"Controversial Preachers"

by Kenneth E. Thomas

August 27, 2000

     When you came to believe on Jesus as "the Christ," repented of sin and error, confessed your faith in Jesus and were "baptized into Him" you were "reconciled unto God in one body by the cross.." (Romans 6:3-6; Ephesians 2:13-16). At that moment you were numbered among the saved as a part of the "bride of Christ" (Ephesians 5:22-33; Romans 7:4). This placed you in a most controversial position. Immediately, you said by your actions that you believe what Christ said, He is "the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father but by Me" (John 14:6).

     If you remain true to your "calling" you must live for Christ and stand in opposition to anything and everything that differs from that which He has revealed and that which His word authorizes (2 Corinthians 6:14-18; Ephesians 5:11; Jude 3; 2 John 9-11; Romans 16:17-18; 2 Timothy 4:1-8; 1 Timothy 6:12; 2 Corinthians 10:3-5; Ephesians 4:1-6).

     For this cause and perhaps others, disciples of Christ should not try and get folks into the waters of baptism prematurely, but should make sure they understand what it means for them to say, "I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God" (Matthew 16:16; John 6:67-69; Acts 8:37). When folks know what they are letting themselves in for, they will in all likelihood be willing to stand against any and all opposition. Jesus warned His apostles of what their lot in life would be, and in that warning, each prospect for conversion should likewise take note:

     "Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves. But beware of men, for they will deliver you up to councils and scourge you in their synagogues. And you will be brought before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them and to the Gentiles...And brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against their parents and cause them to be put to death. And you will be hated of all men for My name's sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved...a disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for a disciple that he be like his teacher, and a servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebub, how much more will they call those of his household!...And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matthew 10:16-28).

     In John's account Jesus said, "They will put you out of their synagogues; yes the time is coming that whoever kills you will think that he offers God service. And these things they will do to you because they have not known the Father nor Me" (John 16:2-3).

     To see this last prophesy fulfilled at least in part, all one needs to do is think back on Saul's relentless persecution of the early church in Jerusalem and the trips he took with letters of authority from the Jewish Sanhedrin to foreign cities seeking out any who were of "the way" that he might bind them, commit them to prison and yes, give his voice against them when they were being put to death, and all this with a clean conscience, thinking he was indeed "offering God service" (Acts 7:58; 8:1-3; Acts 23:1; 26:9-11). See also (Galatians 1:13-24; Philippians 3:4-8).

     When you made Jesus the "Lord of your life," you became a part of a hated religious minority in the world. Did you know that? Well, its true nonetheless. Every Jew who knows anything about his own religion rejects the "Messiah" whom you and I now serve. He believes Jesus of Nazareth was a good man, but not the Son of God, and certainly not the Messiah for whom He longs. His Messiah, he believes, will come and restore Israel to their prominence and sit on David's literal throne in Jerusalem, Palestine.

     The apostles, evangelist, and other Christians in the first century taught Jesus as the crucified, buried, resurrected and exalted Messiah, which was why so many of them were hated and or killed for their efforts by the unbelievers among the Jews. In the second and third chapters of the Acts of the apostles they taught Jesus as the Messiah and performed miracles to prove that He was working through them. It wasn't long however until the non-believing Jews (especially the leaders among them) began to worry that this doctrine would spread. To prevent this (they thought) they began to try and stem the tide brought on by the apostle's doctrine. The fourth chapter of Acts following Peter's second sermon in which he said,

     "For Moses truly said to the fathers, The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear in all things, whatsoever He says to you. And it will come to pass that every soul who will not hear that prophet will be utterly destroyed from among the people. Yes, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow, as many as have spoken have likewise foretold these days. You are the sons of the prophets, and the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying to Abraham, And in your seed all the families of the earth will be blessed. To you first, God, having raised up His Servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities."

     We then read,

     "And as they spoke to the people, the priests, the captain of the temple, and the Sadducees came upon them, being greatly disturbed that they taught the people and preached through Jesus the resurrection from the dead. And they laid hands on them, and put them in custody until the next day, for it was already evening. However, many of those who heard the word believed; and the number of men came to be about five thousand. The next day their rulers, elders, and scribes, and well as Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and as many as were of the family of the high priest, were gathered together at Jerusalem. And when they had set them (the apostles ket) in their midst, they asked, By what power or by what name have you done this? (Speaking of the healing of a man who had never walked but was now leaping and walking) Peter got the chance to preach Jesus again assuring the Jewish rulers that is was by the name of Jesus of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead, by Him this man stands here before you whole. This is the stone which was rejected by you builders, which has become the chief corner stone. Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:1-12).

     "The rulers took note of the boldness of these men and besides, there stood the man whom Peter had healed by the power of Jesus and they could say nothing against it. "But when they had commanded them to go aside out of the council, they conferred among themselves, saying, What shall we do to these men? For indeed, that a notable miracle has been done by them is evident to all who dwell in Jerusalem, and we cannot deny it. But that it spreads no further among the people, let us severely threaten them, that from now on they speak to no man in this name. And they called them and commanded them not to speak at all nor teach in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered and said to them, Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, you judge. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard. So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way of punishing them, because of the people, since they all glorified God for what had been done. For the man (whom Peter had healed earlier) was over forty years old on whom this miracle of healing had been performed" (Acts 4:15-22).

