Your Teaching is too Hard!
Faithful Christians and ministers hear many things. On occasion, they teach an honest soul the gospel and have the person tell them, "Thank you for having enough love and interest in me to teach me the gospel" (cp. Acts 16: 14, 15). There are also a number of occasions when there are not the same honest hearts and they adversely respond to any teaching efforts rendered by saying, "I do not agree with you, your teaching is too hard!" Such, however, is not novel. I say this because Jesus himself, the Master Teacher, had people to respond in this manner:
"60: Many therefore of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it?" (John 6.)
In fact, these disciples were so up-set at Jesus’ demanding teaching that they decided they did not want to follow Jesus any longer. John recorded this sad scene as follows:
"66: From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. 67: Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? 68: Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. 69: And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God" (John 6).
Let us with some particularity examine a few of the areas in which it is claimed that the teaching is too hard.
The matter of biblical faith. The religious world has commonly accepted the false teaching of salvation by faith only. However, the only time that "faith only" appears in our standard translations in the milieu of salvation is in James 2: 24, and on that occasion it says just the opposite: We are not justified by faith only!
Faith that saves is always observed as an implicit and obedient faith, a faith that does whatever is appropriate in view of the circumstances. In the case of men and women becoming Christians (being saved), we read in Acts how they heard the gospel and obeyed it (cp. Acts 2: 14-46). While the various accounts differ in terms of length and details, they are static in mentioning the fact of obedience. The faith that avails is the faith that, "…works by love" (Gal. 5: 6). Faith only places one on the level of demons (Jas. 2: 19).
The act of repentance. We sometimes hear the word "repentance" in the vocabularies of the world and denominationalism, but it does not have a biblical meaning associated with it. Repentance is not simply sorrow, Judas had sorrow (Matt. 27: 3f.). Repentance, fully and biblically viewed, is a change of attitude and will alignment that is precipitated by godly sorrow that results in restoration of life (Matt. 21: 28f., KJV, 2 Cor. 7: 10; 2 Cor. 7: 11). The Bible knows nothing about a repentance in the climate of salvation that is inactive. Hence, the drunkard who says, while consuming more alcohol, "I repent of drinking," is lacking understanding of Bible repentance.
Nonetheless, there are many who do not like to hear the truth about faith and repentance. Their lives are comfortable and while they want to say that they have repented of their sins, they do not want to change. To attempt to counter the truth, they respond by charging, "Your teaching is too hard!"
Confession of Jesus’ deity. It is evident that men and women were required not only to believe in Jesus’ deity, but they also acknowledged this belief before men (Rom. 10: 9, 10, Acts 8: 36, 37, KJV). This was required for two apparent reasons. One was accepting Jesus’ deity was crucial, as it is today. Another was such acknowledgement declared intended allegiance to Jesus, the Son of God. This is why in the setting of acknowledging his deity, Jesus also said that if we are ashamed to declare him as the Son of God, he will also not acknowledge us before his Father (Matt. 10: 32, 33). I recall studying with a woman who was of Jewish descent who said, "I want to become a Christian, but I cannot confess that Jesus is the Son of God." She believed Jesus was a prophet and a good man, but not the Son of God. I could not baptize her.
Water baptism. According to the teaching of the New Testament, water baptism is for the remission of sins, when preceded by faith, repentance, and confession (Acts 2: 38, 22: 16). Water baptism is immersion or a burial in water, typifying the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus (Rom. 6). Baptism is only for those who can believe, not for babies, etc. (Mark 16: 16). Some think this simple teaching is too demanding and refuse it, attacking the presenter of the truth by charging him with being too hard.
Membership in Jesus’ church. When the scriptures mention religious division and grouping, it is always condemned (cp. I Cor. 1: 10f.). This is because, first, there is only one church and faith (Eph. 4: 4, 5). Moreover, all are to believe and practice the same thing (I Cor. 1: 10). Jesus’ church is clearly observed in the New Testament, its origin, nature, and importance (Matt. 16: 18, 19; Rom. 14: 17; I Tim. 3: 15). While there are certainly "social" benefits associated with church membership, the mission and work of the local church is principally that of preaching the gospel to the lost and providing edification for the saved (I Tim. 3: 15, Eph. 4: 16). In fact, church membership is required (Acts 2: 42, Heb. 10: 24, 25).
To some, such teaching is just too exacting. They do not want to be told that it matters to which church they belong or that they must belong at all.
Rebuking and exposing sin. Sin is a serious matter, a matter that can cause one to be eternally lost (Rom. 6: 23). Preaching is to be such that is specific and practical, mentioning and exposing sin (2 Tim. 4: 2f.). Christians are to not only abstain from sin, but also to reprove and rebuke sin (Eph. 5: 10, 11).
The drunkard or social drinker who does not intend to alter his actions does not want to hear what the scriptures teach about such conduct (Prov. 23: 29f. I Cor. 6: 9-11). Hence, they want to in any way they can, silence exposure and what they view as "negativity."
Marriage, divorce, and marriage to another. Some who did not have their heads buried in the sand and who cared for God’s people predicted, even back in the seventies that we would see perhaps a pandemic of divorce problems in the church. This has come to pass, alas.
Due to the relaxed civil laws, false teaching, and societal indifference, many have unscripturally divorced and married another. Yet, Jesus’ teaching is just as germane and binding today as it was in the First Century. Marriage is for life, the only exception being the infidelity or adultery of a mate. The innocent mate then has the right to put away the guilty mate and the innocent has the option of marrying another (Matt. 5: 32, 19: 9).
Too many churches of Christ now have accepted divorce and remarried people whose current marriage is adulterous. When the truth is preached on this vital subject with detail and practicality, some are heard, even among some elderships, saying, "This teaching is too hard and we will not have it!" Many pronounce woe on any who expect such adulterous relationships to be dissolved (I Cor. 6: 9-11).
People want, as they of old, smooth sayings and sweet sounding platitudes that do not up-set and call for change (Jere. 5: 31). "We want to hear about grace," say they, but they appear not to even realize that grace teaches and requires the very things being discussed (cp. Tit. 2: 11-14).
In closing, it is not difficult to find a church and preacher that will not "declare the whole counsel of God" (Acts 20: 27). Remember those who thought Jesus’ teaching was too hard; they had no one else to whom they could go for the words of eternal life (John 6: 67, 68). If we want to go to heaven, there are really no options regarding "hard teaching" other than to accept it. For those who truly love God, his commandments are not too hard or, using the language of John, "grievous" (I John 5: 3).