What Is Our Position Toward Opposers of the Truth?
“From among you yourselves men will rise and speak twisted things to draw away the disciples after themselves.”—ACTS 20:30.
1, 2. (a) Of what benefit today are past events in Bible history? (b) What particular events in the history of Israel and the early Christian congregation now concern us, and why?
WHEN writing to the congregation in Corinth the apostle Paul told his fellow believers that the things written in times past were to serve as a warning example to them. This principle has far-reaching effects, even to this day. Many past events in Bible history can and do have modern-day parallels that are helpful to us and give us proper direction in our lives.—1 Corinthians 10:11; Romans 15:4.
2 It will be of benefit to us, then, to consider some of these past events in the history of Israel and also of the early Christian congregation. We are particularly concerned with events or happenings related to those who opposed the work of God and how such things affected Jehovah’s servants back then. These events help to alert us, as Jehovah’s people, to parallel occurrences in modern times and to what our responsibilities are in this area.—2 Timothy 3:16, 17.
3. How was Jeremiah both warned and comforted?
3 Some 40 years before Jerusalem fell in 607 B.C.E., Jehovah commissioned his faithful servant Jeremiah to speak publicly about injustices being done in Judah. These would eventually lead to God’s disfavor and to Judah’s inhabitants’ being taken captive into Babylon. Jehovah warned Jeremiah that some would oppose him. He said: “And they [opposers] will be certain to fight against you, but they will not prevail against you, for ‘I am with you,’ is the utterance of Jehovah, ‘to deliver you.’” (Jeremiah 1:19) What great comfort this was to Jeremiah, strengthening him to carry out God’s complete will for him!
4. (a) What was some of the opposition Jeremiah had to endure? (b) What does the record at Hebrews 11:32-38 tell us about opposers of God’s servants?
4 One of Jeremiah’s opposers was a man named Pashhur. He was the son of a priest in Judah and was a leading commissioner in the house of Jehovah. The Bible account in Jeremiah chapter 20 shows how Pashhur struck Jeremiah and had him put into the stocks. Jehovah delivered Jeremiah from those restrictions, but opposition continued. Hananiah, a prophet from Gibeon, spoke out against Jeremiah, accusing him of being a false prophet of doom. In fact, Hananiah said that the yoke of Babylon would be broken, and Judah would be restored. (Jeremiah, chapter 28) Even one of Judah’s kings, Jehoiakim, opposed the words of Jeremiah and fought against them, going so far as to throw the prophetic scrolls of Jeremiah into a fire! (Jeremiah, chapter 36) Others called for the death of Jeremiah and were responsible for throwing him into a muddy cistern to die. (Jeremiah, chapter 38) This was the experience of but one of the many faithful Hebrew prophets who spoke in Jehovah’s name and were maligned and attacked by opposers of judgment messages from God.—See Hebrews 11:32-38.
‘Let Them Alone’
5. (a) To what extent did Jesus meet opposition? (b) What were some of the trivial issues raised by Jesus’ opponents?
5 Opposition to the truth was intense also in the first century when our Lord Jesus Christ was on earth. Opponents from among his own people sought to obstruct the good things done by Jesus. But as Jehovah proved to be with Jeremiah He also proved to be with Jesus, delivering him from his enemies. (Luke 4:14-30; 11:53, 54; John 7:1) Ridiculers of Jesus often made big issues out of very trivial things. They charged Jesus with being a gluttonous man given to drinking and consorting with tax collectors and sinners. (Matthew 11:19) They called his disciples Sabbathbreakers because they plucked heads of grain to eat on the Sabbath. (Mark 2:23-28) They derided Jesus’ disciples because they did not “wash their hands when about to eat a meal.”—Matthew 15:1, 2.
6. How serious did opposition to Jesus become?
6 But such opposers went from the trivial to the denying of the power of God’s holy spirit demonstrated in the miraculous works performed by Jesus. After Jesus cured a blind and dumb demon-possessed man, his opposers said: “This fellow does not expel the demons except by means of Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.” (Matthew 12:22-28) They also charged Jesus with subversion against Caesar. (Luke 23:1, 2) Finally, they called for his death.—Luke 23:13-25.
7. How did Jesus react to opposers of the truth?
7 How did Jesus react to those who opposed him? Speaking to his apostles, he said: “Let them be. Blind guides is what they are. If, then, a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit.” (Matthew 15:14) Jesus’ wise advice was: ‘Let them alone.’ In due time it would be evident what they were.
Opposition From Within
8, 9. (a) What pattern of opposition similar to that experienced by Jeremiah and Jesus was foretold for the Christian congregation? (b) Describe how this was true regarding the matter of circumcision.
