ACCURSED OR ACQUITTED?
By Jeff Belknap
In Galatians 1:8-9 Apostle Paul wrote, “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.”
When I was first converted twenty years ago as a complete stranger to the gospel of Christ, I was impressed by the sound convictions of many. The pulpit cry was loud and clear, to stand for the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth “without fear or favor.” Brethren were encouraged to put their faith in God, not man. “One man and God is a majority.” When I made known my desire to preach the gospel, older preachers impacted the words of Paul into my heart, “…for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ” (Gal. 1:10). Time and again the admonishment was issued to beware, for the best of men shall “arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:30). Reminders were made to keep that which was committed to my trust (I Tim. 6:20; cf. 1:11). Instructions were given to “rightly divide the word of truth” (II Tim. 2:15), for a “woe” is pronounced upon them who confuse “light” with “darkness” (Isa. 5:20; cf. Col. 2:8; II Pet. 3:17).
We used to be “set for the defense of the gospel” (Phil. 1:7, 17), but now it is different. Today it seems that brethren are set for the defense of their companions. We used to “contend for the faith” (Jude 3). Yet nowadays, it appears that we are contending for our friends. When a brother of renown goes “astray” it seems we no longer speak where the Bible speaks and say “let him be accursed,” but rather “let him be acquitted.”
In recent years, when one of the most well-known preachers in the brotherhood went off-course regarding his MDR “position,” the number of “sound men” who rallied to his defense and tried to put his doctrine (which leads to adultery) under “the umbrella of Romans 14” was astounding. This experience illustrated how corrupt men can become when the object of their affection is not the Almighty (Jn. 12:43).
When one of Jesus’ most beloved disciples, Peter, spoke contrary to the will of God, Jesus said, “Get behind me, Satan” (Mt. 16:23; Mk. 8:33). However, when one of our loved ones depart, digress and deviate from the Divine will today, our attitude seems to be, “Stay beside me, friend.”
The body of Christ is presently being seriously threatened by another damnable (II Pet. 2:1) MDR doctrine, yet many are remaining silent (Acts 18:9-10; cf. Jas. 4:17). Brother Jesse Jenkins said, “actually the mental divorce error will cause many more brethren to sin than will the sinner non-amenable error” (Toward a Better Understanding, page 66). Who are the “dumb dogs” now (Isa. 56:9-11)? Who is showing favoritism now (Jas. 2:1, 9)? Apostle Paul wrote, “Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear. I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality” (I Tim. 5:20-21).
The beginning of the new millennium has been a very sorrowful time for me in my efforts to teach the truth of the gospel. After two of my close preaching associates were persuaded to accept the “mental divorce” doctrine (by the same preacher of immense recognition) and a third fellow laborer (and congregation) experienced the teaching of this error by the same man, I contacted this prominent brother with four articles I had written for his benefit. When this effort produced no fruit, I decided to notify some of this brother’s close associates of his private and public teaching with the documented proof of his own words. My hope was that they might exercise a positive influence upon this brother. Much to my surprise and dismay, I was shocked by the indifferent reaction I received! Some who actually have great reputations for soundness in the “eyes of men” were the ones who demonstrated the most apathy. Moreover, after a couple of articles of mine were published to warn the brethren of this error, I was blasted with written rejoinders and reviews of two well known and highly esteemed brethren. Soon thereafter, I was confronted with false accusations of my supposed involvement in nefarious activities of these brethrens’ imaginations. It soon became apparent to me that there were some ironic common denominators to this dilemma. Not only were these “sound” men close friends and acquaintances of the preacher who was disseminating the mental divorce doctrine, they were also the same men who led the battle against previous misuses of Romans 14 (which misuses also justified fellowship with adultery and its proponents). What makes matters worse, these regarded “watchmen” are in agreement that a civil divorce is not really a divorce at all (at least in some cases), and so this error condones a second “mental divorce” and remarriage of another for some who have already been put away (cf. Mt. 5:32; 19:9; I Cor. 7:10-11, 39)! Meanwhile, when other recognized associates of these men were contacted about this problem, not only was indifference a common response, but they defended this indifference with the now popular safeguard, “this issue belongs in Romans 14” (cf. Psa. 11:3). “Ichabod” – “the glory has departed” (I Sam. 4:21).