When I was at Florida Christian College and taking Hebrew under the late Dr. W.W. Winter, I used the Hebrew name “Yirmeyahu” in class. I am sure you are wondering who “Yirmeyahu” was, never having heard that name in your Old Testament reading. It was simply the name Jeremiah, just spoken in the Hebrew dialect. There were basically two main reasons that I chose to use the name of the great prophet Jeremiah in Hebrew class. One of them is not that I was always crying (he is known as the “weeping prophet”).
The first reason was Jeremiah 20:9—But if I say, “I will not remember Him or speak anymore in His name”, Then in my heart it becomes like a burning fire shut up in my bones; And I am weary of holding it in, And I cannot endure it. As a future evangelist in the mid 1980’s, this verse of Jeremiah became like a theme verse as I prepared to go out and preach the Gospel. Nothing could shut me up because the message was like a fire in my bones—I was weary of holding it in! Wouldn’t that be a great attitude for all Christians about sharing the Gospel?
The second reason was Jeremiah 6:16—Thus says the LORD, “Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; And you will find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ As I continued to be taught about the foundations of the faith at FCC, this verse was a constant reminder to go back to the “ancient paths”! If you will—go back and restore the New Testament Church! Go back to the “old paths” – the New Testament!
Too often in the New Testament church, we are more concerned about “new things” than we are the ancient order of things.
I remember being in Nazareth at the church building built overtop of the traditional home of Jesus. The guide was very proud of the building and as he lead us through the courtyard, he pointed out the new baptistery the church had put in. As the 40 or so Church of Christ members looked over, all we saw was what looked like a bird bath. It was obviously a place to sprinkle or pour water onto someone. As we continued on our tour into the ancient ruins underneath the modern church—we came upon something that looked like an ancient hot tub. It was obvious to us that it was an ancient baptistery used to immerse. We asked the guide what that was and he answered, “That was the ancient way of baptizing people”.
Wow! The old paths! The ancient ways! The old Jerusalem Gospel and the old ship Zion! What has happened to preaching and teaching of the Old stuff—just some good old fashioned Gospel preaching?
While at FCC I also was privileged to study under Dr. James Smith. “Doc Smith” as we called him (or “Doc”), is a great preacher and teacher of the ancient paths. He is also a great scholar. Doc Smith wrote the whole Old Testament commentary set for College Press. He also wrote a couple of those Bible Study Textbook Series Commentaries. In his one on “Jeremiah and Lamentations” he writes, “True reformers are not those who are advocating new things but those who give due weight to old truths. The person who walks the old path will find spiritual rest for his soul. He will live a life free from anxiety about the here and now and the hereafter as well.”*
South Side—lets be a church that is constantly looking back to the “old paths”! Lets be a church that is continually devoted to the Apostles’ teaching! Lets be a church that is restoring New Testament Christianity, always seeking the “old paths”! The Bible is our source of absolute authority—for the things we do in the church building and for our lives!
Have you ever felt all alone in this endeavor? Don’t feel bad, even Jeremiah was told that the people would not walk in the old paths! So, if sometimes you have this feeling—keep pressing on! For as we do, we ensure salvation for ourselves and for those we lead to Christ.
*Bible Study Textbook Series: Jeremiah and Lamentations, Dr. James Smith, College Press, 1972, p. 214.