JUSTICE AND WITNESSES
byPastor Jack Hyles (1926-2001)
(Chapter 11 from Dr. Hyle's excellent book, Justice)
"One witness shall not rise up against a man for any iniquity, or for any sin, in any sin that he sinneth: at the mouth of two witnesses, or at the mouth of three witnesses, shall the matter be established. I/ a false witness rise up against any man to testify against him that which is wrong; then both the men, between whom the controversy is, shall stand before the Lord, before the priests and the judges, which shall be in those days; And the judges shall make diligent inquisition: and, behold, if the witness be a false witness, and hath testified falsely against his brother; Then shall ye do unto him, as he had thought to have done unto his brother: so shalt thou put the evil away from among you. And those which remain shall hear, and fear, and shall henceforth commit no more any such evil among you. And thine eye shall not pity; but life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot." Deuteronomy 1 9:15-2 1
Let me begin with an illustration. I will give you ten statements concerning a young man who comes to attend Hyles-Anderson College. This can be applied to any ministry.
(1) When he first arrives at college, he is in awe of Dr. Wendell Evans, the President of Hyles-Anderson College. He sees Dr. Evans as a hero and has great respect and admiration for him.
(2) Because of this young man's hard work and humility, he is hired to work at Hyles-Anderson College.
(3) The young man does a good job for a while and keeps his regard for Dr. Evans as his hero. He continues to look up to him with great respect and admiration.
(4) The young man begins to get more self respect as he begins to grow. Suddenly he also begins to have problems as he begins to measure himself improperly. He starts thinking he is bigger than he actually is.
(5) This young man's ego is being built by students who were given to him. He personally had nothing to do with drawing them to the school. Not one of these students came because of him.
This can happen in any given situation where someone is in a new area of growth. There is no one who knows so little as someone who knows a little! There is no one who thinks he knows as much as someone who knows a little!
(6) This young man fails to realize that his hero, Dr. Evans, has been growing too. He thinks that he is growing to Dr. Evans' level until suddenly he thinks that he knows more than Dr. Evans. He even begins to sit in judgment of Dr. Evans.
(7) The young man is still as far behind Dr. Evans as he was in the first place. Dr. Evans is still as much his superior as he was the first time he met him because Dr. Evans has also continued to grow.
(8) The young man does not realize that his hero is still as superior to him as he always was. Tragically the young man deprives himself of his hero.
I still feel the same awe toward Dr. Lee Roberson as I did the first time I met him. The fact is that Dr. Roberson has grown even as I have grown. I do not assume that I have caught up to him, so he is still my hero!
I was with Dr. John Rice for many years, and I knew he had feet of clay. I could have found his weaknesses if I had wanted to, but I did not want to because I wanted Dr. Rice to remain as my hero. In fact, I tried to avoid seeing his faults. I feel sorry for people who think they have grown to the level of their heroes. If you ever lose your heroes, you lose your security.
(9) The young man begins to judge the judge. When that happens, he loses his chance to grow. When you catch up with the person above you, there is no one left to pull you up. You will not learn any more because you think you know all which that person knows. When you know all your teacher knows, you will not learn more.
(10) The young man immaturely uses some verses that he does not understand to prove his point.
This illustration can be applied to any ministry and in any place. In most of the places where I find a disloyal assistant pastor, he is almost always young. Rarely do I find a 50-year-old assistant pastor who is being disloyal. It is usually the young man who does not know enough to know he does not know much. Invariably these disloyal young men are fueling their mutiny with some scriptural misapplication. Let me show you two of the passages often used in these situations.
1. II Corinthians 13:1, "This is the third time lam coming to you. In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established."
These young theologians like to use the logic that this means anytime two people say they saw something, we are supposed to believe it. That is not at all what the Scripture is saying!
Let's use for an example a man who is a school teacher. Suppose he fails two young ladies in his class, and then they get together and decide to get revenge. They claim he made sexual advances toward them, and they begin to spread it around. Most preachers would have fired that man simply because those two girls accused him. This situation actually happened in one of our schools, and eventually one girl admitted that she and the other girl had lied to get back at him for failing them.
What if you were the one being falsely accused by two "witnesses"? What if that one being accused were your husband? Would you want people to take the word of two false witnesses? What if it were somebody else's husband who was being falsely accused?
Is God saying here that we are to accept the accusations of two homosexuals who have decided to destroy the ministry of a preacher by accusing him of committing homosexual acts? What about two sex perverts or two prison inmates? If two of these people falsely accuse a person, are we to accept their accusations as truth? Absolutely not! Yet, that is exactly what most Christians do. In fact, most people do not even require one witness. We just believe it because "someone" said it.
