By Irven Lee
“Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:42,43). This is a clear word picture of a sad situation. These many rulers were almost certainly among the better educated and more highly respected citizens in the land. They were men of influence, and they loved their chief seats too much to risk offending the Pharisees, which was the strictest sect among the Jews (Acts 26:5).
The Pharisees coveted the praise of the chief rulers, also (Matt. 23:1-7). Each group was happy to have the praise of the other. It was a matter of you praise us and we will praise you. You scratch my back and I will scratch yours! Was not that prize a vain thing? They paid a great price to obtain it. The chief rulers would not confess their belief in God’s Son. They pleased men rather than God.
There was no way to confess faith in Christ without facing the ugly sarcasm and hate of the Pharisees. The ninth chapter of John tells the story of Christ’s healing a blind man. That grateful man took his stand in defense of the One who had healed him, and his wisdom was evident in the answers to those who reviled him. His parents were like the many chief rulers who believed. They showed no gratitude to the One who had given sight to their son who had never seen.
“His parents answered them, and said, We know that this is our son, and that he was born blind: but by what means he now seeth, we know not: he is of age; ask him: he shall speak for himself. These works spake his parents, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue. Therefore said his parents, He is of age; ask him” (John 9:20-23). They were not as ignorant as they professed they were. They refused to express confidence in and gratitude for the One who had done so much for their son. This seems to be an incredible thing. What will some people do to win the praise of men?
The threats of the Pharisees and other prominent Jews had its desired effect. Many bowed before them and did not stand for their convictions. How many other such men were there in Israel in those days who were very quiet about their beliefs? None knows, but there must have been many like the parents of the blind man and the chief rulers to which reference was made. If they had boldly proclaimed their faith in Christ the eyes of many others might have been opened through their influence.
There was some basis in the mind of Christ for selecting Peter, James, John and others to be apostles. They were not highly educated or socially prominent men (Acts 4:13). They did have some preconceived ideas about the kingdom that hindered their understanding of the mission of Christ (Matt. 20:20-28). Our Lord selected men who could be rebuked without turning back (John 6:66). They could hear truths that shocked them without losing faith (Matt. 19:23-25).
Jesus could say to the apostles: “Blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear” (Matt. 13:16). The god of this world had blinded the eyes of some (2 Cor. 4:4). They could not see because they would not look, and they could not hear because they would not listen. Preaching to people like this is somewhat like casting pearls before swine (Matt. 7:6; 13:15). Being willing to do the will of God has something to do with our ability to understand it. “If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself” (John 7:17).
Nineteen hundred years ago there were men who would not pay the price to boldly teach the truth. Are there such people in America today? When men go out to sow the word, do they find the wayside soil, the shallow soil, and the thorny ground, as well as the good soil? Can there be any doubt? There must be many that know better than their behavior would indicate. “Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin” (James 4:17).
“Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38). Paul was not ashamed of the gospel because he knew the power and love it involved (Rom. 1:16). Timothy was one of the truly great men of that first century, but he was warned not to be ashamed of the testimony of the Lord or of the persecuted saints (2 Tim. 1:8). If Paul needed the prayers of saints that he should speak boldly as he ought to speak, and if Timothy needed to be warned, surely we must need the same (Eph. 6:19,20).
“And, behold, there was a man Joseph, a counselor, and he was a good man, and a just . . . who also himself waited for the kingdom of God” (Luke 23:50,51). Joseph and Nicodemus gave our Lord’s body honorable burial. That must have taken courage on that day when the Christ had been mocked, scourged, and crucified by the mob, but what of Joseph’s record before. He had been a secret disciple for fear of the Jews (John 19:38)! Joseph is mentioned as being rich and honorable and, on this special day, as being bold. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John mention Joseph’s good deed in the matter of the burial of the body of Christ. Think how much more beautiful the word picture would have been if he had been a bold friend of the Christ while He lived rather than a secret disciple in those days.
Could we find men who are honorable counselors among the more liberal churches who realize that the praise of men is a dominant force among them? Would they like to stand with us if it did not entail being called an “anti” or some other such unpleasant name. Please, come on out of the darkness and stand in the light for the sake of your soul, your family’s welfare, and for the influence you could have on your neighbors. Love would cause you to obey (John 14:15,21,23).
It is still true that those who would live godly lives in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution (2 Tim. 3:12). Men are needed who will do the work of an evangelist and endure the affliction that follows the good work. If you teach the truth as it is in Christ you will be called a legalist, a bigot, a trouble maker, and such, and you will be regarded as being narrow, but you will please God.
Guardian of Truth XXXI: 4, pp. 99-100
February 19, 1987