Evil preaches tolerance until it is dominant,
and then it seeks to silence good.
In order for one to be condemned by the populace, there must be a trial. If the one who is to be condemned is innocent, then there is no other recourse to generate a guilty verdict than to slander the actions or teachings of the accused. In the case of Jesus, it was both. When the power of religious leaders is under attack by a rebel of the establishment, then the leaders of the established leadership will resort to evil tactics in order to silence the opposition.
Notice what Matthew recorded concerning the trial of Jesus: “Now the chief priests and all the council sought false testimony against Jesus to put Him to death” (Mt 26:59). One would think that the religious leaders of a community would seek the truth. But in this case, they sought that which was false in order to condemn the One against whom they had great consternation. They wanted a conviction, and thus, they were seeking for those who would give a false testimony concerning what Jesus had taught and done, or would do. Their goal was not to determine the truth, but to convict the innocent.
A. Slanderers judge.
We must never assume that Satan will play fair in any dispute. When he wants to destroy the influence of any individual, he will resort to that which brings into question the character of those who are making the greatest impact on his kingdom of darkness. Unrighteous men reveal that Satan is using them when they either seek false witnesses against their opposition, or they actually become the false witnesses to be called by the court to give false testimony concerning their opposition.
Diotrephes was one who was willing to speak lies against his opposition in order to protect his dominant position. This was the same tactic that Satan used to have Jesus crucified. Because he loved to be first, Diotrephes slandered the apostle John and others in order to convince his loyal followers not to receive them (3 Jn 9,10). When a religious group is dominated by a demagogue, the demagogue will always slander those whom his loyal followers might receive. Therefore, it is not uncommon for a preacher to slander another preacher in order to keep him away from “his” church.
It is important to understand this behavior in order to discover the true motives of the one who slanders. Once slander is discovered, then the one who is speaking evil against another can be identified as one who has ulterior motives for his slanderous remarks.
God does not speak kindly of those who intentionally invent evil things to speak against others. When Paul described the degradation of humanity in times of old, one of the characteristics of those of the morally digressed society was slander (Rm 1:30). We would conclude, therefore, that slander is evidence of one who is morally degraded. Unfortunately, this behavior existed among some in the early church.
Because of a desire for power and recognition, there will always be those who are eager to speak evil of those with whom they feel they are in competition. When jealousy is rife among power structures in the church, slander is the most common method used by Satan for jealous individuals to discredit those whom they project to be of their own motives. The slanderous person assumes that those against whom he launches his lies is also in competition with him for power and recognition. He projects his evil thinking on those he believes are doing the same to him.
It is not uncommon for the slanderous person to go to the extreme of questioning the salvation of the one on whom he projects his slanderous statements. But one conclusion is true, if the one slandering another person assumes that the one he is slandering is in danger of losing his soul, then certainly the slanderous person is bringing his own salvation into question. John concluded the book of Revelation with the warning, “But … all liars will have their part in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone” (Rv 21:8).
The slanderous person will end up in the lake of fire and brimstone because he has an evil heart. His slanderous words only betrayed his heart. Jesus judged, “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts,” which evil thoughts, He listed, includes slander (Mt 15:19). So the person who willfully generates lies against another has identified himself to have an evil heart, and thus, he is not a candidate for heaven.
B. Slander stops preaching.
Misguided religious zealots followed Paul from synagogue to synagogue, spreading lies about what he believed. They did so in order to have him banned from teaching in any synagogue of the Jews. Some preachers do the same today. Paul’s slanderous opposition said that he was speaking a lie concerning the grace of God that was revealed through Jesus. Paul sarcastically asked his slanderous opponents, “For if the truth of God has abounded through my lie to His glory, why am I also still being judged as a sinner?” (Rm 3:7). The slanderous opponents of Paul in the church of Rome twisted his teaching on grace. They did so because there was jealousy in their hearts. They “slanderously reported” that Paul taught that we can sin in order that grace may abound, since we are saved only by grace (Rm 3:8; 6:3). When teaching on this most fundamental principle of Christianity, Paul’s words were twisted by some in order to bring opposition against him.
The preacher of the gospel of grace will always be slandered by those who would seek to justify themselves before God through the merit of their own law-keeping. This is true because it is the duty of the leaders of the religious establishment to uphold the legal codes that identify the religious establishment. And if the legalities that define the establishment are not legally maintained, then the establishment ceases to exist. Those who would proclaim that we are not saved by grace, but by legal obedience to creeds and catechism, will make slanderous statements against those who proclaim, “For sin will not have dominion over you, for you are not under law, but under grace” (Rm 6:14).
The fact that one stands for the truth of the gospel assumes that Satan will not be silent. Therefore, in order to discredit the preacher’s name, Satan will work among those who love to be first, or who are jealous of the influence of others. He will work to bring false accusations against the preacher of grace.
These “slander games” were happening among the Achaian disciples in reference to Paul. There were those in Achaia who were puffed up, and thus, wanted to discredit Paul among the disciples of the entire province. Nevertheless, Paul wrote the following of his work and other sincere evangelists:
So we labor, working with our own hands. Being reviled, we bless. Being persecuted, we endure. Being slandered, we kindly respond. We are made as the scum of the world and are the refuse of all things until now (1 Co 4:12,13).
Those who would be slandered as a result of teaching the truth of God’s word must not despair. They have simply been added to the host of faithful disciples as Paul and the apostles who kindly carried on, knowing that Satan will always stir up slander against those who endanger the kingdom of darkness. The response to slander, therefore, is kindness. If no slander is coming the way of the teacher of the Bible in a religiously hostile environment, then he should probably check to see if he is actually teaching the Bible.
