FOR SOME TIME a conviction has grown upon me that the
cause of truth could be served better if I should expose the methods of
those who oppose, and rebuke them, basing my action on the scripture:
"Proclaim the word, stand by it, opportunely, inopportunely,
expose, rebuke, entreat, with all patience and teaching. For the era
will be when they will not tolerate sound teaching . . . " (2
Tim.4:2). There can be no doubt that this passage is most applicable in
the present era, for nothing is more evident than the lack of tolerance
for sound doctrine. Never was there a crisis when there was more need of
proclaiming the Word, or of standing by it after it had been made known.
And all will agree that we should entreat, with all patience and
teaching. I cannot help believing that God would have us expose and
rebuke as well. There seems to be great need of exposing the immoral
methods used against the truth, but how can it be done without giving
offense? And those who withstand God's revelation ought to be rebuked,
but who is qualified to do it, and how can personalities be avoided?
All of our readers are acquainted in some measure with the need of
conforming our conduct to the administration in which we live. But we
can go even further than that. Conduct may vary to some extent within
the same economy. We should also distinguish between our general conduct
and that particular phase which deals with the defense of God's truth.
For this there are special directions. We should not fail to make a
difference between the "eras" within the present
administration. All this is usually overlooked. But it is vitally
important in this connection. What we need is to get the passage,
written on this subject for this present time.
The second epistle to Timothy is especially written for those in the
Lord's service, and there are two special passages which particularly
bear on the question of opposition to the truth. We will place them side
by side, the better to compare them:
2 Timothy 2:23-26
Now stupid and crude questionings refuse,
being aware that they are generating fightings. Now
the Lord's slave must not be fighting, but be gentle to all, apt
to teach, bearing with evil, in meekness training
those who are antagonizing, if perchance in time God may give
them repentance to come into a realization of the truth and they
should be sobering up out the Slanderer's trap, having
been caught alive by him for that one's will.
2 Timothy 4:2-4
Proclaim the word, stand by it, opportunely,
inopportunely, expose, rebuke, entreat, with all patience and
teaching. For the era will be when they will not tolerate sound
teaching, but, their hearing being tickled, they will heap up
for themselves teachers in accord with their own desires, and,
indeed, they will be turning their hearing away from the truth
and will be turned aside to myths.
Once we see that one is especially for the time before the
"last days" (3:1), and the other particularly for later
eras (4: 3), the two passages begin to come into clear focus. In the
first an individual antagonizes, in the second masses heap up teachers.
In the first there is hope of repentance, in the second there is no such
prospect presented, at least for the teachers. In the first the
antagonism begins with stupid and crude questionings on the part of an
individual, in the second sound teaching is not tolerated by one who
instructs others. The more we compare these passages the more we will
see that there is much room for spiritual discrimination on the part of
the Lord's servant who wishes to guide his own footsteps by them.
Would it not be wise, even in these last days, to distinguish between
one who opposes with a crude question, and an intolerant teacher? The
former we should not expose or rebuke, but refuse his
questions. There is nothing to stand by, for positive truth has
not been attacked. Only a stupid question has been raised. Crudeness and
stupidity are at the root of the matter, and these demand sympathetic
treatment. They call for teaching and training. Such a one needs to be
taught the truth. With a firm but gentle hand he needs to be led away
from things that lead to fighting, until he awakes to the fact that he
was a tool of the Slanderer. The object of the Lord's slave is to induce
repentance, to change his mind.
How different are the conditions in the second passage! Just
preceding it we read, "All Scripture is inspired by God, and is
beneficial for teaching, for exposure, for correction, for
discipline in righteousness, that the man of God may be equipped,
fitted out for every good act." Then comes the positive charge:
"I am conjuring you before God and Christ Jesus, Who is about to be
judging the living and the dead, in accord with His advent and His
kingdom: Proclaim the word..." This we consider our chief
task, and God has blessed it and will bless it. A few of our friends
would have us stop here. They tell us that God will look after it if we
only proclaim it. But this is only the first item of the charge.
"STAND BY IT"
Do not these words enjoin us to defend the Word, after we have
proclaimed it? It is a most practical question. Few of us, it seems,
realize that even that Word itself is partly defensive. Galatians adds
little to the sum of truth, but it enforces it by means of a background
of error. This injunction implies that the proclamation of the truth
will be followed by attacks upon it. We have had enough examples to
illustrate this fact. Just now, for instance, we are seeking to uphold
the Word against attacks in four regions of the earth, almost as far
apart as the poles. Does not this injunction impose such a duty upon us?
