And take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:17
Volume 17, Number
In this issue:
"You Shouldn't Call Names"
Joe R. Price
Some get very uncomfortable when a preacher, elders or class teacher publicly identifies a false teacher and his error by name. They object (sometimes openly, but often behind the scenes), saying it is not Christ-like to do so, and is deficit in love and kindness. While we would never knowingly sanction sinful attitudes that abusively treat others, we do not share the view that “calling names” in the course of teaching God's word is inherently wrong. Here’s why.
Names were not always called in the New Testament when identifying and rebuking error. Those teaching error were not always named in the New Testament. No names are given in Acts 15 of those who taught the false doctrine that Gentiles must be circumcised and keep the Law of Moses to be saved (Acts 15:1-2). It was not necessary to name them, since all involved knew who these men were - so much so that Paul described them as “false brethren” in Galatians 2:4). Was Paul being unkind to do so? Was he mistreating them? No, he was warning the brethren of their pernicious doctrine. Or again, those in Corinth who were saying “there is no resurrection of the dead” were not named by name, but their false doctrine was fully exposed by the light of truth (see 1 Cor. 15:12-34). A judgment will have to be made in such circumstances. Will specifically identifying the promoter(s) of error help expose the error and advance the truth? Will not doing so sufficiently war those in error and those being affected by the false teaching?
Sometimes names were called in the New Testament to warn against men and to mitigate their error and sinful influence. Paul identified Hymenaeus and Alexander, whose blasphemous conduct was destroying souls (1 Tim. 1:18-20). To arrest the advancement of their influence and error, Paul named Hymenaeus and Philetus and identified their false teaching that the resurrection was already past (2 Tim. 2:16-18). Shall we charge Paul with being unkind and unlike Christ for calling names? John identified Diotrephes as a malicious, power-hungry man in 3 John 9-10. Jesus told John to figuratively identify an immoral woman in Thyatira as “Jezebel” for her corrupt influence on the brethren (Rev. 2:20-22). Would we not be like Christ in doing the same today if the situation of such a corrupt person existed?
If you are more concerned about hurting the feelings of a false teacher than you are with exposing the darkness of his error, then your concern is misplaced (see Eph. 5:11). What about his soul?
And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ (Eph. 4:11-12).
To evangelize (euaggelizō) means “to bring good news, to announce glad tidings” (Thayer). The word is used of preaching the gospel, as when Jesus “preached the gospel” in Luke 20:1. Thus, an evangelist is one who announces the good news, he is a preacher of the gospel (note “Philip the evangelist”, Acts 21:8).
In our Ephesians text the Lord is said to have placed evangelists in His church to equip His saints for service and to build up His body (Eph. 4:11-12). We cannot assume the religious world’s definitions and expectations concerning the evangelist and his work. God’s word teaches us what the Lord expects of evangelists and therefore, what we must equally expect. Such knowledge also prevents unwarranted expectations of a preacher while cautioning every preacher to fulfill his ministry.
The work of an evangelist is to preach the gospel of Christ, the word of God. “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching...But you be watchful in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry” (2 Tim. 4:2, 5). He announces the gospel of Christ simply, straightforwardly and with soundness (2 Cor. 11:3-4; 1:19; 2 Tim. 1:13). He proclaims the gospel with clarity and the conviction of faith, using the words the Spirit has revealed to comfort the saved and to convict the lost. He declares “the whole counsel of God” and does not shrink from this responsibility (Acts 20:27). His work is a labor of service that honors Christ and never promotes himself (1 Ths. 3:2; Phil. 2:22; 1 Cor. 2:1-5).
His obligation to preach is laid upon him by the Lord, not men: “For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel” (1 Cor. 9:16). He is not an employee of the church – he is a servant of Christ, His church and all men (2 Tim. 2:24; Col. 1:28). Churches do well to have fellowship with faithful evangelists, thereby sharing together in the spread of the gospel (1 Cor. 9:16; 2 Cor. 11:8; 3 Jno. 5-8).
The Lord gave a strict warning to brethren not to receive any preacher who preaches any gospel that is different from the apostles' teaching (Gal. 1:6-9; Acts 2:42). A preacher who goes beyond the doctrine of Christ is no longer proclaiming Christ and no longer has fellowship with Christ (2 Jno. 9). The one who receives and encourages such a preacher shares in his evil deeds (2 Jno. 10-11).
