You were not seeking God. You were merely seeking human friendship – or you were only here because your family brought you. And, so, God had nothing to do with you being here! 

This must be changed by God, and it must be changed soon, if you expect to stay here any length of time. The pressures of life and the pressures of Satan will push you out unless there is a change in your relationship to Christ.

“The wicked, through the pride of his countenance, will not seek after God: God is not in all his thoughts” (Psalm 10:4).

If God is not in your thoughts, then being in this church will do you no good whatever. It will not do you any more good than it did the man to whom God asked,

“Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment?” (Matthew 22:12).

Isn’t that what “awakening” is? You must not think of awakening as some mysterious thing. It happens when you start thinking seriously about your relationship with God and Christ.

Are you right with God? Do you have on the wedding garment? Are you clothed in Christ's righteousness? Have you put on Christ? If you have not come to Christ, you will be as speechless as the man in the parable on the great day of judgment. You will have no excuse in that day. You refused to think about Christ and your lack of a proper relationship to Him. You refused to come to Jesus. There will be no excuse for your neglect of these matters at the Last Judgment. And, so, God will say,

“Bind him hand and foot, and take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 22:13).

Spurgeon said,

Search ye yourselves; do not from this tabernacle descend into hell…Let it be a matter of solemn anxiety with each one. If you have never come to Jesus, come now…If you have never had the wedding garment...go ye to Him who freely gives it, the Lord will not refuse you; go today [to Christ] and He will accept you (C. H. Spurgeon, “The Wedding Garment,” The Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, volume XVII, Pilgrim Publications, 1971 reprint, p. 105).

(END OF SERMON)
You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.realconversion.com. Click on “Sermon Manuscripts.”

Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Matthew 22:1-14.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Ye Must Be Born Again” (by William T. Sleeper, 1819-1904).


THE OUTLINE OF

CHURCH MEMBERS QUESTIONED

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“And he saith unto him, Friend, how camest thou in hither not having a wedding garment? And he was speechless” (Matthew 22:12).

(Matthew 22:10; Romans 13:14)

I.   First, God calls him “friend,” Matthew 22:12a; 23:15, 13.

II.  Second, God asks him how he came in, Matthew 22:12b;
Psalm 10:4; Matthew 22:13.