Objection is often raised even by some sound in the faith-regarding the exposure of error as being entirely negative and of no real edification. Of late, the hue and cry has been against any and all negative teaching. But the brethren who assume this attitude forget that a large part of the New Testament, both of the teaching of our blessed Lord Himself and the writings of the apostles, is made up of this very character of ministry-namely, showing the Satanic origin and, therefore, the unsettling results of the propagation of erroneous systems which Peter, in his second epistle, so definitely refers to as “damnable heresies.” Our Lord prophesied, “Many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.” Within our own day, how many false prophets have risen; and oh, how many are the deceived! Paul predicted, “I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch.” My own observation is that these “grievous wolves,” alone and in packs, are not sparing even the most favored flocks. Elders in these “perilous times” will do well to note the apostle’s warning: “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the holy Spirit hath made you overseers.” It is as important in these days as in Paul’s-in fact, it is increasingly important-to expose the many types of false teaching that, on every hand, abound more and more. We are called upon to “contend earnestly for the faith once for all delivered to the saints,” while we hold the truth in love. The faith means the whole body of revealed truth, and to contend for all of God’s truth necessitates some negative teaching. The choice is not left with us. Jude said he preferred a different, a pleasanter theme-“Beloved, when I gave all diligence to write unto you of the common salvation, it was needful for me to write unto you, and exhort you that ye should earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints. For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ” (Jude 3, 4). Paul likewise admonishes us to “have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them” (Eph. 5:11). This does not imply harsh treatment of those entrapped by error-quite the opposite. If it be objected that exposure to error necessitates unkind reflection upon others who do not see as we do, our answer is: it has always been the duty of every loyal servant of Christ to warn against any teaching that would make Him less precious or cast reflection upon His finished redemptive work and the all-sufficiency of His present service as our great High Priest and Advocate. Every system of teaching can be judged by what it sets forth as to these fundamental truths of the faith. “What think ye of Christ?” is still the true test of every creed. The Christ of the Bible is certainly not the Christ of any false “-ism.” Each of the cults has its hideous caricature of our lovely Lord. Let us who have been redeemed at the cost of His precious blood be “good soldiers of Jesus Christ.” As the battle against the forces of evil waxes ever more hot, we have need for God-given valour. There is constant temptation to compromise. “Let us go forth therefore unto Him without the camp, bearing His reproach.” It is always right to stand firmly for what God has revealed concerning His blessed Son’s person and work. The “father of lies” deals in half-truths and specializes in most subtle fallacies concerning the Lord Jesus, our sole and sufficient Savior. Error is like leaven of which we read, “A little leaven leaveneth the whole lump.” Truth mixed with error is equivalent to all error, except that it is more innocent looking and, therefore, more dangerous. God hates such a mixture! Any error, or any truth-and-error mixture, calls for definite exposure and repudiation. To condone such is to be unfaithful to God and His Word and treacherous to imperiled souls for whom Christ died. Exposing error is most unpopular work. But from every true standpoint it is worthwhile work. To our Savior, it means that He receives from us, His blood-bought ones, the loyalty that is His due. To ourselves, if we consider “the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt,” it ensures future reward, a thousand-fold. And to those “caught in the snare of the fowler”-how many of them God only knows-it may mean light and life, abundant and everlasting.
“Beloved, I now write this second letter to you, in which I stir up your pure mind by reminder to remember the words which were spoken before by the holy prophets, and of the commandment of the Lord and Savior by us, the apostles. First, knowing this, that there will come in the last days scoffers walking according to their own lusts and saying, Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” – 2Pe 3:1-4
Many—and very plain and positive—are the warnings of God’s Word against the “evil communications” that “corrupt good manners” (1 Cor. 15: 33). The Apostle Paul’s counsel (Acts 20: 28-30) to all the elders of the church was, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over which the Holy Spirit hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.” And Jude said, “Beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; how that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts. These be they who separate themselves [from the Truth and its Spirit], sensual [minding earthly things, and gratifying the ambitions and tastes of the old nature], having not the Spirit. But ye, beloved, building up yourselves on your most holy faith, praying with a holy spirit [a spirit of loyalty and devotion to God], keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life” (Jude 17-21).
Thus we are put on guard against the enemies of the Truth, and it is made obligatory upon all the faithful to be on the alert against them, and to be prompt in discerning and in dealing with them, so that the flock of Christ may be spared. The Apostle Paul grows very earnest in urging this matter, saying, “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own desires; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple [those not on the alert against the encroachments of error]” (Rom. 16: 17, 18). Again, says the same Apostle (2 Tim. 2: 16), “Shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness.”