The evangelist’s goal in preaching the gospel is to save the lost and comfort the saved. Sinners must be convicted of their sin and brought to faith and obedience to be saved in Christ (Mk. 16:15-16; Rom. 1:15-16). The evangelist’s effectiveness in the kingdom is not determined by his eloquence and oratory skill, but by whether he faithfully preaches “Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:1-5). Whether he fulfills his ministry is not measured by the accolades of others, but by Jesus Christ’s approval (1 Cor. 4:3-5; 2 Tim. 2:15). Give me a man whose faith is anchored in the word of God and who preaches that word fully and faithfully to the best of his ability over the polished orator who sways his listeners with eloquence while leaving them starved for the word of God. Preachers who yearn to be a “dynamic speaker” wrongly conclude that it is the messenger and not the message that holds the key to gospel persuasion (see 2 Cor. 5:10-11, where the message of "the terror of the Lord" is persuasive, not oratory prowess). What does it say of us when we assess a preacher and his work by how well he tells stories? Far too many come away impressed with a preacher, not because he fed them God’s word, but because they got a “sugar high” from a cotton candy sermon (sweet and full of air)! Both preachers and brethren should earnestly remember that the evangelist is not an entertainer, but a herald of the gospel.
What kind of preaching are you demanding from your local evangelist? Is it book, chapter and verse preaching designed to “convince, rebuke and exhort”? Or, does the preacher scratch your itching ear, preaching what you want to hear instead of the truth you need to hear (2 Tim. 4:3-4)? Will today’s evangelists preach the gospel without fear or favor, or be careful not to endanger their livelihood and reputation by preaching the whole truth? “For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ” (Gal. 1:10).
Scripture Reading: 2 Kings 5:9-14
1. Emotions are not to be our standard or governor of conduct. Emotions are
expressions of one’s character, not the pattern or standard for it, Prov.
I. “IT CAN’T BE WRONG WHEN IT FEELS SO RIGHT!”
Bible Illustrations: Eve, Lot’s wife, Nadab and Abihu, Uzzah, David, Saul.
II. THE FUTILITY OF USING FEELINGS AS OUR STANDARD FOR RIGHT AND WRONG.
Human Approach to Spiritual things, 2 Cor. 5:7; Acts 26:9 (1 Tim. 1:13);
III. APPLYING THE PRINCIPLE.
to be Saved.
(Current events in the light of Scripture)
When the Ungodly Rule
One of the effects of honesty is trustworthiness. The honest person can be trusted. Conversely, trust is eroded and eventually destroyed by lies and various forms of manipulating the truth. One's influence for good cannot exist where distrust exists. This is not only true of individuals, but also of governments and the citizenry's confidence in it and trust of it.
This week a Fox News poll of U.S. citizens showed 76% believe the IRS deliberately destroyed the Lois Lerner emails (the IRS employee at the center of the scandal over IRS-targeting of conservative groups) in spite of repeated denials. As information trickles out about who knew what and when, and who authorized and/or directed potentially illegal activity, one of the disheartening elements is this backdrop: In February President Obama, when asked about the IRS matter by Bill O'Reilly, said "there were some bone-headed decisions", but there was no "mass corruption. Not even a smidgen of corruption" (realclearpolitics.com). That increasingly appears not to be true. Another poll showed 60% of Americans think President Obama lies "most of the time" or "some of the time". He (and his administration) has a credibility problem, and it is harming our nation.
We will let the word of God be our commentary on the matter: "When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice; But when a wicked man rules, the people groan" (Prov. 29:2). And again, "The king establishes the land by justice, but he who receives bribes overthrows it" (Prov. 29:4). The President and others have may not have taken a bribe, but the enticement of dishonesty just as surely leads to destruction.
Christians, we must live above reproach: "having your conduct honorable among the Gentiles, that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may, by your good works which they observe, glorify God in the day of visitation" (1 Pet. 2:11-12). Whether our government is just or unjust, we will put our trust in God, who cannot lie (Acts 5:29; Titus 1:2).
Created by Chuck Sibbing, last updated. 06/29/2014
The Spirit's Sword is a free,
weekly publication of the Mt. Baker church of Christ, Bellingham, WA