By Mike Willis
The conflict between the people of God and the devil and his disciples is as old as the creation of man. Ever since man was created and given a commandment by God to obey, the devil has been trying to persuade man to disobey the Lord. Conflicts have been inevitable. The conflicts necessarily involve the false prophets of the devil and the true disciples of God. Their two doctrines must come into conflict with each other.
The Lord’s church has fought one battle after another through the centuries in an effort to keep the church separated from the forces of Satan. Our own generation has not been without its conflicts between the devil and the Lord, as fought by the soldiers in each’s army. Somewhat over a century ago, the troops were aligned over the introduction of mechanical instruments of music in worship and the church support of missionary societies. Later, the forces assembled for battle again over the doctrine of premillennialism. Then, about twenty-five years ago, the battle was fought once again. On this occasion, the issues were such things as church support of benevolent societies, reward motivation as a means to increase the attendance, and other such false doctrines. The lines were drawn and the battles were fought.
This was not the end of all wars between God’s people and the devil’s people. Indeed, we are already in the throes of another great conflict. This time, the issue concerns the subject of fellowship and salvation. Some are advocating fellowship with any baptized believer in “any segment of the restoration movement” (others open the. door for fellowship with Baptists). They have justified this through the acceptance of the Calvinistic doctrine of the imputation of the perfect obedience of Christ to the believer’s account. The lines have been drawn and the battle is being fought. The battle is raging.
As we witness the battle in all of its fury, we are reminded of the Christian’s responsibility when Satan’s forces and God’s people come into conflict. Every Christian has a responsibility to take out his sword of the Spirit and fight! Yet, not all have done so. Some of the brethren have not given much support to the valiant men who have sought to stop the spread of this heresy among us. Because of that, I would like to consider some of the statements regarding Edom’s conduct toward Israel when Israel was under assault as a means of seeing our responsibilities in this battle.
A Study of Obadiah
The book of Obadiah was probably written about 845 B.C. during the reign of Jehoram, king of Judah. During the reign of Jehoram, Edom had revolted against Judah (2 Chron. 21:8-10). Later, the Philistines and Arabs allied themselves to fight against Judah “and carried away all the substance that was found in the king’s house, and his sons also, and his wives” (2 Chron. 21:16-17). During this battle, Edom allied themselves with Judah’s enemies.
The atrocious act which they committed can be better understood when one remembers that the Edomites were descendants of Esau, the brother of Jacob. The animosity and hostility which characterized the early relationship between these twin sons of Isaac and Rebekah reflected and hatred between the two nations which descended from their loins. Edom refused to allow Israel passage through their borders as they journeyed toward Canaan (Num. 20:14-21; 21:4). Saul fought the Edomites and subdued them (1 Sam. 14:47); David stationed garrisons there (2 Sam. 8:14; I Kgs. 11:15-16). Despite the fact that the Edomites were brothers to the Israelites, when the Philistines and Arabs attacked Judah, they took the side of Judah’s enemies (v. 11), rejoiced in their suffering (v. 12), looted their land (v. 13), and slew the Jews who escaped their enemies (v. 14).
Because of the atrocities committed against the Jews, God raised up the prophet Obadiah to rebuke them for their failure to come to the assistance of their brethren and for taking their stand with the other side, the enemies of Israel. Here is God’s rebuke through Obadiah:
For thy violence against thy brother Jacob shame shall cover thee, and thou shah he cut off forever. In the day that thou stoodest on the other side, in the day that the strangers carried away captive his forces, and foreigners entered into his gates, and cast lots upon Jerusalem, even thou wast as one of them (vs. l0-11).
The Edomites sinned grievously against their brethren the Israelites by taking their stand, lending their support and encouragement to the enemies of Israel.
In the most recent controversies over the grace-unity movement’s doctrine of fellowship andthe Calvinism espoused by them, some of our brethren have committed exactly the same sin against those engaged in fighting for truth as the Edomites committed against Israel. Yet, few seem to be concerned about these men. To my knowledge, nothing has been written about those who “stood on the other side” and acted “as one of them” through the conflict.
