AArt Thou He That Troubleth Israel? (I Kings 18:17)
Milton L. Anderson
Every Bible student, I am sure, is aware of the above Scripture, in which Ahab, upon meeting Elijah, made the statement of our title. All, I am sure, are also aware that the troublemaker was not Elijah, but Ahab who had strayed from God and was suffering the consequences of that which he espoused. It has always been the tendency on the part of one in error to become incensed when someone throws rocks at his glass house or ivory palace. The usual maxim (a principle or formula of embodying rule of conduct) is to cry "Foul, I have been misunderstood, misquoted," and when questioned for divine authority, cries out that he has been mistreated. As Shakespeare once said, "Suspicion always haunts the guilty mind." This attitude of mistreatment generally comes with a sound at first of humbleness, piousness and an air of self-righteousness. Then comes the deadly venom from the supposedly innocent, offended brother.
Often one who embarks on a career to become a literary giant among his peers, thinks he is entitled to immunity from criticism. This is a present problem faced by some in the church, and was faced by others in years gone by. It may sound well and good in politics, (which I deny) but when it relates to doctrinal issues, there is no such thing as immunity from criticism. Prolix supposition does not, in the body of Christ, give one the right to castigate and malign one's critics. Peter, in writing by inspiration of the Holy Spirit stated, "If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and- dominion for ever and ever" (I Pet. 4:11). Also, "But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in yoU with meekness and fear" (I Pet. 3:15). Paul stated, "Let your speech be alway with grace, seasoned with salt, that ye may know how ye ought to answer every man" (Col. 4:6). As Harry Truman once said, "If you can't stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen." If a brother cannot be questioned on what he says verbally, or in writing, he had better refrain from saying such things. I believe, as has been spoken by many others before me, "That which is worth believing is worth defending."
For years it has been the practice of some brethren to throw out something to the brotherhood and expect no criticism. When challenged on the statements made, a favorite cliche is, "I was just trying to provoke thinking," or "I was feeling out the pulse of the brethren." Well, I think the pulse on recent issues has been felt, so let us either defend what we propagate or else be man enough, or Christian enough, to admit wrong, rather than accuse everyone that disagrees with us of mistreatment. For years I have personally refrained from writing simply because have seen men's statements in print haunt them for years, yea even after death the statements are brought up time and again. Now I have asked myself the question, "Is it right to remain silent and refrain from writing while error runs rampant?" I believe that, regardless of how it may later haunt me, when wrong is voiced and the printed page is what offers the greatest opportunity for reaching and helping the innocent and young Christian, I must use every available means to counteract the error. God knows my thoughts, so why be reluctant to let the brethren know what I believe on basic issues, not only from the pulpit, but by writing on the subjects. I might, as President Nixon says, "Make it perfectly clear" I am not lining up with, nor defending, any paper or preacher, but stating what I believe the Bible teaches. Editors of papers and preachers "should be, and I believe as a whole are, capable of defending themselves. Should others agree with me, fine! If others disagree, I shall expect them to show me the fallacy or weakness of my reasoning. Now let us set about the business at hand.
Some would have you believe there are brethren who oppose, or are uninterested in, "unity." I know of none. However, I do believe "unity" must be achieved by a "thus saith the Lord." To do otherwise is to travel the weakened trail of The National Council of Churches. Sophistry is not the way to "unity." And I learned long ago that a major premise cannot be based on supposition. Unity must be attained by book, chapter and verse. Neither do I take the position that something is wrong, per se, simply because it is done by denominations. I have no argument whatsoever with any brother or denomination if they are practicing the truth of the New Testament. My disagreement with both is to be found in their practicing and advocating that which is not by divine authority. One brother recently asked the question, "If the denominations meet on Sunday, are we wrong in meeting on Sunday (first day of the week)?" The answer is quite simple. I do not, nor do my brethren, meet on the first day of the week because of what denominations do. We meet according to the example set forth by the apostles in Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:1-2. Another point we might mention regarding the subject of "unity" is this, "Is there anything worse than division?" Yes! Peace and unity at the price of compromising truth and righteousness.
Brethren talk of 1 John 1:1-7 as a proof text of our having fellowship with one another, but gentle reader please observe that our fellowship with one another is brought about by our being in fellowship with God. In 1 John 1:3, I believe John to be teaching primarily, or first, that our fellowship is with the Father and with the Son. Secondarily, it is with one another of like belief who also are in fellowship with the Father and the Son. If my exegesis of this is wrong, kindly correct me. Eph. 4:1-7 is where we find the grounds for fellowship, or should I say unity. A passage that is often misused and spiritualized is found in Rom. 8:16. Here Paul is talking to Christians and not aliens as to how they can know they are the children of God. Yet I must admit in years gone by, I used this passage applying it solely to the alien. The principle is there, but to so use it is to take it out of context. Others have done the same, but as has been said time and again, "A text taken out of context is merely a pretext."
Many of the truths I preach were learned at the feet of some godly gospel preachers, but I count not myself as one of their disciples or backers. I am deeply indebted to them but my allegiance is to God. What brethren instilled in my thinking came not from their own wisdom, but from the word of God: Paul puts it better than I can when he states, "That your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God" (1 Cor. 2:5). "For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel" (1 Cor. 4:15).
In closing let me briefly mention a few other thoughts pertinent to our subject. Any time a man denies one point God has set forth, be he Christian or otherwise, on that point he is an infidel. Any time we corrupt God's blood-bought institution or His word, and mar His masterpiece with our filthy hands, whether we like to admit it or not, we make that institution just another denomination. There once was a wide and deep separation between the Lord's church and denominations, but now many are trying to move those divine lines with human wisdom. Another thing I have found, as many others know, invariably when one goes beyond the doctrine of Christ, he is forced into positions he would prefer not to take, but must in order to be consistent. I am not questioning the honesty, sincerity or integrity of anyone, but it is time we took a good look at, or examination of, ourselves from God's word. Maybe this is where the saying comes from, "Consistency thou art a jewel." Elijah in essence told Ahab, "Let us put it to the test." And it is far past the time that faithful brethren should look at differences in the same fashion. "Let us put it to the test, using the Scripture as our sole source of proof." Else let us remain silent and repent.
In the future, if this is published and brethren deem it timely, I would like to write on two other subjects closely related to this article. (1) Generations or Regenerations and (2) Brethren With Arms Elbow Deep in Calvinism.
Truth Magazine, XVIII:10, pp. 7-8