If you refuse to be a man-pleaser (and consciously know that persecution will come as a result of your godly actions of confronting errorists [or one who is a Diotrephes bully] of influence), you will be mislabeled as among those who can never learn the lessons of life. Under this circumstance, this is hogwash coming straight out of the pig pen of unscriptural, compromising, cowardly thinking. And usually there is a snake in the woodpile by one who would falsely accuse another. Such individuals would have said this about Paul (why, he cannot learn his life lessons) when he got stoned for his preaching, were they alive during his time in the first century. Do you/we not think that Paul knew that getting stoned was a great possibility when he preached at Lystra--with the very needed, targeted message for them? Some (many) will not stand all the way for the truth (having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof), especially when it comes to fellowship matters. While we do not claim perfection, at least we are trying to bid Godspeed only to those who are of the truth! (2 John 9-11). And, I for one, am grateful for every saint who also is doing his best to fellowship only those who abide in the doctrine of Christ, rejecting any church leadership who is playing church. - Gary L. Grizzell, 2018
WELL, NOW I'VE HEARD IT ALL
by Gary L. Grizzell
"You messed up!" These were the words which a big name preacher, whatever that is, spoke to a faithful gospel preacher when he discovered that he had (a number of years ago) lost salary and favor with some as a result of preaching the truth and standing for the truth on fellowship (11 John 9-11). What I am about to say may offend some but from my personal experience some of those "who seem to be somewhat" (Galatians 2:6) in our brotherhood should wise up and begin to practice what they so eloquently preach. While the individual mentioned above stated in his opinion that the preacher had gotten in over his head while fighting some liberals (and he conceded they were "liberals" to use his very own word) the brother had supposedly "messed up" since the controversy backfired into a greater degree of persecution than he thought a preacher should experience in our day. My question for him and his kind is, why preach one standard of faithfulness for a gospel preacher and then turn around and unhesitatingly apply a totally different standard to preachers in our generation?
On one hand this type of preacher will preach that New Testament preachers are to be bold, willing to sacrifice and willing to take the lumps of persecution like the first century preachers in the Book of Acts, but then absolutely refuse to say and do the necessary thing if it appears it might bring on a great degree of persecution. Also, after preaching the true standard of evaluation turn around and condemn, possibly because of political expediency and protection of cherished career goals, the faithful preacher who dares to take a strong stand for truth. To this type of "preacher" may I say, Brother, just because you are unwilling to do your duty this does not give you the right to condemn the brother who is willing to do his.
WHEN WILL THIS LIP SERVICE CEASE?
This faulty evaluation of faithfulness is of the devil. It is characteristic of the hireling preacher and keep in mind that one doesn't have to preach error in the pulpit to be a professional hireling. Many times it is what is left unsaid that reveals the true identity of the hireling preacher. The matter of "You messed up!" is a false accusation that galls any faithful elder, deacon, member and gospel preacher when understood in its full context and import. The reason it boils my blood is because it implies a humanly devised standard of judgment which establishes an unscriptural cut off level in regard to persecution (don't we all wish this could be true?). The philosophy says that a preacher must preach the unadulterated gospel at all costs, but at the same time refuse to stand strong on an issue if a great degree of persecution is inevitable. This contradictory, unscriptural thinking is arrogantly depicted as wisdom and longsuffering. Evidently, according to this false concept, the Holy Spirit's admonition to "Be thou faithful unto death" no longer applies (Revelation 2:10).
Who is to decide just what constitutes the proper degree of persecution to be rightfully suffered and the proper degree of persecution to be avoided lest one "mess up?" Based on this unwritten law seemingly burned into the thinking of those who are like the Judaizing teachers in Galatia our Lord himself was in error since he "got in over his head" while fighting those liberals of his day (the reader may recall that the Judaizers of Paul's day behaved in a convenient manner lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ, Galatians 6:12-13). Yes, he must have "messed up" (to use the expression of our brother). After all, if Jesus had just been "wise" like some who preach today, he could have avoided messing up and getting killed. God forbid such a pragmatic mentality! According to this standard the apostle Paul "messed up." If he had just played his cards right he could have preached the truth and yet never have been stoned at Lystra! (Acts 14:19). And what about Stephen? If he had only known how to do it right, he could have called the rebellious Jews "stiffnecked and uncircumcised in heart and ears" and yet have avoided being stoned (Acts 7:51, 58).
