What the Bible says about
Compromise with Principles
(From Forerunner Commentary)
2 Chronicles 9:22-28
God's Word provides an example of compromise for us to learn from, if we are wise enough to heed it (Romans 15:4; I Corinthians 10:11). This example comes from the life of the wisest king ever to live, one whom God blessed with wisdom that no one could gainsay, who had wealth and ability no one had ever possessed before. God loved this man greatly—He even spoke directly to him more than once, and because of the man's humble response, blessed him far beyond what he requested. This king, a man of peace and learning, was commissioned to build the most beautiful Temple to God in Jerusalem. The man, of course, was Solomon, the son of David and Bathsheba.
To understand why Solomon's compromises seemed so small and insignificant to him when he succumbed to them, we have to understand the situation of Solomon's reign. We could compare it to America today. As Psalm 18:43-44 suggests, David and his armies had essentially subjugated all of the world that mattered at the time. King David of Israel was "the head of the nations," and faraway kings he did not even know trembled at the mention of his name. As the sole superpower in the region, wealth poured into Israel. When Solomon was made king upon David's death, not a nation on the face of the earth would have considered attacking Israel. It was just too strong.
So, Solomon ruled the known world, and as time progressed and in that strength, he did not see the need to obey God fully in all that He had commanded the kings of Israel to do. In his power and wealth, he saw no problem with compromising just a little with God's instruction. As we will see, Solomon failed completely in his old age, but the seeds of that failure were sown early in his reign.
His sounds like the perfect, storybook career until we notice God's instruction to kings in Deuteronomy 17:14-20, which specifically warns against multiplying horses, multiplying wives, and multiplying silver and gold. Was Solomon unaware of these instructions? Of course not. David, a man who knew God's law intimately, would have been sure to instruct his son in them and have him write a copy of the law as commanded. Surely, Solomon could not have been ignorant of them. He, then, must have known it was wrong to import horses and chariots from Egypt, but because of his wealth and might, he must have considered this infraction too minor to take seriously.
Why did God not want Israel's kings to import warhorses? Armored warhorses and the chariots they pulled can be compared to today's tanks, which are devastating when fighting foot soldiers. A nation with this level of war materiel put their reliance on it as it made the army such a powerful fighting machine. Why should a nation trust an invisible God to fight its battles when it could see rank upon rank of seemingly invincible horses and chariots?
God wanted His people to rely on Him. Solomon knew this, since he wrote in Proverbs 21:31:"The horse is prepared for the day of battle: but deliverance is of the LORD." The issue of importing horses may have seemed a small thing to Solomon, but it was important to God. From all indications, his compromise in this matter began his slow separation from God.
Compounding his compromise concerning warhorses, by the end of his reign, Solomon had a substantial harem (I Kings 11:1-3). As he began his reign, would Solomon have considered "multiply[ing] wives for himself," especially to this extent? Probably not. When he was tender of heart, needing God to help him rule this great people and kingdom (see II Chronicles 1:7-12), he doubtless walked carefully, making sure he did what was commanded in everything. But once secure in knowledge, wealth, and power, he began to forget the God who had spoken to him, placed him in power, and given him all that he had.
Perhaps Solomon's reasoning went something like this: "When I imported horses from Egypt, there were no adverse consequences, so what would be wrong with taking additional wives for political reasons?" We do not normally see the results of sin immediately, yet they inevitably come. At some point, he learned this principle, writing in Ecclesiastes 8:11: "Because the sentence against an evil work is not executed speedily, therefore the heart of the sons of men is fully set in them to do evil." In any case, knowing this did not help him, as I Kings 11:4-8 records.
Wise Solomon fell victim to the same temptations that the rest of us so often face. He compromised on what he thought were small concerns—matters he probably considered well into the gray areas—to do things his way rather than God's. The danger of such reasoning is that small compromises weaken character, and over time, they lead to major sins. For Solomon, the results were devastating. His experience is a warning of what will befall us if we follow his example of compromise.
The psalmist writes in Psalm 111:10, "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and a good understanding have all they that do His commandments: His praise endures forever." Solomon's compromises gradually but inexorably distorted his understanding of God's laws and ways. He slowly drifted away from God, so that when he was old, unbelievable as it seems, he allowed his wives to turn his heart from the God that had given him everything.
From the "minor" infraction of importing horses, Solomon eventually condoned and was at least an accessory to the sins of idolatry and outright murder, sins that he would never have considered committing at the beginning of his reign. For, at the end of his life, Solomon worshipped Ashtoreth, Milcom, Chemosh, and Molech, the last having rituals that called for children to be given to the fire of his altar. By giving his royal sanction to worshipping these pagan deities, he set a precedent that was followed by many of the kings of Israel and Judah after him.
John O. Reid (1930-2016)
1 Corinthians 9:19-22
Does this mean that Paul would compromise with God's law under special circumstances? Absolutely not! Does he endorse "situation ethics"? Absolutely not! Does Paul embrace syncretism? Absolutely not!
