Those that oppose - Αντιδιατιθεμενους . This seems to refer to those who opposed the apostle's authority; and hence the propriety of the allusion to the rebellion of Korah and his company. See observations at the end of the chapter.
If God peradventure - He was to use every means which he had reason to believe God might bless; and the apostle intimates that, bad as they were, they were not out of the reach of God's mercy.
In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves - That is, those who embrace error, and array themselves against the truth. We are not to become angry with such persons, and denounce them at once as heretics. We are not to hold them up to public reproach and scorn; but we are to set about the business of patiently “instructing them.” Their grand difficulty, it is supposed in this direction, is, that they are ignorant of the truth. Our business with them is, “calmly to show them what the truth is.” If they are angry, we are not to be. If they oppose the truth, we are still calmly to state it to them. If they are slow to see it, we are not to become weary or impatient. Nor, if they do not embrace it at all, are we to become angry with them, and denounce them. We may pity them, but we need not use hard words. This is the apostolic precept about the way of treating those who are in error; and can any one fail to see its beauty and propriety? Let it be remembered, also, that this is not only beautiful and proper in itself; it is the wiseST course, if we would bring others over to our opinions. You are not likely to convince a man that you are right, and that he is wrong, if you first make him angry; nor are you very likely to do it, if you enter into harsh contention. You then put him on his guard; you make him a party, and, from self-respect, or pride, or anger, he will endeavor to defend his own opinions, and will not yield to yours. “Meekness” and “gentleness” are the very best things, if you wish to convince another that he is wrong. With his heart first, and then modestly and kindly show him “what the truth is,” in as few words, and with as unassuming a spirit, as possible, “and you have him.”
If God peradventure will give them repentance, - Give them such a view of the error which they have embraced, and such regret for having embraced it, that they shall be willing to admit the truth. After all our care in teaching others the truth, our only dependence is on God for its success. We cannot be absolutely certain that they will see their error; we cannot rely certainly on any power which argument will have; we can only hope that God may show them their error, and enable them to see and embrace the truth; compare Acts 11:18. The word rendered “peradventure,” here - μήποτε mēpote- means, usually, “not even, never;” and then, “that never, lest ever” - the same as “lest perhaps.” It is translated “lest at any time,” Matthew 4:6; Matthew 5:25; Matthew 13:15; Mark 4:12; Luke 21:34; “lest,” Matt, Luke 7:6; Luke 13:29; Luke 15:32; “et al.: lest haply,” Luke 14:12; Acts 5:39. It does not imply that there was any CHance about what is said, but rather that there was uncertainty in the mind of the speaker, and that there was need of caution LesT something should occur; or, that anything was done, or should be done, to prevent something from happening.
It is not used elsewhere in the New Testament in the sense which our translators, and all the critics, so far as I have examined, give to it here - as implying A hope that God would give them repentance, etc. But I may be permitted to suggest another interpretation, which will accord with the uniform meaning of the word in the New Testament, and which will refer the matter to those who had embraced the error, and not to God. It is this: “In meekness instructing ‹those that oppose themselves‘ ( ἀντιδιατιθεμένους antidiatithemenous) ‹lest‘ - μήποτε mēpote- God should give them repentance, and they should recover themselves out of the snare of the devil,” etc. That is, they put themselves in this posture of opposition so that they shall not be brought to repentance, and recover themselves. They do it with a precautionary view that they may not be thus brought to repentance, and be recovered to God. They take this position of opposition to the truth, intending not to be converted; and this is the reason why they are not converted.
It is not now the work of the sinner to make peace with God, but to accept Christ as his peace and righteousness. Thus man becomes one with Christ and one with God. There is no way by which the heart may be made holy, save through faith in Christ. Yet many think that repentance is a kind of preparation which men must originate themselves before they can come to Christ. They must take steps themselves in order to find Christ a mediator in their behalf. It is true that there must be repentance before there is pardon, but the sinner must come to Christ before he can find repentance. It is the virtue of Christ that strengthens and enlightens the soul, so that repentance may be godly and acceptable.... Repentance is as certainly a gift of Jesus Christ as is forgiveness of sins. Repentance cannot be experienced without Christ, for it is the repentance of which He is the author that is the ground upon which we may apply for pardon. It is through the work of the Holy Spirit that men are led to repentance. It is from Christ that the grace of contrition comes, as well as the gift of pardon, and repentance as well as forgiveness of sins is procured only through the atoning blood of Christ. Those whom God pardons He first makes penitent.19 TMK 109.3Read in context »
“And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient, in meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth.” “To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers [not talking the truth in a boasting, triumphant manner], but gentle, showing all meekness unto all men.” “But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear.” 2T 389.1
Brother C wants his mind to control others, and unless he can have this privilege he is dissatisfied. He is not a peacemaker. His course will cause more confusion and distrust in a church than any ten persons can counteract. His peculiar temperament is such that he will be picking flaws, and finding fault with all but himself. He will not prosper until he learns the lesson that he ought to have learned years ago, humbleness of mind. At his age he will learn this lesson at much cost to self. All his life he has been trying to build himself up, to save himself, to preserve his own life; and he has lost his labor every time. 2T 389.2
What Brother C needs is to have the deceptive gloss taken from his eyes, that he may look, with eyes enlightened by the Spirit of God, into his own heart, and test and weigh every motive, and not let Satan put a false coloring upon his course of action. His position is extremely perilous. He will soon turn decidedly to the right, or he will go on deceiving others and deceiving himself. He needs to have his inmost soul converted, and to be subdued and transformed by the renewing of his mind. Then he can do good. But he can never come into the light until he encourages a spirit of humble confession and takes hold with decision to right his wrongs and, as far as he can, to do away the reproach he has brought upon the cause of God. 2T 389.3Read in context »
To the sixth of these pamphlets, Elder Olsen wrote on November 22, 1896, these introductory words: TM xxxi.1
“During the past few months, I have received a number of communications from Sister E. G. White, which contain most valuable instruction to myself and to all our laborers; and knowing that all the workers connected with the cause of present truth would be benefited personally and helped in their work by having this instruction, I have collected this matter, and had it printed in this little tract for their benefit. It is not necessary that I ask for it a careful and prayerful study, for I know it will receive this.” TM xxxi.2
It was not an easy task for Ellen White to pen such stirring messages of rebuke and reproof, nor was it easy for the recipients to accept these messages as applying in the personal experience and then set about to make the corrections which were called for. They were published in the 1890's by the president of the General Conference and by the General Conference Committee as pamphlets, that all ministers might be warned. Then materials were republished in the body of Testimonies to Ministers In 1923, to keep before every Seventh-day Adventist minister and administrator perils which could seriously militate against the interests of the work of God. TM xxxi.3Read in context »