very versatile word in the English language is "extremist." Much like
"legalist," "radical," and "hobbyist," it can be called into play
whenever desired. It would seem that any man could be called an
extremist — it just depends on who is doing the calling and where he
stands at the time. A sure way to prejudice unthinking people against a
certain viewpoint or matter of doctrine is to charge, "That is an
extreme view!" An effective tool for poisoning people against a
preacher is to claim, "You know, he is an extremist!" Immediately
the dull-witted close their ears to what he says. They make no effort to
investigate the Word of God to determine whether it is the truth. All of
us need studious minds, desire for truth, willingness to study for
ourselves, and fair-mindedness in considering any matter. Above all we
need respect for God’s Book!
Strange but Often True
Some very significant factors enter into this matter of irresponsible
use of words, "He is just an extremist."
a. Somehow it is always the other fellow who is extreme –
never the speaker.
b. Frequently it is used by very "pious" men as a weapon to destroy
another – as a prejudicial epithet.
c. Often the speaker may not be overly-concerned
with the basic question of right and wrong. Yet it is better to be
extremely right by following the truth than to be extremely wrong by
d. It may sometimes just be a self-protective
device used by a person who is mortally afraid that HE may be identified
with the extremists. Perish the thought! So, in accusing the other
brother of extremism he implies – for his own safety – "I certainly am
not like that. I am no extremist."
Not Necessarily So
one doubts that a man can be an extremist, but there are
definitely some things that are not to be considered as marks of
an extremist. If they are, the Bible is full of extremists (including
God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, the apostles, the prophets, etc.).
Let us observe that:
a. One is not an extremist because he insists on divine authority from
Christ for teaching and practice. The Holy Spirit requires this.
(Col. 3:17; Heb 8:5.)
b. One is not an extremist because he rejects human traditionalism in
religion – even though it may be “common practice of the brethren."
Jesus denounced such. (Matt.15:6-9.)
c. One is not an extremist because he refuses to encourage false
teaching and teachers in any way. (2 John 9-11.)
Fellowship with God is at stake here.
d. One is not an extremist because he publicly challenges men to give
authority for their practices. Jesus did. (Matt. 21:24-27.)
e. One is not an extremist because he is willing to meet another in
public encounter (that is, before an audience) and challenge a brother
for his departure from the truth. Paul did so. (Gal. 2:11-14;
Acts 15:1, 2.)
f. One is not an extremist because he calls the names of men who teach
the churches error and cause digression. Paul sets the example for this.
(2 Tim. 1:15;
g. One is not an extremist
because he presses the truth with vigorous contention for the faith. The
apostles did and we are instructed to do so. (Jude 3; I Thess 2:1,2)
h. One is not an extremist because he refuses to back away from the
thick of a fight for truth. Paul says God has not given us "the spirit
of fear" (cowardice). (2 Tim. 1:7, 8.) A gospel preacher should
be ashamed to be a coward.
i. One is not an extremist because he teaches faithful Christians to
mark and avoid brethren who teach contrary to apostolic doctrine. This
is demanded. (Rom
j. One is not an extremist simply because his teaching causes division.
Jesus’ sword – the word of God – does some disturbing and dividing.
Certainly not all division is
laudable. Some of it is deplorable and sinful. It is always sinful to
divide people by the preaching of error. On the other hand, division
brought about by the proclamation of TRUTH – division that results when
some men take their stand upon a "thus-saith-the-Lord"
and others rally to their human traditions – is to be expected. It was
so in New Testament days. It is true today. Men are OBLIGATED to teach
the truth. And men are OBLIGATED to separate themselves from error.
16:17, 18; 2 Cor 6:14-18)
The Real Concern
real concern of every Christian should be to determine truth. If
one searches the Scriptures (Acts 17:11) and learns that a thing
is taught of God, this truth is extremely right, and he must
believe it, regardless of what others may say or do. To refuse to
believe it simply because others may consider it to be extreme is to
dishonor the Author of truth. When problems arise and when questions are
raised about any matter, our interest must lie in the Word of God as an
infallible, all-sufficient standard of correct faith and practice. As
was stated before: It is better to be extremely right by following
the truth than to be extremely wrong by rejecting it.