Have I Become Your Enemy?
Paul wrote to the churches of Christ in Galatia to expose the erroneous doctrines introduced by the Judaizing teachers and to re-indoctrinate the brethren in their earlier faith. He said, "You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace" (Gal. 5:4, NASV). They were looking to Moses' law for justification, being seduced to accept circumcision and other facets of the Old Testament, as requirements of the New Covenant.
In Galatians 1:6-7, Paul describes their perverted state: "I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you, and want to distort the gospel of Christ." He was fearful that he had labored among them in vain (Gal. 4:11). Though his relationship in the past with these brethren had been cordial, yet their acceptance of false doctrine now greatly concerned him (Gal. 4:11-15, 17-20). In his concern and anxiety for them, he asked, "Have I therefore become your enemy by telling you the truth?" (Gal. 4:16).
We are apt to cut our ties with and dislike those who have the courage to tell us the truth about sin in our lives. We do not like for people to be acquainted with our faults. We desire to be flattered, but shrink away from exposure of sin and calls to repentance. We often become easily offended when preachers expose and reprove sin. One of our greatest difficulties is to regard, with steady and unwavering affection, the person who earnestly tells us the truth, yea painful truth! "Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but deceitful are the kisses of an enemy" (Prov. 27:6).
Children of God sometimes need to be rebuked! In fact, most of the New Testament was written to instruct, rebuke, and encourage Christians. There are several examples in the New Testament where men had to rebuke one another to save them from sin: Peter rebuked Simon who had recently obeyed the gospel (Acts 8:18-23); Paul rebuked Peter to his face (Gal. 2:11-12); John called Diotrephes by name and exposed the sin he committed (3 John 9); Paul told Timothy to rebuke elders and others, who continue in sin that the rest may fear (1 Tim. 5:17-21).
There are many examples in the Scriptures showing that preaching God's word often creates enemies. Moses was truthful to Pharaoh but Pharaoh hated him, saying, "Get away from me! Beware, do not see my face again, for in the day you see my face you shall die!" (Exod. 10:28-29). And Moses responded, "You are right; I shall never see your face again!" (Exod. 10:29). The wicked Jezebel, due to the deaths of her prophets of Baal at Mount Carmel and in the matter of Naboth's vineyard and death, hated Elijah with unbounded enmity (1 Kings 18:16-46; 19:1-18; 21:1-24). Herod and Herodias hated the truth so vehemently that they had John the Baptist beheaded for telling them the truth (Matt. 14:1-12). The enemies of Jesus feared the truth so much that they bribed the soldiers to lie (Matt. 28:11-15). King Ahab said of the prophet, Micaiah, "I hate him, because he does not prophesy good concerning me, but evil" (1 Kings 22:8).
Often people today hate gospel preachers for the same reason. The only difference between them and Ahab is they are not honest enough to admit the real cause of their opposition to God's messenger. Very few people are honest enough to say, "I do not like that preacher because he tells me the truth." Instead they hypocritically attribute their dislike to some pretended reason. Isaiah says that people of his day said, "You must not prophesy to us what is right; speak to us pleasant words, prophesy illusions" (30:10). This cry has been heard in every age. The greatest fault in the religious world is man's efforts to change the Bible to conform to him-self rather than change himself to conform to the Bible.
People generally have fought the truth for two major reasons. The first is that some have been unconscious enemies of the truth, i.e., they fought God and his will ignorantly. Saul of Tarsus did so (Acts 26:9; 1 Tim. 1:13), but seeking truth, and being honest of heart as Saul was, finding the truth he renounced his error and embraced it (Matt. 7:7-8; 13:44-46; Acts 26:9-23; Gal. 1:13-24). Those who do not love the truth will remain blinded in their ignorance and error (2 Thess. 2:10-12). The second reason men fight the truth is that they love darkness, which to them covers their evil deeds. Jesus said, "And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil" (John 3:19). Spiritual creatures of darkness despise light. Their deeds are evil and sinful; therefore, they do not want to hear the truth.
