"When a man's ways please Jehovah, He maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him" (Prov. 16:7). A casual reading of this proverb would indicate that when we are serving God, we will never have any enemies at all in this world. And goodness is indeed far-reaching in its influence. Goodness can often disarm oppostion, arouse love and spread a genuine atmosphere of peace. This proverb, however, does not mean that the righteous will never meet with any opposition. In truth, those who serve God sometimes encounter opposition simply because they are righteous, because they stand uncompromisingly for the truth of God "Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution" (2 Tim. 3:12). Satan hates virtue and courage, and does everything in his power to make difficult the way of the faithful by stirring up oppostion against them among his own evil agents
Christ came into this world with a perfect love for humanity, manifesting that love in His very attitude toward others, and climaxing in His death on the cross for all sinners. And yet Christ, who: "Hath been in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin...holy, guileless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and made higher than the heavens" (Heb. 4:15; 7:26), often encountered enemies who tried in various ways to discredit Him and even physically harm Him. He lived a perfect life, "Who went about doing good" (Acts 10:38), always doing the Will of the Father in heaven. Yet He had numerous enemies -- simply because He was good, and because He taught and lived the truth.
The Initial Opposition: -- Early in His ministry, Jesus met opposition simply by helping the helpless. They brought to Him a man with paralysis, and Jesus healed him: "And behold, they brought to Him a man sick of the palsy, lying on a bed; and Jesus seeing their faith said untot he sick of the palsy, Son, be of good cheer; thy sins are forgiven. And behold, certain of the scribes said within themselves, This man blasphemeth. And Jesus knowing their thoughts said, Wherefore think ye evil in your hearts? For which is easier, to say, Thy sins are forgiven; or to say, Arise, and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath authority on earth to forgive sins (then sayeth He to the sick of the palsy), Arise, and take up thy bed, and go up unto thy house. And he arose, and departed to his house" (Matt. 9:2-7). These enemies weren't interested in the man who was sick, they were incensed that Jesus was able to heal him. Strangely, they accused Him of blasphemy because He said, "Thy sins are forgiven thee." But they never denied the power which Jesus demonstrated, which only God could have done.
In a little while, His enemies had spread the rumor that Jesus was a "gluttonous man and a wine-bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners" (Matt. 11:19). They were so opposed to Him and His teaching, that they set a "trap" for Him: "And He entered again into the synagogue; and there was a man there who had his hand withered. And they watched Him, whether He would heal him...And He saith unto them, Is it lawful on the sabbath day to do good, or to do harm? to save life, or to kill? But they held their peace...He saith unto the man, Strethch forth thy hand. And he stretched it forth; and his hand was restored. And the Pharisees went out, and straightway with the Herodians took counsel against Him, how they might destroy Him" (Mk. 3:1-6). Now these enemies were plotting, not just to discredit Him, but to "destroy Him." Again, they were not interested in the man who needed healing. They were only interested in finding some means to "stop" Jesus and His influence among the people.
Jesus Met Open Opposition: -- "Then was brought unto Him one possessed with a demon, blind and dumb: and He healed him, insomuch that the dumb man spoke and saw. And all the multitudes were amazed, and said, Can this be the Son of David? But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This man doth not cast out demons, but by Beelzebub the prince of demons. And knowing their thoughts He said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand: and if Satan casteth out Satan, he is divided against himself: how then shall his kingdom stand?" (Matt. 12:22-26). The attitude of His enemies brought into the open their hostility.
The Pharisees, no doubt, publicly voiced this vicious and malicious accusation, but it seems that the open conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees did not come until the day when Jesus was invited to dine in the home of one of the Pharisees. His host, forgetting his courteous manner as host, turned on Jesus in unconcealed hostility because He didn't first bathe Himself before He ate. This was the occasion when Christ decided to expose the hypocrisy of these religious legalists. In denouncing their formalism, Jesus used unmistakable language that was designed to pierce the shield of their pride and arrogance. He had before given them every opportunity to turn from their sins, but they continued to oppose the Son of God and His teaching.
"Woe unto you Pharisees! for ye love the chief seats in the synagogues, and the salutations in the marketplaces. Woe unto you! for ye are as the tombs which appear not, and the men that walk over them know it not. And one of the lawyers answering saith unto Him, Teacher, in saying this thou reproachest us also" (Lk. 11:43-45). Now, it was out in the open. The battle was joined, and the Pharisees would not rest until they saw Jesus dead. But under the scathing denunciations of Jesus, the thin veneer of the Pharisees' piety could no longer hide the corruption of their hearts. Casting aside their masks of righteousness and openly declaring the war that raged in their hearts, they "begain to press upon Him vehemently; laying wait for Him, to catch something out of his mouth" (Lk. 11:53,54).
