'"...Was More Subtil..." -- or, Say What You Mean!

Lewis Willis
Nacogdoches, Texas

The beauty and splendor of the Garden of Eden, with all its rich endowments of nature, was the perfect home for that creature made in the image of God. Its atmosphere was productive of utter peace, happiness and contentment. Adam and Eve knew God, for their relationship was one untarnished by the perversions of sin. Had they respected God's instructions, theirs would have been eternal life upon the earth, for they had access to the tree of life.

However, they cursed themselves and their posterity when they violated the law of God. Every student of the Bible knows of their transgression. It is taught to our children early in their introduction to the study of the Word of God. And, in teaching the fall of Adam and Eve, Genesis 3:1 is referred to. "Now the serpent was more subtil (old English spelling-LW) than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. . ." One can almost hear the innocent words of some child: "that mean ole serpent!" With his intrusion on the scene came estrangement from God, manifold sorrows, and weakening discouragement in the same arena where peace, happiness and contentment had dwelt. In reflection, men try to understand the thinking of Adam and Eve concerning the serpent. God tells us exactly how this momentous event occurred. The serpent convinced Eve that eating the forbidden fruit would not bring the devastating effects God had announced. And she believed the serpent instead of God!

"I Am The Devil"

The serpent entered the scene with a bold question, the terrible model and forerunner of all infidel questions since raised by those who serve him. "Yea, hath God said, ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?" This was Satan's crafty inquiry. Had the Word of God been dwelling richly in Eve's heart, her answer might have been direct, simple and conclusive. However, as Eve demonstrates, to allow his questions near the heart for a moment is to lose the only power by which to answer him. Satan knew this and subtlety was used, marking the success of his mission.

Had the Devil openly presented himself saying, "I am the Devil, the enemy of God and I am come to traduce Him and ruin you," you know what Eve would have done. She would have said, "Get outta hea Devil!" (Shades of Flip Wilson!) So, Satan used a subtle approach.

The word translated "subtil" is "arum", meaning "clever." (H. C. Leupold, Exposition of Genesis). Its counterpart in the New Testament "en dolo," appears in Mk. 14: 1. It means "in connection with craft, not in an open and straightforward way" (Lenski). The meaning is that of deceit or deceitful Satan simply deceived Eve into eating the forbidden fruit.


However, this is not an article on the sin of Adam and Eve. Satan is not tempting us today to eat the "forbidden fruit." But, he is still actively about, seeking to lead us astray by deceit, craftiness, of subtlety. We have eloquently spoken of his servants so obviously active in the realm of denominationalism (2 Cor. 11: 13-15). Have we forgotten Paul's warning that from among "your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them" (Acts 20:30)? We have brethren who use deceit and subtlety just as surely as Satan used the same in Eden!

Unity In Diversity

We hear much these days from those known as "faithful" preachers about the need for unity, in spite of our manifold differences. Actually, I take no personal exception to what is said -- I wonder about what is not said! Satan's question, "Yea, hath God said, ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?" is one with which most of us would take little or -no exception. However, the obvious conclusion of his subtle question led to universal sin. Similarly, the subtle declaration, "let's have unity in diversity," is one which conveys sinful principles. All of the illustrated principles which should govern brotherly relationships are well taken, but what is the intended application of these? How far would these authors wish these principles to be applied?

