Why the Battle Is Not Fought
By Gil Yoder
Time was when faithful men judiciously exposed error. Many potentially devastating problems were averted or contained. At the least, the church knew about the threat. Things have changed. Debate and showdown have stopped, and in the name of "charity," brethren have ceased to show concern for doctrinal purity. As a result, errors seem unimportant, and the church is in danger of being swallowed by total digression.
Why do we no longer confront those who oppose the truth of God? (Some defy those who teach error, but generally brethren have laid down their arms.) Consider a few possible reasons for our feebleness:
Apathy. Some brethren fail to combat error because they feel that doctrinal differences are not all that important, and God will overlook heresy in the final judgment. This was not the attitude of the early preachers of the Gospel. Paul reminded the Ephesian elders:
For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of you own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears (Acts 20:29-31).
Notice the frequency and concern with which Paul warned them -
day and night with tears.
Ignorance. Some hide behind an apron of ignorance; they know problems exist generally, but they purposely avoid specific knowledge to justify inaction. Their unawareness will not excuse them. Paul's command to the elders of Ephesus to "watch" means "give strict attention to, cautious, active: to take heed lest through remissness and indolence some destructive calamity suddenly overtake one" (Thayer, p. 122). We have an obligation to know about problems, to watch!
Doubt. Some doubt their own beliefs; their knowledge of God's Word is so shaky they cannot say with any confidence that what they teach is true. So when it comes to false doctrine, they cannot know what is false. Some claim to know with absolute certainty that one cannot know anything with absolute certainty! While this may appear as humility, in reality it attacks the ability of God to make his will known. Paul wrote, "By revelation [God] made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)" (Eph. 3:34).
Slothfulness. Some brethren may simply be too lazy to fight the battles in which the church is engaged. To these the Lord will say in the end, "Thou wicked and slothful servant ... Cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth" (Matt. 25:26, 30).
Covetousness. Some in the family of God refuse to confront false teachers because they fear a loss of income if they should do so. They think that to speak out against wrong teaching where they are employed would be the end of them. Their silence is inexcusable. They are just as guilty as those who actively teach error. "For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly" (Rom. 16:18). Paul commands us to withdraw from those who suppose that godliness is merely a way of gain (I Tim. 6:5).
If ever there was a time when the church needed valiant soldiers of the cross to take up the panoply of God against evil, now is such a time. We must overcome our inhibitions and take into our hands "the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God" (Eph. 6:17). "Have not I commanded thee? Be strong and of a good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest" (Josh. 1:9). "Finally, be strong in the Lord, and in the strength of his might."
(Editor's note: When the saints of God knew what they believed and why they believed it, they did not hesitate for a moment to tell all others about it, and the church was strong. The key to church growth is for the members to be possessed of a powerful conviction and, therefore, to say, "We cannot but speak what we know to be true. " If this brings persecution, then let us rejoice "to be counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the Name - Dobbs.)