Jesus preached without fear, and confronted the false teachers the same way. When He went to dine with the Pharisee, it seem that He went alone. He had no apostle to defend and protect Him. Alone, He sat among men whose words were soft as butter, but whose hearts were filled with flame of hate toward Him. However, He was not really alone, for God was with Him. The same is true with us. In the midst of enemies, God is there (Heb. 13:5). If we fear God, we will not fear men (Matt. 10:28).
We Have False Teachers Today: -- Jesus gave many warnings about the danger of false teachers. To the Jews of His day he said, "This people honoreth Me with their lips; But their heart is far from Me. But in vain do they worship Me, Teaching as their doctrines the precepts of men" (Matt. 15:8, 9). To the disciples He said, "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves, By their fruits ye shall know them" (Matt. 7:15,16). When we check on the "fruit" of a teacher and find he is not teaching as the Word of God, we can know he is a "wolf in sheep's clothing." We have the Lord's Word for that.
The apostle John wrote, "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but prove the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world" (1 Jno. 4:1). If people are not willing to check up on a teacher, they are in danger of following false teaching which can condemn their souls. There is a simple solution. The people of Berea were commended by the Lord: "Now these were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the Word with all readiness of the mind, examining the Scriptures daily, whether these things were so" (Acts 17:11). Instead of just swallowing whatever the preacher and/or elders say, we are told to check up on them, "examininging the Scriptures daily, whether these things be so."
Following The Examples Of Jesus: -- Jesus was patient with those who opposed Him. But He reached the point where He felt the need to confront and expose them. Yes, that incurred their enmity. But it had to be done. The same principle is true with us. When there are false teachers in the Lord's church (and there are), then we must work with them to show them their error -- as Jesus did. But if they will not change, then we must oppose them -- as Jesus did. If we don't, we allow them to lead whole groups of the saints astray, and sometimes entire congregations follow them to their spiritual destruction.
We have in the Lord's church today those who are advocating the use of mechanical instruments of music in the worship, which has no authority in the New Testament Scriptures. We cannot blindly close our eyes to that departure from the truth. We must oppose it. And when false teachers begin having the Lord's Supper on Saturday, instead of "the first day of the week" (Acts 20:7), we must oppose them. And these same false teachers are now advocating that we "fellowship" those in denominations -- some even saying we should admit that the church of Christ is a denomination. But look at what the Bible says:
"Whosoever goeth onward and abideth not in the teaching of Christ, hath not God: he that abideth in the teaching, the same hath both the Father and the Son. If any one cometh unto you, and bringeth not this teaching, receive him not into your house, and give him no greeting: for he that giveth him greeting partaketh in his evil works" (2 Jno. 9-11). That passage is pretty clear, isn't it? But many of these false teachers today say that doesn't apply to anyone who claims to believe in Christ. But that isn't what the passage says, is it? To fellowship a false teacher is to "partake of his evil works."
The Lord gives the solution to us in this matter of whom to fellowship: "Be no unequally yoked with unbelievers: for what fellowship have righteousness and iniquity? or what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what portion hath a believer with an unbeliever? And what agreement hath a temple of the living God with idols? for we are a temple of the living God; even as God said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. Wherefore come ye out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord" (2 Cor. 6:14-17). It takes a lot of help to misunderstand that passage! Five different examples are given about fellowship, all of them relating to spiritual "joining" of some kind. With all of them we are told, "Come out from among them."
The Lord prayed that there would never be any denominations (Jno. 17;20,21). And He gives clear command: "Now I beseech you, brethren, through the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfected together in the same mind and in the same judgment...Is Christ divided?" (1 Cor. 1:10,13). When those Christians in Corinth divided into different groups (exactly like denominations of today), the Lord asked, "Is Christ divided?" Any spiritual person who reads the Bible knows the answer to that question. It takes a lot of "help" from a "wolf in sheep's clothing" to explain it away.
The Lord had to deal with false teachers. He used patience, and He used Scripture. But He also had to confront them and oppose them. Let us learn to be "imitators of Christ" (1 Cor. 11:1) as we "follow His steps" (1 Pet. 2:21). If we don't have the courage to oppose false teaching, we are not worthy to be called His people. "Be of good courage" (Jno. 16:33).
By Clem Thurman in Gospel Minutes, Vol. 56, No. 35, Aug. 31, 2007.
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