Great (but old) article that compliments Adam’s sermon on Sunday (attached)
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” (Plato)
The Gospel Guardian (Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity)
VOLUME 5|April 8, 1954|NUMBER 47, PAGE 4
One of the persistent and aggravating problems which always troubles the Christian is the difficult case of the “honestly mistaken” man. Sometimes this man is a member of the church; sometimes he is a member of some denomination; quite often he makes no pretense to any kind of religious profession at all. The classic example of such a man, of course, is Saul of Tarsus. “In all good conscience” he lived before God and his fellow man as a persecutor of the Lord. He “verily thought” that he ought to oppose this new movement within Judaism; and he opposed it with all the strength he had.
That Paul was honest we all believe; that he was honestly mistaken, no one can deny. Being honest and being mistaken provided a combination that needed only one added factor to bring him into the right course — that one element was the truth. When an honestly mistaken man sees the truth, one of two things happens: (1) he will either cease to be mistaken, or (2) he will cease to be honest. For he will either accept the truth or he will reject it. If he accepts it, he is no longer mistaken; if he rejects it, he is no longer honest. It is as simple as that. There cannot be such a thing as an “honestly mistaken man” who has once seen the truth.
It is no shame or dishonor to have been mistaken. The world is filled with faithful and righteous Christians who were once adherents to some human system of religion. They were sincere and honest people — people who were honestly mistaken. But because they were honest, they obeyed the truth once it was presented to them. It is quite likely that many thousands of people will read these lines who at one time in their lives were members of various denominational churches. In complete candor and integrity they worshipped God in the way they had been taught from their youth up. Loving and venerating their parents, as children should, they followed in their steps into the denominational affiliations those parents had. But when maturity had been reached, and honest and open study of God’s word showed no denominational teaching, organization, or worship, these HONEST people came out of the morass of human teachings and into the full simplicity and beauty of the simple Christian life. Is not that what one would expect of such honest people?
It sometimes happens that our brethren in Christ are mistaken about some teaching or practice. It will be no new thing if we discover such to be the case. Even in Paul’s own lifetime there were some brethren who denied the resurrection! There were others who were weak and vacillating in their loyalty to Christ. The faithful Christian, having a clear understanding of the will of God, had to deal with these other brethren with two things in mind: (1) the salvation of the brother in error, and (2) the protection of the church against his error.
That there are some in the church of our Lord today who are “honestly mistaken” is hardly open to question — that is unless one takes the uncharitable and self-righteous attitude that all those mistaken ones are dishonest. How to deal with such brethren? A tender solicitude should always be shown, of course; and along with it an absolute firmness and an unyielding loyalty to the truth as it is revealed in God’s word. No ties of either friendship or kinship can cause the faithful Christian to deviate a hair’s breadth from the course he knows the Bible sets forth. He must follow God — follow the Bible — always! This is as true when dealing with brethren as it is in dealing with those of various human religions and philosophies.
It is not easy to win a man (even an honest man) from error to which he has been long wedded. But it can be done. The faithful obedience of unnumbered thousands down through the ages will testify to that fact. And even within our own day we have seen many of our brethren turn from wrong and erroneous teachings to the true faith as it is in Christ. We have seen multitudes of men turn from the various denominational allegiances (from Catholicism and Mormonism all the way to Christian Science and Quakerism) to the beauty of simple Christianity — to membership in the body of Christ, the church. They may have been honestly mistaken for years; but they ceased to be “mistaken” once they saw the truth.
In all our discussions both within the church and with our friends who are not members of the church, let us remember that honesty and error may go hand in hand for a season. But when the truth is made known, these two part company; one or the other of them will cease to exist. Either the mistake will be corrected, or the honesty will be corrupted. It can be no other way.
— F. Y. T.