What do these words mean? What is the hospital church? Well, if the confession must be made, it is the kind of church to which a large share of Americans belong. It is the church of the invalids. It is the church of Christ as it has been perverted and weakened and devitalized by members who are only half alive, or rather dead. It is the church in which nine tenths are lying on comfortable cots of self-righteousness, and the other tenth are just able to crawl around and minister to our spiritual inability. Does not the average church-- of whatever denomination-- present this aspect? How many churches do you know in which all the members are alive and active? Do you know of any church in which one third of the members are engaged in sturdy, healthful, and helpful work for Christ and the kingdom? If not,-- if the churches you do know of contain two thirds or more helplessly inactive members,-- what else are they, in heaven's name, but ecclesiastical infirmaries? The members are there to get good rather than to give it, to be nursed rather than to minister. If this does not make them spiritual cripples, what does?
The plain truth, friends, is that there are too many in our churches who do not belong there-- who have no right to be there. We have, as it were, drafted a lot of incompetent material into the army of the Lord, for the mere sake of making a great show of numbers. In our zeal for converts and large membership rolls, more tithe money and newer buildings, we have churched thousands ceremonially who are still unchurched spiritually, who are not yet in a condition of mind and heart to subscribe to the true conditions of church membership, which are first, supreme love of God, and, second, self-exclusive love of man. The Church of Christ cannot stand on any other foundation than this, and be the Church of Christ.
In making the charge that modern churches, as a rule, are becoming simply ecclesiastical hospitals, we are aware that we are speaking out quite boldly. So be it; we accept the responsibility. The facts are on our side, and it doesn't make much difference whether some are offended or not. We cannot keep silent on this subject while "Christian churches" keep growing larger and larger in numbers and smaller and smaller in influence. We claim that it is because there are too many invalids on the list. The Church of Christ is to be an army, not a hospital for sinners.
In the denomination to which I used to belong it was often said, even preached from the pulpit, that church members should not be uncomfortable with the presence of ongoing known sin in their lives because "after all, we're all human" and "the church is a hospital for sinners anyway, not a museum for saints".
The core message was: "Don't feel guilty if you're still sinning. Everybody's sick in this church." "As your spiritual leaders we're here to help you," the pastors tell them, "by administering liberal doses of Scripture and alot of good sermons." Fellowship with others as contaminated as themselves is also considered effective medication. After a message of this sort nearly everyone goes home feeling much better about his wretched condition, but the results leave a lot to be desired since few ever recover at THE HOSPITAL CHURCH.
I had to flee that poisonous environment to avoid nosocomial (hospital acquired) infections. In the world of medicine, infectious conditions such as pneumonia are far more serious if acquired in a hospital setting. Normally, pneumonia is easily treated with a low toxicity, single antibiotic, but hospital acquired strains of bacteria are "survivors" which have acquired strong resistance to commonly administered antibiotics. When the usual treatment is administered, these may actually thrive in the presence of familiar antibiotics since only competing bacteria are destroyed.
Many infected with the pneumonia of sin are gasping for their spiritual breath but those who have acquired this killing disease in the "hospital for sinners" are in far worse condition than the "worldly", for their infection possesses much greater resistance to the Word of God. The plain declaration of Scripture that he who is "begotten of God keepeth himself and that wicked one toucheth him not" (1 John 5:18) fails to reach many a church patient because a Greek scholar once explained away that very text during the eleven o'clock worship hour. The patient can't quite recall the scholar's explanation, but that resistance to truth acquired in church is still with him.
The more powerful the administered antibiotic, the more deadly the surviving bacteria. The common publicans of Jesus' day who overcharged in business knew that the law of God condemned them as thieves, but priestly Pharisees wheeling and dealing in sacrificial animals were immune to such ethical twinges because of a highly developed resistance to both conscience and Scripture acquired by continually dwelling in an atmosphere of self-serving religious rhetoric.
