So wrote the Apostle Paul to the Thessalonians when their faith was being challenged by adversity. In God’s economy, all manner of trials will beset the way of the disciple in order to test faith and commitment: “If thou faint in the day of adversity, thy strength is small” (Prov 24:10). One of the greatest tests comes when respected brethren fail, bringing distress and disappointment. Yet it must be remembered that whatever happenings occur in the household of faith, or for that matter in the world, one thing is certain, God will remain faithful to His Word: “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of My mouth: it shall not return unto Me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please and it shall prosper in the thing whereunto I sent it” (Isa 55:11).

The behaviour of brethren and sisters can bring honour or dishonour to that Word but it cannot alter or defer the Divine will and purpose. Israel was called upon to obey God’s statutes and commandments and so witness to the character of God and wisdom of His Word (Deut 4:5–8). Tragically, in this they so often failed and their disobedience resulted in God’s Word being blasphemed among the nations (Ezek 36:19–23; Rom 2:23–24). Also King David’s grievous sins of adultery and murder gave Yahweh’s enemies “great occasion to blaspheme” (2 Sam 12:14). Despite these cases, the Word of God would remain sure and steadfast. “If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful” (2 Tim 2:13).

Paul poses the question, “What if some were unfaithful? Does their faithlessness nullify the faithfulness of God” (Rom 3:3 rsv)? His answer is an emphatic “No”. God’s purpose does not change because men fail and fall short of His glory. It could be argued that Israel ‘deserved’ to be cast off but the question of Israel’s survival is never in doubt. How then would God remain faithful to His “friend” Abraham, seeing He had guaranteed their survival as an integral part of the promise to him and the witness of His own faithfulness in regard to it: “Ye are my witness, saith Yahweh and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me and understand that I am He. Before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me” (Isa 43:10). Clearly, if Israel was to disappear, then God Himself, the Creator of heaven and earth, could be shown to be non-existent! God’s purpose with them will prevail, despite their blindness and despite the opposition of all their enemies. “For Israel hath not been forsaken, nor Judah of his God, of Yahweh of Hosts; though their land was filled with sin against the Holy One of Israel” (Jer 51:5).

One can understand why an unbeliever can mock the Bible when the behaviour of a believer is inconsistent with his professed convictions, but human failure should not undermine the convictions of believers. As disappointing as such failures are, and as hard as they might be to comprehend, the Bible makes no secret of sin or the weaknesses of some of its greatest heroes of faith. It encourages trust in Yahweh supremely and warns against placing confidence in the flesh or any man: “Put not your trust in princes nor in the son of man, in whom there is not help. His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish. Happy is the man that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in Yahweh his God” (Psa 146:3–5).

No inconsistency or breach of the moral code by a brother can negate the Truth espoused. It must not be said that “if that’s how they act, they can keep their beliefs to themselves. I want no part of it.” It is a tragedy to see destabilisation or even defection from the Faith as a result of a bad example.

Jesus himself was no reactionary, for despite the blatant hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees, his counsel was: “The scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. All, therefore, whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not after their works: for they say and do not” (Matt 23:2–3). Yes, Jesus counselled against their immoral behaviour but defended the integrity of God’s law.

There is not a brother or a sister who does not at some time or other make a mistake in word or deed, which could bring great disappointment to others. When ungodly behaviour is found in an “elder”, then his responsibility is greater and the disappointment more intense. Though he had been worthy of double honour, such must suffer public correction for the sake of others, that God’s Word might be seen to be supreme (read 1Tim 5:17–21; Neh 5:4–7). The great Apostle Peter had to suffer public rebuke from Paul because his actions had betrayed his teaching (Gal 2:11–18).

There is a salient lesson and warning for us all in this godless, evil world in which we live. It behoves every brother and sister to set their ideals, the code of their moral behaviour, firmly on the inspired Word and to resist those temptations that could bring disrepute upon the Truth. However, human nature being what it is, it is inevitable that offences will come, but let us remember that despite those offences Jesus Christ will still return, Abraham and his seed will inherit the land, the Kingdom of God will still be established, the nations will still serve the King, the Lord Jesus Christ, and eventually “the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea” (Isa 11:9).

“I have sworn by myself, the word is gone out of my mouth in righteousness, and shall not return, That unto me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear. Surely, shall one say, in Yahweh have I righteousness and strength: even to him shall men come; and all that are incensed against him shall be ashamed. In Yahweh shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory” (Isa 45:23–25).