Steven Deaton

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Scripture Studies

Preemptive Action

Many are aware of the debate over preemptive action in relation to Iraq.  The president made the case for it and won many supporters.  Still some protested and tried to stop any real action.  Now, on this side of the war, level-headed people can see the president was and is right.  Acting before a dangerous enemy can do harm is the intelligent way to go.

A similar debate over preemptive action exists among brethren.  One idea is that whatever goes on elsewhere is none of our concern.  It matters not what is happening on the west coast or east coast, in Florida or Kentucky, or even across town.  Just mind the local work and leave everything else alone.  (Of course, in giving this advice they violate their own precept by telling others what to do).  The other idea is that what happens elsewhere will eventually affect the local brethren in one way or another.  Therefore, addressing it is the wise course of action.  The former is wrong, the latter right.

The Bible teaches that the saints should be well informed about issues that trouble the brethren in general.  Paul wrote:

And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head — Christ — from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love (Eph. 4:11-16).

Notice that God wants members of the body to be strong so when the "wind of doctrine" comes along, they will not be carried away.  In other words, act before it becomes a problem to minimize or negate any possible damage.

Jesus took preemptive action when He prepared the apostles for preaching on the "limited commission" and the "great commission" (Matt. 10; Jn. 13-16).  Paul forewarned the elders at Ephesus of "savage wolves" that would try to "draw away the disciples after themselves" (Acts 20:28-30).  He said he had warned "everyone night and day with tears" for three years (Acts 20:31).  Peter said, "But there were false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction" (2 Pet. 2:1).  Paul even named a false teacher, Alexander the coppersmith, and forewarned Timothy about him (2 Tim. 4:14-15; cf. 1 Tim. 1:19-20).

The commands and examples of Christ and the apostles give us the pattern by which we may provide a solid foundation for brethren lest they be taken away with "every wind of doctrine."  This is why congregations that do not have a problem with believing the Bible need to be told about those who are beginning to undermine the credibility of the Bible by suggesting Genesis 1-11 is not to be interpreted literally.  It is also why congregations that do not fellowship false teachers must be taught about the error being promoted on fellowship.  Other issues could be mentioned, but suffice it to say, we need to take preemptive action.

As the old saying goes, "To be forewarned is to be forearmed."  Preemptive action against error is required of elders and preachers.  If they fail to take it, they fail in their duties to God and man.  If the elders and/or preacher where you attend is not warning you, ask them why and make them give an answer (cf. 1 Pet. 3:15).

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