No matter how much the truth of God is opposed, it will survive. Paul's question and the context of Galatians 4 con-firms the fact that truth must be preached at the expense of making enemies. The truth is the most valuable commodity in existence because it is the revelation from God which can save us from our sins. "Buy truth, and do not sell it; get wisdom and instruction and understanding" (Prov. 23:23). A compromising attitude toward error will always lead to apostasy. Paul details the steps toward apostasy in 2 Timothy 4:3-4: (1) They would not endure sound doctrine, which is the attitude of compromise. They accumulated for them-selves certain teachers who would proclaim their views (?) of truth. Paul called it "having their ears tickled." (2) They turned their ears away from the truth, not only refusing to hear the truth but in time rejecting the whole counsel of God. (3) Finally they turned aside to myths. All truth was eliminated from their lives. This sad progression began with a disposition of mind and ended with a total rejection of God's will. It is urgent that Christians realize the trends toward apostasy and meditate upon this frightening succession of ungodly attitudes. Now, in our generation, we are seeing dispositions developing which, if accepted and practiced, will weaken and eventually destroy us.
One expression of compromise is the statement, "Preach the Bible but let everybody else alone." Every true student of the Scriptures knows this is impossible. You would have to shun preaching the creation of the world and of life (Gen. 1:1-31; Heb. 11:3) for fear of enraging the atheist and evolutionist; avoid preaching the Ten Commandments (Exod. 20:1-17) for fear of irritating the polytheistic pagan; forego preaching pleasing God through faith (Heb. 11:1-40) for fear of annoying those who live their lives by their con-science. If the general of an army were to say, "Shoot, but make sure you do not hit anybody," it would bring certain defeat! Several years ago an elder of a church said, "The trouble here is our preacher is a professional ball player. He winds up on Sunday morning and throws a curve around everybody in the house." A preacher has advanced spiritual astigmatism if he cannot hit some of us sinful creatures once in a while! One preacher would not preach on heaven nor hell because he said he had friends in both places! We desperately need men who will "break unto us the bread of life" and deliver "the whole counsel of God" (John 6:31-35; Acts 20:20, 27). Preaching the Bible, while making sure that we do not step on anybody's toes, will do nothing for the saving of souls, development of the local congregation, and preparing saints for eternal life in heaven (Acts 20:32).
Another sentiment is, "Don't preach a negative gospel." How can we not preach a "negative" gospel? This thinking indicts God, himself, because he did not always deliver a "positive" message to his prophets and apostles. A careful study of Exodus 20, will show eight of the ten commandments stated in a "negative" fashion. Paul said, "I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction" (2 Tim. 4:1-2). Two of the three of those commands are "negative"! In naming the works of the flesh, Paul mentioned seventeen "negatives" (Gal. 5:19-21). In naming the fruit of the Spirit, he lists only nine "positives" (Gal. 5:22-23). We need to preach the "positive" truths of the gospel. We need encouraging lessons which comfort us in difficult times, which help us understand God's love, and which aid us in becoming better servants of Jesus. We need to know we are doing God's will correctly! But we also need preaching on adultery, fornication, gambling, smoking, hatred, envy, lasciviousness, drunkenness, church discipline, immodest apparel, respect for authority, and other vital subjects.
A final attitude of compromise is, "Let's please the people instead of saving the people." Paul's statement to the Galatian brethren needs to be read and imprinted in our hearts: "For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ" (Gal. 1:10). Pleasing the people has caused a steady moral and spiritual decline in our nation and in the kingdom of God. Denominational churches allow homosexuals, adulterers, and heretics to fill pulpits and proclaim a "saving gospel" while their souls are condemned to hell! Anyone who can read the daily newspaper, or watch the television news, can see the religious world in a mad race to see which one can make religion the most palatable to the public. I am convinced that if we do not improve our preaching and teaching, to make such more Bible-centered and Scripture-filled, the Lord's church, in an effort to please the politically-correct public, will become a sect among sects. Let us always stand for and preach the truth of Jesus Christ, else we will pay the disastrous consequences of lost souls at the judgment seat of Christ Jesus (2 Cor. 5:10; Rom. 2:16).
It is shameful to hear of and see preachers fired and meetings canceled for preaching truthful messages which are so needed in our time. It is even more shameful to see congregations and their elders unwilling to stand for and back up the truth. We ought to never consider as enemies whose who have our soul's best interest at heart. If I am indulging in a course of conduct which will condemn my soul or cherishing erroneous doctrine which endangers my salvation, my greatest and best friend is the one who will warn me of my perilous, dangerous course.
Guardian of Truth XLI: 11 p. 6-8