When sin is tolerated in a church, the more texts read, the more preaching done on righteousness by faith, the more incurable become the sins of the congregation. "No stronger delusion can deceive the mind, than that which makes them believe they are right, and that God accepts their works, when they are sinning against Him."
Antibiotics do not eradicate bacteria, only change their type, amount, and sometimes location. In THE HOSPITAL CHURCH this is likewise the result of the treatment of preaching, prayer, and Bible study. Some of these churches tolerate most any sin while in others only the quiet and less visible sins are allowed. These are, of course, the least detected and most deadly strains.
In God's true church no disease is tolerated and the use of long doses of antibiotics is considered malpractice. If you wish to leave THE HOSPITAL CHURCH and join the people of God, you must go to the Great Physician, confess your sins and accept His repentance and surrender fully to His expertise, believing He is able to "cleanse you from all unrighteousness." Instant recovery will be yours with the creation of a new heart and every symptom will disappear as you go forth to "sin no more."
Leave the "hospital for sinners" behind you, shouting for joy as you go! Tell its wretched patients what the Great Physician has done for you. Speak to the people in their homes and introduce them to the Balm of Gilead as their only hope. Don't visit them in THE HOSPITAL CHURCH. Remember that nosocomial infections lurk there. Don't return to the "halls of healing" for death is happening there.
Inspiration warns us of the dangers of THE HOSPITAL CHURCH. "We urge you to consider this danger: That which we have most to fear is nominal Christianity. We have many who profess the truth who will be overcome because they are not acquainted with the Lord Jesus Christ. They cannot distinguish His voice from that of a stranger."
"Come out from among them and be ye separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you." (2 Corinthians 6:17 NKJV)
As professed Christians, are we peculiar?-- Some are so conformed to the world that one can scarcely distinguish them as God's people. Paul says, "Be not conformed to this world." Rom. 12:2. "God's people should not imitate the fashions of this world. Some have done this, and are fast losing their peculiar, holy character, which should distinguish them as God's people."
"Those who would be heirs of God, and joint heirs with Jesus Christ to the immortal inheritance, will be peculiar; yes, so peculiar that God places a mark upon them as his. Think ye that God will receive honor from, and acknowledge, a people so mixed up with the world that they differ from them only in name?" "The Israel of God are in constant danger of mingling with the world, and losing all signs of their being the chosen people of God."
We know that the Lord is purifying unto himself a peculiar people to stand without spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; shall we grieve the Holy Spirit away by following the customs and practices of the world? What says the apostle?-- "If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him." 1 John 2:15. Is this our home? Are we not, rather, pilgrims and strangers here, seeking for a home in a better country?
What crosses do God's people bear?-- "The way of the cross is an onward and upward way; and as we advance therein, seeking the things that are above, we must leave farther and farther in the distance the things which belong to this earth."
When God's people will stand every test, give up every idol, and heed the counsel of the True Witness, then, by the latter rain they will be fitted for translation. On the other hand, if we neglect to put away selfishness, pride, and every evil way, as the Spirit of God says, "The angels of God have their charge,-- They are joined to their idols, let them alone; and they leave them, with their evil traits unsubdued, to the control of evil angels."
Shall we forsake God, as did ancient Israel? Shall we, like them, say, "All that the Lord has said we will do," and then neglect to put forth every effort to obey his commands, keep his statutes, and regard his laws? The promise is that the obedient shall have his particular care, especially during the trials of the last days. God will not suffer any disease to come upon the obedient, nor any plagues, though a thousand shall fall by their side. "For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways." Ps. 91:11.
God will give grace to those who fear him, and walk in the truth; and he will withdraw his blessing from all that assimilate to the world. Those who are uniting with the world are receiving the worldly mold, and preparing for the mark of the beast.
Don't pray for anything which is to benefit yourself alone. The Lord will not bless you, unless in so doing, He can bless others around you.