Tuesday, June 26, 2012


     A busybody is defined in Webster's New Universal Unabridged Dictionary, (New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1996), page 246, as a meddling person, one who officiously concerns himself with the affairs of others. This fits perfectly with First Peter 4.15, "But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men's matters." Of course, a busybody meddling in my affairs will doubtless take issue with me for citing Webster's definition of a busybody before pointing out a corroborating Bible verse. However, that is precisely my point. Gospel ministers quickly learn to deal with busybodies in their congregations. However, busybodies who are themselves gospel ministers is inexplicable.
     The Apostle Paul provided guidelines for Timothy's leadership in other pastor's lives in First Timothy 5.19-21:
19  Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses.
20  Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear.
21  I charge thee before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, and the elect angels, that thou observe these things without preferring one before another, doing nothing by partiality.
Verse 19 seems to clearly forbid allowing someone to tattle about an elder, unless two or three witnesses provide corroboration. Verse 20 shows that confrontation and a public rebuke is called for, with Matthew 18.15ff providing the basis for asserting that this discipline take place within a congregational context (Baptist churches are autonomous, each tending to their own matters of discipline). Verse 21 is Paul's charge that such dealings with elders be impartial, suggesting that personal vendettas are ruled out, as is taking issue with one man's relatively minor matter while overlooking another's more serious matter.
     The problem with busybodies is not a new one. The Lord Jesus Christ dismissed the effort of the Apostle John in Luke 9.49-50: "And John answered and said, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name; and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us. And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us." If I may be permitted to use the Waldrip paraphrase, "Lord, he is not doing his ministry the way I think he should!" The Master responded by saying, in effect, "Leave him alone, for he that is not against us is for us." I am sure some gospel ministers wished busybodies would just leave them alone. I sometimes wish gnats would leave me alone to enjoy my solitude in the wilderness as the sun goes down, but they are determined to buzz about and distract me.
     However, the problem with busybodies can be observed even during the lifetime of Moses, some eighteen centuries before our Lord's earthly ministry. Numbers 11.26 records that two young men prophesied in the camp. Numbers 11.27 tells us "there ran a young man, and told Moses" (he tattled). According to verses 28-29, Joshua the son of Nun then said, "My lord Moses, forbid them. And Moses said unto him, Enviest thou for my sake? would God that all the LORD'S people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit upon them!" Busybodies have always been about the business of stifling the speech of those who say or do things in a way they do not approve of.
     Even the Apostle Paul had to deal with busybodies. Shortly after his arrival in Rome he wrote to the Philippian congregation and made mention of some in Rome. Notice his inspired account of their actions in Philippians 1.16: "The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds." Think there is not a bit of busybody intimated in Paul's comment? Why else would gospel ministers so order their preaching to be contentious, being insincere, and hoping to make Paul's situation worse unless they are busybodies?
     May I make mention of two problems related to busybodies that I conclude from my thirty-seven years of gospel ministry? First, the busybody knows no limitations or boundaries to his business. He thinks anything that he takes notice of is his business and that everything that is the Lord's business is necessarily his business. He is mistaken. He needs to mind his own business. However, if he minded his own business he would not be a busybody, would he? Second, the busybody is in gross violation (and may be profoundly ignorant, as well) of a well-established Biblical principle, requiring the testimony of two or three witnesses to ascertain a finding of fact. That is, according to God's Word a fact is not established unless and until it is corroborated by two or three witnesses.
     Allow me to establish the validity of that principle:
Numbers 35.30:  "Whoso killeth any person, the murderer shall be put to death by the mouth of witnesses: but one witness shall not testify against any person to cause him to die."
Deuteronomy 17.6:  "At the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses, shall he that is worthy of death be put to death; but at the mouth of one witness he shall not be put to death."
Deuteronomy 19.15:  "One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established."
Matthew 18.16:  "But if he will not hear thee, then take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established."
John 8.18:  "I am one that bear witness of myself, and the Father that sent me beareth witness of me."
2 Corinthians 13.1:  "In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established."
Hebrews 10.28:  "He that despised Moses law died without mercy under two or three witnesses."
1 John 5.7-8:  7  For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one.
                     8  And there are three that bear witness in earth, the Spirit, and the water, and the blood: and these three agree in one.
     Is it not interesting that the principle of establishing fact by two or three witnesses is not only the foundation upon which our own legal system is based, but it can be found throughout God's Word with respect to men's dealings with men in accordance with God's will, with respect to a church's dealings with the sins of church members, and with the way gospel ministers are to be dealt with (1 Timothy 5.19)? However, I am most impressed of the importance of this principle by virtue of the fact that Jesus insisted on applying the principle to the verification of His own credibility, and the Apostle John's assertion that the principle applies to the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost, as well.
     Are we to conclude that the principle of two or three witnesses was only applied by believers where it is specifically referred to in the biblical record of men's dealings with other men?  That would be quite an assertion in light of what we have discovered in our brief musings. Consideration should also be given to subtle application of the principle that is less obvious, such as in Matthew 11.2-5, where the imprisoned John the Baptist's faith wavers and he seeks verification of Christ's identity. Jesus responds in a manner entirely consistent with the proper application of this principle.
     In conclusion, the busybody needs to mind his own business because another's business is none of his business. He simply does not have the jurisdiction to snoop and then to act (unless he abandons Baptist principles entirely). As well, the busybody needs to mind his own business because he does not have the requisite attestation to establish as fact what he desperately wants to act on. Does another's servant conduct himself slightly differently than the busybody does? That is perfectly acceptable, and will someday be dealt with by his master.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Real Enemies

     In Romans 5.10, the Apostle Paul writes what most agree is a categorical description of himself and all lost people, "For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son." Though Paul was a most sincere religionist he came to recognize that he, like everyone else who is unconverted, was God's enemy. Little thought is given to this reality, though our confessions and our theology certainly recognizes the estrangement of the lost and their animosity toward God, His Son, and His cause. Add to that the Savior's comment in Matthew 10.36, "And a man's foes shall be they of his own household." His statement was not newly revealed truth, but a restatement of Micah 7.6, and echoes Psalm 41.9 and Psalm 55.12-14.
     These things being so, the believer is well-advised to recognize that his/her unsaved spouse cannot be a trusted ally in the spiritual conflict. They two have different lords, different allegiances, and different natures. They cannot be compatible whilst one of them remains lost and undone. One is predestined to be conformed to the image of Christ and the other is careening toward perdition. The same dynamic is at work in the case of Christians with unsaved children. How are the children well-served by parents who make no mention of the great disparity? How are they helped by moms and dads who speak peace, peace when there is no peace?
     I am not suggesting that believers introduce contention into their homes. I am wondering why so few speak directly to real issues that exist. Please explain to me why the forgiveness of your sins is unimportant to you. Help me to understand what it is about Jesus that is not attractive to you. How can it be that I bear no fruit that attracts you to the True Vine who is my life? Things simply must be said by the conscientious Christian to keep before the lost their lostness, to remind them of their hopelessness, to urge upon them the means of grace.
     These enemies we love, our family members and friends, love the world and are persuaded by the world in which they live that what is false is true, what is true is false. We are likely to be the only ones who can and will minister grace to them, Ephesians 4.29. Therefore, we must.