The "Unlovely" Ministry
The minister or Christian worker who has those unlovely things called convictions is a person who seems to always be in trouble with someone. Any preacher who professes to be standing true to the whole counsel of God and who is not out of joint with all that God has an argument with, is not a true preacher of righteousness. On the one hand a Christian must needs be a "savour of life unto life," and on the other, "a savour of death unto death." He must build up and edify on the right, while tearing down and destroying on the left. The ministry of exposing error to men's hearts is the one Jesus had. The world cannot hate a convictionless Christian, because he cannot, does not, and will not testify against it that the works thereof are evil. But to expose evil and correct those who love sin--this takes a man of conviction, who is absolutely delivered from himself.
There are many today, even Christians, who are of the stamp of Acts 27:30, who do things "under colour" as though they were planning one thing, when in reality they are contriving another. "Under colour." How does that speak to you? I know how it affected Paul: he could see straight through the clever schemes of these men, but his insight into the facts did not stop his mouth with fear. God had told the apostle that He would give him all those who sailed with him but that they had to abide with the ship in order to be saved. Now here were men about to flee the ship. Paul saw them and forthwith exposed them: he went to the centurion officer and told of their plan. He acted on a conviction, based upon a revelation from God, and he exposed those seamen.
Not everyone likes to have his hidden plans laid bare, especially young preachers or missionaries who are about to depart by some little boat from the ship, Christ, into some false cult or strain of fanaticism. The older preacher who exposes them is not too popular at first; in fact, he may even become the object of their bitter hatred, but he saved those young "under-colour men" from smashing themselves to pieces on the rocks. Such a ministry, while being a very necessary one is not at all a lovely one! A man of deep convictions on these matters can draw all kinds of nasty fire from those whom he exposes: no one naturally likes someone who makes public their secret shady intentions before they have a chance to execute them. But let not any brother be dissuaded from his calling by a few angry looks, words, or letters: to see error and remain perpetually neutral is to remain perpetually impotent. Neutrality, as an abiding principle in the spiritual world, denotes unmistakable weakness.
"Then the soldiers cut off the ropes of the boat, and let her fall off." I note that those who had secretly let the boat down were not the ones to sever it. Paul had cooperation from the soldiers who took his disclosure of the shipmen's plans and acted. A joint movement by Paul and the soldiers saved these men from killing themselves. Likewise the ministry of many a younger man has been saved by those in the church who rise up and take action. Insight into the malady and exposure of it are not enough in themselves to save people: rather, in saving the ministries of others it takes joint-action, both by the one with insight and by those who recognize it.
Alas! Alas! Because of the impotency of many Christian soldiers who could not rise up and take action that they knew was according to insight, many a young preacher has gotten away in his private boat and smashed his chances of ever making good for God. Every Christian owes it to his brother to expose him when he sees him in any under-colour activities; and every group owes it to the exposed to cut his boat off and let it fall into the sea. You may save the ministry of someone by your ability to stand by conviction; or you may sacrifice his future by your face-saving carelessness regarding his position in the body of Christ.
The full story from Acts 27:27-44:
"But when the fourteenth night was come, as we were driven up and down in Adria, about midnight the shipmen deemed that they drew near to some country; And sounded, and found it twenty fathoms: and when they had gone a little further, they sounded again, and found it fifteen fathoms. Then fearing lest we should have fallen upon rocks, they cast four anchors out of the stern, and wished for the day. And as the shipmen were about to flee out of the ship, when they had let down the boat into the sea, under colour as though they would have cast anchors out of the foreship, Paul said to the centurion and to the soldiers, Except these abide in the ship, ye cannot be saved. Then the soldiers cut off the ropes of the boat, and let her fall off. And while the day was coming on, Paul besought them all to take meat, saying, This day is the fourteenth day that ye have tarried and continued fasting, having taken nothing. Wherefore I pray you to take some meat: for this is for your health: for there shall not an hair fall from the head of any of you. And when he had thus spoken, he took bread, and gave thanks to God in presence of them all: and when he had broken it, he began to eat. Then were they all of good cheer, and they also took some meat. And we were in all in the ship two hundred threescore and sixteen souls. And when they had eaten enough, they lightened the ship, and cast out the wheat into the sea.
"And when it was day, they knew not the land: but they discovered a certain creek with a shore, into the which they were minded, if it were possible, to thrust in the ship. And when they had taken up the anchors, they committed themselves unto the sea, and loosed the rudder bands, and hoised up the mainsail to the wind, and made toward shore. And falling into a place where two seas met, they ran the ship aground; and the forepart stuck fast, and remained unmoveable, but the hinder part was broken with the violence of the waves. And the soldiers' counsel was to kill the prisoners, lest any of them should swim out, and escape. But the centurion, willing to save Paul, kept them from their purpose; and commanded that they which could swim should cast themselves first into the sea] and get to land: And the rest, some on boards, and some on broken pieces of the ship. And so it came to pass, that they escaped all safe to land.