December 1, 1986 Issue
by Paul O. Nichols

    The title of our article is an excerpt from a speech made by the apostle Paul to the elders of Ephesus. It is recorded in Acts chapter 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 taught them "publicly and from house to house", 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 council of God" (v32). He had "kept back nothing that was profitable" to them (v20). In short, he was a courageous and faithful servant of the Lord.

In The Old Testament

Ezekiel, the priest, 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 has 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" (Eze 3:17-21). Ezekiel could have excused himself by saying the people would not listen to him. But the Lord precluded that in the preceding 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" (Eze 2:7). The 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 for the benefit of the warned as well as for the sake of the man who did the warning.

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 Thes 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" (Gal 1:10). The apostle was a servant of the Lord, not a politician.

    He was not interested in popularity, but the salvation of souls. He wrote the Corinthians, "Knowing therefore the terror of the Lord, we persuade men" (2 Cor 5:11). We are informed of his attitude in preaching the gospel when he writes, "Therefore, seeing 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 Cor 4:1,2).

When the apostle addressed the elders of Ephesus, he could boldly assert, "I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God" (Acts 20:26,27). "...l ceased not to warn everyone night and day with tears" (v 31).

Paul's Instruction To Preachers

    To Timothy 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 Tim 4:6). Again, he says, "These things command and teach" (1 Tim 4:11). To Titus he writes, "These things speak, and exhort and rebuke with all authority" (Tit 2:15). In Paul's last 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 Tim 4:2-4). He also predicted that the time would come when people would be "lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God" (2 Tim 3:4). I think that all honest persons can agree that we are living in such a time.

Not All Men Love Truth

    Our Lord said, "Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled" (Matt 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 disciple of Christ, was stoned to death for his preaching to the Jews. And Paul asks of Christians, "Am I therefore become your enemy because I tell you the truth? (Gal 4:16). Truth only makes friends of those who love truth.

    It is dangerous for one not to love the truth all of it. Because of this attitude some "changed the truth of God into a lie" (Rom 1:25). Paul said concerning 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 the 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 Thes 2:10-12).

    When Jesus was on trial for His life before Pilate, the governor asked the poignant question, "What is the truth" (Jno 18:38). The question is answered for all in Jno 17:17, when Jesus in His prayer to God says, "Thy word is truth."

    The wise man, Solomon declares, "Fools despise wisdom and instruction" (Prov 1:7). The man who does not want to be warned or taught his duty is foolish and jeopardizes his own salvation. Paul says, "And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and good works" (Heb 10:24). But when this done out of concern for souls, sometimes are those who just get provoked. But Paul said to the elders of Ephesus, "I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears." And neither will we if we love souls and want to see them saved.

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