By Larry Ray Hafley
That there is a great and grave need for soundness in doctrine, cannot be confuted. False teachers and false doctrines have to be met (2 Pet. 2: 1; 2 Cor. 10:3-5; Tit. 1:9-13; 2:15). However, disciples of Christ must maintain personal as well as doctrinal purity. Consider the book of James. One may use James 2:14-26 to show that salvation is “not by faith only,” but unless he is also steadfast, patient (1:10; 5:10), prayerful (1:5; 7:13), penitent (5:16), swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath (1:19), obedient (1:22-25; 2:10,11), impartial in love (2:1-9), pure in speech and life (3:1-18; 4:4,8; 1:26), humble (4:6, 10), and kind to others (1:27; 5:6), his arguments are sounding brass, tinkling cymbals and vain jangling. “These ought ye to have done, and not leave the other undone.”
If the watching world does not see our good works, they will not, despite our unanswerable arguments, glorify God (Matt. 5:16). As one can win a battle and lose the war, so he can win an argument and lose a soul. We see Stephen as a great debater (Acts 6:10). We exult in his withering speech against the Jews (Acts 7). That is fine, but do we see him as a humble, faithful helper of indigent, neglected widows? We see the fearless, peerless Paul in numerous debates in Athens, Corinth, Damascus, Jerusalem, Thessalonica and Rome. That is great, but do we also see him sweating as he makes tents, laboring night and day? We hear his ringing, stinging words of sharp reproof and rebuke, but do we also hear his sweet and gentle words of love and thanks for Epaphroditus and Onesiphorus (Phil. 2:25-30; 2 Tim. 1:16-18)? We recall Paul’s labors for Christ in meeting false teachers, and well we should, but do we also see him picking up sticks for a fire on a damp, cold day (Acts 28:2,3)? He was the hero of the hour and could have sat back, perhaps, and enjoyed his acclaim, but he was not too good to gather fire wood as others had.
There is truth in the old adage, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Though the statement, “Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth” (1 Cor. 8:1), has been misused by false teachers as a cover for their doctrines while they exude a mushy, shallow, sensual “love,” it is still a truth – see the context. Let all saints be wary of a cold, pompous, arrogant attitude -speak the truth in love; “in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves” (2 Tim. 2:25).
The truth of the Spirit cannot avail where the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance) has not prevailed.
Guardian of Truth XXXI: 17, p. 519
September 3, 1987