Have I Become Your Enemy?
At the beginning of their relationship, the apostle Paul was treated with great love and respect by the Galatians. On his first visit to Galatia, he was “received.., as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus” Gal. 4:14. They loved him so much that they would have plucked out their own eyes and given them to him if possible Gal. 4:15. However, as time went on their attitude toward Paul changed. They treated him with coldness and suspicion because he pointed out their faults and the dangers to their souls. This is why he asked the question, “Am I therefore become your enemy, because I tell you the truth?” Gal. 4:16.
The duty of the gospel preacher often involves the delivery of an unpleasant message. In life all is not roses, there are thorns also. The gospel of Jesus Christ is not all sweetness and pleasantness. There is no doubt that God’s Word is full of edification, comfort, and pleasant thoughts, but it also contains prohibitions, condemnations, threats, warnings, and negative statements. The message presented by the gospel preacher must be balanced. It should be edifying and comforting, but it must also include warnings and admonitions. This is where the conflict begins.
If you haven’t noticed, truth is not very popular today. We should not be surprised to know that those who proclaim it are not very popular either. Today is similar to the time that Isaiah wrote about: Isa. 30:8-11 “Now go, write it before them in a table, and note it in a book, that it may be for the time to come for ever and ever: That this is a rebellious people, lying children, children that will not hear the law of the LORD: Which say to the seers, See not; and to the prophets, Prophesy not unto us right things, speak unto us smooth things, prophesy deceits: Get you out of the way, turn aside out of the path, cause the Holy One of Israel to cease from before us.” Here we have a group of people who wanted their ears tickled. Many of the inspired doctrines were a reproach to them. The dedicated messengers likewise were reproached and despised. Those who spoke the truth were treated as the enemy.
The man who preaches the truth must not waver. He must stand strong in the face of opposition always remembering his duty. Paul discusses the duty and work of the gospel preacher in his second epistle to Timothy: 2 Tim. 4:1-5 “I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all long suffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure af ictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry.”
The preacher must denounce the sins of the people. John the Baptist rebuked his own countrymen. Jesus Christ spoke some of the most scathing, yet loving, words spoken, Matt. 23. The preacher of the gospel has the responsibility to present all the truth. Paul expressed that duty in Acts 20:20 “And how I kept back nothing that was pro table unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publicly, and from house to house.”Acts 20:25-27 “And now, behold, I know that ye all, among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, shall see my face no more. Wherefore I take you to record this day that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.”
In his letter to the Ephesians Paul declared the whole council of God. All gospel preachers have that same obligation and the duty to speak the whole truth in love Eph. 4:15. One can preach all their life, never preaching any error, and still not please God in their preaching. Those who preach the truth must present the truth on a variety of biblical topics, keeping back nothing that is pro table to the audience, but declaring the whole truth.
Why must an unpopular message be delivered? The answer is found in Rom. 3:23 “for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” This is the basis of preaching; like it or not, we are sinners. The purpose of preaching is to bring sinners to repentance. How can a sinner repent of a sin that God will hold him accountable for if he is never reminded of it? One cannot turn from the wrong and do right when the wrong and the right are not proclaimed. Jesus stated in Luke 6:39,”Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch?”
Instead of becoming angry at Paul and considering him an enemy, the Galatians should have appreciated the fact that he corrected them. The purpose of spiritual correction is the salvation of souls: 1 Tim. 4:16 “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee.” Jam. 5: 19-20 “Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one convert him; Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins.”
It is important that we also recognize the importance of spiritual correction. Just because a person does not know the truth does not lessen its truthfulness. It is still the truth. Our acceptance or rejection does not change the truth. When Saul of Tarsus rejected the truth of the gospel (to the extent of condoning the brutal stoning of one of its messengers: Stephen) did this lessen its truthfulness? When Paul preached the gospel to the city of Lystra and was then stoned and left for dead Acts 14:19, did their rejection lessen their responsibility to obey the message? Rejecting the message or messenger does not change the truth-it only hinders the treatment. A doctor may inform me of a serious health problem. What good would it do for me to get mad at him for delivering the message? If I want to be helped, I need to accept the doctor’s message, face the problem, and seek treatment.
The man speaking the truth is often treated as an enemy by the very people he is trying to help. It would be wonderful to expect fair treatment when it comes to proclaiming the truth, but that will not always be the case. If the Prince of Preachers could not please everyone with His preaching, neither will we. Even though that was the case, He did not stop preaching and loving His brethren. The Apostle Paul’s message was rejected by some, but he did not stop preaching it. 2 Tim. 4:14-18 “Alexander the coppersmith did me much evil: the Lord reward him according to his works: Of whom be thou ware also; for he hath greatly withstood our words. At my first answer no man stood with me, but all men forsook me: I pray God that it may not be laid to their charge. Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear: and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion. And the Lord shall deliver me from every evil work, and will preserve me unto his heavenly kingdom: to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.” The man who preaches the truth has the Lord on his side. Men may reject the message, but the Lord will provide a reward. When the truth is taught to us, we must not reject it, nor attack the messenger. Remember the man who teaches the truth is NOT our enemy. –