     Gospel preachers, and other Christians as well, taught against idolatry and told people that there were no other gods. They taught them about "the one true God" who made the heavens and the earth and all things therein, including man as "His offspring" Some accepted these truths and local congregations were begun, others resented very much such teaching and stood up in opposition to them. Sometimes they incited riots trying to negate the influence of such teachings. ( 1 Thessalonians 1:2-10;Acts 17:16-31).

"The Ephesian Riot"

     Ephesus is the place where Paul found some folks who had been baptized "into John's baptism" (Acts 19:1-3). They were unaware of the "baptism of the great commission" that Christ had commissioned. When they were taught properly Paul baptized them "in the name of the Lord Jesus" (v-5). "And he went into the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God. But when some were hardened and did not believe, but spoke evil of the Way before the multitude, he departed from them and withdrew the disciples, reasoning daily in the school of Tyrannus. And this continued for two years, so that all who dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus, both Jews and Greeks" (Acts 19:8-10).

     Here God worked special miracles by the hands of Paul, so that handkerchiefs or aprons were brought from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out of them. Many converts to Christ were made in this city. Some who had previously practiced magic brought their books and burned them in the sight of all. The value of which was fifty thousand pieces of silver. So the word of God grew mightily and prevailed, Luke records in (Acts 19:11-20).

     This is also the chapter that tells earlier about some Jewish exorcists who "took it upon themselves to call the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, 'We adjure you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches'." "And there were seven sons of Sceva, a Jew who did so. And the evil spirit answered and said, "Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you? And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, overpowered them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded. And this became known both to all the Jews and Greeks dwelling in Ephesus; and fear fell on them all..." (Acts 19:13-17).

     I said I would talk about Paul causing a riot by what he preached. Well Luke records that "About that time there arose no small stir about the Way" (Acts 19:23). He went on to tell how Paul's preaching was getting into the pocketbooks of some of the business men in Ephesus, men who made their living making images of the goddess Artemis. But I'm getting ahead of the story.

     "For a certain man named Demetrius, a silversmith, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought no small profit to the craftsmen. He called them together with the workers of similar occupation, and said: Men, you know that we have our prosperity by this trade. Moreover you see and hear that not only Ephesus, but throughout almost all Asia, this Paul has persuaded and turned away many people, saying that they are not gods which are made with hands; so that not only this trade of ours is in danger of falling into disrepute, but also the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be despised and her magnificence destroyed, whom all Asia and the world worship. And when they heard this, they were full of wrath and cried out, saying, Great is Artemis of the Ephesians! And the whole city was filled with confusion, and rushed into the theater with one accord, having sized Gaius and Aristarchus, men of Macedonia, Paul's traveling companions" (Acts 19:24-29).

     Alexander tried to make a defense of Paul and the others but when the people found out that he was a Jew, all with one voice cried out for about two hours, "Great is Artemis of the Ephesians" (v-33-35).

     An official calmed the crowd and defended Paul and others and told the folks that they could take this matter up with the authorities if the law had been broken. He reminded them that this was an unlawful assembly and they were in danger of being called into question for the events of that day. So the assembly was dismissed (vv-35-41). After the uproar had ceased, Paul called the disciples to him, embraced them, and departed to go into Macedonia (Acts 20:1).

     Distinctive preaching will today cause an uproar among those whose incomes will be affected if they are identified and their false doctrines are exposed. When false teachers see that they are in danger of losing their following you can be sure they will stand up and fight, and as they do, those who are exposing them will be put in as bad a light as they are able. We will be portrayed as the source of all manner of evil, and called all manner of uncomplimentary names. You can count on it my friends and brethren.

Spiritual Warfare Demands Proper Armor
(Ephesians 6:10-17)

     Earlier in this study in the second paragraph on page one, I cited (2 Corinthians 10:3-50. There as well as the passages under the heading of "Spiritual Warfare Demands Proper Armor, the items contained in the armor are designed to capture the minds (hearts) of men and women and get them out of Satan's service and into the Lord's spiritual army. It is much more difficult to serve in Satan's service than it is in Christ's. There is a paradox here. We surrender to Jesus and become His slaves in order to really be set free from the bondage in which we live as sinners (John 8:31-32; Romans 6:16-18. Remember what Jesus said to Saul who was in religious bondage and error as he attempted to destroy the church of Christ? Jesus told Saul, "...it is hard for you to kick against the goads" (Acts 9:4-5). We learn from Scripture that often false teachers who in reality are "Satan's ministers," (2 Corinthians 11:13-14) offer the people "liberty" and in the process actually bring them into bondage.

     Peter wrote of these folks.

     "These are wells without water, clouds carried by a tempest, to whom the gloom of darkness is reserved forever. For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through licentiousness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error. While they promise them liberty, they themselves are the slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage. For, if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning" (2 Peter 2:17-21).

