How often have faithful members of the Lord’s church begun teaching a lost person, only to have someone else convince the potential convert that he does not need to listen? How often has someone been baptized into Christ, only to have friends or family convince him to leave Christ’s church and become a part of some group that is not in the Bible and not truly following the Bible? Statements or questions like the following are often posed to the person being pulled away: “Who told you that you had to be baptized to be saved? You don’t need to be baptized and you don’t need to be a member of the church of Christ!”
Is there something wrong with what potential converts are being taught by members of the church of Christ? Is it wrong to teach them that God’s Word is the only authority in religious matters? (Col. 3:17; 2 Tim. 3:16, 17). Is it wrong to teach them to obey everything Christ commanded? (Mt. 7:21-23; 28:18-20; Heb. 5:9). Is it wrong to teach them to believe, repent, and confess faith in Christ? (Mt. 4:17; 10:32; Jn. 8:24). Is it wrong to teach that they must be immersed in water for the forgiveness of their sins, when God plainly and repeatedly said that is necessary? (Mk. 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Eph. 5:26; 1 Pet. 3:20, 21). Is it wrong to teach them that Jesus only built one church, when that is what He Himself said? (Mt. 16:18; Eph. 4:4). Is it wrong to teach them that religious divisions are sinful? (Rom. 16:17; 1 Cor. 1:10-13). Is it wrong to teach them to speak as the Bible speaks and drop man-made names and doctrines, which cause divisions? (Rom. 16:17; Col. 3:17; 1 Pet. 4:11). Is it wrong to teach them to worship God in spirit and in truth according to the New Testament? (Jn. 4:20-24). Is it wrong to teach them that the Law of Moses was nailed to the cross and that we are under a new covenant / law today? (Rom. 7:4-7; Col. 2:14-17; Heb. 7:11-14; 10:9). Is it wrong to teach them that bidding Godspeed to false teachers is a sin? (2 Jn. 9-11). The true church / body of Christ does what the Head of the body says (1 Jn. 1:6-2:6). Pulling people away from that body pulls them away from the Head of the body (Christ), thereby causing them to be lost (Acts 2:47; Eph. 1:22, 23; 4:4; 5:23).
What motivates someone to pull someone else away from the Lord’s church? At the risk of sounding harsh, it often seems to be ignorance coupled with arrogance. The person doing the pulling does not know the Bible well, but arrogantly assumes they know what is best for the potential convert. They then take it upon themselves to “teach” or pressure the potential convert without properly understanding the Truth. James said those who take it upon themselves to teach had better make sure they are teaching the Truth, or they will receive “greater condemnation” (Jam. 3:1). Knowing Heaven and Hell are at stake, we had better make sure we are teaching the Truth! (Jn. 8:31, 32).
Often the potential convert or new Christian is not yet strong enough to discern Truth from error in some critical matters. He is still like a child spiritually: “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive” (Eph. 4:14; cf. 1 Pet. 2:2). The danger of false doctrine, even for Christians, is why God commands His children to “grow” into spiritual maturity and not be “led away with the error of the wicked” (2 Pet. 3:15-18; cf. Heb. 5:11-14). Members of the churches of Christ were warned by Paul: “…the churches of Christ salute you. Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple” (Rom. 16:16-18).
How does Jesus feel when someone is so close to becoming His and someone pulls that person away from Christ? Look at the words of Jesus Himself: “But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in” (Mt. 23:13).“Woe unto you, lawyers! for ye have taken away the key of knowledge: ye entered not in yourselves, and them that were entering in ye hindered” (Lk. 11:52). The word “woe” means, “You are going to regret this!” The “key of knowledge” taken away is God’s Word, which the devil takes away “immediately” through his servants: “And these are they by the way side, where the word is sown; but when they have heard, Satan cometh immediately, and taketh away the word that was sown in their hearts” (Mk. 4:15). Servants of Satan, beware the punishment coming for you if you do not repent.
When Paul and Barnabas were trying to convert a government official named Sergius Paulus, Elymas the sorcerer tried to stop them:
…Sergius Paulus, a prudent man…called for Barnabas and Saul, and desired to hear the word of God. But Elymas the sorcerer (for so is his name by interpretation) withstood them, seeking to turn away the deputy from the faith. Then Saul, (who also is called Paul,) filled with the Holy Ghost, set his eyes on him, And said, O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord? And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon thee, and thou shalt be blind, not seeing the sun for a season. And immediately there fell on him a mist and a darkness; and he went about seeking some to lead him by the hand (Acts 13:7-11).
What about someone today who does the same thing Elymas did? Could not the same be said? “O full of all subtilty and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?” To stand in the way of the Gospel is to stand against God and thus become the focus of His devastating wrath! “Forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins always: for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost” (1 Thess. 2:16).