In 2010, I received the following e-mail that charged me with doing this in regard to an open exhortation I had published about Clarence Sexton’s Friendship Conferences.
“I am deeply upset at the private letter you posted on your website to Dr Sexton. Thanks for shooting your own and not calling Pastor Sexton personally to get all of the facts. I guess you don't read Matthew 18 all that often.”
The fact is that I sent that letter to Dr. Sexton via his own website months before I published it, and I received no reply. He says that he doesn’t use e-mail, and that is fine, but he could have dictated a reply to one of his co-workers or secretaries.
As for Matthew 18, it has nothing to do with the issue. Dr. Sexton has not sinned against me personally and I am not a member of his church and could not therefore follow the procedure proscribed in Matthew 18. The issue of the Friendship Conference is not a private matter; it is a very public matter because Dr. Sexton has made it so via his public influence. Public stances should be critiqued publicly, or those concerned will not hear the challenge. What I had to say by way of warning was not just for Dr. Sexton, it is for all independent Baptists. I have nothing against Dr. Sexton personally and I have no animosity toward him. Why can’t men understand this very simple principle? I am convinced that it is because they don’t want to understand it. I have been an independent Baptist for 41 years, and one of the besetting sins of this movement, in my estimation, is the over exaltation of man. As a movement, it is more man-centered than Christ-centered, and that is idolatry.
Another example of the accusation of “shooting one’s wounded” is contained in the following e-mail that I received a few years ago:
“I grew up in Murfreesboro, TN and was and am still associated with the Sword of the Lord and the Bill Rice Ranch. I hated it then and still do when another Christian brother bashes another Christian brother over things instead of preaching and trying to win souls to Christ. It is said that the Christian Army is the only army that stabs its wounded and kills off its own. I have to say it is very true. I am also a Marine, and we were taught to pick up those who are wounded and even dead, not leave them to die or to be mutilated by the enemy. We as Christians do just the opposite many times.”
In reply, I would ask, “What does ‘shooting their own wounded’ mean?”
If it means that Christians sometimes fail to be patient with the weak, we can all probably say that we have been guilty. If it means that Christians sometimes criticize a fellow believer instead of trying to help him, it happens too often; and we need to be reminded often that God is not pleased with such things.
If, on the other hand, it means that it is wrong for a preacher to identify and warn of those who are teaching error or walking in compromise, it is nonsense.
In my ministry of warning, I have never injured a wounded person and I have never shot anyone in any sense whatsoever. To charge me with doing so is to confuse warning, reproof, and correction with assault. I was in the army and I understand the military, and what I am doing has absolutely nothing to do with shooting one’s own wounded.
The leaders that I warn about are not wounded. They are willfully and steadfastly committed to error or compromise, and they are influencing others. (By the way, they don’t mind “shooting” me!)
The Lord Jesus Christ taught His people to beware of false prophets (Mat. 7:15). When a preacher obeys this command and attempts to mark and warn about false teachers, is he “shooting the wounded”? No, but those he warns about and those who are sympathetic to them will charge him with doing so.
In 1 and 2 Timothy, the apostle Paul names the names of false teachers and compromisers ten times (1 Tim. 1:20; 2 Tim. 1:15; 2:17; 3:8; 4:10, 14). All of the men that Paul warned about claimed to be Christians, and it is likely that they felt that Paul was being unfair and mean-spirited in singling them out. When Paul warned Timothy that Demas had abandoned him because he loved this present world (2 Tim. 4:10), Paul was not shooting a wounded Demas, but worldly Demas and his associates might have charged Paul with such a thing.
The Lord has commanded the churches to exercise discipline toward unrepentant members who are committed to gross sin and error (1 Corinthians 5; Titus 3:10-11). Is that shooting the wounded? It is oftentimes considered so by those who are the objects of the discipline and by those who are sympathetic to them, but proper church discipline, though severe, is not destructive. It has a three-fold goal of glorifying Christ in His church, purifying the congregation, and bringing the sinner to repentance.
The Lord has instructed us to identify those who are saved but are walking in disobedience (2 Thes. 3:6). Is that shooting the wounded?
Those who are disobedient mistake correction for persecution and reproof for assault.
Paul rebuked sin in the churches in letters that were anything but private. His epistles to the individual churches were distributed among all the churches (Colossians 4:16). Even Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus were intended for public instruction in all of the churches. Therefore, when Paul told of how that Demas had left him, having loved this present world, it was a public matter. When he rebuked the believers at Corinth for their sin and compromise and error, it was a public warning. When he warned of Alexander the Coppersmith, it was a public warning.
Some matters are private and they should be dealt with privately, but other matters are public and should be dealt with publicly. If a man writes a book that influences people, that book should be critiqued publicly. If a man has a public ministry that influences others, that ministry should be critiqued publicly.
Evangelist Chuck Cofty is a highly decorated United States Marine officer who survived shocking battlefield experiences. I asked him to reply to the matter of “shooting one’s wounded” as stated in the second e-mail cited earlier in this report. Following is his reply:
“Dear Brother Cloud: To my knowledge you have not struck anyone violently or injured them by striking. He no doubt is referring to the many truths that appear in your writings as well as the writings of others concerning contemporary theology that you quote. Some, perhaps even this man, are so timid that when truth is revealed they find it difficult to accept and wind up tolerating error or ignorance for fear of offending someone. When men are named, places identified and error revealed, it is upsetting to those that are ‘moderate’ in their position. Brother Cloud, it is true that marines never leave their dead on the field of battle and will on occasion render aid to a wounded enemy. This however is situational and conditional as we will not allow such aid to encumber us, slow us down, deter us from our mission or jeopardize our success. Our desire to serve our dear Lord must be the same. I personally think that this dear brother’s analogy is poor and his accusation unfounded.”
Pastor Wilbert Unger of Bethel Baptist Church, London, Ontario, observes:
“Was our Lord shooting the first century churches in Revelation 2 and 3 when He walked in their midst and exposed their sins and failures and commanded them to repent? The kindest and most biblical thing a faithful servant of God can do is expose unscriptural conduct to lead to repentance, lest God step in and judge severely and chasten in a most severe matter. I think the worst chastening that we Independent Baptists could receive from the hand of God is if He would just leave us alone and let us go on in our compromise. We are so bent on exalting man and lightly esteeming the Word of God. One day, we will be like Samson when it is said, ‘he wist not that the Lord had departed from him’ (Judges 16:20). May God be gracious and wake us up to listen to the rebuke of those who see the error in our faith and practice. No man is above rebuke. May we come to see the love and grace in those who would be so kind as to rebuke us.”
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