By Edgar J. Dye
We think 2 John 6-11, which we shall use as our text in this series of articles, serves our purpose well. Several things capture our attention as we read it: Love of God and walking after his commandments cannot be separated; there were many deceivers who entered into the world; Christians were urged to look to themselves lest they fail to receive a full reward; one who transgresses and abides not in the doctrine of Christ has not God; to have the Father and the Son one must abide in the doctrine of Christ; we are not to fellowship the one who comes and brings not the doctrine of Christ; if we bid such an one “God speed” we are partakers of his evil deeds. All such was true then and is still true today. Thus we offer some thoughts on what our attitude toward error should be.
In our day we are hearing a great deal about the necessity of having a proper attitude, which is fine if used properly and in harmony with the doctrine of Christ . There is a need for the proper attitude toward all things, which certainly includes the right attitude toward truth and error. Let me go on record in the beginning and affirm that with the proper attitude toward truth there will always be a proper attitude toward error. Whenever and wherever there is an improper attitude toward error there can never be the proper attitude toward truth. Our actions are the direct result of our attitude. Things we think, say and do are a result of our attitude toward God, people, things, sin, righteousness, truth and/or error.
I am amazed and deeply saddened at the lax attitude of many professed Christians toward error both in and out of the church. In problems we face, sometimes members of the church will shrug it off with a statement or an attitude somewhat like the following: “Well, you have your opinion and I have mine!” Then, they refuse to study the issue. Too many have the spirit of compromise, are entirely too soft, and display a “jelly-fish” backbone in matters of truth and error. This kind may spend all week trying to “white-wash” what the preacher says on Sunday. If you don’t watch them, they will apologize for the Bible. They are so afraid of offending someone with the truth they constantly accuse the one who preaches the truth with conviction plainly and condemns error severely with not possessing the proper spirit or attitude. Such is a sign of modernistic tendencies and the P.M.A. syndrome even though they deny it.
Having the proper attitude does not give anyone the right to be mean-spirited, to misrepresent, or deliberately to abuse another. But many think we are mean, abusive, and offensive when we preach as the apostles and Jesus himself preached. A few years ago I read of a gospel preacher who said, “John asked for his own funeral,” and that “Stephen should have used a better approach.” Others have been known to say, “Preach the truth, but don’t make specific application.” “Leave them alone; they are satisfied; it won’t do any good, why bother?” Problems in the church in any age are natural consequences of unbelief and an improper attitude toward the authority of God’s word. Attitude causes one to be either firm in one’s stand or soft and wishy-washy; to be strong or weak. For one reason or another most of us need to be educated in these matters and periodically reminded because we have a tendency to say, “What does it matter?” become indifferent, and give up diligent efforts to “fight the good fight of faith.”
Position of the Church in the World
A correct understanding of the position of the Lord’s church (the Lord’s people) in the world will go a long way in helping us to determine the proper attitude toward sin and error, which position is quite clear from the following facts: (1) The church is the “called out” body of people belonging to the Lord by right of purchase – a “called-out” and 44 purchased” people (Matt. 16:18; Acts 20:28; 1 Cor. 6:19,20). (2) Each member of that “called-out” body has been called and chosen of the Lord by means of the gospel of Christ (2 Thess. 2:13,14; 1 Pet. 1:1-5; 2:9,10). This gospel is God’s power to save, which all the apostles were commissioned to preach (Rom. 1:14-16; Mk. 16:15,16; Lk. 24:4447; Gal. 1:6-9). By it each one is washed, sanctified, justified, saved and made holy (1 Cor. 6:9-11; 1:21; 15:1,2; Eph. 5:25-26; 2 Thess. 2:9-12; 1 Pet. 1:22). (3) Each member is blood-bought; thus the whole body is a people of God’s own possession, a peculiar people, a purchased people (1 Cor. 6:9-11; 1 Pet. 1:18,19; Acts 20:28; Gal. 3:13; 3:29; Tit. 2:11-14; Heb. 9:11,12). (4) God’s people are people who are in the world, but not of the world (Jn. 18:36; 1 Jn. 2:15-17). (5) They are a people who must be separate from the world and every evil work or every form of evil (2 Cor. 6:17-7: 1; 1 Thess. 5:21,22). (6) They are a people who must not be fashioned after or conformed to the world, but transformed (Rom. 12:1,2). (7) They are a people identified as “the salt of the earth’ I and I ‘the light of the world” (Matt. 5:13-16). (8) They are a people who have learned, believed and obeyed the truth by which they are made free from sin and its condemnation (1 Pet. 1:22; Jn. 8:31,32). (9) They are a people who “hunger and thirst after righteousness,” and hate every false way (Matt. 5:6; Psa. 119:104,127,128; Rev. 2:2). (10) They are a people identified as God’s spiritual family God’s born-again sons and daughters, the church of God (Jn. 3:3-7; Acts 2:36-41; 1 Tim. 3:14,15; 1 Jn. 3:1-11). (11) They are a people identified as saints, who are sanctified unto the Lord – a saved, purified, justified people by “the washing of water by the word a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing . . . holy and without blemish” to be presented to the Lord (Eph. 5:25-27; Col. 1:2; 1 Pet. 2:9). (12) Also, they are a people who are identified as Christians, adherents of the Lord who are to be holy as he is holy (Acts 11: 26; 1 Pet. 4:16; Acts 26:28; Jas. 2:7; see also 1 Pet. 1:13-16; 1 Jn. 3:2,3; 2 Cor. 7:1).
None of the points we have considered nor any of the terms used to describe the Lord’s disciples will allow us to be false teachers, practitioners of error or to fellowship error in any form with God’s approval. Our attitude should be the same as the Father, the Son, the Apostles of Christ, and other inspired teachers – which shall be considered in subsequent articles.
Our fight against sin and error is: (1) Two-fold – “without” and “within”; (2) Not with flesh and blood (Eph. 6:10-18; 2 Cor. 2:11); (3) Not waged with carnal weapons (2 Cor. 10:3-5). Nevertheless, it is a fight and we always have the battle on our hands which can be fought only by preaching the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, while exposing error with all the fervor of our being. We must not ignore the problem or shirk our duty in the fight lest we be overcome by it.
Sin and error “within” are much more dangerous to us than that which is “without.” But we must not ignore either. The water on the outside of the ship at sea is dangerous. But the water which gets inside the ship is much more dangerous; in fact, it can be disastrous. Thus it must be kept out at all cost and by all righteous means. If and when it gets inside, its removal is imperative.
In view of this, how can be have any other attitude toward error but to hate and abhor it. If we do, we will be found exposing it whenever and wherever it raises its ugly head. Our work is well defined for us: we must preach the truth and expose error without fear or favor, even if it means personal loss!
Guardian of Truth XXXIV: 4, pp. 99-100
February 15, 1990