Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
January 24, 1957

"Am I Become Your Enemy?"

Robert H. Farish, Lexington, Kentucky

The words of the title are from Galatians 4:16. In this place the apostle raises consideration of the possibility that he had become their enemy. He wrote, "So then am I become your enemy by telling you the truth?" If he were counted as an enemy by them at the time of writing this, then that attitude was contrary to their feeling toward him when he was with them, for since then he had "become their enemy." When he first visited them he had preached the truth to them and on that occasion they had received him "as an angel of God," but now he raises the question of the possibility of his being regarded as an enemy rather than an angel of God.

Paul had preached the gospel to them when he first visited them. In this epistle he is preaching the same gospel for in this epistle he tells them that the curse of God rests upon any who preach another gospel. (Gal. 1:8.) Their present attitude of regarding him as an enemy is the opposite of their former attitude yet the same thing — telling them the truth" — is the occasion of both these attitudes. When we realize that the attitude one has toward the truth largely determines his attitude toward the preacher of the truth, we see how a change in attitude toward the truth would cause a change in one's feeling toward the preacher of the truth. These Galatians had come under the influence of false teachers who "gloried in the flesh." The error which they had accepted was opposed to truth. It was the enemy of truth. One is an enemy of true gospel preachers in proportion to the error which that one holds. The preacher of truth need not expect to continue to be popular with the one who has turned "away from the truth." To have the friendship of such a one, the preacher must either compromise the truth or convert the erring brother from the error of his way.

Paul wrote to Timothy charging him to be urgent in preaching the word "out of season" as well as "in season." In this charge the apostle recognizes the fact that there will be times when the truth or at least parts of the truth will be unpopular (out of season) but this in no way relieves the preacher of the obligation to "preach the word." When truth is unpopular, the one who preaches it will also be unpopular; but the faithful gospel preacher will not, for the favor of man or anything else. shun to declare any part of God's counsel. When prevailing conditions make some part of God's counsel unpopular with the prominent and influential elements there is present the temptation to shun declaring that unpopular part. We need to keep in mind though that to shun to declare the "whole" counsel of God is to be guilty of the blood of those who are lost on account of our failure. The wish (will) of men is not to be consulted to determine what the preacher shall preach. The aim of every preacher should be to please God — "For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? or am I striving to please men? if I were still pleasing men, I would not be a servant of Christ." (Gal. 1:10.)

There is no reason to suppose that Paul felt any less keenly hurt over the changed attitude and the defection of former admirers than gospel preachers do today. This should serve as a source of encouragement to preachers in like circumstances today. If standing for the truth is the real cause of a preacher coming to be regarded as an enemy instead of as a friend, then he should take courage in the realization that it is the favor of God which we seek and that God's favor is not granted in proportion to one's popularity with men. The favor of God is not conditioned upon the reaction of men to our preaching, but upon our attitude toward and conduct with reference to the truth. As long as we strive to please God we had just as well expect the enmity of the worldly-minded — those who would "make a fair show in the flesh." When the truth is preached, it is a "sweet savor of Christ unto God." (II Cor. 2:15.) The reaction of the audience in no way affects the favor with which the savor is regarded by God — the preaching of the truth is always a "sweet savor" to God. He always delights in and approves his word and its accomplishments. The apostle points out that that which was a "sweet savor — unto God" was "a savor from death unto death" in some cases and "a savor from life unto life" in other cases. (II Cor. 2:15, 16.) In all cases it was a "sweet savor" unto God.

Another case of one being regarded as an enemy because of loyalty to God is that of Elijah and Ahab. "Hast thou found me 0 mine enemy?" (I Kings 21:20) is the language of Ahab to Elijah. Elijah, though sometimes discouraged and lonely, had stood boldly for God. This determined and persistent stand for God had caused him to be regarded by Ahab as an enemy. Ahab came to regard Elijah as a personal enemy and seemed to think that the opposition raised against his course by Elijah was just a personal thing. In the face of all his wickedness in forsaking the "commandments of Jehovah" and following the Balaam, Ahab had the effrontery to brand Elijah as the "troubler of Israel." In Ahab's view, Elijah was the "troubler of Israel" by reason of his opposition to Ahab's innovations. Elijah was popular with neither Ahab nor the people and even those who liked to think of themselves as "fearing Jehovah from my youth" were uneasy in the presence of Elijah. Obadiah is the example of this kind. Obadiah implied that Elijah was willing to hurt both his friends and his enemies. He reminds Elijah of the measures taken by Ahab in order to stop Elijah and calls attention to the fact that he has secretly rendered aid to some of the prophets of God. I suppose we will always have our "Obadiah's" — men who want to be thought of as on God's side, yet unwilling to be identified with those who are by the popular and mighty branded as "troublers of Israel." Obadiah wanted the "enemy" and "troubler" to know that he was for God but did not want to take any action which would bring him into disfavor with the innovators.

Elijah suffered keenly: the king quarantined him — fair weather friends were uncomfortable in his presence — the people went "limping between two sides" — he "harped" on the subject of "Balaam" worship — he was perhaps the most unpopular man of his time — BUT HE GOT A ONE WAY TRIP TO HEAVEN IN A SPECIAL CHARIOT DISPATCHED BY GOD!