Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 15, 1959

Mistaken Identity

Ralph D. Gentry, Pensacola, Florida

It is remarkable how quickly one is identified on religious issues, especially when so little is said upon which to base the identification. The apostle Peter was identified once when a woman said, 'Surely thou art one of them for thy speech betrayeth thee." (Mt. 26:73.) She correctly classified him but he denied it.

But such identifying may be false depending on either misrepresentation or prejudice or both. Conclusions are too hastily drawn. Brethren are being branded or identified on present brotherhood issues.

This is but an "ancient picture in a modern setting." The apostle Paul was mistakenly identified. "For we have found this man a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes." (Acts 24:5.) He was identified as "anti" Moses. Why? Because he did not believe Moses? Not at all. But because he did believe Moses! "But this I confess unto thee, that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets." (Acts 24:14.) I've always thought human nature remains basically the same and all I've seen lately but serves to confirm that conviction. Witness the following:

When the subject of baptism is considered and such passages as Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; I Pet. 3:21 are quoted, prejudiced sectarians cry, "That' Campbellism" and identify the preacher as a "Campbellite". They say he doesn't believe in salvation by faith. He is regarded as unworthy of a decent hearing. Their prejudiced minds are closed to investigation.

Let a man quote Eph. 4:12 showing the mission of the church to be spiritual and I Cor. 11:20-22 showing the home as the center of social function. The result? He is identified as "anti-social". It is said of him that he does not believe in "fellowship".

Let a man now say he believes in the all-sufficiency of the church to do what God has ordained it should do, and the completeness of God's Word in directing our religious activities and quote the appropriate passages, (Heb. 8:1-5; 2 Tim. 3:16,17; I Cor. 4:6; etc.). He is immediately identified. How? As a faithful gospel preacher? No! But as an "Anti" and of the worst sort! In the same sectarian spirit as mentioned above, brethren say he is against caring for orphans and opposed to orphan homes and colleges.

Let a man say he believes in each congregation being autonomous (self-governing), is he praised for holding fast to God's design of church government and opposing denominationalism? Not any more! But rather, he is quickly identified as "anti-cooperation".

Preachers in the "want ads" seek to identify themselves by saying, "I believe in cooperation and caring for orphans". This they believe identifies themselves as faithful preachers and free of hobbies. In this they insinuate others do not so believe. Some churches regretfully learn too late; it was a case of mistaken identity.

Entirely too much is assumed. Somewhere, somehow the idea has arisen that the "anti" can think or talk about nothing else but the issues, hence, beware of them at all times. Perhaps in some instances this has been justified but too often it is another case of mistaken identity.

Let no person misunderstand. I do not write this in vindictive spirit for having been false accused. For if standing for the truth identifies me as an "anti", then I'm committed to such joyfully. I do not fear being stigmatized. Then too, I have reason to believe the very presence of this article in the Guardian with my name attached will serve to further alienate me from some brethren by mistaken identity. It never seems to occur to some that one may write for a paper without endorsing all views set forth by the various writers thereof. These days, we are asked, "Whose side are you on, the Guardian or the Advocate?"

But would to God that Christians could have the noble spirit of those who came to Paul and said, "But we desire to hear of thee what thou thinkest, for as concerning this sect, we know that everywhere it is spoken against." (Acts 28:22).