From time to time I hear people say that there should not be a “litmus test” used to determine what should be done on things that are of great importance. Over the past several years, this has become somewhat of a mantra in politics, especially when it comes to moral evils like abortion. Yahoo Answers suggests that the “best answer” to the question “What does a litmus test mean in politics?” is “. . . having a specific position on one particular issue that must be met in order for the person/bill/whatever to be even considered” (Yahoo). Basically, that is as good as it gets when defining the term.

People, who are interested in moral issues, especially when it comes to conservative perspectives, have no problem with the concept of a “litmus test” being used to determine for whom they will cast their vote. I can assure you, a candidate who is pro-abortion, or in favor of same sex marriages, or supportive of the so-called “gay rights agenda” stands no chance of getting my vote, no matter what their gender or race. If a candidate is on the wrong side of any of these issues they waste their time appealing to me for my vote. I have a “litmus test”, and I am not ashamed to avow such!

Surprisingly, about the same time that we began to hear politicians throw around the “litmus test” slogan we began to hear those who claim to be followers of God disavow themselves from any sort of such “test” when it comes to matters pertaining to the church. We interview a preacher, but no “litmus test” must be used to determine where they stand on important Biblical issues. I recall a “preacher” seeking support from the congregation where I labored several years ago who was “aghast” at the idea that we dare send him a questionnaire to determine his beliefs before we considered his request. Preachers are asked to hold Gospel Meetings, speak on Lectureships, teach in Schools of Preaching, and other areas with little or no concern as to where they stand.

The sad reality is, it has become more about who they are than what they teach. If they have a name in the “brotherhood” then they are to be desired. I seem to remember a church that the Lord indicated had “a name” that they “lived,” but who in reality was “dead” (Revelation 3:1). It has all come down to numbers. If we can fill the pews, then let’s not use any sort of “litmus test” other than that. Let’s not be concerned that the one chosen is a false teacher. Let’s just be concerned about filling the pews. After all, he’s a “good speaker.” Well, so is Joel Osteen. If no “litmus test” is to be used, then how do we go about rejecting him or others like him? Consistency is indeed a rare jewel, as is so often affirmed. Maybe we’ve found the way to “have our cake and eat it too”?

The truth of it all is we have a “litmus test” given to us by God that is bound upon all humanity. It is called the New Testament. It is called God’s Word. As God was going to use “A plumbline” on Israel (Amos 7:8), He uses one on us today. His inspired Word “is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works” (2 Timothy 3:16, 17). We have been given “. . . all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue” (2 Peter 1:3). We have the “truth”, and it sets us free (John 8:32; 17:17). God’s commands have been given, and He has expectation that we comply with them (James 1:22-25).

The love that we have for God compels us to “keep his commandments” because they “are not grievous” (John 14:15, 21; 1 John 5:3). To be a friend to the Lord, His commands must be kept (John 15:14). To suggest we know the Lord, and fail in the keeping of His commandments is nothing more than a lie (1 John 2:4). Walking in the light (1 John 1:7) means, well it means “walking in the light”. It means practicing that “perfect law of liberty” (James 1:25) given to us by God.

There is no reason for God, through inspired men, to make reference to such things as “sound doctrine” unless there is the God ordained compulsion for us to adhere to such (1 Timothy 1:13; 2 Timothy 4:1-4; Titus 1:9, 13; 2:1, 2, 8). Our emotional ties to friends and loved ones do not set aside what God has said on these matters. Our adherence to and our continued practice of the Scriptures must remain firm through it all. God’s Word remains as the one and only “power of God unto salvation” (Romans 1:16). For whatever reason it is that we reject God’s Word, we must recognize the fact that we will be confronted at Judgment by its truthfulness, its power, and its absolute right as the standard by which we will be judged (John 12:48-50).

Never once in the 27 books of the New Testament do we see even a hint that God does not have a “litmus test” for doctrinal positions. Paul, to the Ephesian elders, spoke of his being “pure from the blood of all men” because he had “not shunned to declare. . .all the counsel of God” (Acts 20:26, 28). The Bereans were commended for having “received the word with all readiness of mind” (Acts 17:11). To Timothy, Paul gave the specific “charge. . .before God. . .” for him to “. . . preach the word; . . .” (2 Timothy 4:1-4). To Titus, Paul set forth specific qualifications for those who would be elders commanding them to hold “fast the faithful word” (Titus 1:9).

If there is no “litmus test” by which we compare the actions of brethren today how do the following Scriptures make sense?

“Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause
divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye
have learned; and avoid them.” Romans 16:17

“Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord
Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother
that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he
received of us.” 1 Thessalonians 3:6

“A man that is an heretick after the first and second
admonition reject;” Titus 3:10

What was it that Paul used to determine the need to confront another Apostle “to the face” (Galatians 2:11-14) if there was not a standard (plumb line, “litmus test”)? I fear that far too many of us would fail the test of being like the Apostle Paul who “withstood” Peter on that occasion. The example was set, and Paul’s ability to impress upon the Galatians to follow his example is seen. How much impact would his teachings in Galatians 6:1 have had, had he not have followed through with the confrontation with Peter? Suppose he would have said something about no “litmus test,” and turned away from the confrontation? Would anyone have paid any attention to what was written later?

Elders have been given the responsibility to feed, oversee and protect the flock (Acts 20:28;
1 Peter 5:1-3; Hebrews 13:7, 17). When this is not done as it should be, souls are put in jeopardy. This refers to not only the souls of those who stray being jeopardized, but also those of the shepherds who reject the work they have “desired” to do (1 Timothy 3:1; Titus 1:9-11; Hebrews 13:17). God’s Word must be held up as His plumb line (“litmus test”) and both elders and members must be expected to adhere to it. We must stop being “ashamed of the gospel” recognizing its power (Romans 1:16). Whatever the circumstances may be, His Word provides us with the “test” of what is right and what is wrong. Whatever the circumstances may be, we must be expected to adhere to these teachings. Every conceivable excuse has been offered to circumvent what the New Testament teaches. But in the end, it still says just what it did when God had it written. And, it still serves as His “litmus test” to mankind.

References

Yahoo Answers, http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20070906130701AAKQsNB