THE TITLE OF THIS article is from a speech made by the apostle Paul to
the elders at Ephesus. It is recorded in Acts 20. He was reminding them
of his preaching and teaching while he was working with them. He had
come there and established the church and for three years he continued
to teach them. He was continually making known to them duties and
responsibilities, and warning them of the consequences of sin and
unfaithfulness. He had "not shunned to declare...all the counsel of God"
(v. 32), and had "kept back nothing that was profitable" to them (v.
20). In short, he was a courageous and faithful servant of the Lord.
In the Old Testament, Ezekiel, the priest of God, was told by the Lord,
"Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel:
Therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me.
When I say unto the wicked Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him
not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to
save his life, the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his
blood will I require at thine hand. Yet if thou warn the wicked and he
turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in
his Iniquity, but thou hast delivered thy soul. Again, when a righteous
man doth turn from his righteousness, and commit iniquity and I lay a
stumbling block before him, he shall die: because thou hast not given
him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he
hath done shall not be remembered: but his blood will I require at thine
hand. Nevertheless, if thou warn the righteous man, that the righteous
sin not, and he doth not sin, he shall surely live, because he is
warned; also thou hast delivered thy soul" (Ezekiel 3:17-21).
Ezekiel could have excused himself by saying the people would not
listen. But the Lord precluded that in the previous chapter. He said,
..And thou shalt speak my words unto them, whether they will hear, or
whether they will forbear: For they are most rebellious" (Ezekiel 2:7).
A warning would serve two purposes: (1) It would make the person warned
aware of the sin and the consequence of it. (2) It would make Ezekiel
free from the blood of the individual warned. It was primarily for the
benefit of the person warned, but it also benefited the one doing the
warning by keeping him free from guilt.
In the New Testament it was the apostle Paul who wrote to the
Thessalonians, "But as we were allowed of God to be put in trust with
the gospel, even so we speak; not as pleasing men, but God which trieth
our hearts " (1 Thessalonians 2:4). He writes to the Galatians, "For do
I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I yet
pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ" (Galatians 1:10).
The apostle was a servant of Christ, not a politician. He was not out to
please men, but God. Paul was not interested in popularity, but the
salvation of souls. Thus, he wrote the Corinthians, "Knowing therefore
the terror of the Lord, we persuade men" (2 Corinthians 5:11). We gain
insight to his attitude when he writes to these same people "Therefore
seeing that we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint
not; but have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in
craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by
manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's
conscience in the sight of God" (2 Corinthians 4:1,2).
When the apostle addressed the elders of Ephesus, he could boldly
assert, "I am pure of the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to
declare unto you all the counsel of God" (Acts 20:26,27). "...I ceased
not to warn everyone night and day with tears (v. 31).
To Timothy, a preacher of the gospel, Paul wrote, "If thou put the
brethren in remembrance of these things, thou shalt be a good minister
of Jesus Christ, nourished up in the words of faith and of good
doctrine, whereunto thou hast attained" (1 Timothy 4: 11). To Titus he
writes, "These things speak, and exhort and rebuke with all authority"
(Titus 2: 15). In Paul's second letter to Timothy he wrote, "Preach the
word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with
all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will
not endure sound doctrine and they shall turn away their ears from the
truth, and shall be turned unto fables" (2 Timothy 4:2-4). He also
informs us that men would be "lovers of pleasures more than lovers of
God" (2 Tim. 3:4). I believe that all honest men can agree that we are
living in such a time.
When Jesus was on earth He preached, "Blessed are they which do hunger
and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled" (Matthew 5:6).
But all men do not take kindly to instruction. Jesus was crucified for
His teaching. John the Baptist was beheaded for the truth he spoke. And
Stephen, a faithful disciple of Christ, was stoned to death for
preaching the truth to the Jews. And when Paul writes to the Galatians,
he asks, "Am I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the
truth?" (Galatians 4:16). Truth only makes friends of those who want to
know and do what's right.
It is dangerous for one not to love the truth - all of it. Because of a
wrong attitude some "changed the truth of God into a lie" (Romans 1:25).
Paul said of others, " And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in
them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that
they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong
delusion, that they should believe a lie. That they all might be damned
who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness" (2
Thessalonians 2: 10-12).
The wise man of the Bible, Solomon, declares, "Fools despise wisdom and
instruction" (Proverbs 1:7). The man who does not want to be warned of
sin nor instructed in righteous living is foolish and jeopardizes his
own salvation. The word of God teaches us, "And let us consider one
another to provoke unto love and good works" (Hebrews 10:24).
Remember, Paul told the elders of Ephesus, "I ceased not to warn
everyone night and day with tears." And if we love the souls of men and
women and want to see them saved, neither will we cease to preach the
truth and warn people of the need of doing what is right.
- 14970 FORE8TVIEW DR
BONNER SPRINGS, KS 66012
[Editor's Comment - Sometimes it is hard to listen to preaching that
condemns our sins and errors but we must be careful and listen.
Furthermore, since the faithful gospel preacher can teach only the Truth
and all of the Truth, God demands that you and I receive the message.
The word of God says, "Behold, happy is the man whom God correcteth:
therefore despise not thou the chastening of the Almighty" (Job 5:17);
"My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his
correction" (Proverbs 3:11 ); "And ye have forgotten the exhortatlon
which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the
chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him" (Hebrews
12:5). We need to remember this teaching - "Do not despise the words of
prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from
every form of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:20,21,22 NRSV). Your eternity will
be determined on how you deal with the word of God.
I read somewhere about John Wanamaker, who was called "the world's
merchant prince and companion of kings, rulers and presidents." It was
said that he began his career as an errand boy earnlng $1.25 a week, but
became one of the largest purchasers of merchandise the world has ever
known. What do you suppose was his greatest purchase? On one occasion,
he commenting on this Idea said, "I have, of course, made large
purchases of property In my lifetime, involving many millions of
dollars, and the buildings and grounds in wnlch we are now meeting
represent a value of approximately twenty billion dollars. But it was
as a boy, in the country, at eleven years of age, that I made my biggest
purchase. . . I bought from my teacher a small red leather Bible about
eight inches long and six inches wide. The Bible cost me $2.75 - which I
paid in small installments as I saved up my own money which I had
earned." Later he stated that the millions of dollars he had dealt in
through the years were small compared to buying the Scriptures at the
age of eleven.
What is your Bible worth to you? Many of us have very little time to
read and study the Word of God. Our all important, limited preparation
time is often squandered on things of very little value. - R.N.]