Let us ask our brother, did Stephen "mess up?" Perhaps Stephen should not have gotten in over his head in this fight against liberalism without the assistance of others. Did he not know he was not to fight for the souls of men against such odds? If only he had possessed the "wisdom" to have done it differently. Boy, did he mess up! (Obviously, I am using sarcasm). And we wonder what is wrong with the church today?! With this type of thinking going on in the minds of some of our preaching brethren how can we wonder any longer? Is the foregoing a sample of the thinking of one who views preaching as a courageous work of love regardless of the cost, or is this the thinking of one who views preaching as a glorified secular career? Does this intellectual snobbery of a stance reflect the concept of fighting a selfless "good fight" (11 Timothy 4:7), or does this reflect a self-promoting, half-hearted fight? Now, those of you who have been unfortunate enough to work only under sound elders will not have experimental knowledge of this issue, but those who have worked among the smaller churches without sound leaderships and where the office of the eldership is almost unheard of will know exactly whereof I speak.
CONSEQUENCES OF THIS FAULTY PERSPECTIVE
One of the sickening consequences of this false philosophy is the resulting lofty commendation of cowards and the hateful condemnation of the faithful (cf. Isaiah 5:20). Perhaps guilt of personal neglected duty explains the mean-spirited zeal of this type of critic or maybe it is just the attitude exhibited by all those who insist on riding the ever swirling merry-go-round of church politics. Some remind us to King Saul who obeyed most of what God commanded but not all. He killed most of what God commanded to be killed but he refused to kill all God had desired (1 Samuel 15:22). Today, all error in a given controversy needs to be killed (exposed regardless of the cost). Do you believe this, fellow preacher?
THE CRYING NEED TODAY
The crying need today is for these hirelings and self-promoters in pulpits to repent like Saul and say, "I have sinned...because I feared the people and obeyed their voice" (1 Samuel 15:24). If repentance is not forthcoming then faithful brethren should disregard the outward show of long resumes of achievement and put them out of the pulpit of God. Saul could add the impressive "King" on his resume but his behavior canceled out its importance in the mind of God.
THE POINT OF THE MATTER
Yes, we are to speak the truth in love, strive to preach a balanced gospel, practice longsuffering, endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace, know the difference between contentious and contending, but if great persecution follows this is not to be termed "messing up." (Ephesians 4:15; Acts 20:27; 11 Timothy 4:2; Ephesians 4:1-3; Jude 3; Philippians 2:5). After all is said and done there is a price to pay (11 Timothy 3:12). Paul told young Timothy, "endure affliction, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry" (11 Timothy 4:5).
Hopefully, the degree of persecution one will receive will be minimal. But there are no guarantees in that it will depend on the spirituality level of the leadership of the church along with the integrity level of the area. Due to the present apostasy among us the faithful gospel preacher will dutifully face the consequences, even if it means "making tents" in order to continue to preach the true doctrine of Christ. The existence of the present apostasy implies some will be persecuted to a great degree. Let us boldly refuse to live out of the consciousness of the hirelings among us. Let us place such hirelings in the category that brother Ira Y. Rice Jr. has courageously described when he has continuously told us, "You just can't warn some brethren." There are some who preach some sound doctrine in pulpits who simply refuse to admit the true condition of the churches of Christ in certain areas of the country. There are still some among us who are in eternal denial as to the great degree of ignorance and rebellion to the Word of God in some areas. Brother preacher, when you truly preach the needed truth, you can expect Diotrephes (if there is one) whose toes are smarting from your preaching to backbite you to others with faulty characterizations. Do not expect to remotely recognize these characterizations when you finally hear them. This will happen when it is even perceived that the preacher strongly believes what God's standard teaches about: the sinfulness of all drinking of alcohol for recreational purposes, hoarding the Lord's money from God's designed purposes, the inordinate love of money, the sinfulness of mediocrity, the recreational use of tobacco, indirectly upholding false teachers, the sinfulness of dancing, immodest dress and other pet sins of some. Be it known that preaching all the counsel of God will bring the true colors out of the pious appearing unconverted types. Paul knew what it was like to have the truth twisted and therefore suffer "trouble, as an evil doer, even unto bonds" but he said the Word was still not "bound" (11 Timothy 2:9).
So trust in God during the times of persecution and continue seeking to be a God pleaser (Galatians 1:10). Rest assured, in spite of the fact that you refuse to be a party to the good-ole-boy-network of the self-serving among us, you will receive the crown of life on that day (James 1:12). While we may have the utmost and profound respect for the meek, faithful, dedicated, impartial, hardworking, sound preacher, the day that "contending for the faith" is messing up is the day the accuser has messed up. (cf Jude 3).
— originally published in the Defender
Volume XXV. February 1996. Number 2. Editor: Michael Hatcher. http://www.bellviewcoc.com/
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