The apostle Paul warned Timothy, “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers…” (2 Tim. 3:1-2, ESV, emp. added).
“Blasphemers” comes from the Greek term blasphemos, which literally means, “speaking evil, slanderous, reproachful, railing, abusive.” So Paul was warning of those who would speak evil, who would be slanderous and reproachful, who would be railing, people who would be abusive.
The enemies of Stephen used this same word to falsely accuse him of blasphemy against the law of Moses, God, and the temple…and in doing so they were ironically guilty of the very thing they accused him of doing (Acts 6:11, 13). We therefore see how it is possible to blaspheme men, to slander or speak evil of others, to be reproachful of brethren or to rail against them, and to be verbally abusive towards them.
Paul also used this same word to describe himself before he was converted, when he was a blasphemer and persecutor of Christ and the church. By doing so, he shows us how it is possible to blaspheme God as well. Normally that’s what we think of when we think of blasphemy. I would like to challenge the reader to consider how we can blaspheme our fellow man as well, especially in the context of discussing church leadership in keeping with the theme of this issue of the Carolina Messenger.
Our Lord commanded us to put away “slander,” along with anger, wrath, malice, obscene talk from our mouths, and lying (Col. 3:8-9). Slander (blasphemia) literally means, “slander, detraction, injurious speech, to another’s good name; impious and reproachful speech injurious to divine majesty.” It is no coincidence that it is listed right alongside of anger, wrath, malice, obscene talk, and lying. Why would we slander someone, speak reproachfully and detractingly about them, or try to injure them with our words? Why gossip about them, or unrighteously criticize them and spout off at them? Why insult them? Because of anger, wrath and malice. We’re mad at them. We hate them.
Brethren, we’re Christians. And as Christians we are called upon to be different from the world. We are commanded to let no “corrupting talk” come out of our mouths. Instead, we are to allow “only such as is good for building up…that it may give grace to those who hear” (Eph. 4:29). Do we really want to be the type of Christians condemned by James, people whose tongues are proven to be “a restless evil, full of deadly poison,” who use our tongues to bless God one minute and curse each other the next? (James 3:8-10) Because if we ARE that type of Christian, we need to know that our religion is “worthless” in the sight of God (James 1:26).
This brings me to Titus 3:1-2: “Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.” “To speak evil” (blasphemeo) literally means, “to blaspheme, revile. To hurt the reputation or smite with reports or words, speak evil of, slander, rail.” Notice how God lists the command to avoid this sin right alongside the command to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient and ready for every good work, to avoid arguing, and to be gentle and show perfect courtesy to everyone.
You know, it is very easy to speak evil of rulers and authorities rather than be submissive and obedient to them when we disagree with them. We currently have many leaders in our government who act in very ungodly ways and promote many ungodly things. As Christians, we are obligated to obey God rather than men (Acts 5:29) and oppose all ungodliness while exposing it for what it is (Eph. 5:11). If the President, Congress, or the Supreme Court command us to do something that violates God’s Word, we are not obligated to obey them. That said, many Christians seem to think that having a blatantly ungodly man in office gives them a free license to not only speak out against what he’s promoting that is ungodly, but also to blaspheme the man personally by insulting him as a person. Yet, God inspired Paul to tell Christians who were living under the rule of Nero, a man for more ungodly than any American president, governor, or congressman, to be submissive while speaking evil/blaspheming no one (Tit. 3:1-2), and to be subject to the governing authorities while giving respect and honor to them (Rom. 13:1, 7). Not only is it possible, it is also commanded for Christians to still show respect and honor to a governing authority while at the same time actively standing against whatever policies he promotes which are ungodly and/or with which we disagree.
This not only applies to the government. Take the leadership in the church and in the home. Wives are commanded to submit to their husbands AND respect them (Eph. 5:22-24, 33). Children are commanded to obey AND honor their parents (Eph. 6:1-3). Christians are commanded to obey the bishops of the church and submit to them (Heb. 13:17) AND respect them and esteem them very highly in love (1 Thess. 5:12-13).
