First Corinthians, chapter 15. I'm going to begin reading with verse 30. I can't take up the whole argument here, but he's arguing for the resurrection, and using some strong arguments why the resurrection must be a fact. Beginning with verse 30, he says, “And why stand we in jeopardy every hour? I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we die. Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners. Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God: I speak this to your shame.” Verse 33 I want to speak on. “Be not deceived; evil communications corrupt good manners.”
Now, let's define our terms. First of all, “good manners” has nothing to do with table manners, or etiquette, or any such thing. “Good manners” here is good morals. That's what the word means—customs. Good customs or good habits. “Good behavior” you could translate it. A good life, good morals, good behavior, good conduct. “Good” I don't think I need to define. “Evil communications,” the Scripture says, “corrupt good morals,” or good conduct. Now, the word “communications” means company, companionship, communication, intercourse, fellowship. It applies to company, communication, and conversation. It's also used in another sense: it's used of persuasion. I guess the one naturally flows from the other. This is the word homily in Greek, and if any of you know anything about ecclesiastical matters, you know that a homily is a sermon, and homiletics is sermon-making. That comes from this word which is here translated “communications.” “Evil companionships, evil communications corrupt good conduct.” You don't need to go too far to figure this out, or to find examples of it.
In the first place this: there is in the church of God today a movement called Neo-evangelicalism, which does not believe that evil communications corrupt good manners, or good morals. In fact, this movement rather believes that we ought to be engaged in evil communications, and their favorite word, whenever they have to do with liberals, apostates, cultists, Romanists—everybody who doesn't have the knowledge of God, or the Spirit of God—their favorite word is “dialogue.” Now, if you want, you may translate the word “communications” here, “dialogue.” That's exactly what it's talking about. And when Neo-evangelicalism comes along and says we must have dialogue with the ungodly, it is right in the teeth of this scripture. It's saying this evil dialogue, these evil communications will not corrupt our good manners. They have the idea that they are going to gain something by these evil communications. They hope to gain an understanding between the children of God and the children of the devil. A very easy thing to do, by the way. Just listen to what they have to say, and act upon it.
Now, there are other people who will contend for “dialogue” with the ungodly for the purpose of communicating something to them. And that's fine. We are called upon to preach the gospel. If all you mean by your “dialogue” is preaching the gospel, nobody is going to have any objection to it—but you have the wrong word. “Dialogue” implies both directions, giving and taking, and I will guess it is the devil's favorite word. It puts the church and the world on a level. We are not sent to dialogue with the world, but to preach to it. Imagine Elijah “dialoguing” with the prophets of Baal, or with their royal patrons. Better yet, go back and read the account, and see if he did so. Well, but Elijah was made of different stuff than Neo-evangelicals.
“Evil communications corrupt good manners,” and it is not difficult to see the result of Neo-evangelicals' dialogue with the ungodly. When this movement had its inception, which was about forty years ago, they were all solid Evangelicals who made up the movement. Today, one generation later, many of them have drifted to the point where you've got to come to one of two conclusions: either they're not Evangelicals any more, or the word “evangelical” doesn't mean anything any more. They still call themselves Evangelicals, while drifting further and further from evangelical truth. Well, how did they get that way? Evil communications. They wanted to be accepted by the world. The foundation of Neo-evangelicalism is its desire to be accepted by the world. They wanted to have fellowship with the world, anddialogue with the world; and those evil communications corrupted their good morals, and their good doctrine, and their good conduct; and they became like those with whom they were having dialogue. This is always what happens.
Now, there's another example that I can give you where evil communications corrupt good manners—and I know this by experience, and I suspect that some of you know this by experience—and that is in the public schools. The thing that thoroughly corrupted me when I was a boy was going to school. I wasn't corrupted by what they taught from the desk in the classroom. The teachers didn't corrupt me. Theother students did. It wasn't the classroom that corrupted me, but the playground. If you want to keep a white cat white, you don't put him in a coal bin. If you want to keep a child pure, you don't put him in the public schools. When you put a child in the public schools, he learns all kinds of sin that he didn't even know existed. When I was a boy in grade school, the general subject of conversation was unclean jokes. My mind was filled with all kinds of sin which I would have known nothing about, if I hadn't been there among those companions, the subject of those evil communications. At the present day the curriculum is much more boldly evil than it was in my day, and today the classroom is certainly a much greater corrupting influence than it was forty years ago—but so is the playground.