Paul could respond kindly because slander is stating that which is false or a lie. So when he ministered, or taught in the area of freedom, he was assured that he was right before God. To those in Corinth who slandered him, he wrote, “All things are lawful, but all things are not expedient” (1 Co 10:23). Christians are under grace, not law, and thus those who would establish law where God has not established law will slander those who work in the area of their God-given freedom. Those who refuse to be brought again into a realm of bondage must carry on in the freedom they have in Christ, regardless of slanderous statements that are made against them (See Gl 5:1).
C. Slander prevents freedom.
One does not have a right to work in the area of freedom in some things until those, whose conscience is still judged by their past religiosity, grow out of their self-imposed restrictions of false religions. Those who might be offended by the eating of all meats, therefore, are expected to grow spiritually out of the restrictions they have placed on themselves as Christians when eating meats that were sacrificed to idols in Corinth. In order to help these new Christians grow out of the legal restrictions they had placed on themselves because of their former life in idolatry, Paul helped them along with the mandate, “Eat whatever is sold in the meat market, asking no questions for conscience’ sake” (1 Co 10:25).
It takes time to change one’s conscience concerning erroneous practices of the past. But there must be change. If there is no change, then there is spiritual death. In the process of the change, those who walk in their freedom of eating all meats must be patient with others who have not yet grown out of their past religious scruples.
It is interesting to note that the 1 Corinthian letter was written about five to six years after the origin of the first converts in Achaia. We would assume that by the time the letter was written, there would be those who were younger in the faith. We would assume that all those who had been Christians from the beginning to whom Paul was writing in 1 Corinthians could follow the mandate of 1 Corinthians 10:25, that is, that they should be able to eat any meat that was sold in the meat market. Paul expected every disciple in Achaia to have grown to the point that their conscience was not controlled by their former life in idolatrous religions. God, therefore, expects spiritual growth. With recent converts, however, the disciples who had grown out of any religious scruples connected with idolatrous sacrifices should be patient with the recently converted.
Because some of Paul’s opposition had not spiritually grown, he rebuked them with the question, “For if I by thanksgiving am a partaker [of meat], why am I slandered for that for which I give thanks?” (1 Co 10:30). Paul was slandered for doing that for which he had freedom to do. He had freedom to eat meat that was sacrificed to idols. But those opponents who opposed him claimed that he was doing that about which he had commanded others not to do, that is, eat sacrificed meats that would offend the consciences of the weak. The problem was in the fact that what they said against Paul was slander because of their competition for power and influence among the disciples in Achaia. Paul had a right to eat all meats. His right, however, could not be twisted by his slanderous opposition to make it seem that he was not practicing what he preached.
Puffed up accusers of Paul were twisted, and thus, false. Their accusations had no foundation of truth by which Paul could be judged contradictory in his teaching and behavior. “All things were lawful” to him, but “all things were not expedient” to do in some situations. If those things within his liberty caused offense, then he would forego such things until the new disciples grew out of their religious scruples of former idolatrous religiosity. But this was not the situation in reference to the Achaians’ eating meat that had been offered to idols. They should have grown out of their scruples in reference to eating meat that was sacrificed to idols. Paul had the right to eat, and to say that he ate in contradiction to what he taught, was simply a slanderous accusation generated by opponents who were jealous of Paul’s influence among the Achaians.
The lesson to learn is that those who have bound on their consciences those things that God has not bound, will slander those who work in the realm of their freedom in Christ. The slanderous person will seek to bring into his realm of bondage those who seek to live in the area of their freedom in Christ.
D. Slander promotes bondage.
There will always be a conflict between those of bondage and those of freedom. The fact that there will always be those who function in the realm of bondage lies in the fact that there will always be those who stop studying their Bibles. In the absence of belief that is based on the Bible, they begin honoring their heritage as the validation of their faith. The traditions of their religious heritage becomes the standard by which they judge others.
This is the exact religious environment into which Jesus came, and was explained by Him in the context of Mark 7:1-9. When people reject direction by the word of God in order to guard their heritage, then they have created a realm of bondage that is governed by their own religious scruples (traditions). Any who would violate the codes of their bondage, or question any of the cherished catechisms that identify their heritage, are often slandered in order that they be brought back into the bondage of the religious establishment.
Those who function in the realm of their freedom in Christ must always remember the Holy Spirit’s words in Galatians 5:1: “Stand fast therefore, in the freedom by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage.”
We must not make the mistake of believing that those who have created a religion of bondage will not seek to intimidate through slander any who would seek to walk in the freedom by which Christ has made us free. Such people will seek to greatly intimidate others in order to bring them into conformity with the norm. They greatly intimidated Titus to be circumcised when he went into a religious culture of circumcision in Jerusalem. But both Paul and Titus stood their ground. Paul later wrote concerning the incident, “But not even Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised” (Gl 2:3). He identified those who wanted to put the knife to Titus as “false brethren secretly brought in, who sneaked in to spy out our freedom that we have in Christ Jesus” (Gl 2:4). We must always assume that Satan has his spies among us to spy out our freedom in Christ.
In reference to the slanderers in Achaia, we must keep in mind that one of the reasons why Paul wrote the 2 Corinthian letter was to call on the slanderers among the disciples to repent before his arrival (2 Co 12:20,21). If they had not repented by the time he arrived, then he had no choice but to exercise the rod of discipline that he carried as a Christ-sent apostle. In the case of Ananias and Sapphira, it may have been a surprise to Peter and the other apostles that these two Christians dropped dead in their presence because they lied, and all slanderers are liars (At 5:1-11). Paul knew that if the liars in the church of Achaia did not repent before his arrival, something tragic was going to happen.
There is no place for the slanderous person in heaven (Rv 21:8), and thus there is no place for such people among the people of God on earth. Therefore, we must heed the warning of the Holy Spirit: “Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you …” (Ep 4:31).
[Next lecture: July 15]