How shall we stand by the Word?
Now we have come to the crucial words. Is it not our duty to expose
and rebuke those who oppose the proclamation of the Word? If we have
failed we may be sure that this failure has not come from the doing but
from the faulty manner in which this has been done. I confess
that there have been times when my blood has boiled with indignation,
and I pity anyone who would feel otherwise when immoral means are used
to destroy the truth, by those who profess to defend it. To be tepid at
such a time would be traitorous. But it is easy to fail here. However
much one may try to be just, it appears to those not fully in sympathy
nor deeply stirred, as if we were unduly harsh. This applies especially
to rebuke. It seems almost impossible to be impersonal, or to
avoid giving offense, especially in the eyes of those not acquainted
with the details. It seems best, therefore, not to take much space for
such matters in the magazine, but to leave them to local brethren, when
that is possible.
The following will illustrate the point. A magazine published an
article against the Version, with little else but misrepresentations,
and several direct falsehoods. The whole case against the Concordant
Greek text was based upon the assertion that it reinserts the words
about the Trinity in 1 John 5:7, which it does not do. Several
loyal friends wrote protesting letters, one of them asserting that this
falsehood, if an error, was inexcusable, and if intentional, was
damnable. I tried to control my feelings and make my protest mild and
courteous. In reply I was thanked because my letter was not "unchristlike,"
as those some of my friends had written. I felt condemned, for Christ
did not treat such sins with either mildness or courtesy. I had not been
"Christlike" under the circumstances. To religious leaders who
hired false witness against Him His words were scathing in the extreme.
I am not claiming that we should copy Christ's severity in this
regard. But I am sure that many have a false idea of what is "Christlike."
He was not always gentle or submissive. The place and the person made
all the difference. He was intensely zealous of all that pertained to
God, and cast out those who defiled the temple. He was especially plain
spoken with those who displaced the Word of God by their tradition,
calling them hypocrites. If we wished to be "Christlike" in
the case before us there would be no mincing matters. I feel certain
that the most severe letter written by my friends was the most "Christlike,"
and mine was the least. It produced uncomfortable conviction, but I gave
the impression that I thought lightly of their sins, though I considered
them the most flagrant, in God's sight, that can be committed.
"ENTREAT, WITH ALL PATIENCE AND TEACHING"
In connection with the case already mentioned, about a year was
allowed to go by without any public exposure or rebuke. There were
repeated entreaties, and much correspondence. A large amount of actual
evidence was presented, and several thoughtful discussions were sent. To
me it seems that we have fully obeyed this Scripture. There has been
much entreaty and teaching and patience. But this has had very little
effect. It has only confirmed the statement that they will not
tolerate sound teaching.
In this case I have appealed to the local class for such action as
they deem best. The time has come when teachers will not endure sound
doctrine. That they will not endure the great truths which we seek to
proclaim is no mean evidence of their truth. That this is so widespread
is another good symptom. Surely the spirit of God is not alluding to a
few saints in this passage, but to the general, prevailing character of
this era. May the Lord exercise our hearts in this matter, so that we
may not be lukewarm or really unchristlike, in standing by His
This article, so far, was written a long time ago, but it was not
published for fear that it might lead to lawless excesses and unworthy
strife. Only those properly qualified to teach should attempt it. But
now I have before me an actual experience in which God has used it for
blessing, so I send it forth. The case was something like this: The
Fundamentalists and Modernists were attacking each other in the daily
papers. A brother wrote, showing them that their phraseology was not
scriptural, and stating that he was ready to debate the matter publicly
with any of them, especially the doctrine of the Trinity. Only one
minister took him up, but demanded a statement of belief from the
brother as to "the Person, Nature and Deity of Christ." Of
course, there is no "belief" possible on these themes, as they
are false expressions, unknown to the Scriptures. The minister withdrew
from the debate on this account!
But the matter came up again and again in the local paper. Several
preachers made public statements or preached on the theme. Some of them
acknowledged that it was not directly stated in the Bible. The result
was that public interest in the Scriptures was aroused and openings were
found for God's Word. The exposure led to some rather violent scenes,
but it is difficult to see how they could be avoided and still fulfill
the Scriptures, for defenders of orthodoxy may become very violent when
exposed. The matter is being followed up by teaching. A pamphlet was
prepared on the subject. Such a course, it seems to us, is indicated by
this passage. We are to stand by the word we proclaim, opportunely or
inopportunely, and not to shrink at exposing and rebuking. But this
should be followed by entreating, with patience and teaching, even
though we know that sound teaching will not be tolerated.