You have to understand, the devil knows his business. If the Christians don't know that evil communications corrupt good manners, the devil does. And the devil is the god of this world. The devil is the spirit which now worketh in the children of disobedience. He's the one that sits at the top of this system, pulling the strings. And he knows that evil communications corrupt good manners. Now, if you were the devil, and you knew that evil communications corrupt good morals, and you were determined that the good morals of all of those who came from good homes should be corrupted; what would you do? You know what I would do? I would pass a compulsory school attendance law, and take all the kids from all the good homes, and put them eight hours a day among the ungodly, mix them all up with all the kids who know nothing but ungodliness. And evil communications will corrupt good manners, and do corrupt good manners, and you can hardly escape it. There are some kids from Christian homes that go through the public schools and come out basically pure, but there are not very many of them. For one that does, there are a dozen or a score that don't.
And I don't understand those parents that teach their children at home, and then let them run with the neighborhood kids. They might just as well send them to school. I know Christian parents who religiously schooled their kids at home, and yet let them associate with the ungodly, and those kids turned out as bad and as ungodly as any of the ungodly with whom they associated. “EVIL COMMUNICATIONS CORRUPT GOOD MANNERS,” and there is no escaping the fact.
And I have the most heartfelt pity for those parents who think to save their children from corruption by sending them to a Christian school. There is often as much ungodliness among the students there as there is in the public schools. They may be held in with a tighter reign—may not be able to do so much there as at the public schools, but they may say a lot—and evil communications will corrupt good manners. There is plenty of opportunity for speaking evil of parents and reproaching authorities, plenty of opportunity for speaking wistfully of sin, and it is those evil communications which will corrupt your children. And one bad apple, you know, will spoil a whole bushel.
Now, I want to take you into the book of Deuteronomy, the seventh chapter, where God also sets forth, practically, the effects of evil communications. The seventh chapter of the book of Deuteronomy, beginning with verse one. God says to Israel, “When the Lord thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and hath cast out many nations before thee, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than thou; and when the Lord thy God shall deliver them before thee; thou shalt smite them, and utterly destroy them; thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them: Neither shalt thou make marriages with them: thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son. For they will turn away thy son from following me, that they may serve other gods: so will the anger of the Lord be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly.”
Now, in a number of different places besides this one God strictly forbids Israel to make any covenant, any league, have any fellowship, or any connection with any of the ungodly nations around them; and the reason that he assigns over and over again is, if you do, you will become like them. Now, why didn't God say, “I want you to go in among these Canaanites, and I want you to make leagues with them, and have fellowship with them, establish commerce with them, and in the course of time, they will become like you are”? Infiltrate, and bring them up to the knowledge of the true God. That, by the way, is the principle upon which Neo-evangelicalism operates. “Don't come out of an apostate denomination. Get inside. Infiltrate, and change them from the inside, and bring them up to the truth of God.” Why didn't God tell Israel to do that? Very simply, because it doesn't work. Evil communications corrupt good manners. And God says if you go in and make leagues with them, they will turn away your heart from following the Lord your God. One of the first principles of the service of God is separation. You'll find it everywhere in the Bible. We've talked about it enough, and I don't have to preach it again. But you know the first thing that God said to Abraham, the very first word God ever spoke to Abraham, was “Get thee out.” Get out of your father's house. Get out of your country. Get out from your kindred.Separate. If you don't, you will be like them. That's not the only reason for separation, but it's an important reason. God assigns that reason over and over again. They'll turn away your heart.
Now then, Israel didn't carry out the commandment of God, and the trouble that they had all through their history was because they didn't carry out the commandment of God. They didn't separate. Theydidn't exterminate and drive out the inhabitants of the land; but they dwelt among them, or allowed them to dwell among themselves, and they became like them. It wasn't very long at all before they were given up to idolatry—the whole nation, given up to idolatry. Why? No nation had ever been blessed like they had been with the true testimony of God. They had seen the hand of God and heard the voice of God. They saw the cloudy pillar and the fiery pillar day and night for forty years in the wilderness, and they heard the voice of God speaking from the burning mount, saying, “I am the Lord thy God that brought thee up out of the land of Egypt; thou shalt have no other gods before my face.” And within a very short time, they were completely corrupted and given up to idolatry. And it was evil communications which corrupted them.
