I am a man, and I can err. But unless I am convinced by Scripture and by plain reason and not by Popes and councils who have so often contradicted themselves, my conscience is captive to the word of God. To go against conscience is neither right nor safe. I cannot and I will not recant. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me.Let us do as these six millennia of witnesses have done, heeding the Apostle’s words, “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. Let all that you do be done in love.” (1 Corinthians 16:13) Let us look at some of these men who considered the reproach of Christ as greater wealth than the treasures of the world.
In 1 Kings 13:1-6, a prophet confronts Jeroboam in his sin of offering sacrifices to idols, and temporarily ceases that evil king’s sin. In 1 Kings 18:17-19 Elijah confronts that evil king Ahab, to which Ahab calls Elijah the sinner, but it is more than evident that Ahab is the idolater and sinner. In 1 Kings 22:5-28 that great prophet Micaiah stands against not only the evil king Ahab, but also against four-hundred false prophets; he is hated and beaten for telling the king the truth. In Nehemiah 5:5-13 the governor-prophet Nehemiah learns that the nobles were crushing the poor under oppression, and brings charges against them, requiring repentance. Years later in Nehemiah 13:11-18 he confronts them again for their sins and forsaking the house of God. In 2 Chronicles 26:16-20 Uzziah sets himself up as king and priest, to which the prophet Azariah confronts him, saving his life. In 2 Kings 22:8-23:23 King Josiah stands against lawlessness in Israel and makes great reforms towards the keeping of the law. In Galatians 2:11-14 when Peter falls into the Judaizer camp, Paul confronts him to his face and calls him to repent, resulting in Peter’s continued ministry in the truth. In Matthew 14:4-12 John the Baptist stands against evil king Herod and loses his head for it. And of course is that great prophet Nathan, who in 2 Samuel 12:1-15 stands against the very king of Israel, David, the closest thing that Israel had ever received to a messiah, and Nathan, with no fear for his own life, stands for the truth and calls the king to repent.
Time would fail to tell of all of the prophets who “through faith conquered kingdoms, enforced justice, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, were made strong out of weakness, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life. Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated—of whom the world was not worthy—wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.” (Hebrews 11:33-38)
There is really only one common theme in all of these men, for some of these prophets were paupers, some were kings, some were priests, some were Pharisees, some were boys, some were old, some are famous, some are not even named, some were rich, some were poor, some spoke well, some did not, but they all brought the same message: the Word of God. They did not waver, they did not temper the message, they preached what God had said and did amazing things and faced amazing consequences.
Many after the first century have held to this very Word (Hebrews 1:1-2) and have done things that are just as amazing; even, Christ says, greater things than he had done (John 14:12). They have also faced many of the same consequences as prior prophets, ranging from ex-communication, to slander, to libel, to loss of property, to loss of life. John Owen, a Puritan man of God, stood against luke-warm efforts to conform the church to the state, and was regularly accused of causing schism. He responded in his treatise by stating, “those churches which, by their corruption or tyranny, rendered separation necessary, were the true schismatics.” He is most certainly right, when anyone steps away from the Word of God, they will begin sinking in shifting sand and must be confronted, no matter their rank (compare Acts 4:19-20, Galatians 1:7-9), in order that the way of truth is not blasphemed. Like watchmen on a wall, the prophet must not be guilty of failing to warn of approaching danger.
Jesus tells of a time when those who silence and murder the prophets will think they are doing God a favor (John 16:2), that time has been the last two-thousand years. Jesus says to those who will be rebuked by men wielding the Word of God, “Therefore I send you prophets and wise men and scribes, some of whom you will kill and crucify, and some you will flog in your synagogues and persecute from town to town,” (Matthew 23:34) yet those who do so will say that they would not (Matthew 23:30).
In light of these dire times and circumstances, Timothy, who was martyred under the Diocletian persecution, is exhorted thusly, “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.” (1 Timothy 4:13-16)
Christianity has no lack of prophets who stood against false teaching, against those who would substitute their opinions for truth while forsaking the Word of Truth. Prophets now, as prophets then, must stand against every hint of biblical infidelity, for the Bible is either absolute or it is obsolete. In so doing, Paul tells Timothy that salvation will come both to the preacher, and his hearers; for we know that faith comes by hearing and hearing the Word of Christ (Romans 10:17).
If such a rebuke comes your way, do not be brash to oppose these men, but search the scriptures diligently and see if such things are so. These men come with authority and are often quite harsh, but they do so in love, for love seeks to regain a brother and save sinners from the fire; the authority they come in is not their own, but is from God who sent them, and their offense is coming from the Word of Righteousness and not from their own delivery. When their words toward you align with God’s Word, then repent towards Heaven, and preach the whole counsel of scripture, knowing that in doing so, you will save both yourself and your hearers.
Do not forsake the Word of Eternal Life, nor the Christ to whom that Word points; for at the right time he gave his life a ransom, and was raised for the justification of many. We know these things by the Word and will lose these things if we forsake the Word. Stand for the Word, even to death, and receive a crown of life.