Brother Beebe: I will renew my request which I made one year ago, for your views on I Corinthians 4:15: "For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers; for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel." By complying with this request you will oblige many who are inquiring after the truth, some of whom seem to be entangled with the means doctrine. It is for their sake that I make the request.
January 1, 1866.
Reply: Amidst the numerous applications for our views on various passages of the scriptures, we had overlooked the former request of our beloved brother. Even now we may not be able to satisfy the inquirers after truth, much less stop the mouths of gainsayers who pervert the scriptures in vainly assaying to torture them into a seeming support of their delusions; but with such ability as the Lord may give, we will attempt an elucidation of the text.
By instructors in Christ we understand the apostle to mean those teachers m the church which are by the church looked up to for instruction, and are recognized as pastors, teachers, and other gifts designed "for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ; till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the slight of men, and cunning craftiness whereby they lie in wait to deceive; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ; from whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love (Ephesians 4:12-16)." By instructors in Christ, we must understand those who are recognized as in his body, which is his church, and of these we are told that Christ, when he ascended up on high, "Gave some apostles; some prophets; and some evangelists; and some pastors and teachers." Now all these gifts are employed for the instruction of the saints; to enlighten their understanding, that they may not only enjoy the comfort of a clear understanding of the truth; but be also protected from the slight of men, who, like wily means-users, lie in wait to deceive the saints. Of these gifts the church of Christ may have ten thousand; or whatever number God is pleased to supply, and yet of all these there may be but few possessing the peculiar gift of qualification of fathers, as we will presently attempt to show.
If by instructors, we may be allowed to include all the teachers who find their way into the various organized branches of the Christian church, it would swell the disproportion of fathers and instructors to an inconceivable extent, especially in these "last days," wherein many "shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils." "For the time will come," (yea, it has already come) "when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables (II Timothy 4:2,4)." "But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and shall bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not (II Peter 2:1-3)." Among this description of instructors there are no fathers to be found. "For of this sort are they which creep into houses, and lead captive silly women, laden with sins, led away with divers lusts; ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth (II Timothy 3:6,7)." This sort has been described by our Lord as coming in sheep's clothing, while inwardly they are ravening wolves. We are commanded to beware of them! There are no fathers among them; no parental regard for the welfare of the flock, for they are without even natural affections, truce breakers (they will violate their most solemn covenants). They are false accusers! Don't forget that this is a prominent trait of the sort spoken of. Moreover, they are incontinent, however sanctimonious they may seem to be; for they are slaves to lust. It is also said of this very sort, they are fierce, like tigers howling for blood, their feet are swift to shed blood, destruction and misery are in their ways, and of the way of peace they are totally ignorant. They are "despisers of those that are good." Traitors, however loyal they may profess to be to earthly powers, to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places to which they have professed allegiance, they are recreant and defiant to those into whose confidence they manage to insinuate themselves by false professions and false pretenses; they are treacherous. "Heady and high minded," are special characteristics of this sort. They assume to know more than seven men who can render a reason, and are wise above what is written, and are of the sort to whom Job, in biting sarcasm, would say, "No doubt ye are the men, and wisdom will die with you." High minded, but not in an honorable sense; but lofty and towering in their vain imagination. Lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God. Carnal pleasures. Ever ready to sell their professed Lord for less than thirty pieces of silver, and to betray him, his cause, his truth, or his people, with a perfidious kiss. Yet with all these marks branded upon them, like the mark of Cain, they "have a form of godliness." They wear the coat of the sheep, to deceive the flock of God, and to conceal their abominable wickedness. But these painted hypocrites may still be known, notwithstanding their disguise, if their track, especially their back track, be closely examined. Trace these grievous wolves back to their secret lair, and you will find that many a confiding flock has been torn and scattered by them. Wherever they have been intrusted with the pastoral care of the flock, that flock has either been corrupted by them, or it has dwindled away under their instructions. And when detected in their deceitful working, and expelled from fellowship, like the devils of whom we read, when cast out, invariably tear and rend the church or body out of which they are cast. And very generally when so expelled, they find some herd of swine ready to receive and hurry with them away to a swift destruction.
The apostle certainly was aware that such false teachers would infest the church of God; for he found such in the churches of Galatia, and would that they were cut off, for they troubled and bewitched the saints, and he knew full well that after his departure, grievous wolves would come in to the church of Ephesus, not sparing the flock. And with prophetic inspiration he gave warning of their increase in the last days, but still he could only speak of their being in Christ, so far as related to their connection nominally with the church which is his body. They are not in Christ vitally, or experimentally, nor by having entered into his fold by the door of the sheepfold, but as having climbed up some other way, proving that instead of being fathers, they are thieves and robbers, whose work is to steal, to kill, and to devour. But whether the apostle designed to include these false teachers with the ten thousand instructors in the church whose vital relation to the body of Christ we have no right to question, who while they have gifts which are useful for instruction, are totally destitute of every qualification to be fathers, we will not say.
If we confine the apostle's meaning to those instructors who are divinely qualified with gifts for instructing the saints, and who are and have been useful as instructors, do we now discover many of them who lack the peculiar traits of fathers in Israel? As a prophet of the Lord, Jonah was a qualified instructor, and has given us instruction by the word of the Lord that "Salvation is of the Lord," but Jonah was entirely too impatient, peevish and fretful to discharge the duties of a loving, watchful provident, and careful father. Moses was faithful as a servant, but too austere and severe to feel a fatherly tenderness for erring children. A mere instructor may impress many useful lessons on his pupils with his rod; but parental love and tenderness belong to a father, and the father feels a solicitude for the children which none but fathers can feel. Have we not known in our day preachers who seem to be remarkably apt to teach, almost inspired to dive deep into the sublime mysteries of the gospel, very clear and sound, and edifying in their elucidation of the more obscure portions of the scriptures; who in their every other trait of character were entirely unsuited for a pastoral relation to any particular branch of the church? Indeed it has become proverbial of some instructors, "When in the pulpit, they never ought to go out; and when out they never ought to go in." Their impetuous rashness, imprudent carriage, unbecoming levity, foolish jesting, uncouth extravagance of language, cold unsympathetic treatment of brethren, especially when under trials which require the most careful and tender treatment, carelessness in regard to the discipline and order of the church of God, unexemplary habits, high, austere, or haughty bearing, rendering themselves unapproachable to the tender timid lambs, or the opposite extreme of low and reckless familiarity and companionship with those who scoff at sacred things. All, or any of these faults tend to disqualify for parental usefulness in the house of God. But few, alas! too few of us who hold a position in the ministry, or otherwise as instructors, can say in truth that our usefulness in our holy calling has not, is not restrained by some or all of these evils. The peculiar qualifications for and characteristics of fathers in the house of God will be more fully considered in connection with what we propose to write on the last part of our text: "For in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel," which, for want of room in this number, we must defer until our next.
January 15, 1866.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Editorials Volume 6