Now I want to give you another example. If you'll turn to the thirty-fourth chapter of the book of Genesis, you have a little account of one of Jacob's children—his daughter, his only daughter, as far as I know. Genesis thirty-four, verse one. “And Dinah the daughter of Leah, which she bare unto Jacob, went out to see the daughters of the land. And when Shechem the son of Hamor the Hivite, prince of the country, saw her, he took her, and lay with her, and defiled her. And his soul clave unto Dinah the daughter of Jacob, and he loved the damsel, and spake kindly unto the damsel,” etc. Dinah went out to see the daughters of the land and lost her chastity in the process. We don't know all the details that took place here, but you know what happens every day. A Christian girl, or one raised in a Christian home, goes out to see the daughters of the land. Of course if she goes to the public schools she doesn't have to go very far, because she's mixing with them every day of her life since she's five years old. She learns the morals of the people of the land and becomes like them. You see the same thing with Lot's children who grew up in Sodom. Lot's daughters had no morals. None whatsoever. Lot was a righteous man. He was a godly man, a man whose righteous soul was vexed from day to day with the unlawful deeds of the wicked who were all around him, but his daughters were just as godless. They had no morals. Why not? Well, because they were raised in Sodom. Now I'll tell you this, and I have seen it: some of the best men I know, living today, some of the best men I know, the godliest, the most true-hearted, and zealous and devoted Christian men I know, preachers of the word of God, have some of the worst children I know. And I know the reason for it also: because evil communications corrupt good manners. They didn't learn that evil from those good, godly, zealous, devoted fathers. They learned it in the schools, or out on the playgrounds, rubbing shoulders day after day with ungodly children. Now if you want to save your children from hell, keep them from evil communications. Keep them from all the ungodly children, and that may mean keeping them away from some of the children in the church also.
Now, you may say, “Well, that's hard.” Yes, I know. I've been doing it ever since I've had any children, and I know it's hard. Once upon a time, before my oldest child was born, we lived down in Madison. Another couple that we knew was at our house talking to us. They had a young baby, and he was asking me about how to find good books for his daughter to read when she got older, and he said, “You know, you have to send them to school.” And I said, “No, you don't have to send them to school.” “Home schooling” hadn't been heard of in those days, but I had determined before I married that my children would never go to school. Well, that was a thought that had never entered his mind before, but he told me later, “As soon as I heard it, I knew it was right.” He immediately embraced it. But his wife cried all the way home, saying, “Our little girl isn't going to have any friends.” And you know what I say to that? Thank God that your little girl doesn't have any friends. If it's a choice between having no friends and having ungodly ones, you'd better thank God your little girl doesn't have any friends, and you'd better make it your business to make sure she doesn't have any, if you want to keep her in the path of virtue and of righteousness—if you want to keep her soul out of hell. I had some friends when I was a boy, and they led me into the paths of sin. These were not close friends, either, but just acquaintances at school and church. They led me into sin. I was quite willing to be led, but that's the way the flesh is; and your little child is quite willing to be led into the paths of sin also. The flesh is the same in all of us.
Now let's go back to I Corinthians 15. We read in the thirty-third verse, “Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners.” I want to just touch on this word, “Be not deceived.” A good many people are deceived on this point. They really think that they may associate with the ungodly, fellowship with them, be friends with them, and influence them. But it doesn't happen that way. Now if you go to them as a prophet of God, for the purpose of preaching to them, you may influence them; but if you go to them on their level, as an equal, to dialogue, and to communicate, and to have fellowship, and to do their things with them, they will influence you. You will not influence them. You have already stepped down from your high and holy calling, even to maintain such a relationship, and in so doing you have put yourself in the place of weakness.
A good many people are deceived on this point, and Paul says, “Be not deceived.” Don't get any such idea in your head as that you won't be contaminated by evil communications. When God sent Israel in, he said, Exterminate them, put them to death, drive them out, have nothing to do with them, make no league, make no covenant, make no marriage, or you will become like them.
