By Larry Ray Hafley
Brother J. D. Tant used to warn and exhort, “Brethren, we are drifting.” The late and lamented W. W. Otey once wrote a lengthy series of articles on “Trends.” The practice of these men does not establish the way of truth, but their admonition to beware of gradually slipping away (“drifting”) from the truth is scriptural. Today, however, we are hearing the sound of a different drum. We are told not to worry about “where some are headed.” We are not to charge others with tendencies or leanings in the wrong direction. We are urged to leave a wandering one alone lest he be turned to error. Do not fire at him, wait until he goes into complete apostasy, or else you may spur him prematurely into digression. Some advice that is! Sublime counsel! It is neither sensible, practical, nor godly. immediately, I ‘am branded a legalistic, vindictive mote seeker. So be it. But mark this down. When one pleads for tolerance he may justly deserve mercy, reserve, and understanding. Fine, he should receive it, but occasionally one asks for a cease-fire so he can continue his trend to error unimpeded. That is the bird to keep your eye on.
New Testament Trends
1. Hebrews: “For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it” (Heb. 2: 1). “Take heed, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called to day; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb. 3:12, 13). “See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness springing up cause trouble, and by it many be defiled” (Heb. 12:15). The book of Hebrews was written to smother a trend, a deadly direction into which some were headed. This can be shown in the author’s statement, “And I beseech you, brethren, suffer the word of exhortation” (Heb. 13:22). Some were on the verge of casting away their confidence and of drawing and drifting back unto perdition. So, the Hebrew writer exhorted them not to waver but to hold fast.
2. 2 Peter: Peter’s entire second epistle was written to those who were “established in the present truth.” The apostle, though, felt the need to stir them up by putting them in remembrance. Was he concerned about the way some might be headed? “Beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked fall from your own steadfastness” (2 Pet. 3:17).
3. Acts 20:28-32: “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, which after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.” Paul warned of “perverse things” (doctrines) designed to “draw away” disciples. Why did he not wait until the fact was evident? Why warn of the coming trend? Might he not “turn off” some with his language and “turn” them “on” to innovations? If he was worried about such a thing, this passage does not tell us. Rather, the passage reveals:
(1) That it is proper to call attention to error not yet present;
(2) That it is right to cite sources of potential danger;
(3) That it is correct to point out the results of imminent arisings of error.
Dangers Of Holding Fire
Hesitating to expose a movement or a trend has several drawbacks. First, it allows a person to become hardened. He may be redeemable and retrievable if reproved early, but if allowed to go unchecked, he may be “hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.” Second, it permits a little leaven to penetrate and permeate a whole lump. If one is allowed to drift he may lead astray “whole houses,” whereas, if his mouth is stopped early, his influence is stifled. Third, it condemns those who allow the drifter to slip away, for “his blood,” God says, “will I require at thine hand” (Ezek. 3:17-21). Fourth, it establishes a precedent that encourages drifting. Anything that is tolerated ceases to be odious. Others drift and no concern is expressed. Drifting is not so bad after all, thus, we unwittingly set the stage for our own drifting, departure, and damnation.
TRUTH MAGAZINE XVII: 35, pp. 12-13
July 12, 1973