Most congregations have some members holding divergent convictions on the "hat question," "Bible class literature," "the War question," etc. And yet, they live, worship and work together in peace and relative unity. Thus, in this sense, we have "unity in diversity." However, it seems more than coincidental that those who pipe the "unity in diversity" theme are willing to announce gospel meetings held by institutional churches and encourage faithful brethren to attend and support them. These preachers need to simply state that which they are driving at! Do they mean we should be united with those who support institutional orphan's homes, Herald of Truth, Campaigns for Christ, etc? If not, come forth and say so! Otherwise, your silence on the application of your printed principles will mislead some who are not as conversant in the Word of God as you are. Is it more advantageous for you to keep the obvious applications of these principles undercover at this time? Come now, you are not as smart as Satan. Some are beginning to see where you are headed in these writings. Instead of trying to be subtle and crafty, say what you are planning to say and get it over with. If you are not advocating a pseudo unity with the advocates of institutionalism, Herald of Truth, and instrumental music, say so. If you feel these are departures from the Truth, and thus constitute scriptural causes for division, say so! Some who are writing under these "compromising titles" have brethren all over the country wondering what they are getting at. Furthermore, if some should take personal exception to these things, it is not accidental -- it is intended. My brethren, it is time for you to say what you mean!

"Self-Contained Unit"

I recently read a bulletin from a central Texas church in which the preacher was giving a lengthy explanation of possible uses for a new annex to their building. It was indeed interesting to read his subtle effort to cover up the obvious. He was speaking of the fellowship hall-kitchen, and this is what he said. "Adjacent to this room will be an area (I doubt if the ladies would call it a kitchen) which will contain minimal equipment for serving food or refreshments. It will have a "self-contained" unit of a small stove, cabinets, etc. It occupies a space only 3' x 12' and can be closed off when the room is being used for teaching." (College Street Messenger, Feb. 7, 1971, Waxahachie, Texas) (My emp. LW)

Neighbor, this fellow is talking about their new church kitchen. But, in spite of the fact that more and more churches of Christ are building them, those who are responsible for having them are not quite ready to call them "kitchens." So, they have to craftily talk about them so as not to arouse the indignation of the few who still worship there who are opposed to such nonsense. This brother got rather bold when he doubted the ladies would call it a kitchen. I do not know about the ladies in that church, but what he described is a kitchen and that is exactly what most women would call it. They have 44minimal equipment" in their kitchen. There are five members in my family and we, too, have minimal equipment. In two issues of their bulletin they announced attendances of 390 and 450 for their morning worship. If all of these should decide to come to a "fellowship dinner," I wonder how much "minimal equipment" it would take to feed or refresh this number. I have paid, am paying, and it appears I will continue to pay in the future, for our minimally equipped kitchen. I wonder if the Lord is not paying for the one this preaching brother is describing.

The kitchen described can be closed off when the room is being used for teaching. That makes it right, you know. Just build it so that it can be remotely called a classroom and it is justifiable, I wonder how you would justify a stove or refrigerator as a "teaching aid"? When I see announcements such as this, I wonder if they gave more thought to building a classroom that could double as a kitchen or a kitchen that could double as a classroom. Where do they place the greater emphasis?

Ten years ago (and possibly in some few liberal churches even today), if a preacher had advocated building a room in the church building for serving food or refreshments, he would have been looking for a new job very shortly. But, subtlety has enabled them, not only to keep their jobs, but to get the kitchens and silence the objectors, all at once. If they had said what they meant long ago, all of the money that has been wasted for the fattening of the brotherhood would have been spent to save many souls from the clutches of Satan. The next time some of you brethren sit down to a feast in your fellowship halls, eating food cooked on the Lord's stove and served on dishes purchased with the Lord's money, stop and think about how subtle Satan has been in selling you the idea that such wantonness is scriptural. Then, when you offer thanks for your bounty, pray for the multitudes of lost souls who will go to Hell because enough funds cannot be raised to send preachers to them with the Gospel.


Satan has used his talents to their greatest advantage in deceiving many souls. He used them in Eden to deceive Eve, in liberal churches to blind the ignorant, and he uses them in "conservative" brethren who are drifting. We must carefully "try the spirits" (Jno. 4:1), or we will be deceived. Satan and those who serve him are not going to walk up and say "I'm here to deceive you" or "I'm the Devil and I've come to take you to Hell." And, if some disavow their guilt, let them stop trying to be subtle and say what they mean, in language all can understand!!

TRUTH MAGAZINE, XV: 40, pp. 8-10
August 19, 1971