During those years, many were heard to say, “I agree with what they (meaning such men as James Adams, Cecil Willis and Ron Halbrook) are saying but do not like their methods.” Frankly, I did not agree with all their methods either. It should be added, however, that neither would they agree with all of my methods. None of us are totally agreed about when is the best time or what is the best manner of saying a given thing. These brethren have not called upon brethren all over the country to defend their tactics in assaulting the forces of Satan. They have, however, called upon all other brethren to fight the enemy of all righteousness. If some of our readers know of a better way to assault the forces of Satan and expose the men propagating the doctrines of the devil, let him show us that better way.
I am not claiming perfection in my methods, nor have I heard anyone else claim perfection in his methods. I have even read where one or two had to print a public retraction because of something which they said in print. Yet, they were involved in trying to destroy the false doctrines being preached by the false men among us. Some who have been so loud in their criticisms of another’s methods need to look at themselves rather closely to see if they might have committed the same sin as Edom committed! In the day of the fight, did you stand on the other side? Were you as one of the enemies?
It is one thing to disagree with another person’s method while standing united with them in doing what you can to assault the enemy of all righteousness. It is quite another thing to leave the impression, because of your constant complaining about the methods of those who are fighting the battle, that you oppose the very battle being fought. Some complained so loudly about the methods being used to fight this great battle that those who were pushing these false doctrines were left with the distinct impression that these men were on their side. Some were indeed as “one of them.”
Even today, others are trying to leave the impression in principle that there is some kind of middle-of-road position available for us in which we do not have to be so radical as to name the men who are teaching the false doctrine among us, although we can stand opposed to the damnable heresies. False doctrines are still being spread by false teachers. Frankly, I cannot understand why some editors think that they are standing for the truth when they criticize those who are rooting out and exposing the heretics among us but are doing nothing themselves to salvage churches and men being led astray by these false men. Indeed, so far as I can tell, they stand as “one of them.”
In an attempt to be more specific about what it takes to be guilty of the sin of Edom against Israel, let me enumerate some of the things which I have seen in the recent conflict which leads me to believe that some of my brethren are guilty of the sin which Edom committed.
1. The defense of false teachers. During this recent conflict, some brethren who want to be considered as sound defended false teachers totally. Some journeyed many, many miles to rise to the defense of false teachers. Others in print, did virtually the same thing.
2. Assaulting the ones who were defending the truth. Not only did brethren defend the false teachers, others assaulted those who were trying to expose the heresies taught by these false men. The publication of Falth Magazine is the most blatant example of this, but it was by no means the only example of this. The pages of Gospel Guardian under the editorship of William Wallace were filled with the assaults against men such as James Adams, Cecil Willis and Ron Halbrook for their exposure of the heresies taught by Edward Fudge, Arnold Hardin, Leroy Garrett, Carl Ketcherside and others. Others who have traveled across this country have heard numerous men bad-mouthing these same people. Their complaining was so great that some were left with the impression that they did not stand opposed to the false doctrines that were talked about.
3. A refusal to fight. Some men lended support to the other side by refusing to stand for what they knew was right. If a man is doing all that he can to oppose the false doctrine, that does not mean that he has to come out in print in a paper published among brethren with a “me-too article,” but it does seem like to me that a man needs to be preaching on the subject, talking with other people about it, warning others about these doctrines and whatever else that he can do to prevent the spread of this heresy. The man who refuses to take his sword from the scabbard when the war is in force, has lent his support to the other side.
Perhaps there are other ways of lending one’s support to the other side, which I have not enumerated. One thing is clear in my mind, however, that is that the person who is guilty of lending his support to the other side has transgressed the holy commandment of God and stands condemned by the Word of God found therein.
I am not calling upon all men in the brotherhood to rally to the defense of Truth Magazine. We are, however, calling upon brethren to defend the truth, to propogate the truth and to oppose the heretics who are assaulting the very gospel of Christ. The errors that have been spread by the grace-unity movement are errors that are not confined to any one given locality. Consequently, it is going to be necessary for brethren to spend time studying these doctrines and teaching on the subject with reference to this conflict just as certainly as it was with reference to institutionalism, church-sponsored recreation and a variety of other damnable heresies which have affected the church. It is my prayer that conscientious brethren everywhere will look at themselves to see if they lent their support to the cause of truth rather than, as Edom did, “acting as one of them.”
Truth Magazine XXIII: 5, pp. 83-85
February 1, 1979