HOW THE POLICY OF COMPROMISE SPEAKS
No, says the ungodly policy of this evil day of compromises and of disloyalty to “the faith once delivered to the saints,” “We cannot walk by this strict rule: we dare not recognize and admit the real character of a wolf in the sheepfold, if the wolf be attired in sheep’s clothing; we must accept his professions, notwithstanding his words and his actions to the contrary. We cannot believe that of our own selves—right in the midst of the company of the consecrated—any will arise to ‘pervert the truth’ and to ‘draw disciples after them’; and we dare not ‘mark’ any as such, and ‘avoid them,’ or ‘shun their profane and vain babblings,’ as the Apostle suggests, for that would be uncharitable, unloving and unkind.”
Lately we hear a great deal in favor of a broad-minded charity which gives loose rein to the enemies of the doctrines of Christ—a charity which would affiliate with every form of belief and unbelief; that makes no claims or superiority for one religion over another, be it heathen or Christian or anti-Christian; and that freely fellowships all and bids all Godspeed, utterly heedless of the Word of the Lord, which says, “Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God,” and “If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed; for he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds” (2 John 9-11) .
The warning here is not against those who never knew the Truth, but against those who have known it and have been blessed by it, and who afterward turned away from it; of whom the Apostle Peter speaks, saying, “If after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning [they are worse off than those who have always been of the world]. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them. But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog is turned to his own vomit again; and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire” (2 Pet. 2: 20-22). Why do they do so? Because the dog nature and/or the sow nature and disposition are still there, and only wait for opportunities and circumstances to prove it. So also says the Apostle John: They that go out from us—who desert the Truth and its interests—do so because they are not of us (1 John 2: 19), because the old fleshly mind and disposition are still there and are allowed to come again into control.
In some cases the desertion may be only on one or a few items of Bible Truth, in other cases it may be many. Also, in some cases one who is fighting the Truth may never have been enlightened or is insufficiently enlightened on the pertinent truth or truths he is opposing. These things, and also the relative importance of the truth or truths that are being deserted and opposed would all have to be taken into consideration in determining how much friendship and fellowship we could give such. Certainly we should not fellowship with them in their errors of doctrine and practice, but are rather to reprove them (Eph. 5: 11).
Again, many who once were “established in the present truth” (2 Pet. 1: 12) regarding the Bible chronology, the Second Advent and the beginning of the binding of Satan and Christ’s Thousand-year Reign (Rev. 20: 1-4) as having set in with the beginning of the seventh thousand-year day after Adam’s fall, the beginning of Earth’s Great jubilee, in 1874 (B 173-200), now reject these Bible-based truths, some denying that Jesus has come again in His Second Advent, others denying that the binding of Satan has even started yet, and some even casting aside the Bible chronology and substituting a false chronology in an effort to prove that Christ’s Thousand-year Reign has not begun yet.
The love which goes out toward the enemies of the cross of Christ–those who have been once enlightened by the truth and have turned away from it–is not the right kind of love. We are commanded to “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world,” and told that “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him” (1 John 2:15); and, again, “This is love, that we walk after his commandments.” —2 John 6.
“And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.”–Gal. 6:16.
“To be established in the truth signifies that we have carefully studied and thoroughly proved it by “the law and the testimony” (Isa. 8:20), and that as a consequence we are convinced of its verity, so that our faith is steadfast and immovable: we know whom we have believed; we have tasted and seen that the Lord is good; we have partaken of the sweets of fellowship with him; we have partaken of his spirit of meekness, faith and godliness to such an extent as to be led into a joyful realization of the fullness of his grace as manifested in the wonderful divine plan of the ages; and we have been permitted to see, not only the various features of that plan, but also the necessity and reasonableness of all its various measures in order to the full accomplishment of its glorious outcome in the fullness of the appointed times. This is what it is to be “established in the present truth.” It is indeed a most blessed condition, bringing with it such peace and joy as the world can neither give nor take away.” (R:3089)
The Apostle Paul said that apostles, prophets, evangelist, pastors and teachers were provided by the Lord, “for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.” Eph. 4:11-14. He says to Timothy, “ But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived. But continue thou in the things which thou hast learned and hast been assured of, knowing of whom thou hast learned them.” 2 Timothy 3:13, 14
We are admonished to be “steadfast, immoveable”; to be “established in the faith”; and told that “we are made partakers with Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast unto the end.” Any teaching that is so changeable that its followers cannot be established in it, is manifestly wrong. We read in James 1:16, 17, “Do not err, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variableness, neither shadows of turning.”
We call attention to the many changes made by those who have been in control of the Watch Tower Bible and Tract society since Brother Russell’s death, and ask, how can they harmonize their many “delusive” changes with the words of the Apostle above quoted?
What is the result to those who have become so completely deluded as to “believe a lie”? Brother Russell says of such, “They become irreconcilable to the Truth, so that neither Scripture, nor reason, nor the example of the faithful can restore them.” What a sad condition for “those who were once enlightened.”
