Attitudes Toward The Truth (5)
Morris W.R. Bailey
In this article in this series, I shall point out that a wrong attitude toward the truth is implied in the fact that there are some who become
Enemies Because Of The Truth
The epistle to the Galatians is, perhaps, one of the most controversial of the New Testament epistles. It was written, primarily, to expose certain Judaising teachers who were endeavoring to bind circumcision and the law of Moses on Christians. It was a problem that Paul encountered many tunes during his apostolic career, and which often brought him into sharp conflict with the purveyors of this error. In recalling one particular clash - with such false teachers, he described them as, ". . . false brethren privily brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage." Then in speaking of the uncompromising manner in which he opposed them, Paul said, "To whom we gave place by way of subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you" (Gal. 2:4, 5). It was obviously a hotly contested battle; but in the end it was a victory for the truth. Methinks, however, that if some of our brethren who want peace at any price had been there, they would have been shocked at the unyielding attitude of Paul, and would perhaps have suggested that he should not be so dogmatic. They might have even recommended that Paul take a course on "How To Win Friends And Influence People."
Paul's Concern For the Galatians
Paul's intolerance of error is seen in his concern for the Galatian Christians who were being led astray. Early in the epistle, he expressed surprise and implied disappointment that they had been "so quickly removed from him that called you in the grace of Christ unto a different gospel; which is not another gospel: only there are some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ" (Gal. 1:6, 7).
In chapter three, Paul begins on a note of rebuke, with the question: "O foolish Galatians, who did bewitch you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was openly set forth crucified?" (Gal. 3:1). He thus regarded their conduct in forsaking the gospel and seeking to be justified by the law as the result of having fallen under some enchanting spell cast over them by false teachers.
In chapter four, Paul again expressed deep concern over their defection from the truth when he said, "But now that ye have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how turn ye back again to the weak and beggarly rudiments, wherein ye desire to be in bondage over again? Ye observe days, and months, and seasons, and years. I am afraid of you, lest by any means I have bestowed labor upon you in vain" (Gal. 4:9-11).
It was in this context of concern because of their seeking to be justified by the law that Paul, in an impassioned appeal to their better nature, asked them the question of verse sixteen: "So then, am I become your enemy, by telling you the truth?"
Hitherto Paul had seemingly been held in the highest esteem by the Galatian brethren. Something of their warm feelings toward him is implied in the following words: "I beseech you brethren, become as I am, for I also am become as ye are. Ye did me no wrong: but ye know that because of an infirmity of the flesh I preached the gospel unto you the first time: and that which was a temptation in my flesh ye despised not, nor rejected; but ye received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus. Where then is that gratulation of yourselves? for I bear you witness, that if possible ye would have plucked out your eyes and given them to me" (Gal. 4:12-15).
Whether or not Paul did incur the enmity of the Galatians because of the truth he had told them, we are not told. We do know, however, that it was his sad experience in other places. Often he had been the victim of those who became his enemies because of the truth which he preached. Paul had preached the truth without fear or favor. To the elders of the church at Ephesus, he said, "Wherefore I testify unto you this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I shrank not from declaring unto you the whole counsel of God" (Acts 20:26, 27). No one ever had any trouble knowing where Paul stood on any issue. And it mattered not to him whether or not it pleased men. To the Galatians, he said, "For am I now seeking the favor of men or of God? or am I striving to please men. If I were still pleasing men, I should not be a servant of Christ" (Gal. 1:10). So, without fear or favor he had exposed the error of false teachers (Gal. 6:12, 13) and rebuked the sins of church members (2 Cor. 12:20, 21). He had one all consuming purpose, and that was that the gospel might be preached and souls saved (1 Cor. 9:19-22).
