By Billy Ashworth
Today, we hear the expression “confrontation or, negotiation” used often in the civil realm concerning our relationship with rulers of foreign countries. It is an interesting idea as far as political diplomacy is concerned. I endorse this approach in strictly material relationships in a sincere effort to ward off a holocaust that would destroy a vast portion of humanity. However, in the religious realm, the idea of “negotiation” with leaders of religious error is repugnant to anyone who loves the truth. “Negotiation” is “a conferring, discussing, or bargaining to reach agreement” (Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language, College Edition). To me, negotiation is a form of compromise, “a settlement in which each side gives up some demands or makes concessions” (Ibid.).
Compromise in religion is severely condemned in the word of God, in both Old and New Testaments. I suggest the reader refer to Ezra 4 and Neh. 4:6. In these passages, we read of the attempts at compromise by the “adversaries” of God’s people. Notice Ezra 4:2: “Then they came to Zerubbabel and to the chief of the fathers, and said unto them, Let us build with you: for we seek your God, as ye do; and we do sacrifice unto him since the days of Esarhaddon king of Assur, which brought us up hither.” Note their response (Ezra 4:3): “But Zerubbabel and Jeshua, and the rest of the chief of the fathers of Israel said unto them, Ye have nothing to do with us to build an house unto our God: but we ourselves together will build unto the Lord God of Israel as king Cyrus the king of Persia hath commanded us.” The malicious reaction of the adversaries is set forth in verses four through six; the letter they composed and sent to Artaxerxes accusing the Jews to him is stated in verses eleven through sixteen. This shows the maliciousness of leaders of religious error when their attempts at compromise are spurned by children of God. Read also Neh. 4-6 for additional attempts of the adversaries of God’s people on the other side of the cross to compromise.
In the fifteenth chapter of Matthew, there seems to have been a disposition of the disciples of Christ to compromise with the Pharisees from Jerusalem. There was a mild rebuke of Jesus when they asserted (verse twelve): “Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended after they heard this saying?” (i.e. Jesus’ rebuke of the Pharisees for their hypocrisy and perversion of the law, verses 3-9). Now, notice Jesus’ answer: “Every plant which my heavenly father hath not planted shall be rooted up. Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.” By “let them alone,” He meant: Don’t you apologize or compromise! This reminds me of some professed Christians today: “Just preach the gospel and let others alone! Let us just preach the Bible.” Now, whenever you hear such pleas, you can rest assured that here are people who are not converted to Christ! They do not want religious error and the perpetrators thereof exposed. It would be interesting to hear these “bleeding hearts” explain how one can preach the gospel and let others alone! One cannot even preach Christ as the Son of God and let others alone; unbelieving Jews would be offended! One cannot preach the existence of Jehovah and let others alone; the atheist would be offended. Such compromising attitudes are nauseous to lovers of truth to say nothing of being anti-scriptural!
Jesus did not let the unbelieving Jews alone (read Matt. 23). Paul did not let the false teacher, a Jew named Bar-jesus, alone (Acts 13:4-12). No, Paul “confronted” Bar-jesus (“confront: 1. to face, stand, or meet face to face. 2. to face boldly, defiantly, antagonistically. . .” Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language, College Edition). The record says that Bar-jesus the sorcerer “withstood them seeking to turn the deputy from the faith. Then Paul set his eyes on him, and said, O full of all subtilty and mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord? And now behold the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun for a season. . .” (Acts 13:8-11). Bar-jesus was already spiritually blind, as are all false teachers. In Acts 15 there is the inspired account of Paul and Barnabus’ disputation (confrontation) with the Judaizing teachers that came from Judea teaching falsehoods. They did not “steal away” sweetly and let them alone! Neither did they attempt to deal with them “diplomatically” and “slip up on their blind side” in a vain attempt to show them the error of their way over a long period of time while their heresy would be eating away at the life blood of the saints.
The only examples I find in the Bible concerning the proper attitude toward and exposd of sin is direct confrontation. When radical surgery is needed to remove a malignancy, there is no time for procrastination, no “dilly-dallying” with false teachers either without or within the church of our Lord. Those who would compromise the truth of the gospel, who attempt to placate false teachers and their deceived followers, must be confronted by the faithful people of God. When Jude wrote to the saints in the first century, he exhorted them to “contend earnestly for the faith once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 3). My brethren, this battle cry still rings out to us who compose the body of Christ. If we do not respond and fight against every wicked scheme and doctrine of men, then just who will? “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh. . .Casting down imaginations (reasonings) and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. . .” (2 Cor. 10:3, 5). Brethren, whether it is against perverters of the gospel of Christ on the outside of Christ who are denying His plan for redemption and the church or against false teachers and compromisers within who promote and defend .human institutionalism among churches of Christ or who encourage “ecumenism” by extending fellowship to religious groups who do not “walk by faith,” we must contend earnestly for the faith or no one will! Let us unsheath the sword and get on with the job.
Truth Magazine XIX: 28, pp. 439-440
May 22, 1975