In these cases, the principle of Acts 5:29 also applies. Wives are not obligated to obey their husbands in something sinful. Children are not obligated to obey their parents if their parents want them to disobey God. Brethren are not obligated to obey elders if the elders are promoting false doctrine.
However, what about when husbands, parents, and elders ask of us something that is completely scriptural…but we just happen to disagree with it and have a different opinion about it? Over the years, I’ve observed more and more Christians blaspheme these authoritative figures in their lives and not even know it.
In more and more homes wives are either refusing outright to submit to their husbands or they’re doing so with a complete lack of respect…and in either case they blaspheme – speak evil against – their husbands while doing so. Wives, that’s not respecting your husbands (Eph. 5:33). That’s blaspheming your spouse!
More and more children are either outright refusing to obey their parents while blaspheming them, or else they obey while refusing to honor their parents by slandering and grumbling against them. Children, that’s not honoring your parents (Eph. 6:2). That’s speaking evil against your parents who brought you into this world!
And in the church, friends…even in doctrinally sound churches which promote healthy teaching about the gospel, worship and morality…there is a growing problem of blaspheming the eldership, speaking evil and railing against them when brethren disagree with them over a matter of expediency, opinion, and personal judgment. Christians, that’s not respecting those who are over you in the Lord and esteeming them very highly in love because of their work (1 Thess. 5:12-13). That’s not letting the leadership of the church keep watch over your souls with joy and not with groaning (Heb. 13:17). No, that’s blaspheming your fellow brothers in Christ who are trying to keep watch over your souls and help you grow spiritually!
American brethren, I know we value our freedom of speech and expression…but the Constitution doesn’t trump the New Testament! It’s one thing to disagree with the government, one’s spouse, one’s parents, or an eldership with respect and love. It’s quite another to do so while blaspheming them. To disagree with respect and honor is a sign of maturity, love, self-control, and having the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). To disagree blasphemously by speaking evil against them and railing against them shows nothing but worldliness, spiritual immaturity, and that you’re on a road you don’t want to be on…a road that leads to hell.
What’s especially terrifying about this is that we don’t realize that we blaspheme GOD when we blaspheme our brethren in the church, whether they be elders or not! Look at Paul. He referred to himself as a blasphemer before he became a Christians…but what was he doing during that time? He was persecuting the church. Yet, according to Jesus Paul was actually persecuting HIM (Acts 9:4).
Therefore, we are blaspheming and hurting GOD when we purposefully blaspheme and hurt our brethren. Think about that for a minute. We speak evil against the elders or that brother or sister we don’t like and in the process blaspheme our Lord and Redeemer…but that’s not all. We are also causing division and contention in the church, something which God hates (Prov. 6:16-19) and causes the church to become weaker before breaking the congregation apart completely. And because we spend our time doing that, guess what we’re NOT doing? We’re NOT shining as lights in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation because we’re too busy grumbling and complaining (Phil. 2:14-15). We’re NOT spreading the gospel in this lost world because we’re too focused either starting or putting out small fires of pettiness in the home and in the church, and we wonder why the church isn’t growing and our country and world is growing farther and farther away from God…
And Satan is laughing and laughing and laughing…
What’s the solution? How are we to react to blasphemy against us or our brethren? How are we to repent of our own blasphemy should we be guilty of it?
We must keep our conduct excellent and let our light shine among everyone with whom we come in contact, both in the church, outside of the church, and in the home (1 Pet. 4:12; Matt. 5:16). We must consciously choose to treat EVERYONE the way we would want to be treated (Matt. 7:12); if everyone in the church did that, no blasphemy, gossip, or backbiting would exist and the gospel would be proclaimed to every single person on earth. We must hold fast to God’s Word in all aspects of our lives and in our relationships with everyone rather than grumble or complain (Phil. 2:14-16). When we encounter a brother or sister who speaks evil against someone, we must gently correct them rather than joining in or keeping silent (Gal. 6:1-2; 2 Tim. 2:24-26), and if need be withdraw fellowship from them (1 Cor. 5:11-13; Matt. 18:15-17). Do this, and we WILL shine as lights in the middle of this dark, blasphemous world!