Despite the example of Paul, who had “not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27), there are some preachers, teachers, and other Christians, who, in an effort to avoid controversy, will offer excuses, like the following.
“I’m still studying it.” There is, of course, always room to “grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord” (2nd Peter 3:18), but constant learning does not negate one’s obligation to reach real and substantial conclusions. Paul was highly critical of those who were “always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2nd Timothy 3:7).
“That’s not an issue here.” It is presumptuous in the extreme to think an issue is not affecting the local membership just because the one teaching is not aware of any members with that problem, “for Jehovah does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but Jehovah looks at the heart” (1st Samuel 16:7). Since only God “knows the secrets of the heart” (Psalm 44:21), man ought to understand at least the potentiality of a problem he is not personally aware of.
Even issues that have not begun to affect the local church could do so in the future. Frequently, the apostle Paul forecasted coming errors that had not begun to unsettle the local membership, saying, “The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine” (2nd Timothy 4:3), “In the last days perilous times will come” (2nd Timothy 3:1), “In latter times some will depart from the faith” (1st Timothy 4:1), “After my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock” (Acts 20:29). Proper teaching anticipates problems that have yet to materialize and seeks to prevent them.
“I don’t want to offend.” Jesus routinely offended His audiences (Matthew 13:57; 15:12). He told the disciples, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword” (Matthew 10:34). The word of God is that sword (Hebrews 4:12), and it cuts straight to the heart (Acts 2:37; 7:54). Accordingly, preachers are under command to “rebuke” (2nd Timothy 4:2; Titus 2:15), and elders must “convict those who contradict” (Titus 1:9). The gospel is likely to offend because a heart must be broken in order to know it needs salvation in Christ. “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart” (Psalm 51:17). Thus, sinners are told to “Lament and mourn and weep!” (James 4:9).
By Bryan Matthew Dockens
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