In immaturity, someone grabs this verse and uses it to defend, believing something against someone simply because two people say they saw him do it. People have criticized me because they think I do not punish the way they think I should punish; yet, they do not know the facts that I know. I am not going to punish someone whom I do not know to be guilty. I do not have a quick-trigger finger, and I am not going to believe irresponsible witnesses!
2. I Timothy 5:19, 20, "Against an elder receive not an accusation, but before two or three witnesses. Them that sin rebuke before all, that others also may fear." The key word in this passage is the word "receive." These verses do not say not to "believe"; they say not to "receive." The Supreme Court of the United States makes two decisions concerning a case. The first decision is whether or not to take the case. The second decision is how to judge the case. The word "receive" is the same word that describes that first decision the Supreme Court makes. We are not even to consider a case against an elder unless there are at least two witnesses. This does not means he is guilty; it only means that we will at least consider it. The guilt is not to be presumed, and if there are not at least two witnesses, we are not even to receive the accusation for consideration. We are never to receive gossip or hearsay. Refuse to accept it! Far too many people know too much gossip that goes around our churches.
I will receive the case only if there are at least two witnesses and then only if it is in my jurisdiction or area of judgment. In law they call this "probable cause," which means they investigate it, but it does not mean the person is guilty! Do not assume guilt, even if there are a hundred witnesses. If there are two or more witnesses, and if the matter is in your area, receive the case, consider the possibility and investigate it carefully.
Immature Christians use this Scripture to defend publicly rebuking people before the entire church. That is ridiculous! Everyone sins from Sunday to Sunday, so every Sunday everyone would have to be rebuked publicly. Yet that is how these young, immature "theologians" think. In fact, there are only a few sins they personally have selected for which they want public rebuke. They do not want to rebuke all sin. What most of them want to rebuke is sexual immorality; yet that is only one of the ten commandments and not even the first one mentioned. For example, have you seen anything lately that you wished was yours? If so, you need to be publicly rebuked for coveting!
What is this Scripture teaching? There is only one sin mentioned here, and that is the sin of being a false witness. God is teaching us in His Word that false accusers should be rebuked before everybody. The New Testament is built on the foundation of the Old Testament, and this passage comes from an Old Testament passage, Deuteronomy 19:25-21.
A false witness in the Bible is not a talebearer but is someone who claims he saw something that he really did not see. If a person is found to be a false witness, notice what the Bible says is to be done to him. He is to be punished with the same punishment that goes with the crime he falsely accused another of committing. The same punishment that would have been inflicted on the accused was to be inflicted on the accuser! Murder was a capital crime, punishable by death. If a man falsely accused someone of murder, the accuser was to be sentenced to death, according to the Scripture. Why was this the case? The Bible says it was done to put away the evil. What evil? The evil of falsely accusing someone in an attempt to destroy that person's life.
The sin discussed in I Timothy 5:19 is not the sin of the accused but the sin of the one doing the accusing. Both of these passages state the same reason for this. I Timothy 5:20 says, '...that others also may fear." Deuteronomy 19:20 says, "And those which remain shall hear, and fear...." In both cases, the Bible is speaking of false accusations and the rebuking of those who falsely accuse. So, we are taught to deal harshly with false accusers.
There are very few things any worse than falsely accusing someone. Imagine a person falsely accusing someone just so that person will be wrongly punished. That is a terrible thing! By the way, just because you have a gut feeling about someone does not give you the right to accuse him. That would never stand up in court. God forbids this type of accusation and treats it as the most severe crime!
Your life is not going to be rich if you lose your heroes. That is what is wrong with America. America was great when America had heroes. When you lose your heroes, you lose your security and forfeit your chance to grow. When you lose your heroes, you cannot be taught more. The best preacher will be the one with a hero. The best musician will be the one with a hero.
Years ago when our Sunday school attendance surpassed Dr. Roberson's Sunday school attendance, I personally did not surpass Dr. Roberson! He is still my hero because even though I have grown, I have not outgrown him! I feel sorry for people who think they know as much as those who were once their heroes. None of us have "arrived." There are many people in this world who know more than we know. Do not deprive yourself of having heroes to whom you can look.
Colleges and seminaries all across this nation are training "know it-all" preachers. It is easy for the hero of some not to have any heroes. It is easy for the hero to think that he has arrived. In many cases, the hero has never really built anything on his own; yet he begins to think he knows more than the one who built the area where he became a hero. So, he takes verses like these and begins to show his true level of ignorance.
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