Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
December 6, 1962
NUMBER 31, PAGE 4,8a

It Has Happened Before


We were reading the other day from Dr. James MacKnight's "Preface to the First Epistle to the Corinthians," and in Section IV came across this interesting and penetrating comment on the "false apostle" who was seeking to undermine Paul's standing and influence with the Corinthians:

"Though the apostle had taught the word of God at Corinth, during more than a year and six months, the religious knowledge of the disciples, for the reasons already mentioned, was but imperfect at his departure. They were therefore more liable than some others to be deceived by any impostor who came among them, as the event showed. For after the apostle was gone, a false teacher, who was a Jew by birth (2 Cor. 11:22), came to Corinth with letters of recommendation (2 Cor. 3:1), probably from the brethren in Judea, for which reason he is called a false apostle (2 Cor. 11:13), having been sent forth by men. This teacher was of the sect of the Sadducees (See 1 Cor. 15:12) and of some note on account of his birth (2 Cor. 5:16, 17) and education; being perhaps a scribe learned in the law (1 Cor. 1:20)....He seems likewise to have been well acquainted with the character, manners, and opinions of the Greeks; for he recommended himself to the Corinthians, not only by affecting, in his discourses, that eloquence of which the Greeks were so fond, but also by suiting his doctrine to their prejudices, and his precepts to their practices."

Why, MacKnight isn't talking about any long-forgotten Jew, he is talking about today and some of our own brethren! Where, oh where, have we heard of men who were willing to "suit their doctrine to their (hearers') prejudices and their precepts to their (hearers') practices"? Is not this exactly what has been demonstrated right in our own land, and among our own brethren, and within this very generation? Make a beginning, if you will, to count up the men who used to preach strong and powerful sermons on "The All Sufficiency of the New Testament Church," "Following the Divine Pattern," "The Necessity of Bible Authority," and "We CAN See the Bible Alike."

But they began to find strong "prejudices" among the brethren against such teaching, and began to find well rooted "practices" in general acceptance which were contrary to the precepts they were proclaiming. And what happened? The same thing happened that Mac-Knight described as happening in Corinth. These once strong men of God began to follow the example of the false apostle of Corinth, and began to change their preaching so as to bring the "precepts" they taught into conformity with the "practices" that the brethren followed. So we now hear sermons on "Where There Is No Pattern," "The Church Is Not A Home," "The Legalism Of Demanding Authority," "Doctrinal Orthodoxy — An Impossible Basis For Unity," etc.

MacKnight goes on to give some examples of how this false apostle in Corinth suited his teaching to the prejudices and practices of his hearers:

"For example, because the learned Greeks regarded the body as the prison of the soul, and expected to be delivered from it in the future state, and called the hope of the resurrection of the flesh, a hope of worms: — a filthy and abominable thing — which God neither will nor can do, (Celsus ap. Origen lib. v. p. 240); and because they ridiculed the doctrine of the resurrection of the body (Acts 17:32). this new teacher, to render the gospel acceptable to them, flatly denied it to be a doctrine of the gospel, and affirmed that the resurrection of the body was neither desirable nor possible; and argued that the only resurrection promised by Christ was the resurrection of the soul from ignorance and error, which the heretics of those times said was already passed. (2 Tim. 2:18) Next, because the Corinthians were addicted to gluttony, drunkenness, fornication, and every sort of lewdness, this teacher derided the apostle's precepts concerning temperance and chastity and reasoned in defense of the licentious practices of the Greeks, as we learn from the apostle's confutation of his arguments (1 Cor. 6:12, 13) Nay, he went so far as to patronize a person of some note among the Corinthians, who was living in incest with his father's wife (1 Cor. 5:1), proposing thereby to gain the good will, not only of that offender, but of many others also, who wished to retain their ancient debauched manner of living. Lastly, to ingratiate himself with the Jews, he enjoined obedience to the law of Moses, as absolutely necessary to salvation."

All this has a sadly familiar ring to brethren who are conversant with recent happenings among the disciples of Christ. The false apostle of Corinth was one who "suited his preaching to his hearers' practices." He was probably not the first, and he was certainly not the last, to follow 'such a cynical course. It has long been recognized that this is familiar procedure in Roman Catholicism — the pagans of northern Europe were observing a pagan winter holiday, so the Roman Catholics began to proclaim "Christmas" as a church holy day; the same thing went for the pagan festival of the spring, it being transmuted into a church holy week known as Easter. Unconverted man loves to gamble; so Catholicism incorporated bingo games and other gambling practices into its "religious" life. Drunkenness and fornication are common practices of worldly men, Catholicism has not yet incorporated these things into her accepted church life; but through the "confessionals" she has made forgiveness of them so easy and available as to make them much more attractive. Truly, Catholicism has managed to bring her "precepts" into harmony with the popular "practices" of those whom she would reach.

But Catholicism does not stand alone in this infamy. It has happened much closer home than that. By such means, greater numbers can be reported as having been "converted."

But converted to what?

— F. Y. T.