It Sounds Good, But Is It True?

Clever “one-liners” and biblical phrases lifted out of context are heard on every hand today. More often than not, they tend to encourage what God has forbidden, or discourage what God’s Word has commanded. As Bible-believers, we must exercise great care when we speak to an issue. Our response must be with the correct application of truth, and not with a commonly used idiom that unwarily pops into the mind and rolls easily off the tongue. Let us notice a few that are especially deceptive.

“Touch not the Lord’s anointed!”

Time and again we hear this cry parroted as a counter to those who attempt to alert the unsuspecting of the dangerous, unbiblical teachings of a particular ministry. As a result, key religious figures fall into a category that is apparently safe from scriptural examination. Since their ministries influence millions, they must be God’s anointed and, as a result, don’t you dare “touch” them!

If you give a warning concerning doctrinal inconsistencies within the programs and ministries led by men, for example, such as Billy Graham, Rick Warren, James Dobson, Benny Hinn, the pope or even a fundamentalist leader in the church, you can be assured that in the estimation of many, the moment the word of caution was uttered, you became guilty of “touching the Lord’s anointed.” This indictment sounds ominous to say the least, but the question still remains, “What does God’s Word have to say about this?” That is the only consideration that really matters.

A look at the actual context from which this phrase is lifted provides clear-cut proof that scriptural reproof and rebuke does not constitute “touching God’s anointed” at all. In fact, God made sure that Saul was forced to face up to his compromise! The ministry of the king of Israel was judged according to the Lord’s commandments, and no man today is exempt from this same kind of biblical scrutiny.

David refused to slay King Saul with the sword, even though in doing so he would rid himself of his archenemy and also clear the way for his own ascent to the throne of Israel (1 Samuel 24:1-15). God, not David, would remove Saul in His time and in His way (26:8-10). But some say there is a “secondary application” found in this text which would also bar any negative comment about another’s far-reaching ministry, for this too would constitute “speaking against” one of God’s servants and is, in essence, “touching God’s anointed.” Is this a viable, secondary application? Absolutely not!

Samuel certainly “touched God’s anointed,” if by that you mean speaking out against his disobedience. God told Saul to “smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not…” (1 Samuel 15:3). But under a pretext of pious intention, he “…spared the best of the sheep and of the oxen, to sacrifice unto the Lord…” (v. 15). Partial obedience—Samuel said it was tantamount to witchcraft and idolatry. To obey is better than sacrifice. It is not “unloving” to speak out against error as our Lord requires.

King Saul had a public, visible testimony that affected all of God’s people. When he failed to minister according to the absolute standard, God’s faithful prophet was commanded to cry out against the error. Take his life—no; rebuke his sins—yes! Let’s understand what the Bible forbids in this account, and what it demands. Scriptural reproof and rebuke of a disobedient brother who is leading others astray is not “touching God’s anointed.” It is compliance with God’s order to warn the unwary.

"Judge Not That Ye Be Not Judged"

This is another example of a frequently misapplied scripture. It is invariably quoted as a response to any attempt at exercising spiritual discernment in situations involving doctrinal error or compromise. But when the rest of the passage from which the phrase is taken in Matthew seven is considered, it is found that hypocritical judgment is disallowed, not the act of judging itself. On the contrary, spiritual judgment is required by this text, not forbidden (Matthew 7:1-23). If judgment is forbidden, then how can one “see clearly to cast out the mote” (v. 5); discern what is the broad way that “leadeth to destruction” (v. 13); be wary of false prophets, wolves “in sheep’s clothing” (v. 15) and determine whether or not a supposed religious worker is doing the will of God or is in fact a worker of “iniquity” (vv. 21-23)? We are to “judge righteous judgment” (John 7:24; Hebrews 5:13-14). But, again, the Word must be the Standard by which we judge all things, and we must be as quick to apply the same to ourselves as we are to others.

True, much “judging” today by Christians is displeasing to the Lord, for it is carried out in a censorious, critical spirit bent on causing injury rather than edification; it is set on character assassination rather than doctrinal clarification. That is wrong and the Bible warns about such fleshly behavior. There are also matters of conviction where sound doctrine is not diminished or where one’s motives are questioned that God’s Word tells us to leave alone (Romans 14; 1 Corinthians 4:1-5; 10:23-33; Colossians 2:16-17). But in no way does this preclude the believer’s responsibility to judge, or discern, what is acceptable to an all-holy God as revealed in His holy Word. A circumspect walk requires the identification of those teachings and practices to be avoided. You simply cannot do this without judging.

“We Will Either Stand Together or We Will Hang Separately”

This phrase, or a version of it, is often advanced by the new-evangelical, and sad to say even by some supposed fundamentalists, in an effort to justify compromised fellowships while opposing common enemies. Some fundamentalists today join in common cause not only with disobedient brethren but also with liberals and outright cultists to fight immorality, abortion or other evils. But has God suspended His guidelines for separation from whatever is contrary to doctrinal purity for the sake of added political or theological clout? No!

The fact remains—God will bless the testimony of a separated witness and will perform His will in and through it rather than condone an alliance built upon compromise. The notion that a visible unity wields more influence with the powers of this world is humanistic reasoning, not divine revelation. Stand true! Stand-alone if need be! In so doing, you need never fear being “hung” by anyone as long as your sole confidence is in God and not in the strategies and arguments of men.

God’s Word still declares that the source of power in opposing the evil of our day comes from absolute dependence on the arm of God, not on the concerted efforts of men. The biblical doctrine of separation is based on the premise that the holiness of God will never allow for the joining together of that which is true to the Word and what is contrary to the Word in a common cause, regardless of how righteous or needful it might appear to be. The end does not justify the means in Christian ministry.

“The Christian Army Is the Only One That Shoots Its Wounded.”

We have heard this last phrase all too often in recent years. What is usually implied by this phrase is that a Christian should never speak in a negative way about any other brother, regardless of what error the latter may be involved in. In covering major evangelical, charismatic and ecumenical meetings through the years, we have heard this slogan used time and again in an effort to stem any criticism. There is always a contrived effort to silence any form of Scriptural rebuke whenever a forced unity is put before doctrinal purity.

It is sad when biblical exhortation is equated to “taking pot shots” at another. God’s Word tells the faithful servant to “…reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine” (2 Timothy 4:2); with respect to the disobedient brother we are to “…note that man, and have no company with him…yet count him not as an enemy, but admonish him as a brother” (2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14-15). This is not “shooting the wounded”; it is employing God’s methodology for healing the breach caused by straying from the Word. The most loving and caring thing any believer can do for an errant brother is to speak the truth, not as to an enemy, but “admonishling him as a brother.” The most edifying thing a faithful servant of Christ could ever do for another believer who is being taken in by false teaching is to sound a faithful warning. The attitude and the objective of  the admonishment is of utmost importance. Speak the truth “in love” for the purpose of restoring the errant so fellowship can be renewed (Ephesians 4:14-16).

Let us earnestly endeavor, by God’s grace and through the light of His Word, to answer all that concerns our walk and witness with truth correctly interpreted and applied. Satan is the master deceiver and his desire to waylay the servant of the Lord from pursuing a course of godliness and fruitfulness is greatly enhanced when he convinces the believer that he is doing what is right when all along it is contrary to revealed truth. Quaint sayings make for easy responses, but if the responses themselves are unbiblical, then we must be wary of self-deception through the careless handling  of God’s inerrant Word. Misrepresentations of truth are difficult to dispel and, most sobering of all, incur the displeasure of the One we profess to serve (1 Thessalonians 2:13; 4:1-2). — Pastor Dennis W. Costella