"In Perils Among False Brethren"
Wm. E. Wallace
Indianapolis, 21, Indiana
Preachers who possess a strong personality and a militant spirit will find they will make devoted friends and hostile enemies. Friends will be made from those of mutual interests who are appreciative of sturdy conviction and aggressive service. Others, repelled by the force of sound doctrine and strong will, may become hostile in attitude and action.
A preacher who feels the urge to oppose error or evil among his brethren may become the victim of severe hostility if he does not weakly submit to mistreatment. If he is inclined to make a stand for truth and righteousness he will find himself in a situation similiar to Paul's at Corinth. It was necessary for Paul to fight for truth and to defend himself in interest of the truth.
The enemies of Paul were severe and determined. If he had been a weakling, possessing a compromising and acquiescing personality, those enemies would have been more moderate in their opposition to him. But Paul was a barrier to them; they wanted him out of the way.
Like the group of Jews who vowed to kill him (Acts 23:12), the enemies of Paul at Corinth set out to get him. They sought to get him with attempts to destroy confidence in his spiritual soundness and by taking advantage of his physical weakness. The attempted discrediting of Paul is covered in II Corinthians chapters 10-13. Let's consider Paul's predicament in the light of the context and with reference to modern problems.
"For his letters, say they, are weighty and powerful; but his bodily presence is weak, and his speech contemptible" (I Cor. 10:10). A charge like this is designed to create doubt as to strength of character. If the Corinthians could be led to believe that Paul did not possess the firmness and strength reflected in his writings, they would be less respectful of him. If they were led to believe that the physical blemishes of Paul were manifestations of inward weaknesses, then Paul's influence among them would have been lessened. So this attack on Paul was made in order to arouse suspicion and doubt as to Paul's value to the Corinthians.
Paul's answer is a warning that upon his arrival in Corinth he will if necessary, be as vigorous and forcible as the stern warnings of his letters. Paul responded to the accusations against him in interest of his integrity, and in interest of the spiritual welfare of the Corinthians. He was ready to prove his own courage, sincerity, and moral fortitude on behalf of the Lord's cause. He had been made an issue--a personal issue. Thus it became essential for him to involve himself personally in defensive and aggressive efforts to save the Corinthians from disaster.
It may not be pleasant to become a personal issue, to have a battle fought over your integrity or activity. But this may become necessary, as in the case of Paul. Many times the acceptance or rejection of truth and righteousness depends on the outcome of a battle in which a preacher is the chief issue. It is regrettable that this is the case, but when this situation arises the battle must be waged on this ground, and the preacher ought not to be cowed by the mean and cruel attacks of misguided brethren. He can be assured that they want to get him, because he is in their way of getting something else. He should stand in their way with the shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit.
Paul's enemies in Corinth tried to take credit for what Paul had accomplished in view of diminishing Paul's influence (II Corinthians 10:15). It was necessary for Paul to assert his equality with other apostles (II Corinthians 11: 5). He had to explain and defend matters pertaining to his personal finances (II Corinthians 11:8-9). It was necessary for him to recall the hardships he had experienced, in defense of his sincerity and integrity
(II Corinthians 11: 24-33.) Paul was reluctant to "boast" about his racial, religious and family background, but it was essential that he do so (II Corinthians 11: 22-23) in the face of evil attacks upon him. Paul's enemies were going all-out to destroy his usefulness and Paul, moved by the Holy Spirit, met them head-on.
Paul got into trouble many times because he did his duty. Recently an Indiana highway patrolman arrested a motorist for traffic violations. The motorist decided to take revenge in a scheme to cast suspicion on the law officer. He showered the patrolman's office and home with expensive gifts, intending to arouse suspicion among the superiors and in the family of the officer. The scheme did not succeed because the officer wisely refused the gifts. Preachers, like Paul, sometimes become victims of attacks of revenge by misguided brethren. If the preacher does his duty he will often find himself at odds with reactionary members, and he should be prepared to withstand their thrusts. In the words of an astute politician, "If he cannot stand the heat, he ought to stay out of the kitchen" --do something else besides preach.
Paul's defense is an inspired example of how a preacher should react against evil opposition. His weapons were not carnal (II Corinthians 10:3); he did not stoop to the ungodly methods of his opponents. He was courageous, firm, bold, forceful, yet meek, kind, and pure. He had been made an issue so he fought the battle over that issue.
There are some liabilities to a preacher in a defensive fight. These are misconduct on his part, or by those associated with him; misinformation; cowardice: weak faith; questionable background; impetuousness; questionable associates; wrong motives; sensitivity; bitterness and a persecution complex. Enemies will take advantage of these weaknesses and exploit them. If you are right, fight the battle anyway, making corrections when and where necessary, and make the best of the situation.
Assets to a preacher in a fight for right include a pure heart; good conscience; strong faith; courage; temperance; friends; a good report; prayer; resiliency and humility.
There is much more to Christianity besides a fight, but fighting is a major portion. In a fight you may be called on to fight for your own survival. If you are right, fight hard. When the battle is over and truth is upheld, you will experience a feeling of satisfaction that God has been with you and all your efforts and trials were worthwhile.
Truth Magazine VII: 12, pp. 8-9