8 Following the death of Jesus, his faithful followers likewise met with much opposition. But please note: Just as the opposers of Jeremiah and Jesus arose from within the Jewish nation, so with the establishment of the Christian congregation there was to be opposition from within. (Acts 20:29, 30) Although this had been foretold, it would still come as a great test to those walking in faithfulness. Nevertheless, Jehovah would prove to be with his people to deliver them, even as he had been with Jeremiah and Jesus.—See 1 Peter 5:8-11.
9 This internal opposition in the first century had its small beginnings. Some opposers may have felt that they had a reasonable motive, but their desire to have the first place, to have their view prevail, led them into the role of being fighters against the truth and those associated with it when their viewpoints were not accepted as being correct. (1 Timothy 1:19, 20) Interestingly, when the matter of circumcision came to be an issue and the special council met in Jerusalem to discuss the matter, one of the points mentioned in the message sent out to the congregation was this: “We have heard that some from among us have caused you trouble with speeches, trying to subvert your souls, although we did not give them any instructions.” (Acts 15:24) Such persons within the Christian congregation were a cause of trouble, offering opposition to the teachings and doctrines of the body of older ones who were charged with the heavy responsibility to spread abroad the light of truth.
10. (a) What were some subversive doctrines that were taught in the first century by opposers of the truth? (b) What warning did Paul give Timothy regarding opposers of truth?
10 For example, evidently some in the congregation were saying that Jehovah’s day had already begun. (2 Thessalonians 2:1, 2) Others contended there was no resurrection. (1 Corinthians 15:12-14) And still others said that the resurrection had already taken place. (2 Timothy 2:16-18) Paul warned Timothy of the need for being alert to those among such ones who would cause division and deviation from the body of Christian truth available to the congregations. Note the apostle’s words: “Command certain ones not to teach different doctrine, nor to pay attention to false stories and to genealogies, which end up in nothing, but which furnish questions for research rather than a dispensing of anything by God in connection with faith. Really the objective of this mandate is love out of a clean heart and out of a good conscience and out of faith without hypocrisy. By deviating from these things certain ones have been turned aside into idle talk, wanting to be teachers of law, but not perceiving either the things they are saying or the things about which they are making strong assertions.”—1 Timothy 1:3-7.
11. Can we learn anything from the divisive thinking prevalent in the first-century congregation, and why is this so urgent today?
11 What does all of that tell us? This: that there were problems of divisive thinking in the first-century Christian congregation. There was opposition from within, from among those who were claiming to be a part of the congregation of God. And what was the cause? Paul said at Philippians 1:15: “Some are preaching the Christ through envy and rivalry, but others also through goodwill.” Today’s English Version mentions such ones as having an improper motive, being “jealous and quarrelsome.” Yes, the things written in times past do serve as a warning example to us, and more so now since we are living right at the end of the wicked system of things directed by the Devil.—2 Timothy 3:1-7.
Purpose of Opposers
12, 13. (a) Do we today see any parallel to the first-century opposition to the truth? (b) What is the underlying purpose of present-day opposers?
12 Turning our attention to modern times, do we see a parallel to these events we have discussed so far? Yes, there have been some from among us who have sought to tear down the good work done by Jehovah’s people worldwide. Some have become jealous, quarrelsome, filled with selfish ambition, often wanting to make a name for themselves. They may become “murmurers, complainers about their lot in life, proceeding according to their own desires, . . . admiring personalities for the sake of their own benefit.” (Jude 16) All of this can lead to doubts, strife and division among God’s people. In their faultfinding, such ones lose sight of the God-given and all-important work of Christians, namely, to be “not hearers only” but “doers of the word,” accomplishing what Jehovah has commanded to be done by faithful followers of his Son, Christ Jesus.—James 1:22-25; Matthew 28:18-20.
13 The purpose of such opposers, in attacking the Christian congregation, is to undermine the faith of Jehovah’s people, to draw some away as disciples after themselves. Paul warned the older men of Ephesus of this wicked attempt when he said: “From among you yourselves men will rise and speak twisted things to draw away the disciples after themselves.” (Acts 20:30) Jude gave a similar warning, saying: “Certain men have slipped in who have long ago been appointed by the Scriptures to this judgment, ungodly men, turning the undeserved kindness of our God into an excuse for loose conduct and proving false to our only Owner and Lord, Jesus Christ.” (Jude 4) Similar situations have arisen in this 20th century within the congregation of Jehovah’s people!
14, 15. (a) What is the subtle approach made by some opposers today? (b) What is overlooked by such opposers?
14 Such opposers do not find joy in sharing in the great work of making disciples. Rather, they subtly approach others who are already Witnesses, speaking in such a way as to weaken the resolve of these faithful ones to carry out in full their dedication to Jehovah. The thought is conveyed that since Jehovah is such a loving God, he surely would not require all those wanting to please him to engage in such a difficult work as preaching from house to house and having to endure the persecution from opposers of the truth. No, they may argue, all that God wants us to do is to be good persons, care for others in a physical way and love our neighbors.
