Exposing Apostasy

by A.E. Knoch

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.


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.


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 proclaimed Word.

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.

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