A lot of times, it’s difficult to tell the difference between someone who has legitimate objections to the faith and someone who’s simply throwing up a smokescreen. This is especially difficult on the internet. How do we know when to make the effort and when to ignore them?
Well, first we need to recognize that there are some folks to whom we should not make any effort. Jesus specifically commanded us:
“Give not that which is holy unto the dogs, neither cast ye your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under their feet, and turn again and rend you.”
– Matthew 7:6
In this passages, He singles out two classes of reprobates: dogs and swine.
In the previous two parts of this study, we looked at how to recognize dogs and how to deal with them. We recognized that dogs make no difference between the holy and the profane, that they will eat the meat they find in the garbage heap as easily as that from the altar. These folks tend to treat the Word of God as the product of men instead of the inerrant, God-breathed revelation of their Creator. We also noted that one deals with dogs by rebuking them [and being reconciled to them if they repent] or driving them away. As harsh as that sounds, we also need to remember that a little leaven leavens the lump. Christianity has become so lax in matters of discipline that it considers the very subject harsh and judgmental – nevermind that sound judgment is required for godly discipline.
In this section, we will talk about how to identify and deal with swine. In part one, we noted that there’s not much difference between dogs and swine at face value, excepts perhaps by a matter of degree. A dog returns to its vomit, while a pig returns to the wallow [2 Peter 2:22]. Both dogs and swine return to the filth they’re accustomed to, but swine completely immerse themselves in it.
Perhaps that’s it. Dogs make no difference between the holy and profane, but swine are utterly reprobate in their error, though they themselves may not recognize it. If we look at Matthew 7:6 again and pay special attention to the description of swine, we note a command to us [“neither cast ye your pearls before swine”] and two separate cautions [(1)” lest they trample them under their feet” and (2) “turn again and rend you.”]
We are commanded not to engage these beasts. While we are to be ready at all times to give a reason [literally, an apologia or reasoned defense] of the hope that is within us to any man who asks [1 Peter 3:15], it is apparent there are exceptions to this rule given by Jesus Himself. Sort of.
Indulge me here as I walk you through this. We are commanded to give a reasoned defense to anyone who asks, so everyone gets at least one shot, so to speak. Unless they’re swine.
The question of how do we identify these swine becomes paramount. Jesus gives two identifiers in his two-fold warning of the consequences of casting pearls: they trample the pearls and then they turn on you personally.
Pearls are determined by the context, but they can be genralized as something of value. In essence, we can think of pearls as truth itself, whether we’re speaking of Biblical truth [doctrine/theology] or the Gospel itself.
Jesus told a parable about a pearl of great price [Matthew 35:44-46]:
Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.
I gave the parable of the treasure found in a field for added context, because Jesus used both parables to emphasize a point. In each parable, the man is seeking the treasure. In each parable, he sells all he has to secure that treasure. Did you notice that in 1 Peter 3:15, we’re told to give our apologia to those who ask? That means they’re seeking answers! They might be skeptical, maybe even a little hostile at first [passion often surfaces as anger] as they demand the truth they crave to know, but the point is: they want to know. [This does not absolve us of our responsibility to go forth and witness and make discples, mind you.]
When swine come into contact with our pearls, they trample them. Like dogs, they don’t recognize the difference between the holy and the profane; they trample the truth. How is this possible? Well, the Bible speaks in several places of men who suppress the truth in unrighteousness, who turn away from truth and turn to fables that are more in accord with their own desires and opinions. This should not surprise us.
How many times have you debated someone and backed up your position with sound Biblical exposition, only to have them reject it, often twisting or denying Scripture to suit their own erroneous beliefs?
I debated a fellow recently who’d fallen into non-Trinitarian heresy. He said to me, “There is no Trinity. That is heresy and unbiblical. Show me where the Bible talks about a Trinity.”
So I cited the following verses:
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” Matthew 28:19
After Jesus was baptized, just as he was coming up out of the water, the heavens opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming on him. 17 And a voice from heaven said, “This is my one dear Son; in him I take great delight.” Matthew 3:16
May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you. 2 Corinthians 13:14
Each of these verses makes the doctrine of the Trinity painfully obvious [and there are others I could have cited], but did he receive the Word of Truth? No, instead, fully commited to his Oneness heresy, he demanded, “Who IS GOD? What is God’s name? What is the Father’s name? What is the Holy Spirits name?”
Unfortunately, as I explained to him, he didnn’t understand the context of Matthew 28:19, where “the name” [Greek onoma] indicates authorization or authority, NOT what we call someone. It refers to baptizing by the authority or under the authorization of the Father AND [yes, that word is there] the Son AND [and there again] the Holy Ghost. So what he’d offered by asking “what is God’s name?” is an irrelevant thesis in the context of this verse.
What happened next was predictable if I had kept our passage about pearls and swine in mind. Rather than addressing my arguments [and he never addressed the other two verses I’d given], he began to attack me personally and even denied that I was truly a minister of the Gospel [since I didn’t buy into his nonTrinitarian heresy, mind you].
As unfortunate as this incident was, it perfectly illustrates our text. First, he trampled the truth I offered to him and then he began to personally attack me. I should not have engaged him again after that point, but being human I did. I have asked God to forgive me and to keep this lesson in mind for future engagements. I hope you’ll learn from my mistakes as well [rather than making your own]!
The bottom line was that there was no way to know I was wasting my time until he reacted by trampling the truth and attacking me personally. After this, I should have broken off the argument. My responsibility to given my apologia was complete.
Now I must caution my readers that the rest of 1 Peter 3:15 contains a caveat. We are to give a reasoned defense with “meekness and fear” [some translations state “gentleness and respect,” for those unfamiliar with these King james terms]. Folks shouldn’t be reacting to us and our nasty dispositions; they should be reacting to the Word of Truth. If they reject the truth and attack you because you were being insufferable in your delivery, they may not be swine so much as offended!
The reason this issue of casting pearls is so important is this: we undeniably are living in a time of increasing mockery of the things of God. Scoffers are rampant [a prediction of these last days], so we need to be mindful of when it is appropriate to argue and debate and when it is a waste of our God-given time and effort.
I remember once that a fellow came up to me and said, “I hear you’re a preacher.” I confirmed his suspicions, at which point he sneered, “I suppose you’re going to try to convince me to become a Christian, right?”
I stared at this fellow for a few seconds, before responding. I realized I’d be wasting my time sharing truth with a person so ready to fight and eager to reject my arguments, so I said, “No. I’m not going to argue with you.”
He was shocked, almost crest-fallen. He asked, “Why not?”
I told him that if I was right, he already knew all of the arguments for Christianity, but the issue was that he needed answers. His problem was volitional. He had more than enough evidence to convert, he didn’t WANT to. He knew, I told him, that believing would have consequences for his lifestyle and he simply didn’t want to change, no matter the consequences.
He blinked, surprised at what he’d heard, and then promptly admitted that I was right. Of course, he kept after me, still itching for that epic fight between my faith and his atheistic faith, but Jesus made it clear we’re not to argue for argument’s sake, but for the sake of the Gospel and the defense of the Word of Truth.
I hope this study has been helpful to you. It’s certainly helped me.
Rev Tony Breeden