A Pestilent Fellow
The descriptive expression, "pestilent fellow" is not one that we would commonly view as complimentary. Most preachers would be very determined to avoid such a designation, even in the Lordís church. Preachers today are taught to be "congenial," "magnetic," and "nice," certainly not "pestilent." To whom was such a description applied?
Paul had clearly taught that the Law of Moses as a system is not binding on man in this dispensation and that the Messiah had come in the person of Jesus Christ, whom the Jews had crucified (Acts 15, 17: 1-4). As a result of Paulís unyielding and militant teaching, a number of people believed the gospel and the rebellious Jews grew in their hatred of Paul (Ibid.). So much did they hate Paul that they plotted to have Paul arrested (Acts 21). Their "lawyer," an orator named Tertullus, thus accused Paul before Felix: "For we have found this man a pestilent fellowÖ" (Acts 24: 5, see addendum 1).
"Pestilent" (KJV) is from the Greek loimos. Loimos is describing one with a plague, a trouble-maker, one to be avoided. An expanded rendering is, "For we have found this man a perfect pest Ė a real plague Ė an agitator and source of disturbance to all the Jews throughout the world" (Amplified). Paul had "gone in amongst" the Jews, even in their strong holds, their synagogues, and had debated them (cp. Acts 17: 1-5, 17). The Jewish teachers were unable to meet Paul in honorable controversy and, so, resorted to slander and evil treatment (Ibid.). Paul was relentless, so much so that the Jews said: "These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also" (Acts 17: 6, see addendum 2 and addendum 3).
Be it understood that Paul was not considered "pestilent" due to ill manners and actual abuse of others. The assignment of "pestilent" is strictly due to Paulís love of and stand for truth.
Biblical unity demands aggression. Alas, not a few in both the religious world at large and in the Lordís church do not realize that true unity requires militancy and insistence upon the truth. Paul did, moreover, demand unity (Eph. 4: 3). This responsibility is enjoined on all Christians. All are to "speak the same thing" and be of "the same mind and same judgment" (I Cor. 1: 10). Religious disunity is sinful (Ibid.). The means of this unity or doctrinal and living style agreement is predicated on the "ones" of the gospel:
"4: There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; 5: One Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6: One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all" (Eph. 4).
In reality, though, when one does as required, one is usually labeled, just as Paul, as a "pestilent fellow" and trouble-maker. The unity-in-diversity mentality and doctrine that has inundated both the religious world and the Lordís church precludes aggression and requires such a one as Paul to be negatively viewed. So far have we advanced in the "peace at any price" rationale that if one insists on truth in the circumstance of error and is met with strong resistance, even to the point of division, the one with the truth is viewed as "divisive" and in sin! Rather than withhold fellowship from errorists, we have been conditioned to withdraw, treat as one with the plague, from those uncompromisingly teaching the truth and view them as an agitator (cp. 2 John 9-11).
One objection to staunchly standing for the truth is, "Such will result in division." Yes, there will on occasion be division, but what sort of "unity" exists in the first place? It is, I submit, compromise based on error. Earlier I intimated that Jesusí style of preaching was also militant. On several occasions we read thus of Jesus and his teaching:
"19: There was a division therefore again among the Jews for these sayings," "43: So there was a division among the people because of him" (John 10; 7).
We seem to have an abundance of the "peace keeping" type preachers today, men who do not love the truth and hate error and are simply pacifiers and placators. They are more interested in their jobs and careers than the truth and the souls of men and women. Yes, they have a spotless reputation and would not dare cause trouble. They would never been described as "pestilent fellow."
These are the men whom Jesus described as hirelings. These professional hirelings do not care for the truth and for people, only for themselves. Of these Jesus taught:
"11: I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. 12: But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. 13: The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep" (John 10).
False teaching and wolves abound, both in and out of the church. Yet, professional pulpiteers spend their time polishing their good name rather than exposing and attacking error. It is no wonder that there is more false teaching of every type and sort than I have in fifty years of preaching ever heretofore seen. These "peace keepers," as they prefer to be known, are so common that they have become the norm. If one comes alone after the fashion of Jesus or Paul, they are immediately and without any consideration banded as "divisive" and, like Paul, as one having the plague.
While such "good-ole-boys" may be fun and cause people to feel guilt free, they will not effect the salvation of souls. Only the truth presented in a full, cogent, and applicable way will save and promote solid biblical unity (Acts 20: 26, 27). (Be sure to read, "Paul, the Preacher.")
Addendum 1: I am aware that Tertullus is not restrained by truth and fact; however, Paulís preacher manner did result in him being viewed as a "pestilent fellow" by the enemies of truth. Even some within the Lordís church who preached did not favorably view Paul and they sought occasion to create hardship for Paul (Phili. 1: 14ff.).
Addendum 2: Consider Paul's statement to the
Philippians: "7: Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I
have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defense and
confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace" (Phili. 1, see
also verse 17).
The word "defense" is from the Greek apologia. Apologia is defined as, "A speech made in defense" (W.E. Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words). Regarding "Öset for the defense of the gospel," the Pulpit Commentary comments:
"Öto his work of preaching the gospel, which was both apologetic, meeting the objections of adversaries and aggressive, asserting the truth" (Vol. 20, p. 3).
Involved in "set for the defense" is the basic idea and action of aggression and militancy. Such a style would be what we would commonly call the "debate style."
The defense or apologia style is observed in Paul's very first recorded sermon (Acts 13: 14-41). Notice that he went into the synagogue (v. 14). He took the initiative to go to an audience that was potentially hostile. He is seen as not shy, but at the same time courteous (v. 16). Paul presented
pertinent Jewish history to his Jewish audience, thus laying a foundation for reference (vs. 17-25). Whereupon Paul then introduced Christ the Savior (vs. 23-25). He then made application of the truth thus far delivered (vs. 26, 28, 30, 38-41). His style as recorded by the historian is what we would call controversial or apologetic (vs. 46, 50). Paul loved these Jewish people and he did not hold back in presenting the truth to them, notwithstanding the fact that they had decidedly rejected and murdered the Christ whom he presented to them (vs. 28ff.).
Addendum 3: The basic action involved in
dialegomai ("disputed," KJV) in Acts 17: 17, especially in the considered
circumstances, involved two ideas being considered, two ideas that are
conflicting and different, such treatment and consideration for the purpose of
ascertaining which is the truth and which one is wrong (see also Acts 17: 17;
18: 4, 19; 19: 8, 9; Acts 20: 7). Thus we refer to this style as the debate or
Paul sought out those with whom he doctrinally disagreed and debated them, this is what dialegomai is saying (when the teaching style of Jesus is closely examined, He also possessed the debating style, Matt. 22: 23ff.).
This same manner is apparent when Paul's writings are examined. Paul was to the point and cogent in what he wrote. He knew of the situation of the church at Corinth, their doctrinal errors and immoral practices and he addressed, treated, and showed such to be sinful (I Cor. 5, 7, 15, etc.). Paul believed in dealing with current issues and relentlessly did so (cp. Gal. 4: 16-31). Paul overwhelmed the reader with facts and presented irrefutable logic in such volume that his disputants were helpless (see the Book of Hebrews).