Brother Russell fully realized that his earnest warning would avail nothing to many of the deluded ones, but to those whose love for the message which the Lord has sent us through his faithful ministry has not been entirely quenched, may his words of warning be indeed “a savor of life unto life.”
If from time to time the Lord shall permit Satan to sift his Church “like wheat,” let us remember that our great Advocate’s assistance in proper measure and power will bring to all who are loyal at heart the needed grace and strength for every temptation. He will not suffer such to be tempted above what they are able to bear, but with the temptation permitted will provide a way of escape. We must expect, however, that these siftings of the wheat are not only permitted but intended to separate some, and it is not for us to murmur or complain against Divine Providence in this matter. “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away. Blessed be the name of the Lord!” Even though those who are being “sifted” have been very dear to us, as St. Peter and the other apostles were to the Lord, it is for us to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God. – 1 Pet. 5:6.
On the other hand, while remembering the Scriptural injunction to “mark them which cause divisions… and avoid them” (Romans 16:17), we should not allow any bitterness respecting them to enter our hearts or to escape our lips or our pens, no matter what they may say or do against us. “See that no man render evil for evil nor railing for railing, but contrariwise.” Let us be like our Lord who, when reviled, reviled not again. As we see some going blind respecting precious truths which they once saw clearly, it will properly grieve our hearts for them. But we are to remember that the Lord’s Cause will lose nothing; that it is in the hands of the Omnipotent One, who is able to make all things work together for the fulfilment of the counsel of his own will – his glorious purposes. Would we smite the blind? Surely not! Then neither should we by act nor word be unkind to those who are “going out from us, because they are not all of us” – those who in this hour of temptation are being smitten down by the arrows of the Adversary because, from the Lord’s standpoint, not deemed worthy of the necessary succor. – 1 John 2:19.
The three important lessons for the Lord’s faithful to be sure that they have learned are these: (1) That meekness, humility, is of primary importance, not only to gain an entrance into the Lord’s family, but also to maintain a place therein. (2) That obedient faith, abiding trust, is an indispensable quality, not only for the eternal future, but also for the maintenance of our proper relationship to the Lord in the present life. Without it we would wander and be uncertain in all our course. With it we may abide in meekness under our Lord’s protecting care. (3) Love, the essence and sum of all the graces, must rule in our hearts richly, abundantly. A proper love for God will not only keep us very meek, very humble, very teachable, but will also give us great faith, great confidence in him and an attitude of heart which he will be pleased to guide aright. A love for the brethren will make us meek and gentle and willing to lay down our lives in their interest. If we know these things, happy are we if we do them.
In some respects a still greater commotion will ensue when the sealed and gathered servants, the “wheat” class, are examined after having been brought into some measure of the light and privileges of the present truth – when, as shown in two parables, two classes will be forcibly cast out of the light into the outer darkness of the world, thus to pass with the world through the great trouble now impending. The two classes to be thus cast out by the Lord are – first, those who have taken off the wedding garment of Christ’s righteousness and who deny the precious blood and the ransom which it alone secures; and secondly, the unfaithful servants who bury their consecrated talents in earthly things instead of using them in the Master’s service. No earthly power can keep such from going into the outer darkness of error, for it is the Master’s order that they shall be cast out.
Moreover, we can only expect that such will struggle vehemently against any reproofs and against any words of warning, and claim that instead of going into the outer darkness of the world they are following new light. As a reward for your efforts to do them good and to help them, by exposing their delusions, they will hate you and say all manner of evil against you. Be not surprised at this; it is merely incidental to the sifting which must go on to the finish. Remember the Master’s words further – It is needful that offenses and divisions come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh. (Matt. 18:7; Rom. 16:17; 1 Cor. 11:19.) Let us not by our acts or words or looks drive such from us, except in so far as faithfulness in speaking the truth boldly and in love will do it. Let the truth make the separation. Speak the truth in love, and stand firmly by it. It is the power of God, not only in the first separating and gathering, but it will be the power also in the second separating and casting out. “For the word of God is quick and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing of soul and spirit and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner [manifester] of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” – Heb. 4:12.
Nor will those cast out of the light, as unworthy of it, recognize the agency by which the Lord will cast them out, any more than they recognized his agency in bringing them into the light. Yet he tells us that he will cast them out. They will go out from us because they were not of us, that it may be manifest that they were not all of us. (1 John 2:19.) They go out from us because they lack full consecration and full submission to the will of God. For this cause, thus to cast them out, the Lord will send them strong delusions, delusive errors, that they may believe a lie; that thus all who, when they know the truth, fail to take pleasure in serving it, may be condemned and manifested as unworthy of joint-heirship with Christ, and consequently unworthy of the light which he provides only for such.