"This Sect...Every Where...Spoken Against"
In Jerusalem, Paul was falsely charged and arrested (Acts 21: 28-38). He adequately defended himself. First, before the Jews, before the Romans, and again before the Jews (Acts 22: 1-23; 24-30; chapter 23). In view of the prejudiced persistence and religious hostility of the Jews, the Roman officials retained Paul in custody (Acts 23-27). When Paul appealed to Caesar, they sent him to Rome (Acts 28). In Rome, Paul calls for the "chief of the Jews" and defends himself again (Acts 28: 17-20ff.). It was these chief Jews who made the following statement concerning the religion that Paul both taught and practiced:
"But we desire to hear of thee what thou thinketh: for as concerning this sect, we know that every where it is spoken against" (Acts 28: 22).
The word translated "sect" is the Greek word hairesis. Hairesis is found nine times in the Greek New Testament. We read of the "sect of the Sadducees," "sect of the Pharisees," and the sect of the Nazarenes" (Acts 5: 17; 15: 5; 24: 5). As used by these Jews, "sect" appears to mean more than just a theology, but a choosing or that which is chosen, a faction or departure from right. Hence, the Jews do not mean to refer to Christianity in a good sense. Notice that they said of Christianity, "every where it is spoken against."
Contrary to the thinking of many today, the Christianity maligned by the Jews was not bland. First Century Christianity did not merge with Judaism. Christianity was the fulfillment of the Law of Moses, but was not designed to co-exist with this system (Rom. 10: 4; Gal. 4). Christianity, in like fashion, did not co-exist with the other extant religions, but stood out as singularly different (cp. 2 Jn. 9-11, I Jn. 4: 1). I submit to you, concerned reader, that true Christianity continues to be uniquely different today from all the contemporary religions. Back to my original point: Christianity was "every where spoken against" but why?
Christianity was not politically accepted then and now because Christianity is a mono religion that insists on the truth, not a truth or truth among many truths. Paul taught "out of the scriptures" (Acts 17: 2). His style of preaching was both instructional and confrontational. The historian used the word dialegomai to describe Paul's manner. Dialegomai ("reasoned," ASV, Acts 17: 2, 17, 18: 4, 19, 19: 8, 9, etc.) carries with it the idea and action of "to think different things with oneself and then, with other persons, to converse, argue, dispute" (W. E. Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words). Dialegomai consists of two words, dia, through or separation and logismos, a reasoning. The scriptures teach that instead of many faiths, there is "one faith" (Eph. 4: 5). This one faith is to be carefully guarded and defended (Gal. 1: 6-10; Jude 3). Therefore, Paul was "set for the defense of the gospel" (Phili. 1: 17, cp. vs. 7).
The one faith teaches vocal music in praise of God, immersion as opposed to sprinkling or pouring, and faith that obeys (Eph. 5: 19; Col. 2: 12; Gal. 5: 6). The gospel is not the social gospel of materialism (Matt. 6: 33, Rom. 14: 17).
The Lord's church subscribes to a high standard of morality and purity of doctrine. The world and denominationalism may teach, "it matters not how you live or what you believe as far as your relationship with God is concerned," but the scriptures teach the very converse. Adultery, fornication, and homosexual acts are condemned (Matt. 19: 9; I Cor. 6: 16; Rom. 1: 22-32). Social drinking and worldliness in general are forbidden (Prov. 23: 31; Jas. 4: 1-4). False teaching pronounces certain acts as acceptable under the guise of situation ethics; however, the scriptures call them "the lust of the flesh" and says that those who "do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God" (Gal. 5: 19-21). Man says, "once saved always saved," but the teaching of Jesus says, "For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them" (2 Pet. 2: 20-22).
Pristine Christianity recognizes and teaches God's role for men, women, and children. Man is to function as the leader and head of the family unity (I Cor. 11: 3, Eph. 5: 22-25). Man, not woman, is to be the leader in public worship (I Tim. 2: 12ff.). The wife is to submit to her husband and be a homemaker (Tit. 2: 4, 5). The father is to bring up his children in the "nurture and admonition of the Lord" (Eph. 6: 4).
Children are taught to "obey your parents in the Lord: for this is right. Honor thy father and mother; which is the first commandment with promise" (Eph. 6: 1). Thus, the gospel denounces the modern family concept so common in America today.
The Christianity of the New Testament forbids fellowship with those not walking in the light. The teaching of I John 1: 3-7 is explicit and decisive. "In him is no darkness at all," wrote John, hence, "if we say that we have fellowship with him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the truth" (vs. 5, 6). From the positive, John penned the famous but often rejected words, "But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanseth us from all sin" (vs. 7).
Those who do not "bring the doctrine of Christ" are not to be fellowshipped (2 Jn. 9-11). Not only are sin and error not to be fellowshipped, but those advocating and practicing such are to be rebuked and exposed (Eph. 5: 10, 11).
Concerned reader, there are many features regarding the Christianity that Paul advocated that would cause some to unjustly view it as a "sect every where spoken against." However, I believe the two characteristics that are the most responsible for Christianity being often hated are the fact of the aggressive teaching demanding belief of the gospel and the strong teaching that forbids fellowshipping all contrary to what is taught and sanctioned in the scriptures. Jesus is "the way, the truth, and the life, no man cometh unto the Father, but by me" (Jn. 14: 6). At the present time, religions that are popular and flourishing are the religions that are all inclusive. I especially have reference to such religions as the Community Church Movement and the so called "Non-denominational" churches. These religions ostensibly accept everything and exclude nothing.
We hear it said, "He is such a wonderful person!" We sometimes wonder why and we are told, "because he only has praise for all and condemnation for none." Remember, though, First Century Christianity was considered a "sect every where spoken against." True Christianity, as a rule, is not popular and looked upon by all as desirable. If this were true regarding Christianity in Paul's day, would not the same be the case today and for the very same reasons? It was Paul who cogently wrote: "For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I seek to please men? For if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ" (Gal. 1: 10). Therefore, you could be wise in searching for the truth not to look for the religion that has the most members or has been voted as the most popular, but perhaps for the church "every where spoken against." The ultimate test, though, is comparing what a church teaches with what the scriptures teach (cf. Gal. 2: 14).