Now then, Paul is talking in this chapter about those who deny the resurrection, and he says this, verse thirty-two, “If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for tomorrow we die.” The point here is this: these people have been listening to bad doctrine—doctrine that says, “There is no resurrection.” That's an evil communication, and he says, the effect of it is going to be to corrupt your good morals. The effect of it is going to take you down from this high and holy calling that you have, in which you are striving to run the race, that you may obtain the crown incorruptible. It's going to take you down from that, to the point where you will say, “Let's eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” Why strive any more? Why die daily? Why fight with the beasts at Ephesus? No reason to. What he's saying is that the bad doctrine that you're listening to is corrupting your morals, bringing you down to the bottom of morality, or immorality, to the point where you say, “Let's just eat and drink, because tomorrow we die. It doesn't make any difference what we do.”
Now, you never heard of anybody that denied the resurrection that called himself an Evangelical. There may be some people who call themselves Christians who deny the resurrection, but nobody here is in danger of listening to them. So we're going to have to bring this up to a little higher plane to get any application from it for ourselves. Doctrine influences life. Perhaps not in every case. Some people manage to live a good life, in spite of their bad doctrine; but usually bad doctrine brings bad life.
Now let me give you some examples. There's such a thing as Arminianism, and there's such a thing as low Arminianism. Low Arminianism is the kind that says that every time you sin, you're lost, and you have to get saved over again; and I've told you before about Richard Weaver, who walked with God and was a powerful evangelist for six months after he got converted. He had canceled his scheduled prize fight when he got converted, and that was a very difficult thing to do, of course, because his pride was at stake. He was ”Undaunted Dick,” undaunted and undefeated, but he repented and canceled his prize fight. And he walked with God for six months, until he was walking home from a Methodist meeting one night, with the young lady that he was engaged to, and some ruffians began to abuse her. Well, “Undaunted Dick” pulverized the ruffians, and as soon as he had done so, he felt, “I have sinned.” And his next thought after “I have sinned” was, “It's all over with me. I'm lost. I have given up my salvation.” And therefore he said, “Well, as long as it's all over with me anyway, it doesn't make any difference what I do.” Therefore he went back and rescheduled the fight, went back to his old life of sin. “Doesn't make any difference what I do anyway. It's all over with me.” Now, that's evil doctrine. You want to know the test of evil doctrine? This may not be the only test, but any doctrine that produces carelessness of life is evil doctrine. It's false. It comes from the devil. Sound doctrine is the doctrine which is “according to godliness.” It produces godliness. Any doctrine which does otherwise is evil doctrine. Now if Richard Weaver had simply understood what the Scriptures say, “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father,” he would have repented, and got back on the track and gone forward, but an evil doctrine corrupted his morals.
I don't think most of us are in danger of listening to cultish doctrines, listening to modernism, or things like that; but we might be in danger of something of a lesser degree, but of the same kind. You should be careful what you listen to, and you should be careful what you read. If you want to know what is wrong with Fundamentalism today, I can tell you that it has exactly the same problem that Neo-evangelicalism has. That problem is evil communications. The Neo-evangelicals have been imbibing the spirit of the world, and the Fundamentalists have been imbibing the spirit of the Neo-evangelicals. Almost everythingwhich Fundamentalists read today, or listen to on Christian radio programs or recordings, is Neo-evangelical. The major Christian publishers and broadcasters are all Neo-evangelical, or worse. And almost all Fundamentalists feed upon these things day after day, and week after week, and its influence will tell. So long as this state of things continues, I frankly have no hope for the future of Fundamentalism. It is high time for those who aspire to be Fundamentalists to throw those modern books and magazines and tape recordings in the trash can, and put the radio in on top of the heap. Evil communications corrupt good manners.
I know, good, sound Fundamentalists can read and listen to all of this Neo-evangelical propaganda, and think they can see the evil of it. And you know what I say to that? Most of them might see one fourth of the evil, and the other three fourths, which they can't see, becomes part of them, and pulls them down. Evil communications will be the demise of Fundamentalism, or of what is left of Fundamentalism, as they were of Neo-evangelicalism. You don't need to be a prophet to see this. It is happening before your eyes.