     Rather than allowing ourselves to be overcome either with moral or doctrinal impurity leading to spiritual bondage, we must put on the armor and do battle with Satan and his allies for the sake of our own souls and others on whom we are able to exert influence both by the lives we live and by wielding the "sword of the Spirit" as kindly yet as forcefully and accurately as we possibly can.

     "...be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of the age, against spiritual wickedness in heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always..."(Ephesians 6:10-18a).

     The faithful gospel preacher(and any faithful Christian) must not only defend the faith when under attack (Jude 3; 2 Timothy 4:1-5), but we must try and edify through teaching and lead an aggressive offensive attack against error and its advocates as well. Paul called the Ephesian elders to him at Miletus and forewarned them of an impending departure from the faith that was in the offing unless they took the proper lead to ward it off. He reminded them that he had not ceased to warn them day and night with tears for some three years. Then he said, "And now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified" (Acts 20:17-32).

     Often times a faithful gospel preacher will bring things to the attention of a congregation about which many of them are totally unaware so they may be well informed and study on how to meet potentially divisive doctrines that will take people into apostasy. You can mark my words, if there is a controversy in Podunk Hollow, sooner or later in all likelihood it will come to your area and to the congregation of which you are a member. The old adage, "To be forewarned is to be forearmed" is as vitally true today as ever. Still, the unlearned, the weak and the squeamish among the brethren are often heard to say, "I don't think we need that kind of preaching here. We don't have that problem," why doesn't he preach some positive things and help us learn how to live better lives? Well, of course that's needed also and the faithful preacher will certainly not shun to "declare the whole council of God" (Acts 20:26-27).

     In many cases it seems the song books need to be rewritten. We often sing a good fight but don't like it when the preacher preaches what we often sing about.

"Encamped along the hills of light, Ye Christian soldiers rise,
And press the battle ere the night, Shall veil the glowing skies.
Against the foe in vales below, let all our strength be hurled;
Faith is the victory, we know, That overcomes the world.
His banner over us is love, Our sword the word of God;
We tread the road the saints above With shouts of triumph trod.
By faith they like a whirlwind's breath, swept on o'er every field;
The faith by which they conquered Death Is still our shining shield.
On every hand the foe we find Drawn up in dread array;
Let tents of ease be left behind, And onward to the fray.
Salvation's helmet on each head, With truth all girt about,
The earth shall tremble neath our tread, and echo with our shout"(Sacred Selections, pg 231 John H. Yates).

     Let me tell you just a few of the foes we face in our present generation. I might add, we aren't doing too well in our battles to stem the popular tide of error both morally and doctrinally. I have said it before, let me remind you again, "we are in the midst of a great apostasy from the faith once delivered." Not only must we fight the enemy without, things like the Judaism, Muslims, Confucianism, Hinduism, Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, Mormonism, Atheism and God alone knows how many other "isms" there are, and to be real frank with you, we aren't doing very well. Many of the "isms" are growing much faster, and are working much harder than are members of the body of Christ.

"The Battle Within.."

1). The one covenant doctrine.
2). The A.D. 70 doctrine.
3). The deity of Christ issue.
4). Marriage divorce & remarriage. Guilty & innocent free to marry.
5). Church support of human institutions.
6). The social gospel.
7). Immodesty.
8). Social drinking.
9). All positive and no negative preaching.
10). Theistic evolution.
11). Binding the head covering as a matter of faith.
12). The professional "clergy."
13). Non literal six days of creation. Earth 4.5 billions years old.
14). Worldliness in many forms.
15). Fellowship doctrinal error using Romans 14.
16). Joint participation with denominations.
17). Denial of a literal hell.
18). Bible just a love letter, not a pattern.
19). Appoint unqualified elders & deacons.
20). Youth recreational and social activities as church work.
21). Sponsoring elderships.
22). So called all purpose rooms for entertainment as church work.
23). World this and world that under "sponsoring eldership."
24). No Lord's day evening communion.
25). Women forbidden to speak in a Bible class.
26). Using women to serve communion and usher.
27). Applauding the preacher's sermon.
28). Perfectionism. Can know all and do all.
29). Jesus was "just a man," an "ordinary guy."
30). Jesus died, "body-Soul-and Spirit."
31). No Bible classes and no class literature.
32). Church support of Bible colleges.
33). "Brother" used as a "title" for gospel preachers.
34). We hear men called "Church of Christ preachers."
35). Some saying the Lord's church is a denomination.
36). Some speak of "A congregation of the church of Christ."
37). More and more "gospel preachers" advocating the use of mechanical instruments of music in worship assemblies of churches of Christ.

     Its high time that some brethren awaken out of their stupor and slothfulness and stand up to be counted for Christ and for His truth before its too late for them and for the congregations of which they are members.

     Jesus-Paul-John the immerser-Stephen-Peter-Timothy and many other preachers would not be acceptable to many members of the body of Christ for they named the sin and the sinners and called upon them to repent and comply with the Lord's will. Can we do any less and still claim to be faithful congregations of the Lord's people or faithful as an individual Christian? The answer is no we cannot. Controversy followed Jesus, Paul, Peter and others. If we are doing our job properly it will follow us as well See (2 Timothy 3:12).

by Kenneth E. Thomas

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