Eyes: Mirrors of the Soul


By Wayne S. Walker

     Most of the time when the Scriptures mention the “eyes,” they are speaking of the eye of spiritual discernment (e.g., Matthew 13:13-15, Luke 11:34, Acts 26:18, Ephesians 1:18, etc.).  Yet somewhat is said also about the physical eyes.  The fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which God had forbidden to Adam and Eve, was food pleasant to the eyes (Genesis 3:6).  If an Israelite damaged the eye of his neighbor, the judge was to sentence “an eye for an eye” (Exodus 21:24, Matthew 5:38).  In Luke 4:20, it is said, as Jesus sat down in the synagogue after having read a passage from Isaiah, that “the eyes of all that were in the synagogue were fastened upon him.”  A great deal can be told an individual and his attitude from his eyes.  This is especially true when a preacher stands up to preach.  He has an excellent opportunity to look into the eyes of his listeners and determine something of what is going on inside their minds.

For instance, sometimes when I look out over my audience during a sermon, I see sleepy eyes.  Now we all realize that there are certain emergency situations that might arise to keep one up too late on Saturday night against his will.  It is an act of faith for him to be assembled with the saints on the following day even though he may not feel exactly his best.  But most of the time, sleepy eyes mean that a person did not have enough respect for the worship of God to prepare properly for it the night before with adequate rest.  It is distracting enough for someone to be nodding in a constant fight to stay awake during services.  But what about those who snore and even fall out of their seats?  Both have happened, you know.  The only record in Scripture of anyone who went to sleep in church is Eutychus in Acts 20:7-12, and he fell out of a window and died.  That may just be an indication of what could happen spiritually to those who habitually sleep through worship.  Many should be thankful that most churches today do not meet in third stories with seats near large open windows!

Another kind of eye which I notice while preaching is the blank eye.  This tells me that the person is bored with what is happening.  Of course, we preachers need to make our sermons as interesting as possible without using unscriptural gimmicks and appeals.  But whenever the gospel of Christ is proclaimed, regardless of who preaches it or how it is delivered, every Christian has the obligation to listen attentively (Matthew 13:9, Revelation 2:7).  What goes on behind the blank eye is anyone’s guess.  It might be thoughts of dinner, a ball game, company coming, an afternoon drive, a television show, tomorrow’s test, what sister Jones is wearing, or a host of other mundane, worldly things which have no connection with worshipping God or studying His word whatever.  In addition, some eyes may be directed towards the physical arrangement of the auditorium, a baby playing, or something outside a window.  Each hearer should seek to develop sufficient control over his mind so that he will be able to concentrate on and make spiritual application of what is being taught in the assembly.

A preacher may also encounter angry eyes among those who sit before him.  At least in this instance, the speaker knows that he has produced some response.  This is far better than sleepy nods and blank stares.  Yet, I must feel sorry for those who react to the preaching of the gospel with anger, unless their initial anger motivates them to change.  Paul asked the Galatians, “Am I therefore your enemy, because I tell you the truth?” (Galatians 4:16).  When a person consistently responds angrily to truth, I know that he is unwilling to face facts, is prejudiced, or desires to remain willfully ignorant.  Some of Jesus’s followers went away when He told them things which they did not like.  One of Paul’s audiences demanded that he be taken away, saying that he was not fit to live.  Stephen’s listeners actually stuck their fingers in their ears because He preached the truth—and then promptly killed him!  Angry eyes are indicative of a like attitude.

There are other kids of eyes also: stubborn eyes (I don’t care what you say, I’m not going to do it); self-righteous eyes (You tell them, preacher); admiring eyes (I’ll believe anything you say—preachers need to combat this); and even flirting eyes (Oops, better watch out for these).   But the kind of eyes that I like to see is eager eyes.  “But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear” (Matthew 13:16).  Like those in the synagogue when Jesus read, these eyes are fastened on the preacher with the intent to learn.  They indicate an interest in spiritual matters, a search for truth, a desire to hear the word of God and obey it.  They may glance down now and then to compare what is said with the Scripture, but basically they look at the speaker and say, “I’m listening; preach on!”  What do your eyes reveal?  What do they tell about you?

—taken from Gospel Anchor; July, 1976; Vol. II, No. 11; pp. 2-3


Safe or Right — Which?


By Wayne S. Walker

     “We have contended with our religious neighbors throughout the years that we should always follow the course of safety.  We have pointed out to them that since all religious authorities, regardless of religious affiliation, agree that ‘immersion’ is the action of baptism revealed in the scriptures and that ‘sprinkling’ and ‘pouring’ are practiced today only by the authority of man, the course of safety lies in our being immersed in baptism.”

The above quotation is taken from an article by the editor of a church bulletin that I once received years ago.  The author continued by saying that since all agree that the church can praise God in song without instrumental music and can do its work without human institutions, then the safe course is to abstain from those practices.  I have no “bone to pick” with my brother’s conclusions for I, too, believe that sprinkling or pouring in place of baptism, mechanical instruments of music in worship, and man-made organizations doing the work of the church are wrong.  But I do question the reasoning used.

Almost every gospel preacher probably has a sermon or so in his files concerning “the safe course.”  However, with this kind of logic anyone could just as well make the following arguments also.  Everyone agrees that a woman may scripturally wear something on her head in an assembly of the church.  Therefore, the course of safety dictates that all women must wear head coverings in worship.  (Some brethren actually do make this argument.)  Likewise, all admit that it is scriptural for a church to dispense the fruit of the vine in one container.  “Safety first” would then require us all to use a single vessel.  Again, no one denies that a congregation may decide to do its teaching without the use of graded classes.  Thus, the safe thing for each local group to do would be to discontinue its Bible class periods.

I do not practice or reject something in religion simply because it is the “safe” thing to do but because it is right.  During the time when I am studying the Scriptures to determine what is right on any particular matter (e.g., the war question or the college teaching the Bible issue), I may decide what is a safe course for me to follow under the circumstances.  But Romans 14 forbids me from binding my decision on someone else in the absence of clear, Biblical teaching.  We could possibly achieve some kind of forced “unity” by doing away with multiple containers and individual classes and by demanding that all women be covered in the worship assemblies.  This might be considered the “safe course” by some.  However, I doubt that it would be the right course in attaining unity or in settling those particular problems.

Now, I have no quarrel with my good sisters who, as a result of their own study of God’s word, have decided as a personal conviction that they must have their head covered in worship.  That is their privilege, and I encourage them to do what they firmly believe is right.  And I really have no disagreement with my brethren who use only one container in the Lord’s supper or refuse to provide graded Bible classes for different ages, so long as they do not invent unscriptural arguments to justify their practices and insist that everyone else agree with them.

At the same time, I teach that women need not have something on their heads in the assembly because I believe that this is right.  Those who disagree are free to follow their own consciences.  The same is true with individual glasses for drinking the cup and divided classes to teach the Bible.  Let us not immerse people, sing rather than play instruments in worship, and practice the all-sufficiency of the church (or any other principle of Scripture) merely because it is “safe.”  Rather, “Whatsoever ye do in word or in deed,” let us act “in the name of the Lord” because it is authorized by Him and is therefore infallibly and unquestionably right (Colossians 3:17).

—taken and slightly expanded from Gospel Anchor; February, 1977; Vol. III, No. 6; p. 31