Some extracts from William Gurnall’s The Christian in Complete Armour (these extracts are not promotions of Gurnall as a true believer, but will hopefully facilitate helpful commentary).
“Such as rake up the saint’s old sins, which God hath forgiven and forgotten, merely to grieve their spirits and bespatter their names. These show their devilish malice indeed, who can take such pains to travel many years back, that they may find a handful of dirt to throw on the saint’s face.”
Consider the malicious, irrational, illogical, devilish, and just-plain-stupid desperation of certain children of Belial who’d seek to smear a believer’s face with the mud of their unregenerate past (Bible verse underlining mine).
“And throwing [him; Stephen] outside the city, they stoned [him]. And the witnesses put off their garments at the feet of a young man called Saul. And they stoned Stephen, invoking and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And placing the knees, he cried out with a loud voice, Lord, do not make stand this sin to them. And having said this, he fell asleep” (Acts 7:58-60).
“And it happened to me, traveling and drawing near to Damascus: suddenly, about midday, a great light out of the heaven shone around me. And I fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to me, Saul, Saul, why do you persecute Me? And I answered, Who are you, Sir? And He said to me, I am Jesus the Nazarene whom you persecute. …And it happened to me, returning to Jerusalem and praying in the temple: I became in an ecstasy, and I saw Him saying to me, Hurry and go out quickly from Jerusalem, because they will not receive your testimony concerning Me. And I said, Lord, they understand that I was imprisoning and beating the ones believing on You throughout the synagogues. And when the blood of Your witness Stephen was poured out, I myself also was standing by and consenting to his execution, and holding the garments of those killing him. And He said to me, Go, for I will send you to the nations afar off” (Acts 22:6-8, 17-21).
“For I am the least of the apostles, who am not sufficient to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the assembly of God” (1 Corinthians 15:9).
“And I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who hath enabled me, for that he counted me faithful, putting me into the ministry; Who was before a blasphemer, and a persecutor, and injurious: but I obtained mercy, because I did [it] ignorantly in unbelief” (1 Timothy 1:12-13).
Suppose someone at enmity with God (Romans 8:7) were to search for “proof” in order to confirm their own presuppositional and God-hating biases concerning Biblical Truth. Suppose further that this person diligently sought for “the truth about” the Apostle Paul in the unregenerate past of Saul of Tarsus. Not only is this a form of malignant muckraking, it is also a patently absurd method of gathering accurate information.
“Because, they say, the letters [are] weighty and strong, but the bodily presence [is] weak, and [his] speech being despised” (2 Corinthians 10:10).
“All Scripture [is] God-breathed and profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, so that the man of God may be perfected, being fully furnished for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Say the thoughtless and frenetic objectors: “But Paul’s God-breathed letters (among other things) are to be severely discredited since some years back, he gave murderous consent to the execution of Stephen.”
Here’s a question related to 2 Corinthians 10:10 (quoted above). Would obtaining a correct testimony about Paul’s beliefs be more likely or less likely to happen, if his theological enemies were consulted? Would a fair and balanced source for “the truth about John the Baptist and his religious beliefs” be found in, say, the mind of Herodias? Why certainly she had not the malicious ax to grind!
“Such as watch for the saints’ halting, and catch at every infirmity to make them odious, and themselves merry.”
The pernicious and petulant rejoice in iniquity while reviling righteousness and truth.
“Yea, they opened their mouth wide against me, [and] said, Aha, aha, our eye hath seen [it]” (Psalm 35:21).
True and unadulterated love does not rejoice
“in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth” (1 Corinthians 13:6).
An a fortiori argument in Peter’s letter.
“But if [one suffers] as a Christian, do not let him be ashamed, but to glorify God in this respect. Because the time [has come] to begin the judgment from the house of God; and if firstly from us, what [will be] the end of the ones disobeying the gospel of God? And if the righteous is scarcely saved, where will the ungodly and sinner appear? So as indeed the ones suffering according to God’s will, as to a faithful Creator, let them commit their souls in well-doing” (1 Peter 4:16-19; underlining mine).
Those who suffer slander for Christ’s sake ought “to glorify God in this respect.”
“Such who father their sins upon the saints. Thus Ahab calls the prophet the troubler of Israel, when it was himself and his father’s house.”
It’s easy enough to make claims of this sort. The “troubler” is one who overturns or upsets the standard. But what is the STANDARD by which “truth-claims” of this sort are made?
“And it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, [Art] thou he that troubleth Israel? And he answered, I have not troubled Israel; but thou, and thy father’s house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments of the LORD, and thou hast followed Baalim. Now therefore send, [and] gather to me all Israel unto mount Carmel, and the prophets of Baal four hundred and fifty, and the prophets of the groves four hundred, which eat at Jezebel’s table. So Ahab sent unto all the children of Israel, and gathered the prophets together unto mount Carmel” (1 Kings 18:17-20; underlining mine).
Would it be a fair and accurate interpretation of the situation to assert hysterically that Elijah decided one day to systematically trash Ahab’s reputation? Did Elijah paint the meretricious mustache upon Ahab, or did he simply point at it?
“What a grief was it, think you, to Moses’ spirit, for the Israelites to lay the blood of those that died in the wilderness at his door? Whereas, God knows, he was their constant bail, when at any time God’s hand is up to destroy them. And this was the charge which the best of God’s servants in this crooked generation of ours lie under.”
So here’s Moses seeking to stand in the gap for self-righteous religionists. And how is he requited (see Numbers 16)?