Above all, you should be careful with whom you associate. “Evil communications” could be translated “evil companionships.” Be careful with whom you associate. You develop a friendship with a person who is of the wrong sort—and by the way that doesn't necessarily mean openly ungodly, but unspiritual—and unless you are very strong, that person is going to draw you the wrong way. Maybe imperceptibly, maybe just a little bit at a time, so that from day to day you don't know what's happening, but that's what makes it dangerous. It took forty years for Neo-evangelicals to drift to where they are today. Of course they drifted very little by very little, but still they are where they are. And yet Evangelicalism thought it was strong, and formed those unholy relationships for the purpose of influencing the other side—like some vast scheme of “friendship evangelism” on a massive scale. It didn't work. Evil communications corrupted good manners.
Now, the thing that we need to do is look upon ourselves as always ambassadors for Christ in every relationship that we have. We're not here to “dialogue.” We're here to preach. I'm not here for fellowship. I'm not here for a good time. I'm not here to dialogue. I'm here to be an influence—to bear a testimony—to preach a message. You don't necessarily have to tell the other party that, just so you know it yourself, and act upon it. If you tell the other party that, that might be the end of the contact. They will figure it out soon enough anyway, if you mean business about it.
Now I'm not sure I can explain all of this. I'm not sure that I can explain why it always happens that a rotten apple spoils the whole bushel, and why the good apples don't save the bad one, but it happens that way. One rotten apple spoils the whole bushel. “Peer pressure,” they call it nowadays. It's the pressure to conform—a very powerful thing, but I'll tell you, it usually doesn't involve any pressure at all. The pressure comes from within—from a depraved heart that would rather please its ungodly companions than a holy God—rather gain acceptance with them than acceptance with God. That was the only kind of “peer pressure” I ever felt, but it was my undoing.
This is what corrupted Solomon. The Bible says there was no man that was so beloved of his God as Solomon was, and he was a wise man too. God gave him wisdom beyond what anybody else ever had. Perhaps he was the wisest man that ever walked the earth. Certainly one of the wisest, and yet by evil communications his heart was turned away from God. His wisdom, however great, did not save him from the evil effects of evil communications. He loved idolatrous women, and married them, and of course must please them also. You say, “Well what? didn't Solomon have enough strength—Solomon who wrote all of that wisdom in the book of Proverbs and in the book of Ecclesiastes? Didn't Solomon have enough strength to stand up against the influence of those women?” He didn't. They pulled him down. They made an idolater of him. He was building high places and shrines for idols all over Israel for his idolatrous wives, and his heart was turned away from the Lord his God. Now if Solomon didn't have enough strength to withstand evil communications, who does? Your business is, stay away. Keep clear of evil communications.
I'm not saying, Don't have any contact with the ungodly, but you make sure that you're there as an ambassador for Christ. You're there as a prophet of God, not as an equal, not as someone in fellowship and dialogue, sharing, and giving and taking, and having a good time together, and so forth. There is some weakness in the human race that makes us extremely apt to learn evil. I see it in my children. You try to teach your children something from the Bible, some principle of righteousness, and see how long it takes them to learn that thing—see how many years you are at it. And some garbage, some trash from the world, they will hear one time and they'll never forget it. There's a propensity in us to follow after evil. Therefore, evil communications corrupt good manners. You put a good child in the midst of a bushel of rotten ones, and the good child doesn't influence the rotten ones, the rotten ones influence the good one. You let a good man join a corrupt church, and he'll go down. He won't bring the corrupt church up. Now if he stays outside where he belongs, he may be able to exert some influence upon those who are inside. This is the fact: evil communications corrupt good manners. This is one of the compelling reasons for the Bible doctrine of separation.
Just how much the good man may be influenced and brought down by evil communications may depend on numerous factors, such as how strong the good man is, and what is the nature and extent of those evil communications. It is a certainty that Lot was not thoroughly corrupted by living among the men of Sodom, but it is not so certain that he was not somewhat influenced by them—and it is certain that hisdaughters were thoroughly corrupted. And any saint of God who puts his daughters in the public schools should not be surprised if they turn out as the daughters of Lot did, for there is certainly no difference between Sodom and the public schools of America.
A Sermon Preached Mar. 2, 1988, Recorded, Transcribed, and Revised