By Don Fortner
Do you know what it is to be held in suspicion? Do you know what it is to be slandered, falsely accused, to have your name evil spoken of, to have your character assaulted? There are few of God’s children in this world who do not experience these things.
Noah’s son Ham sought to mar his father’s name among his own brothers. Moses was the object of much slander in Pharaoh’s house; but the slander in the house of Israel was more bitter; and the suspicions of Miriam and Aaron were even worse. Joseph’s brethren spoke evil of him. David was maligned by Saul, betrayed by Ahithophel, and cursed by Simeon. Jeremiah was falsely accused by those for whom he labored, to whom he carried the burden of the Word of the Lord. John the Baptist was praised as a great prophet one day and accused of being possessed of the devil the next. Our Lord himself was slandered, maligned, falsely accused, betrayed and looked upon by the multitudes, those who would not hear him, as a vile, reprehensible man, a glutton, a drunk, and the constant companion of sinners. The women who anointed the Savior had their motives suspected and were slandered, even by their fellow disciples. Paul was accused of being a self-serving false prophet, a promoter of licentiousness, and a wicked man.
These things are not easy to bear. In fact, there are few trials more difficult to endure. The fiend of hell is called “the accuser of the brethren” (at least in part), because false accusation is that which he most often uses as a weapon against our souls. Satan knows that a man’s character is the point at which he is most easily, most painfully, and most permanently wounded. He knows that men and women who seek to honor God are most sensitive about maintaining an honorable name, seeking to live blamelessly before others. Therefore, he most often assaults us there.
J. C. Ryle wrote, “Slanders are easily called into existence, greedily received and propagated, and seldom entirely silenced.” Lies and false accusations are the devil’s chosen weapons, by which he tries to injure the Lord’s people, seeks to destroy a person’s usefulness and disturbs our peace.
Knowing these things, by bitter and painful experience, there is nothing more comforting and assuring than this: — We have an Advocate in heaven who knows our sorrow and is touched by that which touches us. That same Advocate who took up the cause of John the Baptist before this Jewish crowd is our Advocate today. The Son of God will never desert his own. Our names may be cast in the mud and evil spoken of by wicked men. The world may frown upon us. But our Savior never changes. He has undertaken our cause. He will protect and defend us in the best way. And, one day soon, he will plead our cause before the entire world (1 Corinthians 4:3-5).
Romans 3:8 And why not do evil that good may come?–as some people slanderously charge us with saying. Their condemnation is just.
Throughout the ages, God’s servants have been slandered by those who opposed them, just as our Savior was slandered by his accusers. Sometimes, for the benefit of God’s people, those slanders must be confronted plainly, as Paul had to confront them at Rome, Galatia and Corinth.
A slanderous report is a malicious, false defamatory statement. It is a report that is intended to discredit a person. Politicians commonly slander one another, hoping to steal favor from their opponents and win it to themselves. Sadly, preachers and religious leaders frequently act like politicians and play politics with people. Like Diotrephes, loving to have preeminence, false prophets slander faithful men, hoping to exalt themselves. These slanderers are not merely men who have and relate a mistaken opinion about a man. Evil as such gossip is, that is an understandable error. Slanderers know full well that the thing they state is untrue when they state it.
When men who will not receive the Word of God cannot refute the gospel we preach, when the doctrine we teach cannot be gainsaid, because it is plainly stated in Holy Scripture, they attempt to discredit the message we declare and discredit us by making our doctrine appear horribly evil. They do this by avowing that we say things we never dreamed of, let alone stated. That is exactly what Paul confronted in Romans 3:8.
Here are five slanderous reports that have been made against the gospel we cherish and the men who preach it. These are not hearsay matters. All of the slanders I confront in this article are things I have either read with my own eyes or heard with my own ears.
1. When we declare, as the Scriptures clearly do, that all who are born of God are “not under the law, but under grace” (Romans 6:14), we are accused of saying, “Let us sin that grace may abound.”
Those who make this accusation know that it is false. It is an accusation that legalists have been hurling at gospel preachers for two thousand years. Because they are mercenaries, they presume that all are. Jude describes these slanderers as “ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.” They turn the grace of God into lasciviousness by daring to assert that the preaching of salvation by grace alone, without works, will open the flood gates of sin and teach people to live in licentiousness.
2. When we repeat the very words of Inspiration asserting that our Lord Jesus Christ was “made sin for us” (2 Corinthians 5:21), we are accused of saying that “sin was infused into Christ.”
I’ve never known anyone to suggest or in anyway imply such a monstrous thing, except those who simply refuse (whatever their reason may be) to bow to the revelation of God. Wishing to make a straw man they can beat with vigor and pretended indignation, they speak as though some blasphemous fool actually believed the invention of their own perverse brains. What a great pity it is that evil men will take the most 2 precious revelation of Holy Scripture and turn it into a theological football to kick around for their amusement!
Our blessed Savior had no sin of his own. He was born without original sin, being even from birth “that Holy One” (Luke 1:35). Throughout his life he “knew no sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21) and “did no sin” (1 Peter 2:22); “and in him is no sin” (1 John 3:5). But on Calvary the holy Lord God “made him sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Just as in the incarnation “the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14), in substitution the Word who was made flesh “was made sin for us.”
I do not know how God could be made flesh and never cease to be God; but he was. I do not know how the eternal God could die and yet never die; but he did (Acts 20:28). I do not know how all the fulness of the infinite, incomprehensible God can dwell in Christ bodily; but it does (Colossians 2:9). And I do not know how Christ who knew no sin could be made sin and yet never have sinned; but he was.
These things are mysteries beyond the reach of human comprehension. But they are facts of divine revelation to which we bow with adoration. Hard as it is for many to realize, our God is “slightly” bigger than our puny brains!
3. When we bring forth the glorious fact of the eternal justification of God’s elect, exactly as it is stated by the Spirit of God in Romans 8:30 and Ephesians 1:3-6, vain men brazenly declare that we “do not believe the blood of Christ is necessary for salvation.”
What fool ever imagined that the accomplishments of God’s purpose in eternity nullifies the sure performance of his work in time? Again, such an absurdity has never been written or stated (to my knowledge) by anyone, except the slanderer who is embarrassed by his open rebellion to the Word of God; and will not repent. But, when men seek to draw away disciples after themselves, craving preeminence, seeking “advantage” for themselves (Jude 16), open deceit becomes (in their eyes and for themselves) excusable.
4. When we assure believing sinners of their complete and perfect union with Christ, as John does in 1 John 4:17, declaring that “as he is so are we in this world,” we are denounced by men who assert that the repetition of John’s declaration is heretical, because “it makes men little gods.”
Let the accusations fly as they may, — All God’s elect are one with Christ, accepted in Christ, and in Christ well-pleasing to the Triune Jehovah, because, “as he is so are we in this world!”
5. When we assert that every regenerate person in this world is made a “new creature” (2 Corinthians 5:17) in Christ, that we are “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4), having Christ who is our righteousness imparted to us, as the Holy Spirit declares, we are accused of denying justification by Christ and imputed righteousness.
The imparted righteousness bestowed upon the heaven born soul is not a denial of imputed righteousness, but the verification of it. That new man created in righteousness and true holiness is “Christ in you the hope of glory.” That new nature is not a new principle of life, but a new life, a new man, a new nature, that “holiness without which no man shall see the Lord.” Redeemed by the blood and born of the Spirit we are made “meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.”