The Grim Result
The sad story is that Paul's determination to preach the truth often incurred the ingratitude, and even the enmity of those whom he was trying to save. Sometimes he was misunderstood. His unbounded zeal was mistaken for a misguided fanaticism (Acts 26:24). Sometimes his good intentions were misconstrued. Some in Corinth suggested that he was afraid to come there (1 Cor. 4:18) when in fact he had purposely delayed his coming in order to give them the opportunity to repent of sins that needed to be corrected, so that his coming would be an occasion of joy and not one of administering severe discipline (2 Cor. 12:19-21). Saddest of all, he was often the victim of violence. The eleventh chapter of second Corinthians tells us indignities he suffered at the hands of enemies of the truth -imprisonments, beatings, once stoned and left for dead. (vs. 23-25).
Paul was not the only one to experience the displeasure of those who were enemies of the truth. No sooner had the apostles began preaching under the great commission than the same spirit that lead men to persecute and crucify the Lord Jesus Christ was unleashed in all its fury on them. The fourth chapter of Acts tells of an imprisonment of Peter and John, instigated by the priests and Sadducees who "were sore troubled because they taught the people, and proclaimed in Jesus the resurrection from the dead" (vs. 1-3). The fifth chapter tells of an incarceration of all the apostles, and from which they were released only after they had been beaten, and charged not to preach any more in the name of Jesus (vs. 1-3, 40). Chapter seven tells of the death of Stephen, the first martyr, the result of his blistering indictment of Jewish conduct, both present and past (51-60). Chapter twelve tells of the death of the first apostle, James, the brother of John (vs. I, 2).
An Ongoing Disposition
Human nature has not changed since the days of the apostles. There are those today whose attitudes toward the truth is such that they regard the preacher of truth as their enemy, and thus, in effect become his enemy. It is somewhat disturbing to hear someone make the claim that in years of preaching he has never made an enemy, or to hear some one praising the diplomacy (?) of some preacher who "never says anything to offend anyone". Make no mistake about it! The gospel preacher who preaches the same gospel that Paul preached, with the same zeal, and in the same uncompromising manner will make enemies because of that truth just as Paul did. It may not result in death or even imprisonment, but in other ways he will be made to experience the displeasure of his foes. If he preaches that there is but one plan of salvation, one church, one way of getting heaven, he will be branded as narrow-minded. If he preaches as Paul preached that those who do not obey the gospel will be lost forever (2 Thess. 1:7-10), he will be accused of judging.
Enemies From Among Brethren
Enmity on the part of the unconverted, though a sad experience, is, to some degree, to be expected. Paul said, "For the word of the cross is to them that perish, foolishness" (1 Cor. 1:18). What is even sadder, however, is the fact that some of the most bitter enemies Paul encountered were professedly brethren in Christ. This was especially true of the Jewish element. They brought with them a long-standing prejudice against Gentiles, and resented Paul's preaching to them (Acts 22:21-22). The first two chapters of the Galatian epistle was Paul's answer to implied efforts of false teachers to deny his apostolic authority. He called them "false brethren" (Gal. 2:4). To the Philippians, he wrote of some who "preached Christ even of envy and strife . . . thinking to raise up affliction for me in my bonds" (Phil. 1:15-17).
It can be - yea is - just as true today that some of the most bitter enmities can arise within the church of the Lord. It should not be, but it is a stubborn fact that it is. Let a preacher begin exposing worldliness in the church, and all too often he will incur the wrath of the worldlyminded. He will be called a square and out of step with modern times. Let a preacher preach about the necessity of giving of our means as we have been prospered, and he will be accused of preaching for money by the tight-fisted. Let him expose the false teaching of some brethren on premillennialism or the subject of the Holy Spirit, and he will be labelled as a heresy-hunter and troublemaker. One may criticize the church of the Lord without causing anything more than a few raised eyebrows, but let him oppose human institutions built to do the work God gave the church to do or the sponsoring church set-up, and see how quickly he is branded as an anti, church-splitter, noncooperative and other such names. Those who resort to such name-calling have proved themselves to be enemies because of the truth.
Truth Magazine XXIV: 10, pp. 166-167