Be on the Alert
by Jeffrey W. Hamilton
The world is filled with corrupted views of Christianity. Despite the Lord's desire that his followers would be one (John 17:22), we find thousands of denominations. Oneness cannot be obtained by the teaching of different beliefs and then stating the differences really do not matter to God. God has already told us His opinion on the teaching of different gospels - they are not the real thing and those who teach such things are accursed (Galatians 1:8-10). Unity comes by the acceptance of one doctrine, God's one message (Ephesians 4:3-6). For this reason, the church teaches the message of God. Its leaders build precept upon precept "until we all attain to the unity of faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God" (Ephesians 4:11-13).
So we do battle against the doctrine of men. We use the spiritual weapons of God's message to defeat unsound reasoning. "For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete" (II Corinthians 10:3-6).
A problem arises when soldiers of Christ are vigilant for attacks from without and neglect to watch for the turncoats within our own number (Acts 20:29-30). More harm has come from within the church than from without. So many have been lost because we do not expect our own brothers and sisters to teach error. "Why I've known him for years! He would never teach such a thing." Even when faced with erroneous statements, I have seen my brethren exclaim that surely he did not mean what he said. It is not just sinners who refuse to hear the truth; In our desire for everything to be right, we neglect to listen to reality. We cannot believe a brother or sister could be caught up in sin, so we excuse what a person actually says and strive to find some interpretation that can keep his words in harmony with the Scriptures.
I have watched while a brother stated his belief in a blatant falsehood and another brother exclaim, "You can't really mean that!" It was almost amusing, if the situation was not so grave. Either the first brother is honestly telling us that he believes a lie, or the second brother is declaring that the first brother is lying about what he believes. It seems to me that we have a serious problem in either case. It has been my experience that many people will lie about believing the truth, but few people will lie about believing a lie. When a brother states that he believes a false doctrine, then we must accept what he says, as painful as it may be. Until we accept the reality of a situation, we cannot begin to repair the damage Satan has done. As one brother so graphically said, if a person is digging himself a hole, it doesn't help to shovel the dirt back in while he is still in the hole.
This was the problem Israel had in its last days. God warned the people repeatedly that destruction was coming because of their sins. Instead of repenting, the people flocked to false prophets who predicted peace and safety when there was no peace (Jeremiah 6:13-14). They preferred to hear what they expected than to be told the truth (Jeremiah 5:30-31). "How can you say, 'We are wise, and the law of the Lord is with us'? But behold, the lying pen of the scribes has made it into a lie. The wise men are put to shame, they are dismayed and caught; Behold, they have rejected the word of the Lord, and what kind of wisdom do they have? . . . Everyone is greedy for gain; from the prophet even to the priest everyone practices deceit. And they heal the brokenness of the daughter of My people superficially, saying, 'Peace, peace,' but there is no peace. Were they ashamed because of the abomination they had done? They certainly were not ashamed, and they did not know how to blush; Therefore they shall fall among those who fall; At the time of their punishment they shall be brought down, declares the Lord" (Jeremiah 8:8-12).
By not recognizing reality, the people of Israel deceived themselves into a false sense of peace. Problems were solved, but only superficially. The real problems were not addressed because the people refused to see reality. Instead, an artificial peace was declared. "We'll just not talk about those issues." "Let's just agree to disagree." Refusing to see that sin was present caused a nation to be destroyed. Such wilful blindness can destroy God's people today (I Thessalonians 5:3).
Brethren, we must ever be on the alert because our adversary does not sleep (I Peter 5:8). Error can arise from without and from within. Only by seeing the truth of the situation can we deal with the problem. This is the purpose of the gospel. This was the duty given to Paul. He was sent "to open their eyes so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the dominion of Satan to God, in order that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who have been sanctified by faith in Me" (Acts 26:18).