In my Bible reading this morning I came across this warning about “certain men.” I was reminded that over 40 years ago I worked up a sermon about the problem of “certain men.” Well, actually,” worked up” is a bit of a stretch, I “borrowed” it from Robert Jackson!
But I digress.
Three times in the New Testament Bible writers warn first century Christians about “certain men.”
Luke records in Acts 15:1 that “certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved.”
In Galatians 2:11-13, Paul speaks of an occasion when “certain men” influenced the apostle Peter to separate himself from the Gentiles. Previously Peter had preached to Cornelius, baptized him and ate with him. He affirmed that “God is no respecter of persons.” But now because he feared “certain men” who would not approve, he played the hypocrite and withdrew himself
Jude, identified as the brother of James, warned in his single chapter book that “certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.”
While I don’t remember the sermon that either I or Robert preached, some points are obvious and worth our consideration from these three texts.
(1) It’s not always necessary to personally identify a troublemaker or false teacher.
While it’s certainly scriptural, and sometimes needful to warn brethren of a specific person, that is not always the case. These “certain men” are described, not specifically singled out. But their methods, motives, and mindset are expressed and exposed.
(2) “Certain men” are devious, deceptive, and dishonest. They “creep in” unnoticed. They do their work behind the scenes. They are shrewd and sly. Insidious and insincere. They seek to undermine the truth. Sometimes overthrow an eldership, or disrupt the peace in a local church. They lead unsuspecting brethren astray.
(3) “Certain men” sometimes boldly and publically proclaim their erroneous ideas.
There is nothing subtle about it. It’s out in the open. And their beliefs may be presented in such a manner as to leave the impression that they are right, regardless of how unfounded their interpretation is. “Certain men” can be pretty persuasive.
(4) “Certain men” by their mere presence may influence us to behave in ways that are contrary to our beliefs.
Fearing their disapproval or censure, we may change how we act, what we say, or who we associate with. Instead of being value driven, we compromise our conscience. Fail to act with integrity. And violate our standards. All because of “certain men.”
I write this morning with no specific agenda, organization or person in mind. But through the years I have seen “certain men” who disrupted the Lord’s work, undermined the Truth, and led people away from “the faith once delivered to the saints.”
“Certain men” in church business meetings may have a personal agenda and not the best interest of the entire congregation.
“Certain men” may worship regularly, attend every service, and on the surface appear to be faithful, yet are working behind the scenes to sabotage the Shepherds, discredit the preacher, and trouble the hearts of the simple.
“Certain men” may be baptized and identify with a local church for financial gain. Or to curry favor from a girl they want to marry. Or to enhance their standing in a community.
“Certain men” may hurl accusations, whisper innuendoes, or repeat inaccurate and hurtful half-truths, behind your back, only to sweetly smile and graciously greet you in person.
“Certain men” may occupy positions of power and influence within the church motivated by pride, popularity, or personal gain.
“Certain men” may be humble, sincere and soft-spoken, yet be deceived by popular doctrinal errors and unwittingly embracing them as they lead others astray.
We all may unknowingly and unintentionally be guilty of sometimes acting like “certain men.” And so we should honestly ask, “Lord, is it I?”
I know today’s devotional is not exactly a “hallmark card.” But it’s good to be reminded and to be aware to watch out for “certain men.”
–Ken Weliever, The Preacherman