Thinking Too Highly of Men
Robert Wayne LaCoste
One of the many problems the church at Corinth faced was what we sometimes call today preacheritis. Webster defines the suffix "-itis" as "an inflammatory disease." Therefore it can be concluded from what Paul wrote concerning preachers to the church at Corinth, that they had a disease relating to preachers. What was the nature of the disease and what were the symptoms? Paul tells us! Its nature was "thinking more highly of men than that which was written" (1 Cor. 4:6). The symptoms or signs were some saying, "I am of Paul; and I of Apollos, and I of Cephas" (1 Cor. 1:12).
A lot of times, through no fault of their own, preachers are thought more highly of than they ought to be. Surely every servant of the Lord should be esteemed and admired for his work's sake. However, when men start siding with men who preach doctrines contrary to what is written in the gospel of Christ, simply because of personal admiration, or because they are long time acquaintances, then they have carried the admiration and esteem way too far.
I was reared by two parents who insisted that we boys have the proper respect for older people. Early on, it was "no sir" and "yes ma'am." Even though I'm 42 years old with teenage children, I still find that well ingrained within me and often I'll even use such terminology to older people who are total strangers.
Sometimes when teaching a Bible class, there will be an aged pupil quite obviously wrong on a given point, but I take cautious measures to correct him in love, for I respect his years. Surely the Scriptures teach that this should be the attitude of the younger to the older: "Rebuke not an elder, but entreat him as a father . . . the elder women as mothers" (1 Tim. 5:1-2). Paul is not saying that there is never a time when you should disagree with an older person. No man has the right to be wrong, regardless of his years, station or status in life. What Paul is saying, is that when you do disagree, voice your disagreement as you would to your father or your mother. I would never have called my mother or father an ugly name, or been hostile. I would point out to them their error with firmness, yet with kindness. Why? Because one's father and mother are to be "honored by their children" (Eph. 6:1-2). This honor is to be present all the days of one's life, yes even when parents are wrong.
Lately, I have read some teachings of older preachers that I have felt were wrong - dead wrong! These teachings have ranged anywhere from subjects on marriage, divorce and remarriage, to discussions concerning the Lord's supper on Sunday night. Then I have read the "rebuttals" of other preachers who disagreed with them. A lot of these disagreeing preachers are considerably younger. Some have responded that these younger preachers are "attacking" the older ones. I have seen absolutely no evidence of that in the least! Attack is a pretty strong word to use against one that simply is disagreeing with someone else. As a matter of fact, all I have seen are the so-called "attackees" becoming the "attackers." Many younger preachers have been indeed "attacked" because they dared to stand for what they felt was the truth. They have been pounced upon because they dared to tell an older brother they thought he was wrong. Often, the age and labor of the older preacher has been mentioned. "Look at all the good he has done . . . look at the years of experience . . . look at the knowledge and wisdom." Absolutely no one is indicting any of these virtues when calling into question a certain matter someone may be currently believing or practicing. We must be careful brethren! When we start praising men's wisdom, knowledge and experience to the degree that we are disturbed if they are even called into question about a matter, then we are quickly on the road to "thinking of men above that which is written."
I love older people. I always have, I especially have a special place in my heart for those older men who preach the gospel of our Savior. I have known some great preachers in my life. However, I never got to meet such greats as C.D. Plum, Franklin Puckett, or Luther Blackmon. I do long to be with them in heaven. However, what kind of sons in the faith would any of us be, if we respected age over what the Lord Jesus taught? If a man is the kind of man he should be, will he not want to be disagreed with, if there be conscientious brethren who feel he's in error?
As fathers and sons we need to reason together. Whenever I thought my earthly father was wrong on something, I knew I could go to him and talk to him about it, without him feeling I was attacking him. He would listen and when he was wrong, admit such and make proper correction. Now, I find myself with my own children, though I am older than they, admitting I too am wrong at times. Just being a father or just being older doesn't make one infallible. Neither does the fact that one may have preached for 50 years! The apostle Peter had preached well over 30 years when the apostle Paul withstood him to the face because of Peter's error (Gal. 2:11). There is no indication Peter considered it an "attack" for Paul loved -his brother and Peter knew it!
Brethren, there are going to be disagreements among us and sometimes error taught. I hope as I age that when I teach something that someone feels is wrong, he will "entreat me as their father" and correct me accordingly. I hope I never get an attitude that simply because I've been preaching a long time that I am incapable of error.
As important as correcting error is, is it not equally important that we treat each other as fathers and sons? That's what we are you know, and may we strive for truth above all things, with the saving of our family as that great goal firmly implanted in our hearts.
Guardian of Truth XXXV: 14, pp. 418, 439