Everywhere the Lord has ever allowed me to serve has been a blessing. A few years ago, I served as a pastor in a church in rural Illinois. I learned a great deal and hopefully brought the word of God faithfully to our congregation.
One experience while I was there recently was brought to mind. An older gentleman in the church had been given a book by a friend. It was a book that is highly encouraging, but which has theological problems. As a young pastor, I always tried to speak with care to older men in the church when warning of dangers they might be walking into, and this instance was no different. I tried to graciously warn this man that there are some genuine concerns to watch out for when looking through this popular book.
The response of this man to my warning was surprisingly heated. After all, he was not a person I often saw display moments of temper or unwillingness to learn. But in this instance, he let me know that he was not at all open to hearing my concerns. Why? The gentleman I was cautioning against the book said to me that the person who recommended that book to him is a good man, and he would not hear anyone questioning something he had recommended.
I wish I could say that this is an isolated incident for people in ministry, but it really is not. Quite often pastors and teachers will run into an argument for a person’s position that consists of, “But he’s a good man.” This happens on the local level and the national stage. It happens in small churches and big pastors’ conferences. And it can be quite dangerous.
So, let’s see if we can say something that needs to be said. Just because a man is a good man does not make his doctrine sound. Just because a person loves Jesus or prays a lot does not mean that he has interpreted a passage of Scripture correctly. Just because a person is a solid guy on many things does not make him correct in all things.
Galatians 2:11-16 – 11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For before certain men came from James, he was eating with the Gentiles; but when they came he drew back and separated himself, fearing the circumcision party. 13 And the rest of the Jews acted hypocritically along with him, so that even Barnabas was led astray by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that their conduct was not in step with the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas before them all, “If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews?”
Consider what we see in Galatians 2. In a passage I have heard affectionately referenced as “the ham sandwich incident,” Peter compromised. For the sake of public opinion, Peter began to give into a form of legalism. And Paul lets us know that, in that instance, He opposed Peter openly because the gospel was at stake.
But stop and think. Was Peter not a good guy? Of course he was. Was Peter not a pillar of the early church? Of course he was. Had Peter not been a major voice at the Jerusalem counsel to point people to the fact that the gentiles were saved by grace through faith without adoption of Jewish laws? Of course he had. But when Paul saw Peter acting and perhaps teaching in a dangerous way, Paul spoke up. Being a good guy did not make Peter right in Galatia.
Christians, we need to be careful to be sure that we are viewing all things through the lens of Holy Scripture. Just because I like a particular person in almost every avenue of life does not make his doctrine correct. Just because I find someone else troubling in many areas does not make every statement they make incorrect. Just because someone is part of my particular tribe does not make their words accurate. Just because a person is connected to a group that is not mine does not make all they say false. WE must be such a biblically minded people that we do not allow ourselves to fall for the argument that a person must be correct, “Because he’s a good guy.”