15 This subtle approach can be difficult for some to cope with. It is true that Jehovah is loving and that he wants us to be good persons. He certainly wants Christians to demonstrate love for their neighbors by treating others in a kind way and by caring for their physical needs when that is necessary. (Luke 6:35, 36) But that is not all! Those who oppose often forget that our Father Jehovah has also said—principally through his Son, Jesus Christ—that we should be disciple makers, teaching people, preaching the “good news of the kingdom” in all the world for a witness.—Matthew 24:14; John 15:17-27.
16. By means of what other “twisted things” do opposers today try to mislead Jehovah’s people?
16 Consider some of the other “twisted things” used to mislead God’s people today. On occasion opposers will question the various teachings that Jehovah’s people hold in common. Often this becomes a debate about words, just as it was in the first century. (1 Timothy 6:3, 4) They may also question the need for an organization to direct the minds of God’s people. Their view is, God’s spirit can direct individuals without some central, organized body of men giving direction. They will declare that all one needs to do is to read the Bible. But Christendom has been reading the Bible for centuries. And look at the indistinct trumpet call coming from Christendom today! See the confusion and misunderstanding as to the true message contained in God’s Word! What a contrast this is to the foretold peace and unity among true Christians who not only read the Bible but search out and zealously apply its teachings!—Ephesians 4:3-6.
Opposers Cannot Succeed
17. What, then, is our position toward opposers of the truth?
17 What, then, is our position toward those who oppose and seek to undermine the faith we have received through Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Christian organization Jehovah is using? Jesus’ counsel regarding opposers is: “Let them be. Blind guides is what they are.” (Matthew 15:14) To quarrel with such ones, to debate and argue, is futile and really not the Christian course. No one is forced to be one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. It is a privilege and a responsibility that we have undertaken of our own free will. (Psalm 110:3) If some do not want to be a part of the arrangement approved by Jehovah, and which he has blessed, that is a decision for such ones to make.
18. How does Paul’s counsel at Romans 16:17, 18 apply to us today?
18 Our aim should be to deal with opposers of the truth in a Christian way. However, there are certain things we should bear in mind. Paul wrote to those of the Roman congregation and advised them: “Now I exhort you, brothers, to keep your eye on those who cause divisions and occasions for stumbling contrary to the teaching that you have learned, and avoid them. For men of that sort are slaves, not of our Lord Christ, but of their own bellies; and by smooth talk and complimentary speech they seduce the hearts of guileless ones.” (Romans 16:17, 18) It would be displaying a lack of good judgment to dispute publicly with those trying to cause division. Do not let these opposers disturb you. Their conduct will neither harm the truth nor stop Jehovah from accomplishing what his Word says he will do.
19. At Hebrews 6:4-8, what description does Paul give of those falling away from the truth?
19 How comforting, therefore, are the words of the prophet Isaiah: “Any weapon whatever that will be formed against you will have no success, and any tongue at all that will rise up against you in the judgment you will condemn”! (Isaiah 54:17) The apostle Paul told Timothy about Jannes and Jambres, who resisted Moses, and he said their madness became plain to all men. (2 Timothy 3:8, 9) These, then, who cause division and seek to make turmoil for God’s people are in a very perilous position before Jehovah. None of such should ever overlook Paul’s warning words at Hebrews 6:4-8, where it is shown that those who deliberately sin against God’s holy spirit can never be ‘revived again to repentance.’
20. (a) Why need we never be alarmed by what opposers might try to do? (b) By doing what can we be assured of ‘never being separated from God’s love’?
20 Our position toward opposers is, therefore, clearly and distinctly marked out for us in God’s Word. Always remember that we are not alone; we have the backing of Jehovah, Christ Jesus and all the holy angels. (Matthew 13:41, 42) We also have the assurance of Jesus himself that he would be with his followers “all the days until the conclusion of the system of things.” (Matthew 28:20) Hence, we need not become unduly disturbed when opposers rise up and fight against the truth. This is part of Satan’s effort to halt the spread of the Kingdom good news. But by remaining loyal and setting a fine example of godly devotion by our conduct and word, we will be assured of ‘coming off victorious in all things through him that loved us.’ May we therefore continue steadfast, “convinced that neither death nor life nor angels nor governments nor things now here nor things to come nor powers nor height nor depth nor any other creation will be able to separate us from God’s love that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”—Romans 8:37-39.
What do the following scriptures tell us about opposers of the truth?
□ Matthew 15:14; Romans 16:17, 18
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“Let them be. Blind guides is what they are”
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Never weaken in your resolve to bear witness to the truth