Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
April 7, 1955

Integrity In Cause

Wm. E. Wallace, Akron, Ohio

With the caustic rumblings from within, the church of Christ in this age must appear to the casual onlooker to bet a warring sect. But that same observer would have thought similarly 1900 years ago as he looked rather hastily into the writings of Paul and Peter in reference to false teachers in the church. This type observer would no doubt consider Paul's defense of himself in the Corinthian epistles somewhat revolting, and surely such personalities thrown around as that found in 2 Corinthians 10:10 would be repulsive to him. The church in all ages has preached the spirit of Christ amidst the embattled banners. Usually their failure to see the spirit of Christ is due to their lack of knowledge relating to the spirit of Christ as it is employed both in the propagation of truth and the exposure of error.

The spirit of Christ calls for firmness at times, meekness on occasions, humility before God and courage always. But mark this: The spirit of Christ cannot be linked with the kind of debate, crusade, campaign, revolution, reform, strategy or tactic that is the product of fanaticism, ruthless force, impure motive, deception, hate and other works of the flesh.

Moral integrity and a lively intellect in leaders among God's people are the essentials to spiritual advancement. The great ship that sailed forth from Jerusalem on Pentecost 1900 years ago has weathered every storm of the past. The ship of Mount Sion is one that shall never be "moved," it shall sail forever. But its voyage is not without mishap. Many external forces take their toll, and the UNrighteous seamen of righteousness render no little harm from within. Yes, there is such a thing as a preacher of righteousness being an UNrighteous preacher of righteousness. So said Paul: "Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will; the one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds:"

It is good that UNrighteous yeomen aboard ship work with their assignment, even though their heart is not right, for many are benefited from proper labors, though the UNrighteous servant may not be. The great problem is what shall be done when the UNrighteous preacher of righteousness begins acting unrighteously? Men of preaching endeavors show their character when pressed in debate; if wickedness of any form exists within, it seeps out, under applied pressure. A lack of integrity among leaders in the cause of Christ is one of the greater evils vehemently condemned by Christ and vigorously fought by his ambassadors. "Better is the poor that walketh in his integrity than he that is perverse in his lips; and is a fool." (Proverbs 19:1.) "The just man walketh in his integrity." (Proverbs 20:7.)

There are men who are content to fight a spiritual battle without guile, innocent of wrong means and motives, having only the love of truth at heart — men of integrity. There are others who have in heart desire to pamper personal pride, improve personal fortune or prestige. They are men who are usually loud and efficient. They do some good work for the church, they are men of lively intellect, but men with a lack of integrity. Jesus called men of this disposition hypocrites, Paul called them dogs, Peter said they were wells and clouds without water.

Diotrephes was such a character. He diligently and resourcefully worked with deeds of maliciousness against the apostle John and other gospel emissaries. Rejecting a letter from John he worked to defame the reputation of the apostle and his co-workers with wicked words — slander. He masterfully gained prominence in the church and intended to keep it, even at the expense of the peace and perhaps doctrinal purity of the church. Like the Pharisees and other dogs, he worked to prevent others from fellowshipping the righteous servants of God. No doubt Diotrephes first won the confidence of the brethren as a preacher or worker of righteousness. Maybe in his earliest interests he put the love of truth first. Nevertheless, in time he sought through the preaching of righteousness, at least some righteousness, to win a following. Men like this can preach enough righteousness to win the respect of folk, and then slip in some of Balsam's doctrine here and there without its being detected. Once in a position of prestige and prominence they must keep themselves in exaltation in the minds of folks, so they aggressively fight a battle against anything, which might topple them from their pedestal. Thus Diotrephes fought John and other righteous preachers of righteousness. It is not certain as to the place of heresy in Diotrephes labors, but it is sure that he was an UNrighteous man with a lively intellect, a man without integrity.

Integrity among leaders will go a long way toward ascertainment of truth, through clean controversy. A lack of it will pave the way for the devil into the hearts of the weak and uninformed. What a responsibility rests upon your shoulders, ye warriors of the Word