Paul understands that we need to guard and protect jealously certain core beliefs such as God's laws and statutes, which we hold as non-negotiable. But we find a rather wide variety of marginal beliefs (such as choice of music, automobile, food, clothing, etc.) upon which we can compromise without sin.
The apostle Paul had a keen sense of what part of his belief structure was negotiable and what was not. He had the knack to make things that he and other people agreed upon to seem like mountains and those he and others disagreed upon seem like molehills.
In I Corinthians 6:12, He expresses the realization that just because something was lawful does not mean it is the thing to do—especially if it will offend someone. In Romans 14, Paul sets some guidelines on dealing with marginal issues. If becoming a vegetarian or a teetotaler for a day proves the price of peace and not offending, he considers it a small price to pay.
David F. Maas
Godly Tact and Diplomacy
We are frequently admonished to "search" the Scripture to seek out the truth that God reveals by His Spirit. We are urged to know what we believe and why. God wants us to have faith and conviction to the point of even giving up our lives in obedience to Him and His truth.
We must carefully examine God's Word and learn what is true. And having found it, we should adhere to it always, not yielding an inch of ground when supposedly new teaching comes around from the mouth of smooth talkers. Not all church members have stood firm, as we know from experience. Some, making poor choices about what "truth" they will adhere to, have been blown off course, sailing away from their original destination—the Kingdom of God. They will, of course, end up in a different port.
This may be what Paul is referring to in Ephesians 4:14—that some members of the church in Ephesus were not following Christ's path. They had become liberal and lax, no longer having the conviction to the truth fixed in their hearts and minds. The doctrines and truth they once held were no longer resolute in their minds. Their faith was weakening, and in consequence, they began to yield to every new opinion and submit to the guidance of every new teacher.
So, as it is brought out in Ecclesiastes 1:9, "There is nothing new under the sun." What has happened in the past happens in the present.
We must really know the truth of God, believe it, and be fully convinced of it in true faith. In addition, we have to have our glorious destination as our goal and steer a steady course toward it.
When faced with the prevailing wind, a sailor can "beat to windward," a technique that involves a maneuver called "tacking." Tacking, also called "coming about," is turning the boat at an angle to run against the wind so that one travels sideways in order to make forward progress. It takes some work and skill, but one can actually proceed on course to his destination.
It is a matter of control. Instead of being blown freely in the direction of the prevailing wind, one can gain control of his direction. Once again, it is the set of our sails, not the prevailing wind that determines our course. We have a Captain who knows the seas and the winds and how to get us to His port.
Contrary to popular belief, we live in one of the most difficult and dangerous ages in all of human history. Some would be willing to argue this, saying that civilization has come a long way and that mankind is not as cruel as the record of history shows that he once was. Certainly living in the first century in the Roman Empire must have been difficult, they might say as an example, since we have the Bible's account of the apostles living in constant danger—and most of them died horrible deaths!
That is true. From what the Bible shows, that constant danger promoted closeness to God; the apostles relied on God to keep them safe and provide deliverance for them at every turn. While we are not being hunted down for our religious beliefs, the danger we face today is far greater—spiritually—in that it does just the opposite: It promotes a slow separation from God. We know this kind of danger by the illustration of the frog in the pot of water. The increase in temperature happens so slowly that the frog fails to realize that it is in trouble until it is too late to jump to safety.
What produces this danger for us, the called-out children of God? What is the signature attitude of the era that we live in? What failing among the majority of people will cause the loss of our freedoms and the downfall of our nation? It is compromising with the laws and principles of God.
We live in a nation that has largely compromised the character it once possessed. Just a minority uphold the Christian principles that underlay documents like the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, which provided the foundation for America to become the envy of the world. Now, so many are willing to trade their hard-won freedoms for a little temporary security, essentially selling their birthright.
We face an analogous situation among the greater churches of God. We live in a time when the majority of those with whom we once fellowshipped have compromised the beliefs they used to hold dear. Many of these people have joined worldly churches, or worse, losing faith altogether, have slipped back into the world. Some have contrived strange new doctrines to live by, and despite attending services among the scattered churches, too many have nearly lost their faith and zeal for this way of life.
In our church history, we can see how deadly even a little compromising with God's ways is. It almost always leads to greater compromises until a person is so far from what has been revealed in Scripture that he has apostatized, cutting himself off from God. What a sad end after such a promising start!
In these perilous times, it is of the utmost importance that we resist the urge to use our human reasoning to compromise with God's law. We must be particularly careful in what we perceive as the "smaller areas" of God's Word. Why? Because Satan often makes his greatest inroads by getting us to relax in little things and gradually convincing us to do the same in more vital matters. If he can just get his foot in the door, he feels he has won a great victory and can make us slip away from God. Paul, however, exhorts us, ". . . nor give place to the devil" (Ephesians 4:27).
Once we compromise, the process of sin has commenced, and godly character, which is so precious to God, begins to erode, opening the way for sin on a larger scale. If a wise man like Solomon went from ignoring a seemingly obscure admonition to the flagrant breaking of many of God's commandments, we, too, can certainly yield to the peril of compromise. We must learn to spot and avoid the little compromises that lead to big sins.
John O. Reid (1930-2016)
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