Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 1, 1956

Fighting Preachers

Irvin Himmel, Richmond, Virginia

Frequently we hear sermons on the qualifications and duties of elders and deacons, but it is a rare thing to hear a lesson outlining the character and work of an evangelist. Perhaps this accounts for the poor concept that many saints have relative to the preacher and his mission. In this article I am stressing one phase of his work that needs emphasis in this generation.

Paul charged Timothy, "Fight the good fight of faith." (1 Tim. 6:12.) Again he instructed him to "war a good warfare." (1 Tim. 1:18.) These verses teach that a preacher's work includes "fighting." To be a faithful minister one must "go to war." This is further indicated in another statement addressed to Timothy: "Thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ." (2 Tim. 2:3.) While every Christian is engaged in this "war," it is especially imposed upon the evangelist to be active in the conflict. A preacher's duty to "fight" is as clearly set forth as a bishop's duty to "feed the flock."

How do brethren feel about a gospel minister's performing this duty? Some hesitate not at all to say they have no use for a preacher who "fights." They want the kind of man who lets them alone, though they may need much stirring; who keeps peace with the community, though it be corrupt with false teaching; and, who causes no uproars, though his God-given work would necessarily cause disturbances of certain types. The preacher who is most in demand today in so many places is the "noncombat" kind.

Suppose the church in your community might be looking into the background of a certain preacher. Letters are written to brethren in several places where he has been. An effort is made to determine where he stands — whether he is a "trouble-maker" or man of peace. A reply comes from one city stating that he is a forceful speaker, but the people of the community ran him and another brother out of town. A report comes from a second place relating how the folks in that city were so stirred up over this preacher that they threw rocks at him. A third reply tells how he got involved in an unpleasant situation and was thrown into jail. A letter from still another city states that the same preacher, though he did a good work there, had to leave town in the night. Another report comes in saying he caused one of the greatest uproars ever to occur in that place. All these reports indicate that he stands for the truth, preaches the gospel without compromise, and makes many converts, but he usually creates a terrible uproar. Then there are reports that he sometimes writes letters to the churches in places where he has been, and these letters are not too complimentary in certain cases.

Would you want that preacher to work with you? Would you be interested in WHY he causes such a stir wherever he goes? Would he be too much of a "fighter" for you? Many brethren would scratch such a man from their list without any further consideration. The apostle Paul would be most unpopular and unwelcome among scores of brethren today, for he was just such a man. At Antioch in Pisidia the people persecuted Paul and Barnabas and "expelled them out of their coasts." (Acts 13:50.) At Lystra the apostle was stoned, taken out of the city and left for dead. (Acts 14:19.) At Philippi he and Silas were beaten and thrown into prison. (Acts 16:22-24.) At Thessalonica the same two preachers were sent away by night. (Acts 17:10.) At Ephesus Paul's preaching resulted in a mighty uproar. (Acts 19.) These are samples of the kind of impact produced by his preaching wherever he went. Paul loved peace, but true peace cannot be had on the Devil's terms. Righteousness and sin are enemies; to love righteousness is to oppose sin.

The command to "fight" implies action. One cannot be faithful in the gospel ministry and take a passive attitude toward any evil thing. The disturbances involving Paul were caused by his aggressiveness against sin. He fought sin whether it was prevalent among the heathens, the Jews, or his brethren in Christ. Some twentieth-century preachers will fight sin in the world, but they are much too reluctant to war against it in the church. Wherever the enemy attempts to set up a stronghold, there he must be met. Though we had rather meet him in his own camp, if he comes into our territory, there we must battle.

It is important that the soldier keep sight of his enemy. Let him remember that he is trying to destroy SIN, not men. The battle must be fought honorably. Evil cannot be conquered with evil. No weapon can take the place of the "sword of the Spirit." Some preachers fight with dictionaries, lexicons, quotations from papers, rumors, opinions of scholars, and similar weapons. Our sword should be the word of God and our strength the Lord Jesus.

"Fighting" preachers have their reward. Because they battle for peace on the Lord's terms, they look to Him for eternal peace. They find comfort in the words of Paul as he prepared to leave the battle-ground: "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith; Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing."