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Grace Notes

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MILQUETOASTS AND MILITANTS
by Philip Owen

      We have been encouraged to believe that real saints are of the Herman Milquetoast variety—weak-willed and malleable.  While it is true that believers are to be meek, gentle, and longsuffering, sometimes occasion demands overt forcefulness; then silence becomes not a virtue but a vice and waiting expresses not calm confidence but craven cowardice.  “Let your speech always be with grace, as though seasoned with salt, so that you will know how you should respond to each person,” Paul advises (Col 4:6).  Our speech is always to be gracious; sometimes, however, graciousness demands spice.  Salt may burn or sting a wound, but it should always be administered without rancor and for the purpose of healing.

      The Scriptures support Christians who never mince words.  For all Scripture is given, not only for doctrine, but also for “reproof” (“conviction, rebuke”), “correction” (“straightening”), and for “training in righteousness.”  Charity requires clarity.  We do no one a favor by refusing to speak clearly and truthfully.  Such is the ploy used by godless, Christ-hating liberals:  sin is not sin, crime is not crime.  Those are ill-chosen, obsolete terms for social injustice and economic privation.

      If their view is true, strange, then, that the Lord would say that some men were of their father the devil (John 8:44) and tell others that they were whitewashed tombs full of dead men’s bones (Matt. 23:27).  Strange, too, that Paul should say to the high priest of Israel:  “God is going to strike you, you whitewashed wall” (Acts 23:3).  Those words out of the “gentle Jesus” and His chosen servant Paul are hardly front-parlor, tea-and-crumpets language.  But the gospel isn’t a lace-shirted, bow-tied religion; it is the power of God unto salvation.  It is spit in the face and blows to the head; it is a beard pulled out and a raw, bloody back.  And it is naked, gasping, wrenching death on a cross.

      We are in a battle.  The gospel knows armor and swords but nothing of women’s banquets or men’s bowling leagues.  It does know of the woman Jael who drove a tent peg through the temple of a sleeping enemy; it does know of Paul who was stoned with stones and left for dead.  It is difficult to maintain the etiquette of diplomacy with ten-pound rocks breaking one’s bones.  That, however, is not the point, for Stephen graciously endured stoning—after fearlessly denouncing the Jews for, among other sins, being “stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears . . . betrayers and murderers” of God’s prophets (Acts 7:51a, 52b).  The point is that the preaching of the Word of God and the declaration of the message of salvation have not been relegated to sissies and pantywaists.  It is a deadly serious commission that divides nations, divides families, divides even individuals as the hand that offends is cut off.

       A man who is plunging headlong over a precipice does not need a lecture on the benefits of a parachute; he needs a clean, abrupt tackle.  For that and that only will save him.  Hospitals, scalpels, and injections may be unpleasant, but they are necessary and wonderful tools of science used to save physical life.  Such is the gospel—a rescuer of men in danger of dying, a curer of men afflicted with the terminal sickness of sin.

      Jude, speaking concerning this age of apostasy, tells us that every real believer has a sevenfold duty.  Among those duties are the following:  “And have mercy on some, who are doubting; save others, snatching them out of the fire; and on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment polluted by the flesh” (vv. 22, 23).  Some may be rescued by gentle words, the Bible reveals.  Many others, however, must be saved by quickly—even roughly, if necessary—snatching them out of the fire of God’s eternal wrath toward sin.  These are perilous times, times that demand brave, hardy men and women, times that demand we speak the word of warning with charity but also with complete clarity.  For the Lord is coming soon, and His reward is with Him.  It will be too late then.  Let us reprove, rebuke, and exhort as the Lord instructs us; and, as it is necessary, let us accept reproof, rebuking, and exhortation graciously as from the Lord, knowing that the small sting of inoculation will work in us eternal deliverance from the disease of sin and its consequences of defeat and disaster.  Amen.

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