By Steve Wallace
In Revelation 12:10 Satan is referred to as “the accuser of our brethren.” The word “accuse” is defined, “(1) to charge with, or declare to have committed a crime, (2) to find at fault; to blame . . .” (Webster 14). Sometimes a person is justly accused. However, that is not what is spoken of here.
Do we have any examples of Satan accusing “our brethren before God” (Rev. 12:10)? Yes, we find such in Job 1:6-11; 2:1-6. Job was a good man! God himself testified to this fact. However, it did not matter to Satan. He accused Job anyway. Here we see a true picture of Satan as “the accuser of our brethren.” Satan also tempts mankind. Hence, people can become “accusers of our brethren” and share in the devil’s work.
We see people carrying out the work of the devil in both testaments. Job’s brethren falsely accused him (4:7-9). The Pharisees falsely accused Jesus (Matt. 12:22-24). Among the sins characteristic of the “last days” is that some will be “false accusers” (2 Tim. 3:3). If people can become false accusers, then brethren can become false accusers. The danger that brethren might partake in the devil’s work evidences the need for this study.
Anyone Can Accuse Anyone of Anything!
The Bible teaches that the above point is true. Job said to his accusers in the long ago, “I also could speak as ye do: if your soul were in my soul’s stead, I could heap up words against you and shake mine head at you” (16:4). Likewise the Pharisees’ accusation against our Lord shows that anyone is able to dredge up any kind of charge against another (Matt. 12:24).
Today our media has dredged up countless “witnesses” of questionable character and quoted them to the hurt of some public figure. A headline I have before me now reads, “_________accuses ____________ of dishonesty.” I have deleted the names as they are unimportant. Experience with our news media tells us that we could place almost anyone’s name into the blanks, so rampant is the practice of trumping up charges against others. The danger is that, in such an environment as we presently live, brethren might adopt such tactics. In fact, they have.
Let us note some false accusations that have been leveled among brethren. When brethren opposed church contributions to orphans’ homes and “sponsoring churches” in the 1950s and 60s they were accused of being “orphan haters” and “anti-missionary.” More recently, when faithful brethren have taught against fellowshipping those in adulterous marriages or those who teach false doctrine on marriage, divorce, and remarriage, some have accused them of not believing in local church autonomy. (What about when we teach against what Baptists believe about inherited sin? Are we infringing on the autonomy of Baptist Churches?) In the last few years, when some brethren’s teaching on fellowshipping error or influence towards that end was called into question, they accused those who differed with them of having an “inferior motive,” of being “extremists who have their own cause to promote,” and other similarly reckless charges and have therewith stifled Bible study. (Let us all take note that the Bible teaches that only God and the person in question know what motivates that person [1 Sam. 16:7; 1 Cor. 2:11].) Accusations have been based on what part of the country a person is from. Some on the West Coast have prejudicially used the label “southern preacher,” and the term “West Coast preacher” has at times been too broadly used in light of the faithful men doing the Lord’s work in that area of the country. If a brother writes an article that uses Bible teaching to expose sinful practices or erroneous teachings of a brother or brethren in other places, whether in a paper or in the bulletin of the church where he preaches, he is accused of “trying to control the brotherhood” or “trying to make a name for himself.”
A major cause of problems among brethren today is unproven accusations and brethren feeling free to make them. Brethren are doing the work of the devil! What happens when brethren so conduct themselves?
The Effects of Unproven Accusations
1. Such accusations hurt people. Even a child is up-set when accused of something of which he is not guilty. Job’s friends hurt him with their words (Job 16:1-2). Job felt the inward pain that comes to one who is falsely accused as have many brethren today who have faced such accusations.
2. Such accusations hurt people’s reputations. It is evident that Paul’s reputation suffered in the eyes of some of his brethren in the church at Corinth because of false accusations made by his enemies there (2 Cor. 10:2, 10). They apparently even turned Paul’s refusal of support from the church there into an accusation (cf. 2 Cor. 11:7-9; 12:13). This reminds me of a story from modern day America where a public figure was accused of a crime or impropriety and “tried” in the media. He was eventually found not guilty and, upon pronouncement of the verdict, asked the judge, “Now where do I go to get my reputation back?” When we consider what it takes to build a reputation, it is sad to note how a person can be hurt by the false charges of irresponsible people.
3. Such accusations can result in physical harm. Our Lord’s treatment at the hands of the Jewish authorities shows the truthfulness of the above point. He was accused again and again (Matt. 12:24; 26:59-61; Luke 23:3, 10) and though he was found innocent (Luke 23:14), they killed him anyhow! The false charges against Jews of being untermensch (subhuman) and plotting against non-Jewish people made by the Nazis in Germany in the 1930s resulted in the mass killing of millions of them in the 1940s. In our day, who will deny that the rash of black church building fires in our country is not at least partially fueled by the racist accusations made by hateful people? While all hope that accusations made by brethren today would not lead to the bodily harm of those accused, we must admit the possibility in light of the above facts.
4. Such accusations can poison the atmosphere among brethren. We need only look at Paul’s relationship with the Corinthians to see that this point is valid. Because of the charges made against Paul by his enemies at Corinth, he was not able to continue with his work of building up the church there. Rather, a large part of his second letter to the Corinthians was taken up with explanations of his conduct and answers to enemies (cf. 1:12-2:4; 4:2; 7:2; 12:19; chs. 10-12). Brethren can come to believe the worst about their brethren simply by hearing and believing false accusations. Brethren can be motivated by the desire to accuse others (Mark 3:2; John 8:6). False accusations can lead to the severing of relationships among brethren.
Such results as we have listed above ought to cause all to think soberly before blasting off with some wild charge against a brother or believing an accusation made by an-other. Call the brother in question or write him, seek to build bridges, not to destroy them. Remember, anyone can make false accusations about anyone else. God’s people should seek what is true and not be led by idle charges. They should treat others as they would like to be treated (Matt. 7:12) and judge others by their fruits, and not by accusations they have heard (Matt. 7:20; Gal. 2:14). The devil is “the accuser of our brethren.” It is bad enough that he is involved in such activity. God’s people should want no part of the devil’s work.
Guardian of Truth XLI: 6 p. 20-21
March 20, 1997