Paul, the “Anti”

By Hoyt H. Houchen

“Anti” is a very common term in the vocabulary of brethren who are “on the march” and who resent having any of their practices called in question. They attach the term “anti” to those of us who oppose such promotions as the sponsoring church type of cooperation, the church support of human institutions, and the “social” gospel. Brethren who oppose these things are branded as “antis” and any church that does not go along with them is tagged as an “anti” church.

Webster defines the word “anti” in the colloquial sense as “a person opposed to a practice, law, policy, movement, or the like.” The word is also used as “a prefix signifying opposite, against, instead, counter, used in forming nouns and adjectives.” While the word is never used in the New Testament in the colloquial sense, no one ever being referred to as simply “anti,” it is used as a prefix four times, each time “anti-Christ,” designating one who is an opponent of Christ (1 Jn. 2:18; 2:22; 4:3; 2 Jn. 7). As an “anti” is one who opposes a thing or person, his being branded as good or evil is dependent upon what he opposes. No man should be stigmatized simply because he is opposed to something.

The apostle Paul was opposed to unsound preaching (2 Tim. 4:3,4; Tit. 1:10,11; 2:1). He was in favor of sound preaching and it was that kind that he did (1 Cor. 2:2; 2 Tim. 4:2). Paul was not anti-preaching, but he was anti-unsound preaching, the kind that would tickle the ears of the hearers and lead people from the truth. In this sense, Paul was an “anti.”

Paul was in favor of cooperation. He believed in working with God (2 Cor. 6:1), he received money directly from churches for his support in preaching the gospel (2 Cor. 11:8), he had received help from Philippi (Phil. 4:15), and he believed that churches could send funds to churches whose members were in physical distress (Acts 11:27-30; 1 Cor. 16:1-4). But Paul was opposed to a sponsoring church, the elders of one church overseeing the work of another church or churches. He admonished the elders at Ephesus to mind their own affairs when he told them in Acts 20:28, “Take heed unto yourselves, and to all the flock in which the Holy Spirit hath made you bishops. ” Paul was not anti-cooperation, but he was anti-sponsoring church. In opposing this, he was “anti.”

Paul was in favor of Christians helping all men and he urged them to do so (Gal. 6:10). He was aware of each individual’s responsibility. He was opposed to the church’s assuming the obligation of unlimited benevolence because he taught that the church was to help needy saints (Acts 11:27-30; 1 Cor. 16:1-4), but that not even all needy saints were to be wards of the church. He limited the church support of widows to those of certain qualifications (1 Tim. 5:3-16). Paul was for benevolence but he was opposed to the church engaging in unlimited benevolence. In this, he was an “anti.”

Paul was not opposed to eating, but he was opposed to such as promoted by the church for entertainment (Rom. 14:17). There is no indication that Paul was averse to wholesome recreation, but he did not promote it as a work of the church. He understood what the work of the church is and his preaching was characterized by Jesus Christ and him crucified (1 Cor. 2:2). Paul was not opposed to recreation, entertainment, and eating in their proper places, but he was opposed to them as the work of the church. He did not regard them as “fellowship” to be found in Christ. He was for the work of the church but he was an “anti” in regard to church sponsored entertainment and recreation.

When the Missionary Society was being promoted about one hundred years ago, the opposers were accused of not believing in “cooperation” or “mission work.” “To feel the indignation of the Society one needed only to let it be known that he was not one of its advocates. Ways and means would be found to limit his influence” (Earl West, Search for the Ancient Order, Vol. 2, p. 69).

No doubt if many brethren today had been living during Paul’s time, they would have called him “antis.” But if opposing the things that Paul opposed makes me an “anti” then I gladly and proudly stand with Paul who was one of the greatest “antis” who ever lived! (Gospel Guardian, 27 Oct. 1960, pp. 396-397.)

Guardian of Truth XXXIV: 13, p. 397
July 5, 1990